If you're like a lot of business owners, you probably have a LinkedIn profile set up with a smattering of contacts, both professional and social, that you keep tucked away in case you ever need to call on their expertise. You might even have your résumé or business information listed in case someone is searching out your services or doing a background check on your business. But what you may not realize is that LinkedIn may be one of the most beneficial tools in your digital arsenal and is much more than a digital Rolodex.
Besides being a great way to organize your networks and connections, LinkedIn provides a platform for communicating with industry thought leaders and decision makers. It helps to build up you and your business as a thought leader in a competitive marketplace and works as a resource to grow your ideas, troubleshoot and in some cases commiserate.
To help you better use LinkedIn here are some practical tips from small-businesses owners who are extensively using the platform and how it's helped them grow their networks and businesses.
E-mail decision makers. Elliott Moskow, CEO of Pricefalls, LLC, an online marketplace showcasing daily deals, says that contacting decision-makers via LinkedIn tends to garner greater response rates than just sending blind e-mails to ambiguous addresses. It also saves such decision-makers considerable time they otherwise would have spent digging through the internet to find contact information.
Grow leads through groups. LinkedIn has over a million different groups, many niche specific and segmented by interest, industry and location. Whether you're looking to join a marketing group in Central Ohio or a pet-sitting group in California, there is undoubtedly multiple groups with active participation you can use to gain knowledge and exposure.
Michael Raanan, president of Landmark Tax Group, a professional tax firm, uses LinkedIn on a daily basis to develop leads and referrals for his company. He is a member of 33 groups, which he actively participates in by answering questions, sharing content and joining in on conversations relevant to his business expertise. "This helps develop relationships with other professionals (some that are business owners) and build credibility for me and the business," Raanan says.
Find support in your networks. LinkedIn Groups is a wonderful place to find support from other business owners who are experiencing or have experienced similar hardships and struggles. You can share your problems and concerns and learn from others how they handled similar situations. And sometimes it's just nice to find a group that understands, giving your carte blanche to vent your frustrations and offering solutions when appropriate.
Such forums also allow you to share solutions with other small-business owners, paying forward any advice, tips or tricks that have helped you overcome various obstacles.
Research potential customers and competitors. Since LinkedIn now allows businesses to have their own profile pages, it's a great platform to research both potential customers and competitors. According to Casey Hart, founder of Informer Messages on Hold, his company uses LinkedIn to research other companies, try to find alliances, learn about new trends, tap into crowdsourcing and search for personal connections with sales prospects before approaching them.
Hart also says that he borrows from various other company profiles in order to create his company's profile, which is now more influential than the company's website.
One of the newest features on LinkedIn, and perhaps one of the most beneficial to small businesses, is LinkedIn Answers. This is an open forum that allows users to post questions on a multitude of topics and lets experts candidly provide information. This is a great and easy way to develop thought leadership by thoroughly answering questions posed by other members.
Consistently providing information on industry relevant topics will help propel you and your business to the forefront of the LinkedIn community.
Posing questions on LinkedIn Answers can also help you overcome objections, giving you a leg up on the competition who may not know their consumers true objections. For example, as a social-media marketing company, you may want to understand the business challenges surrounding outsourcing. By asking small-business owners to share their challenges, you now have the opportunity to provide solutions that will help them overcome their objections.
Qualified Leads and Contacts
What makes sharing content and posting to LinkedIn so successful is that you're posting to qualified leads and to people who share a mutual interest in a particular topic. Posting to groups, answering questions and reaching out to extended networks allows you to maximize your time, share your input and hopefully optimize leads and conversions.
About the Author
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.