By Mark Lee
When most people talk about lead generation using LinkedIn, they reference ways you can raise your profile or advertise on the LinkedIn site. Of course, these may be worthwhile activities, but they're not the only ways to use LinkedIn for lead generation.
Remember that everything you type into LinkedIn could influence a prospective client or a referrer. Many of your posts on groups, your recommendations, endorsements, and status updates will be identified as your activities on LinkedIn. As such, they'll often appear on your connections' LinkedIn home pages and in update e-mails they receive. So be sensible about what you do, say, and post. Aim to add value rather than simply promote yourself.
The starting point
You'll find it easier to find prospective clients via LinkedIn if you're clear about who you're looking for and why. If you want to know why I consider this to be so important, see, for example, Are you a bog-standard accountant?
This is where the real magic happens on LinkedIn. You can search for and find all of the business leads you'll ever need, subject to one caveat: your target audience needs to be registered on LinkedIn.
It wouldn't be much use if, for example, you were looking to work for babysitters, as I doubt many have posted profiles on LinkedIn.
You can use the advanced search function to search for business people in your local area, in your niche, or both. You can go further and search for key people within specific target companies or within companies of the size you prefer to approach and with the very name and job title of the decision maker you wish to engage with.
Here's just one example of a search. Let's assume you have particular expertise in advising physiotherapists and you're based in Harrow [United Kingdom]. Just type the word "physiotherapist" into the keyword box on the left of the advanced search page, then further down, add a Harrow postal code and choose the "within 10 miles" option beneath this.
You can also determine whether people you already know should be included in the search.
When I did this just now, I found I have thirty-two second-level connections who meet those search criteria. Thirty-two! Unsurprisingly, none of us are in the same groups, but if I were really targeting them, I would have joined their groups already.
How you then approach these new leads is a subject in itself, but I've shared some ideas in other parts of this LinkedIn series.
This is simply a LinkedIn tool for sending messages directly to someone within LinkedIn who you aren't already connected with.
LinkedIn tell us open rates for InMail on LinkedIn are greater than open rates for typical e-mail marketing messages. So, in theory, this is a new way to send out e-mail spam, but that's hardly going to endear you to anyone and is unlikely to generate new clients.
LinkedIn also allows you to send messages to fellow group members, even if you're not yet connected to them.
The same principles apply though. Don't send spammy promotional messages – they're a turnoff and are unlikely to have the desired effect.
If you have yet to join local business groups and those that are of interest to others in your target niche, then do it now (see Part 5 in this series).
Raising your profile
Despite my earlier comments, your lead-generation efforts may well be enhanced if you also look to raise your profile on LinkedIn. Following are some of the ways to do this:
- Ensure your LinkedIn profile is complete and attractive to prospective clients (see Part 1 in this series).
- Grow your network by increasing the number of people with whom you are connected (see Part 2 in this series).
- Post useful and interesting status updates with links to helpful third-party websites, blogs, and commentaries (see Part 3 in this series).
- Provide recommendations for other LinkedIn users where you have first-hand knowledge of their services or skills (see Part 4 in this series).
- Provide endorsements of skills you believe other users have, as prompted by LinkedIn when you visit their profiles (see Part 4 in this series).
- Participate in local business groups or niche groups (see Part 5 in this series).
From a lead-generation perspective, your raised profile may result in prospective clients getting in touch with you, or you may be recommended by fellow LinkedIn users to their contacts who are looking for a new accountant. But this is all very reactive. As a start-up practice, you're probably keen to find prospective clients in a more proactive way using the advanced search function I described above.
Who visited your profile page?
LinkedIn will show you, on the right-hand side of your home page, a few people at a time.
Some of the visitors may be prospective clients; however, most will be other accountants, recruiters, suppliers, or spammers. I work on the assumption that if a visitor doesn't message me, they're not interested in what I do. My profile should be sufficiently compelling to ensure that anyone with a genuine interest will get in touch.
Another strategy is to message your profile visitors and see what sparked their interest. I suspect you'll find this isn't an effective use of your time. It's better to enhance your profile and make it more compelling to your ideal target clients.
You'll note that throughout this series, I've made no reference to LinkedIn premium accounts. Please don't waste your money on upgrading to such an account within LinkedIn until and unless you find it necessary. This might be, for example, because you're making so much use of LinkedIn functions that you want and need longer lists and more detailed access to more profiles than you can obtain as a free member.
For what it's worth, I haven't upgraded and see no need to do so. I would love to hear from accountants who have upgraded and who feel the cost is worth it. Maybe I'm missing a trick myself!
The leads you generate through your use of LinkedIn could be suspects or they could be prospects. The former are people you suspect or hope may want and need your services. Prospects are those who have indicated a degree of interest or are at least evidently looking for a new accountant. Of course, how you follow up with your leads depends on what find out about them.
For now, if you have questions, ideas, or views on anything above or in the earlier articles in this series, by all means, connect with me on LinkedIn.
Read Mark's entire LinkedIn series.
About the author:
Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB UK and writes the BookMarkLee blog for accountants who want to overcome the stereotype of the boring accountant – in practice, online, and in life. He is also chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax experts.