In this article I want to share a strategy that I’ve used to get leads for the enterprise consulting company I previously founded, and for a number of startups I’ve advised.
The exact same strategy can work for any b2b business. And I’ll show you how to measure the effectiveness of this strategy so you aren’t wasting time and money.
LinkedIn as a lead generation tool
When it comes to social media, the huge majority of leads come from LinkedIn. Which makes sense for a couple reasons.
- People using LinkedIn are in a business frame of mind. The context matches your goals.
- Unlike every other social platform, LinkedIn’s structured data is organized around professional interests. It’s searchable by company, job title, industry. That makes finding your ideal customer so much easier.
But too many people use it wrong. A lot of people don’t use it at all - they don’t appreciate the power of it.
And the folks that do too often use it incorrectly. They’re too aggressive. They spam anyone and everyone.
They focus on what they can take, rather than what they can give. And they try to monetize a relationship before they have a relationship.
No wonder it doesn’t work.
What we’re going to do is different. We’re going to focus on providing value. And we’re going to be patient.
There are 4 steps in the process.
Step 1: get your bio right.
Most people put their job title and company in their bio. But it doesn’t tell people how you can help. What you want to do instead is frame your bio in terms of the benefit people get from interacting with you.
So if you run a landscaping company, your headline could be “I help homeowners create a lawn they love.” If you’re a personal trainer it could be “I help entrepreneurs get in the best shape of their lives.”
Notice the formula. I help AUDIENCE get BENEFIT.
Step 2: reach out the right way.
There are several ways to do this - a one-step and two two-step processes.
The one-step process is simply to do a search. Look for people who fit your Ideal Customer Profile - job title, industry, geography, etc. And then send them a connection request.
The two step process is to first view their profile. There’s a setting inside LinkedIn that shows people when you view their profile. Most people turn this off - they think it looks creepy. But if you’ve ever looked at your own notifications, you probably don’t find it creepy when someone else views your profile. You probably assume they’re curious. You might even be flattered.
So turn that setting off. Let people know you viewed their profile. And then watch for when they view yours. If they do, then send the connection request. We’ve found the hit rate tends to be higher when you do this. But the total number of connections you make is less. So it’s up to you and your comfort level.
A third approach is to view their profile first, then a couple days later send the connection request. This works because of an idea in marketing and sales called the “mere exposure effect”. The idea is the more times they see or hear from you or about you, the more familiarity they have. And often the more affinity they have.
Which approach will work best for you? It’s largely a function of the audience you’re trying to reach. The only way to find out is to test and see.
But what do you say to these people?
One of the reasons people think LinkedIn is spammy is because most people arespammy when they connect. They say something vague, like “I saw we have some mutual connections” or “I saw your profile and thought we should connect.” Don’t do this.
Instead, try to offer value related to their needs.
“Hey - I saw you’re an accountant. I just put together a guide on how accounting firms can increase their revenues, but before I publish it I’m trying to get some feedback from folks. Any chance you’d be willing to take a look?”
This works for a couple reasons.
- You’re giving them value rather than asking for something from them.
- It’s specific to them. Personalized outreach is much more effective.
- You’re approaching them with humility. You’re asking for their expertise. People love feeling competent and knowledgeable.
When they accept the request, you can send them the link. Don’t put it behind a form or anything - give them the value right away.
Follow up a few days later and ask what their thoughts were. When they reply, regardless whether it was positive or negative, thank them.
So you have a connection. Now what?
Step 3: Create a cadence for outreach.
There are two places to do this. The first is your feed.
Most LinkedIn posts are just self-congratulatory humblebrags. “I’m proud to announce my new job.” “I’m humbled to accept this award.” People who already know you might like this. But liking doesn’t equal business. And your intended audience is unlikely to engage or want to reach out.
Instead, provide value. Serve people with your marketing. Give away all your secrets. Tell them how to do the thing that you do.
A lot of business owners are worried about this. They’re worried people won’t need them if they give all their secrets away.
But this doesn’t hurt your business, it helps it. They learn that you actually know what you’re talking about. And in most cases they don’t have the time or expertise to implement your recommendations. So they reach out to you anyway.
This approach also influences the LinkedIn algorithm. Because you’re providing value, people are more likely to engage with your posts. When someone likes a post of yours, LinkedIn makes a note of this. They show your posts to those people more often. Which in turn helps them develop more affinity toward you. Mere exposure effect at work again.
The second approach is to periodically reach back out to these people via the direct messaging feature. You don’t want to be pushy. But perhaps a month later reach out to them again. “I just published this guide to XXX - thought you might find it interesting. Thanks again for your feedback a few weeks back.”
Every 3 months or so, reach out again. Keep nurturing the relationship. Remind them you exist.
You can also comment or like on posts your leads make. This can be a passive way to build affinity with them. A simple “congrats on the new gig!” can be sufficient.
Step 4: Leverage Groups
The last technique is to leverage groups. But not joining a group. Creating your own group.
This is an advanced technique. You have to allocate some bandwidth to managing the community. But this can be enormously effective for b2b businesses.
This works because you’re creating a hub. A place for your contacts to come together and get to know each other.
Your goal isn’t to aggressively market to these people. Your goal is to get them to connect with each other. This works because again you’re serving your audience. You’re creating a valuable space for them. And because you’re the center of the hub, you draft off of the goodwill.
You can use LinkedIn groups for this, or you can migrate them off platform onto a Slack community, or similar platform. The benefit of the latter is that you own the community. LinkedIn has tweaked how much visibility groups get over the years. You might lose some people by trying to get them to move off platform. But the benefits of owning the community are probably worth it.
I did this years ago in Chicago by starting the Chicago Growth Hacking community. We had a space, invited speakers to talk, and invited people in the Chicago marketing community to come. We never presented anything. But as a result we were associated with growth hacking in Chicago. It was a major reason I started teaching startup marketing at Northwestern.
We did it again when our enterprise consulting firm wanted to get more healthcare clients. We created a Slack group and invited senior healthcare professionals. We asked questions of the community, made introductions between them, and generally simply tried to be helpful. And as a result the majority of our revenue came from healthcare organizations.
What you don’t want to do is promote. At least not primarily. Do it rarely. Gary Vaynerchuk calls this “jab, jab, right hook.” The idea is to give, give, give, give, and then ask.
Again this is an advanced technique - but if you have a team member who likes connecting with people, it can be incredibly powerful.
So that’s it. To recap:
- Create a more compelling, benefit-focused profile.
- Connect with people in your domain by being helpful.
- Nurture relationships, focusing always on adding value and being helpful.
- Creating a hub where you can help them help each other.
This might sound like a lot to manage, but it’s actually fairly straightforward. To make it easier, we’ve created a Lead Generation Scorecard you can use to help set goals around outreach and measure effectiveness. You can get access immediately here.