LinkedIn is, by far, one of the most useful tools for obtaining B2B prospects. There are thousands of B2B companies in almost every conceivable niche listed on this dynamic digital network. And, most importantly, a plethora of marketing managers associated with those companies also abound.
While the typical mining of potential clients through general searches can yield results, it pays to take your search a step further and color outside the lines.
Here are 7 ways to get you thinking on the creative, strategic side of a LinkedIn prospect search:
1) Start with the basics. Perform basic searches as you would on the Internet. Use certain keywords and phrases that are aligned with your niche. This applies even if you don’t yet have a niche. Just choose industries you feel drawn to.
For example, let’s look at the aviation niche. In the main search field (the white box in the middle of your screen at the top of your account seen when you’re logged in), you could type in “aviation companies.” As of this writing, there are 34,475 results! Aviation marketing managers brings up 182,405.
Pretty straightforward, right? Now, what about searching for non-marketing people? Upper-level executives like business development managers or sales managers should also be part of your prospect search. I’ve often reached out and had great LinkedIn conversations with CEOs. Just because they’re seemingly at the top of a company’s food chain, doesn’t mean they aren’t approachable or willing to be the first point of contact.
Now don’t just go on auto-pilot, sending messages that ask for business. Try this tack: tell your potential client you’re doing some market research and you wondered if they’d be open to answering a few questions by email or phone. I’ve had some excellent results doing this. The rule of thumb here is to be nothing but professional, as brief as possible, and thank your new connection for their valuable time.
2) Do your due diligence. While the search for prospects can feel daunting at times, especially when you do this marketing job week in and week out (you do LinkedIn prospecting on a regular basis, right?), there are some easy and quick ways to determine if a prospect is worth approaching.
a) Does the prospect have a picture and a half-decent title or tagline that tells you right away who they are and what they do? If not, stop right there and go to the next person on the list.
b) If their profile looks great, check the contact area (appears right under the person’s profile header and before their background) and see if there is a website listed. Visit the website and look to see if the company has B2B marketing collateral available — even if they don’t and you’re intrigued by what you see, they may be at the juncture where they’re about ready to hire a copywriter. So reach out anyway.
3) Reaching out etiquette. In my mind, there’s nothing worse than getting a generic “Kathy A., I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. To me, that means the person would rather send me a digitized message totally devoid of any personal touch than make a “real” connection. It’s the same as me picking up the phone only to get a mechanical message from an unwanted solicitor. So don’t just blindly hit “connect.”
Here’s a different take on this:
“Dear or Hi … I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I find what you do fascinating and I’m passionate about the X field.” Then tell why you’re connecting. Be brief, professional, and respectful, even when you close, e.g., “thank you for your time.” First impressions, you know. You can try this with direct email contact as well.
What about the subject line? As in all marketing copywriting, it needs to be brief and tell the reader exactly what your email is about. “Copywriting inquiry.” “Marketing inquiry.” Both are good introductory feelers. One that’s worked well for me is “Marketing assistance.” The subject line is a bit tantalizing as the recipient doesn’t know for sure what kind of marketing assistance is being offered so they’re tempted to open the email and find out. Change up your subject lines and track your results.
4) The offer. No need to yell “sales“ in your message. Try this: “I hope you don’t mind me contacting you, I am passionate about or I write XXXX and I wonder if you ever outsource any of your copywriting projects? If interested, you can read more about me and view samples here. Thank you for your time and consideration.” Again, keep your message as brief as possible.
5) Is your profile headline doing its job? Naturally you want to use targeted keywords in your headline, but don’t just choose one headline and be done with it. Change it up every few weeks because you never know what search terms will grab a potential prospect. For instance, I’ve played around with “Kathy A. Smith, Maritime Marketing Writer,” “Maritime Marketing & Communications,” and “Maritime Marketing Copy,” etc.
For added benefit, put your name and main headline in the “name” field and then use the “headline” field to add other keywords such as “websites, press releases, white papers,” etc. Anyone looking at your profile will not only immediately see your name and tagline, but also a brief breakdown of your specialties.
6) Keep an eye on the activities of your prospect. Once you’re connected, review your home page on a daily basis and see what your prospect is posting, Liking, or commenting on. Do the same in groups you both belong to. Where appropriate, also comment. All of this gives you vital information on the social and communication behaviors of the potential client and how they move within their industry.
7) Be a stickler for follow up. So you’ve sent your initial inquiry LinkedIn message or direct email to your prospect and they’ve shown some interest. Maybe they said they’re going to review your website or samples and get back to you.
So when do you follow up? My personal rule of thumb is within 48 hours. If no response, go another 48 hours and follow up again. Again, be brief. Just say you’re checking in. If no response, go another week or 10 days and if nothing by that point, leave it for a month or cross them off your list.
Can you sell your passion? As you’ve seen in the above examples, I’ve included the fact that I’m passionate about X field in my inquiries. This has often helped pique the interest of potential clients. In fact, this helped me get my foot in the door with a B2B trade publication despite the fact that I’d never written for trade magazines before. So even while you need to “sell” your capabilities, I believe highlighting your passion can also give you a leg-up on the competition.
Now go ahead and try some of these tips to see how you can optimize your use of LinkedIn to gain new B2B prospects and clients. You never know what might click in the mind of those you want to hire you!