My company started a very popular LinkedIn group that now has more than 5,000 members. Our experience using LinkedIn for social media marketing has shown us several key strategies that entrepreneurs and business owners need to keep in mind if they want to use social media for lead generation.
Position yourself as an expert. One of the best ways to use LinkedIn for lead generation is to become recognized as an expert in your field. Everything you share on LinkedIn should be high-quality, thought-provoking content. Quality is more important than quantity. You don’t have time to be on LinkedIn posting articles all day — instead, find some high-quality content that really sheds some light on a tough problem in your industry, or that has actionable, step-by-step insights for how to help your customers — and then share it with others. The content you share on LinkedIn doesn’t have to be all original, either — feel free to repost or share other people’s articles, as long as you give them proper credit and attribution, of course.
Be generous. We started a LinkedIn group for our industry of sales and marketing. Many people might have been hesitant to do this — “what if we give too much glory to our competitors? What if we lose business because people find out about our competitors and hire them instead of us?” The truth is, social media marketing is not a zero-sum game of “I win, you lose.” We are happy to create a forum in our LinkedIn group where everyone in our industry can learn from each other and network with each other. Even if our LinkedIn group gives our competitors a chance to promote themselves, we hope that our company’s presence and the credibility we’ve gained from setting up the group will be enough to win us a good share of attention from prospective customers. Sometimes the visibility you get from being recognized as a generous leader is worth losing a few short-term sales to a competitor. It’s best to be seen as someone who’s trying to grow the size of the pie, instead of just fighting over small scraps of it.
Start conversations. The genius of LinkedIn is that it makes it more possible than ever before for people to find exactly the right decision makers and thought leaders that they’re trying to reach in their industry, and then start conversations with them. You can get into conversations in group discussions, or by sending InMail directly to the LinkedIn inbox of the people you’re trying to reach. Don’t be shy, don’t assume that you’re “not important” enough to talk with some of the people you admire most or would most like to sell to in your industry.
Solve problems. LinkedIn is a great sounding board when people need advice, suggestions or help with a business challenge. You might find opportunities to start up sales conversations based simply on the questions that people are posing in LinkedIn discussions. Watch for people posting questions such as, “How would you recommend setting up a new vendor selection process?” or “How do you go about hiring new sales people?” or “What system features are going to be most important to our industry in 2014?” By offering helpful suggestions and advice, you will position yourself as a problem solver in the minds of the decision makers, and it is more likely you will be invited to submit a formal sales proposal when the time comes for that person to make a purchase.
LinkedIn has been a powerful way for my company to get more sales leads with a minimal investment of time and resources. It’s a great sales tool because it rewards generosity, helpfulness, and a willingness to communicate with honesty and problem-solving energy.
Gregg Schwartz is the director of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, widely recognized as one of the best lead generation companies specializing in B2B major account lead generation.