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How Your Brand Can Capitalize on LinkedIn's New 'Lead Gen' Opportunities Imagine someone filling in your online form via a mobile phone. Now, imagine that action occurring automatically. That's Lead Gen Forms.

By Sujan Patel Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

OhmZ | Getty Images

LinkedIn isn't like other social networks. You don't see people on it posting pictures of their food or their dogs. In fact, there are no photo albums at all -- just a single profile photo. LinkedIn, as most of us know, is a professional network, patronized by 25 percent of adult internet users.

Related: LinkedIn Is Still the Key to Generating Business Leads

What's important here is how the purpose and intention of those users differs from that of their peers using social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

In fact, getting through to prospects on those social networks can be difficult, since their users don't have any buying intent. But, with LinkedIn, attracting prospects can actually be more do-able -- especially through content distribution.Some 80 percent of B2B leads, for example, come from LinkedIn.

Bobby Darnell, principal of Construction Market Consultants, understands this. "Active participation on LinkedIn is the best way to say, 'Look at me!' without saying 'Look at me!" he was quoted as saying on the blog Sales for Life. By sharing content, your brand isn't blatantly selling; rather, that content is simply a good way to introduce people to your brand and move them further down the sales funnel.

Recently, LinkedIn launched a new feature to help brands collect leads from their content efforts on LinkedIn. The feature, Lead Gen Forms, makes it easy for brands to drive leads by allowing users to automatically fill in forms using information from their LinkedIn profiles. Let's take a deeper dive into how these Lead Gen Forms work and how your brand might benefit.

How it works

Filling out a form before consuming a piece of content is no doubt a pain. Having to type in all your information and sometimes even answer a few questions takes time and energy, when all you want to do is just read the article you've found.

LinkedIn's Lead Gen Forms feature simplifies this process -- especially for mobile users. Think about trying to complete a form on your phone. Not fun, right? And 57 percent of LinkedIn users visit using a mobile device. So, in your own case, how many leads do you think might be lost because people didn't want to fill out your form?

If those lost leads worry you, consider this: The Lead Gen Forms autopopulate, so there's no need to type anything to fill them out. That's a huge relief for anyone on a phone. In addition, says Divye Khilnani, group product manager at LinkedIn, "Because this lead data comes from the member's up-to-date LinkedIn profile, it is typically more accurate and complete than what you'd get from traditional website forms -- where people can enter false or partial information."

Related: 3 Strategies for Maximizing Your Potential on LinkedIn

Once you've acquired these leads, you can access and manage them from LinkedIn's dashboard. Or, you can even download and integrate them into your own marketing automation software system.

The benefits

LinkedIn's pilot program of the Lead Gen Forms involved 50 customers, and 90 percent of them exceeded their cost-per-lead goals. With results like that, these forms may be worth trying out.

Khilnani also calls the quality of leads on LinkedIn better. Considering the more accurate data that's being pulled from LinkedIn profiles, combined with the nuances of the LinkedIn audience, he could be right.

Your brand probably already has a presence on LinkedIn, and you may even be running campaigns there. Incorporating the new Lead Gen Forms shouldn't be a huge lift, and it could drive good results for your brand.

Without these forms, a prospect might see your ad or discover a piece of your content on LinkedIn. The prospect will then read it and maybe click your call to action -- or not. If not, you're missing out on collecting that lead information and possibly turning that person into a customer.

The new Lead Gen Forms make it easier to get the lead's information. You no longer need to rely on this person to click on your link and go to your website and fill out a form there. That's just too many steps. Instead, the lead can fill out the form and consume the content -- all without leaving LinkedIn.

Publishing content on LinkedIn

So, what if you don't have content on LinkedIn? Well, now's a good time to start. There's no need for me to tout the benefits of content marketing, since it's pretty much a given that any good marketing program needs to have content.

Whether that means blog posts, ebooks, white papers or infographics, content gives your audience a taste for what your brand is about. "Creating easy-to-read, highly relevant content that showcases the value of your service or product can lead to warmer, increased leads and more sales from each post that you write, particularly if your content shows genuine concern and empathy for anyone who needs your services or products," Jose Sanchez, director of marketing at Sales for Life, was quoted as saying on the Sales For Life blog.

On average, people consume 10 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision. That's why it's so important to diversify your content. LinkedIn has become a widely used platform for sharing and consuming content due to its sponsored content feature. Many companies use LinkedIn to republish blog posts and reach a wider audience.

Publishing content on LinkedIn increases your visibility and allows you to reach and target the right people. Your content can drive them further down the funnel, to consume other pieces of content you've created and eventually make a purchase from you.

How to drive success for your brand

For any Lead Gen Form or program to work, you need to make sure your brand is first providing value. If you don't have anything valuable to offer, whether it's an interesting piece of content or a desirable product or service, no one will click, let alone fill out a form.

"Every post you write and publish prompts a notification for your connections. This is a great way for you to showcase your thought leadership on your chosen topic and add value to those within your network," Alex Pirouz, founder of Linkfluencer, said on Twitter.

So . . . jump in.

Start by making publishing content on LinkedIn a priority. Share relevant and interesting blog posts and other content that your audience will be interested in. Tailor the message to your specific audience, too.

Avoid coming off as too promotional. Your audience members don't want to feel that they are being sold to right off the bat. Ease them into a relationship with your brand. And don't forget to engage with them, too. Publishing your content and hoping for the best isn't enough. You need to actively participate in discussions and start conversations. Go where your audience goes and engage with them there.

"Your LinkedIn presence acts as a gateway to your brand. If you give people a taste of the interesting work your company is doing and how it can help them, they'll follow up through the links and opportunities you provide, " John Hall, co-founder of Influence & Co., has written.

Related: 10 Startup Friendly Tools to Help Your Lead-Generation Efforts

While the LinkedIn's new Lead Gen Forms are certainly an exciting opportunity for your brand,they won't change anything if you don't already have an effective LinkedIn marketing program in place. Add the new forms to your mix, but don't completely rely on them to bring you huge results.

Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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