Here’s some advice from Joel Don, ISA’s Social Media Community Manager, as follow-on to his LinkedIn webinar. You can hear more from Joel at the 8th Annual ISA Marketing & Sales Summit in New Orleans.
Can you use LinkedIn to prospect, promote, and sell products and services? The answer is yes — as long as you remember that leveraging LinkedIn for sales is no different than traditional marketing strategies. LinkedIn is different from other social channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. It is a social network for professionals and people. And the focus is business.
There are three essential parts to promoting and selling on LinkedIn: how you show up, what you share and how you share. “Showing up” means completing and polishing your LinkedIn profile, and keeping it up to date with ongoing additions and revisions. (Social Marketing Tip: every profile update triggers a notice to your connections, i.e. another way to say hello and drive traffic to your profile and your company.)
There are several ways to reach out to potential prospects and partners. You can use LinkedIn’s InMail and Introductions services for an immediate connection. You can also develop your presence in LinkedIn groups to research members and network your way to sales and marketing opportunities. Instead of the one-to-one communication of an InMail or Introduction, consider the amplification effect of promoting information, views, and ideas (with your brand in tow) to thousands of people at once. The secret is to share content of value to members of a group and stimulate discussions and engagement.
Here are 10 recommendations for prospecting, promoting and selling on LinkedIn:
1. Groups are about discussions, not the direct selling of products or services. Think about ways to drive traffic to your profile, which in turn delivers prospects to your brand or company.
2. People don’t like to engage with icons. Use your photo for your professional profile, not a company logo. Save the logo for a LinkedIn company page, which is similar to a Facebook business page.
3. Read the group rules. The majority of LinkedIn groups feature three sections for posting by members: discussions, promotions and jobs discussions. Your goal should be to engage with members in the discussions section on topics, issues and ideas. The promotions section generally is for direct marketing of products, services, events, webinars, white papers and other “promotional” content. No group rules posted? If group administrators have not created any rules, the “Group Rules” link will not be displayed.
4. The secret to LinkedIn groups is to post content in the discussions section that indirectly markets your brand. Leverage your subject matter expertise as your LinkedIn sales and marketing strategy.
5. Watch out for LinkedIn group policy changes. Recent change: If you are banned in one group, your account status in all other groups will be changed to require “moderation” (group administrator screening) for all posts.
6. Your prospects probably share the same groups. Be careful when posting the same content or links to multiple groups. A prospect might view the repeated posting as drive-by group spamming. Make every post count; change the messaging or theme of a post to match the interests or focus of each group.
7. Avoid LinkedIn jail. Some groups allow unrestricted posting; others are set for group administrators to moderate (screen) every post. Administrators can also flag any member for moderation, which can delay your posts. Rule of thumb: follow the rules, post to the right section and query the group administrators if your posts are held for moderation in an unrestricted group.
8. When posting, try to limit the “Start a discussion” field to 130 characters to create a fully readable headline without need for a click-through. Use the “Add more details” field for your extended message. If you have a link, use the “Attach a link” field. (Social marketing tip: an article or blog post that has an evocative image will drive more readership for your post.)
9. Company group or company page? LinkedIn enables anyone to set up a company page to promote a business, brand, products, services and job opportunities. You could also create a company group as a discussion forum for employees, partners, vendors, prospects and customers.
10. Monitor updates from connections and companies on your prospects list. Active members are ideal candidates for your sales and marketing outreach. When they make announcements or profile changes, that’s a signal and prime opportunity to engage.
Bottom-line recommendation: engage with LinkedIn users as you would at a business meeting, industry event or social gathering. It’s all about how you show up and what you share.