As a social media strategist, I work with a lot of clients on how they can harness the power of LinkedIn for their business. However, I’m always amazed at just how many people continue to misunderstand exactly what LinkedIn is. When LinkedIn was launched in 2003, it was primarily a resume service that, over time, morphed into a social platform, and a really powerful one at that. And, like most popular social platforms, LinkedIn has its own unique way of working that is important to understand if you’re going to get the most out of it.
First of all, it’s important to realise that, unlike social media giants Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn isn’t about trying to reach the masses; instead, it’s about having personalised, one-on-one conversations with potential clients. It is not about trying to sell your product or service straight away. In fact, this is the number one mistake that most business owners and entrepreneurs make on LinkedIn.
Instead, the key to using LinkedIn is to build relationships with potential clients. Once you’ve built up trust and credibility, you can then make your sales pitch off LinkedIn, over a phone call, Skype conversation or in person. I recently wrote an article, ‘Engage, Connect, Convert’ about the steps that you can go through to following up on leads on LinkedIn, but this article is about the importance of shifting your mindset away from the short-term and often miserly benefits of mass-pitching, towards the more subtle and effective long-term approach that LinkedIn should be used for.
Changing the Way You Think about LinkedIn
First things first, if you’re under the impression that the aim of LinkedIn is to make connections and then try and directly sell something, then you have to change your mindset immediately. Instead, you need to be reverse engineering this idea so that your main concern is with offering real value to your connections while expecting nothing in return. This way, the right clients for your business will, at some point, become open to the next step, whether that be a partnership or buying your products or services. And remember: the next step is never on LinkedIn.
The Pains of Selling
One of the key reasons why you should never look to sell on LinkedIn is that, quite simply, it’s a pain. Most people hate selling and, while it may often be a necessary facet of business, there’s no sense in doing it if it doesn’t yield results… and believe me, at least 95% of the time on LinkedIn it won’t.
Not only is selling on LinkedIn an unwelcome and unrewarding pain for you as a business owner, it’s also potentially damaging to your brand. The bottom line is that people hate being sold to, particularly when they’re being sold to by someone they don’t know. Even if you’re offering a product or service that is right for them, without the credibility to back up your pitch you’re unlikely to have any luck. Conversely, people do love to buy, but only when they’re sure they’re buying something that will be of genuine value to them. It’s your job to make sure that your connections on LinkedIn know who you are, what you’re offering and that it could be of genuine value to them.
To build up your credibility and make sure that your connections know exactly what you do, offer them content that you think would be of genuine value to them. To do this, you need to know who your ideal client is. This technique works best if you’re generating your own content, perhaps a blog or a podcast. Send them links that would be most relevant to them.
For more information on knowing your ideal client, check out my article, ‘The First Steps to Generating High-Quality Leads’.
Using the LinkedIn Messaging Service
The best way to deliver your relevant, valuable content to a client is to send them links via LinkedIn’s private messaging service. This service is a great way of building relationships with your connections. You don’t have to limit yourself to sending content to your connections; congratulate them on work anniversaries and milestones too. Always make sure that your messages are personalised, never relying on LinkedIn’s automated messages.
Reopening the Thread!
Every time you send a message to one of your connections, you’re reopening the entire thread of your previous conversations, reminding them of all the great, free content you’ve been sharing with them. Of course, you should never use the private messaging service to pitch. (Hopefully, it’s becoming clear by now that you should avoid pitching on LinkedIn at all costs!) If you’ve been bombarding a connection with endless pitching, every new message you send them is just another reminder of all the times you’ve irritated them by trying to force a sale.
I recently saw a video with entrepreneur and keynote speaker,Gary Vaynerchuk, where he said that 90% of businesses fail because of impatience. This is incredibly relevant when it comes to implementing your LinkedIn strategy. You’re not going to achieve overnight success. Instead, it’s about building up a great profile, relevant connections and credibility for yourself and your business. If you do all of this then it will only be a matter of time before you see the results.
For more information and a step-by-step guide on how to harness the power of LinkedIn in business, check out my latest book, The LinkedIn Playbook.
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