LinkedIn Dos and Don’ts

LinkedIn (LI) can be a great tool to research, see what others are doing, learn new information and meet people. But it is becoming abused as a way to find prospects and pitch to them. If you are interested in using LinkedIn for outbound marketing, use these tips for greater effectiveness:

Don’t connect just to sell to someone.

People don’t enjoy being used and when you do a broad search by using key words, or descriptors, and then find your target, and then send your canned pitch, it’s not very compelling! I wrote a blog post about the time I received an inquiry from someone who told me I could become as popular as a “dope dealer on spring break.” Given my lifestyle as a college professor and mother of college-aged kids, this was not only a turn off but disturbing. It’s fine to use a mass marketing message from time to time, but make sure your message is geared to your audience.

If you need help, be clear about exactly what you need.

I knew nothing of this person, and did not have the time to review the profile. When I received this request, I had no idea about the context – what kind of clients is this person looking for? What would they want to present as a product or service? What exactly do they want from me? Is this advice, or introductions? Even after reading this question a few times, I could not understand what, exactly, was being asked. If you want something – be clear about what it is. If you want an introduction from a client or contact, take the time to peruse who they know and ask for the specific person. If you want some general help, or idea generating, ask if the person has some time to spare to talk with you. If you want a written response on ideas, state that. People are busy, but most people like to help. However if you don’t make it easy for them to do so, they will ignore your request.

Seem interested.

I’d like to say “be interested” but not everyone is as fascinated by human behavior as I am! So, at least take some interest in the person you are contacting. Learn something about them, “I see you have changed jobs”, or “I noticed you have a number of contacts at a firm I am very familiar with” or “I’d really like to learn more about X.” If you want to garner responses, take time to build some sort of bridge with the person.

Make sure your personal or professional story is solid.

If you want help from others, they will likely go check out your profile. If you want a referral, or some support, or you want to market your services, be sure it is very clear what you can do and how you do it. It’s fine to just have a profile if you aren’t looking to find a job, but if you are – make sure you invest the time and energy into conveying your story in a clear and understandable way. Remember this is a one-way medium, so you don’t have the chance to charm a prospect the way you might in person, you have to communicate quickly and easily through the written word. This takes time and focus so don’t go about asking for referrals or marketing until you’ve done this.

If you want something, have a clear call to action.

My contact asks me a question but what is the requested follow up? Am I to answer it in this column? Am I to respond via LI with some of my best ideas? What is “the ask?” Even if I was inclined to help, I don’t know exactly how to do so. What would success look like to this person?

Lastly, know your audience.

Think about the recipient. What’s in it for them? What do they care about? What do they know or understand? In this case, someone is asking me – a person who does sales coaching and consulting for a living – for some free advice. At a minimum, acknowledge this in the request. If you are an advisor who wants a referral from a COI or a client, let them know why helping you is valuable to them. Use the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) language every time you make a request to someone.

Many advisors are either using LI as a marketing medium. But think carefully and strategically about how you present yourself, how you communicate via LI and what you are really asking for from someone so they know how to accurately respond.