28 August 2014 By Northern Lights
LinkedIn is the undisputed champion of the B2B social media sector and is recognised as the most powerful marketing tool of the 21st century. But, how do you make the most of LinkedIn? How do you use LinkedIn to win business? How do you use LinkedIn to identify business targets? And, how do you use LinkedIn to build relationships?
Flashback a couple of years and most of us just saw LinkedIn as a contact database or a place to find jobs or new talent. However, today, there is a growing recognition of LinkedIn as a hugely powerful tool for identifying and winning new customers.
At a recent networking event I was having the same conversation I have with most business leaders about the value of social media and, in particular, LinkedIn. This particular entrepreneur told me he wasn’t looking for a job so he didn’t see the point of LinkedIn. He was right, he was missing the point.
Used properly, LinkedIn is easily the most powerful business search engine in the world. Today, the social media platform has almost 350 million users and gets around 100 billion page views a year. It’s present in more than 200 countries and two professionals sign up to the platform every second.
The potential this offers for making lucrative new contacts is huge. But don’t just take my word for it. Northern Lights used LinkedIn to go from a standing start, to getting our first contract in the Middle East in just 28 days. That was done by using our network of LinkedIn contacts to make introductions and identify opportunities. You can read about that export journey here.
LinkedIn has three major strengths: exposure for your brand, expertise and services; targeting customers and building relationships; and securing partnerships and referrals.
Promoting my business on LinkedIn
The first benefit of LinkedIn is helping you to stand out from the crowd. While the rise of the global marketplace brings more opportunities, it also brings more competitors and LinkedIn is the perfect tool for showcasing why you are the best of the bunch.
By crafting a 100 per cent complete search engine optimised profile so people can find your services and by sharing your expertise and insights through updates, comments and groups, you quickly grow your profile and become a trusted resource for your network.
By answering the questions your customers are asking on LinkedIn by sharing links or writing blogs and direct responses, you not only help to strengthen relationships with existing contacts and keep your business front of mind, but you also dramatically increase your chances of being found by potential customers who are seeking the services and answers to the problems they face.
LinkedIn is also a great PR tool. Not only can you share your news with a wide range of contacts across the platform, you can connect with journalists and editors and speak to them directly about your latest developments, further exposing your brand to potential customers.
The other benefit of a strong profile is the recruitment and retention of staff. Graduates are the fastest growing set of members on LinkedIn and that means there is a rich vein of talent waiting to be tapped. By nurturing a strong LinkedIn profile you help to demonstrate your position as a market leader and, while that helps to attract the talent you need to grow further, it also ensures your existing workforce can take pride in working for one of the top brands in their field.
Targeting customers on LinkedIn
Perhaps the biggest benefit of LinkedIn is the ability to quickly identify potential customers and then contact them directly. No longer are you faced with defeating the demonic guardian on the telephone reception desk before you get to speak to someone who can make a buying decision. Now, you can connect on LinkedIn and then start building relationships through shared content or direct contact.
The beauty of these online relationships means that you no longer need to make “cold” calls. Now, you can pick up the phone and start the conversation by saying “thanks for connecting with me and I really appreciated your comments on this issue.” It’s a great ice breaker and ensures you are now always calling warm prospects.
Northern Lights has shared a wide range of insights on using LinkedIn to target contacts and you can get some great insights from this blog.
Using LinkedIn to build partnerships
The final benefit of LinkedIn is the ability to build strategic partnerships with businesses outside your sphere or local geography. There’s a growing trend across the platform for businesses to build strong bonds that deliver mutual benefit.
By identifying companies that can offer complimentary services or products through LinkedIn’s search tools, both companies can grow by referring clients or by offering joint deals. The major brands are already making the most of these social media partnerships and those benefits are now filtering through to businesses at every level.
The biggest benefit of partnerships such as these is the ease with which they can be found and established through LinkedIn and the added exposure they offer. Instead of just communicating to your own network, by entering into partnerships you can then communicate your offer to their networks too.
Also, by contacting people through your partner’s networks, you are benefitting from the trusted relationships they have already established and that helps to boost the sales process.
The future of LinkedIn
Put simply, the future of LinkedIn is bright. The company continues to make strategic acquisitions and launch targeted services for business and has bold growth ambitions. It boasts members from all of the Fortune 500 companies and has established itself as an invaluable business tool around the world.
Looking ahead and LinkedIn has three objectives that will ensure every business needs to be part of the platform. Those goals are Identity, Networks and Knowledge.
Identity is about becoming the leading database for all professional profiles. Put simply, LinkedIn wants every business person to share their CV, successes, skills and expertise on LinkedIn. The benefits to you are simple and go way beyond finding a new job. By sharing your experiences and expertise, you can ensure you rank highly when other businesses are seeking support and you can also quickly communicate the value of your offer to any potential customers.
Networks is all about building relationships. LinkedIn is aiming to connect all 600 million professionals worldwide and the networking opportunities that presents are invaluable. By using LinkedIn to target potential customers or partners, you can then utilise the various opportunities to engage to build trusted and lucrative new friendships that span the globe.
Finally, Knowledge is about becoming the definitive depository for all business insights, advice and expertise. LinkedIn aims to ensure that if a business leader wants to become recognised as the thought leader in their industry, the only way to do it is to publish on LinkedIn. This all comes back to demonstrating your offer through your expertise. By sharing links to interesting content or by posting your own ideas and comments, LinkedIn will ensure that you are seen throughout the world as an expert in your field.
So, rather than just seeing LinkedIn as a way to find your next job or make contact with an old colleague, maybe it’s time you looked at using it as one of your leading marketing tools.
Northern Lights run workshops on using LinkedIn strategically and can also provide expert advice and guidance on creating a targeted and successful profile. If you’d like to know more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org