Whether you’re an experienced social networker or just a getting started, here are 10 steps to connecting with your target market on LinkedIn:
1. Create an up-to-date profile and/or fan page
Before you begin connection, be sure that your profile is up-to-date with an accurate description of what you do, your interests, and your contact info. Make sure you include your website addresses, a professional photo, and your skills list. If you have multiple businesses invite people in your appropriate target market to become fans of your niche-specific business page.
2. Follow the favorites
Connect with leaders in your field/industry, who have a lot of influence, connections and followers, and request a connection them. This includes popular products, TV shows, or other specific interests of your target market. Anytime you make a friend request, include a personal note, as that will improve the likelihood that they will accept your request. Say something like, “I’m a big fan and I’d love to have you in my network.” Once they have accepted your invitation, make comments about their status updates to help you get on the radar, and in front of their thousands of connections.
3. Friends of friends – 2nd Degree Connections
Take a look at the people in the network of your industry leaders, as they are probably part of your target market as well. Send friend requests to those of interest to you. When you friend someone that you only know by association, send a personal note as well, like “I discovered your profile in
4. Use LinkedIn groups
Look for groups that may contain your target market. In your search for groups, use keywords that describe your niche, industry, geographic area, interests, or whatever other terms you might use to find members of your target market. Join and begin to participate in the group so that they begin to get to know you. Then pursue the member lists for good prospects, start with the members you’ve connected with or have commented on similar posts.
5. Invite your existing email lists and address books
You can use your existing email database to add people from your clients, prospects, and other current contacts if they fall within your target market definition. Add a note to the invitation and make sure you are clear and professional about your motivation. Make sure to give them the option to connect with your personally or just follow the business page.
6. People You May Know
LinkedIn will have a suggestion list for people you might know. These recommendations are pretty solid, because they are based on similar work history, mutual friends and interests. Take them up on their recommendation and add these to your network, only if you actually know the person and have an offline relationship of some kind.
7. Add by interest or industry
Do a people search by job title, industry, geographic location, or interest. People with those terms in their profile will show up in your search, and you can request to add them based on common interests. Even better, you can see which of your connections knows them and request an introduction.
8. Build the relationship
Once you connect with someone, you need to begin to get to know them and start building trust so that you become their top-of-mind expert in a particular area. Begin building the relationship by sending a quick “thank you” note through LinkedIn, as well as a comment about something on their profile that interests you or in which you have in common. Watch for their status updates, as well, and comment on these when appropriate. Note when people post announcements or change positions and congratulate them.
9. Integrate your marketing strategy
Once you have built a good online reputation and credibility on LinkedIn, you can begin mixing in your marketing messages. Social networking sites are designed to be casual and personal like a business networking event, so don’t just copy an advertisement or sales messages. All you want to do is keep what you do and who you are on the top of your prospects minds. You can casually mention what you’re working on in your status, announce events, and make comments offering to help people with your product or service. Remember, people can remove, hide or block you as easily as they added you in the first place.
10. No More Cold Calls – Start Actively Prospecting
Here’s where it gets fun and where it pays off. Let’s say you need to make 10 dials to set enough appointments to hit your numbers. You can research the best 10 prospects on LinkedIn and find the CEO’s name, get a little background, their email and phone information, see their secretary’s name, or even their up or down-line in the company’s organizational chart. You then shoot him an email through LinkedIn Mail with the subject line. “Question” and include your unique selling proposition, and ask if they would be open for a quick phone call the following week at a specific day and time to see if there is reason to work together.
If you repeat this process 10 times, you have now scheduled your 10 dials in your calendar, 10 CEOs are expecting your call, and you are fully armed to have a sales conversation with them next week. No more cold calls, and no more procrastination since you have scheduled appointments with connections.
No prospecting strategy works unless you consistently implement it over time. As a newbie to LinkedIn, you might want to spend as much as 60 minutes per day researching connections and participating in groups. As your network grows, you may spend only 15 minutes 3 times per week on LinkedIn. The key to success is to put this strategy on your calendar and make it a routine part of your ongoing prospecting behavior.
LinkedIn is strict and very particular about how its participants contact each other. Many sites, including LinkedIn limit the number of new invitations allowed in a given day or week. If you exceed this amount you can get penalized or removed for spamming. If you stick within the guidelines of people you know in person or at least you have their email addresses, you should stay within most limits. If you ever receive a warning, you should stop immediately for that day and reduce your efforts moving forward.
While social networking is an inexpensive marketing tool, it can be effective in helping you grow your business. You should maintain your other prospecting strategies, and simply add this strategy to your prospecting activity.
A well-rounded prospecting plan needs to include social networking, and it could mean that your prospect well will never run dry and you never have to make another cold call.