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10 Steps for Prospecting, Promoting, and Selling on LinkedIn

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.)
Joel Don, ISA Social Media Community Manager

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.

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Why Companies Fail at Social Media

This post was originally published by Jon DiPietro on his inbound marketing blog, Domesticating IT.

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ads/2011/03/MixedNorms.png”>Mixed norms - economic norms and social norms

Let’s say you run a day-care center and you’re tired of parents being late to pick up their kids. What do you do? How about instituting a fine? That seems like it’s logical and could be effective. If parents had to pay extra, one would assume that they would be more likely to be on time. But one would be wrong.

In January, 2000, Uri Gneezy and Aldo Rustichini published a study titled, “A Fine is a Price.” In this study, they followed six day-care centers in Israel. They found that, on average, there were seven or eight late pickups per week across the ten centers they were monitoring. At six of these centers, they instituted a fine for late pickups and the effect was immediate and striking. The incidences of lateness steadily increased over a four week period. Eventually, the average number of late pickups peaked around twenty – almost triple the original rate. What happened? And what has this to do with social media?

Mixed Norms

Gneezy and Rustichini attributed this to something they called an “incomplete contract.” The rules that were in place were sufficiently ambiguous that customers had to figure for themselves what was appropriate behavior. In those circumstances, we tend to fall back on social norms. Social norms are a set of unwritten rules that determine what is and is not acceptable behavior in social situations. However, in the case of the day-care experiment, instituting a fine shattered the ambiguity and replaced it with an economic norm. The parents no longer feared social repercussions. They determined that the convenience of showing up whenever they wanted was worth the price.

Oil and water by andredoreto on Flickr

Oil and water courtesy of andredoreto on Flickr

This is an example of “mixed norms.” When we combine social behaviors with an economic situation or vice versa, we get unpredictable (and sometimes volatile) situations. Consider, for example, finishing a holiday dinner at your parents’ house. You compliment the cook(s) on a terrific meal and pull out your checkbook asking, “How much do I owe you?” Most people would be offended and might even throw a utensil in your direction. Dating also carries such risks.

Social media also carries such risks.

Social Media and Norms

Make no mistake. Social norms are in play in all social media channels. The main reason for this is that when it comes to social networks, the users are also the owners. This is not the case in most other media with which companies are used to dealing (e.g. television, radio, newspapers, even Google). And so their tendency is to dive into social media with their economic norm behaviors. The result is that people will automatically tune them out and unfollow/unfriend them. In a sense, the companies have placed a virtual fee on their social media presence. This fundamentally changes the relationship from a social one to an economic one. Game over, influence squandered.

And here’s the really bad news…

Mixing Norms is Irreversible

End Designated Safe Corridor road construction signBack to Gneezy and Rustichini. After five months, the day-care centers rescinded the fining policy. However, the behaviors didn’t change. It turns out that once you change the relationship from social to economic, you cannot go back. It’s altered permanently and there’s nothing you can do about it.

This should give pause to companies currently or planning to be involved in social media. You had better get it right the first time, because you won’t get a second chance. So how does a company insure it’s following social norms? Well, there’s a four letter word that spells social media success; gift. Make sure the vast majority of the content you’re creating and sharing can be considered as a gift to your audience and you should be fine.

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Social Networks For Businesses Selling to Scientists and Engineers

This post originally appeared on Telesian Technology’s What’s Working in Marketing Blog<

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I ran across this article, 9 Social Networks Your Business Should Be Using, and did a double take. Those of us who focus on the technology and manufacturing markets would be greatly misled by this list: 1. Facebook, 2. Twitter, 3. Foursquare, 4. LinkedIn, 5. YouTube, 6. Quora, 7. Flikr, 8. Tumblr, and 9. Meetup. This represents a very broad brush and is heavily biased toward the consumer markets. For those of us who sell primarily to scientists and engineers, we need our own special list. Here’s my two cents:

1. Your own company blog: Competition is stiff, especially from low cost producers around the world. Now, more than ever, it’s important for you to establish your expertise and differentiate your offerings in the market. A well done blog is the best place to start (after you have your e-newsletter program up and running, of course). There are a number of blogging tools out there, including the above mentioned Tumblr. But if you want your own domain and a professional look and feel along with ease of use, we recommend something like WordPress. For dirt cheap dollars you can set up your own domain, e.g. blog. telesian.com, and be up and running the first day.

2. YouTube: Your customers and prospects have as little available time as you. For marketing to succeed it needs to be short, sweet, and to the point to get their attention. There’s time later to present all the gorey detail that engineers need to see. But first you’ve got to get them hooked. For some time now, we’ve seen short (3-5 minute) YouTube video tutorials pull in top readership numbers…in e-newsletters, on blogs, etc. You need to figure out how to incorporate video production into your marketing process. It doesn’t have to look like it was Hollywood produced, but it does have to be decent quality. Start with a mix of talking head and pics of technology/products in action. But start now.

3. SlideShare: If you’d asked me 6 months ago, I would have put LinkedIn in the number 3 position. But things change fast on the Internet. LinkedIn is still a must-have tool for businesses in our markets (see below), but SlideShare is useful as a way to get your documents and presentations online in a friendly format. It also has become a destination in and of itself because of all the great material that’s posted there. I’ve heard a number of people tell me the search SlideShare for info BEFORE they turn to a search engine. That got my attention.

4. LinkedIn: This is THE social media site for business. While most of our customers and prospects will go to a company web site for information, they are finding it useful to get involved in LinkedIn forums to get their questions answered on specialized topics. Once you create your personal and business pages, you’ll want to look around for groups to join. I did a search for “laser” related groups and got a list of 56 options including photonics, SPIE, laser materials processing, medical lasers, and more.

5. Twitter: Think of Twitter as headline news. This is a new way to interact with like-minded people, be they network contacts, customers, prospects, industry influencers, etc. Tweet about new content on your web site, new videos, news from the industry. There are two challenges to Twitter: first, you need to find and encourage relevant people on the network to follow you; second, you need to post a couples of times a day to be most effective. Don’t overdo the quantity of posts or you’ll annoy your followers. But you need sufficient volume to rise above the noise.

Start with these five social networks. Get them integrated into your marketing program and post regularly. Once you have these down pat, we’ll talk about what’s next.

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