Newcomers to the networking platform LinkedIn make every mistake in the book. But they can sidestep their spammy promotional ways -- if they can banish certain misconceptions from their minds.
Consider for instance the question of why 76 percent of CEOs check LinkedIn daily. Trust me, it’s not for the viral Dilbert memes.
In reality, LinkedIn remains simply the best place to build relationships and make sales. Half of all users are likely to buy from a company they engage with on the platform, and 80 percent agree that company connections provide opportunities to enhance professional decision-making. Even better, LinkedIn members have nearly twice the buying power of Facebook users. But many small business owners and startup CEOs face just one problem with the platform: They’re using it wrong.
Linking up with the best prospects
Startups have to be scrappy with marketing and push-marketing activities that lead to direct returns, not just brand awareness. Having worked with and surveyed thousands of small business owners and startups, I’ve found that their biggest marketing struggle is reaching potential customers, which is where LinkedIn shines if used correctly.
But many LinkedIn newcomers make every mistake in the book, misled by the three most common misconceptions about the platform. Here’s how companies can sidestep those false ideas and take advantage of the benefits LinkedIn marketing offers:
Myth No. 1: that LinkedIn is only for low-grade sales pitches, that LinkedIn is infamous for spam and unsolicited sales pitches. In truth, lots of networkers are quietly developing lasting business relationships, especially in the form of LinkedIn discussion groups, which account for 96 percent of posts and 86 percent of conversions on the platform. Startup leaders should approach LinkedIn with the same strategic attention they bring to face-to-face networking.
Tom Swip, president and CEO of Swip Systems, used this method to nurture relationships and move prospects off LinkedIn and into real-world business conversations: He did this by targeting his ideal clients with a LinkedIn group called Midwest Manufacturing Leaders. Leading this group keeps Swip and his brand in front of prospects without being spammy or pushy; that connection has resulted in a number of new clients and continued brand-building.
Myth No. 2: that LinkedIn is only for connecting with offline contacts. Stranger danger is real for schoolchildren, but for entrepreneurs online? Most users lean toward connecting with strangers on the platform -- and opting out forecloses a lot of possibilities. Businesses may feel strange reaching out to new people, but overcoming that discomfort enables them to make connections that help their companies expand.
The Zurich Insurance Group, for example, used LinkedIn activity to position its head of financial institutions, Chris Taylor, as an expert. Using strategic InMail messages, updates and connection invites, the company launched a three-month campaig that increased Taylor’s LinkedIn connections by more than 400 and created a flood of inbound customer requests for the insurer.
Myth No. 3: that LinkedIn is about you. In fact, “me, me, me” is a bad marketing strategy on any platform, and it’s especially bad on LinkedIn. Seventy-four percent of a group of U.S. residents surveyed in one study said they trusted educational content from businesses on particular topics but that their trust numbers dropped drastically once those companies pushed for a sale.
To avoid this mistake, businesses should talk about other organizations’ developments within the space to show they’re interested in the big picture, not just their own companies.
Dan Demers of ReMission Consulting used this approach, for instance: He dropped his promotional content and adopted a multiple-touchpoint process to nurture trust with his audience.
He began seeding high-quality content through direct messages to demonstrate understanding of his prospects’ problems and provide frameworks for solutions. As a result, his pipeline grew substantially, and his average sales cycle dropped from 18 months to mere weeks.
As customers across all platforms become savvier about modern marketing, it’s even more important that your business represent people it trusts, respects and like.
So, ignore these common misconceptions, and use your LinkedIn profile to identify cold prospects, develop relationships and position yourself as a known and trusted professional within your industry.