I once made an analogy that some people collect LinkedIn connections like baseball cards. Regardless of value it’s more important for them to have 25000 or more people in their network, than it is to have the right people.
I’ve always thought this was a pointless exercise. With that many connections, it’s virtually impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff.
I use LinkedIn all the time. But I don’t just play the numbers game. I’m not interested in accepting every invitation or sending out invites to people when I don’t see some sort of professional alignment.
Recently I decided it was time to do a little bit more LinkedIn outreach than I’d done in a while. As noted, I have no interest in filling up on useless connections or or becoming a LION. I just want to find, connect and actually build some relationships with folks who may be ideal clients or know somebody who is.
So the trick is to find people who will make my time on LinkedIn worthwhile. And I think I’ve found a way to make it happen. The following is a breakdown of my LinkedIn strategy. I can definitively say that it has resulted in some great conversations that are moving toward strong business returns. So hopefully this same approach can work for you!
Define your audience
I say this all the time. I don’t care if you’re in IT or professional services, you need to know who is interested in what you’re selling. More importantly do those people have the decision-making authority to make a purchase.
Once you know that open up LinkedIn and mouse over the search bar in the top left column.
Then click All Filters.
Already you can see the many different options you can use to whittle those hundreds of millions of people with LinkedIn accounts down to the ones you need to connect with.
In my case I used four filters:
Connections: 2nd degree
Industry: Professional Training and Consulting
Location: United States
Connections of: I’ll keep this one close to my chest. But it’s someone I know in the industry who is very well connected.
After doing my search I had a very manageable list of 138 people that I wanted to connect with. Now I say manageable because, let’s face it, a lot of folks have accounts and never use them. So I can expect a lot of these people to never respond. But those who do, are already distinguishing themselves as at least a little bit social savvy.
There are no shortcuts to building business relationships
With LinkedIn it’s too easy to simply send a connection request. And if I had one feature request for the guys and gals running things, it would be to ban the generic invite option and force people to compose a proper introduction every time.
That doesn’t mean that every introduction you send has to be unique – but it should stand out from all the others people receive throughout the day.
Here is a sample of one I sent out. Every one of my invites received some variation on this theme:
I see we have a few connections in common. I’d like to add you to my network to keep up with what you’re doing and maybe steal some of your ideas for my blog.
Apologies if this is a note you received and are now feeling a bit used. You weren’t. I genuinely want to have you as a connection and I probably will steal some of your ideas for my own blog – with credit and a link back to your site of course.
This request showed a bit of my personality and it referenced connections in common. Remember, I used the 2nd degree connection filter – so I shared at least one connection with each of those 138 people. In some instances I shared more than 50!
But just adding a new connection means very little if you don’t do anything to follow up.
One of my tricks is to take the conversation off the LinkedIn platform and send a longer note to folks who engage with more than an “Accept.”
To those connections I might say something like:
Thanks for accepting my connection request. I love LinkedIn, but I find that it’s far too easy to “connect and forget.” So I’m going to send you a quick note via email so you have my real contact information and I have yours in case we ever need to chat.
It’s important to note that I am not adding Bob to my CMS. He’s not going to start getting spammed with newsletters or sales pitches. I’m actually going to send him a REAL communication from my REAL email address.
It’s actually quite simple to find the email address on Bob’s profile and send an email introducing myself. I’m not trying to sell anything in the email, I’m trying to establish a rapport with my connection.
If I’m interesting enough – and they are interested enough – this can then go to a phone call about their marketing. In the last 2 months, this has resulted in multiple conversations, with more than a few progressing to the proposal phase.
Getting connections on LinkedIn is easy. Finding clients takes work. There are no shortcuts. But if you are willing to put in a little digital elbow grease you can make the technology work for you and grow your business quickly.