Not Everyone Loves Networking But LinkedIn is a Gold Mine for B2B

June 25th, 2019 by Dean Troth

Not every business owner loves networking. Nor are they all on LinkedIn. However, in this blog post, I argue that LinkedIn is a gold mine of opportunities particularly for B2B.

In B2B relationships are vital. The business owner getting out into the business community and meeting people is how we bring in leads and opportunities. Some see LinkedIn not as a networking opportunity but a waste of time, full of picture-perfect professionals with hyped up qualifications and over embellished achievements, trying to fast-forward their careers, rather than serious business people. Others feel that the only time they hear from anyone on LinkedIn is when they are being sold to. However, for business owners and those in business development, LinkedIn is full of new business opportunities, more than any other platform or forum, online or off.

Although there are obviously employees using LinkedIn as a tool to advance their careers, and sales people who don’t take the time to know you or add value, we have found it to be a very useful tool for business owners in building credibility as an expert, and generating genuine conversations that lead to meaningful relationships with people who want to do business i.e. your ideal client or customer.

People are built for relationships. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Sure, business is business, but business is never impersonal. If you look at your business revenue using a pie graph, chances are that a large proportion of your business has come from clients with whom you or someone in your team has a solid trusting relationship.

Networking is nothing new. In the past, networking happened mostly through ‘word of mouth’, conferences and at ‘real world’ industry networking events. You attended these events when you could. But how comfortable were you?

LinkedIn Outreach for growing your business

If you are like me, some events were fantastic business opportunities. You had lots of positive conversations, met a load of interesting people and collected a handful of business cards. You followed up three or four for a meeting over coffee, that led to new business opportunities. But these events were rare. At other events you didn’t meet anyone. You were late or tired, so stayed back, in the corner, and spoke to the three or four people you already knew well. You got home late. There was no real benefit to you or your business in being there. And thinking back you, realise that whether you made five new contacts that led to profitable business deals or none, it was pretty close to random.

LinkedIn removes the random
With over half a billion business people on the platform, and growing rapidly particularly in the last few years, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network by far. This means that most people you would like to do business with are spending time on LinkedIn.

We have seen that LinkedIn helps business owners have meaningful conversations, with people they haven’t met yet, like never before. Instead of walking up to a complete stranger and hoping there is some way you can connect and hoping there may be mutual benefit in knowing one another, in LinkedIn you can make sure you are approaching the right people, and know how you can add value to them, up front.

Should I accept a connection request?
I’ve had business owners ask me whether they should accept invitations from people they have ‘never met’. I like to think about the answer to the question this way: “If you were at a business networking event and someone you hadn’t met before tried to strike up a conversation with you and then offered you a business card, would you ignore them and walk away or would you engage in a conversation, accept their card, and spend a little bit of time to find out who they are and what they do?”

Of course, if you approach people via LinkedIn in a way that isn’t attempting to have a real conversation, then you will likely not get very far … just like at a physical networking event.

Imagine LinkedIn as your own, ongoing private networking event

Regardless of dates or times, or busy calendars and pre-commitments, 99% of people are always available to make it to your LinkedIn event! Depending on your personality type, you can choose the size of your event: to have 125, 25, 5 or 2 people in the room at once. The biggest difference is that you get to choose who is in the room and which companies are represented. They all receive a personal invitation from you. But it doesn’t take months to organize. It only takes minutes on each. You choose the time and date that’s convenient for you to engage, and the people you contact can respond when they are free as well.

Even better, you get to choose the topic of conversation and you get to research the people you’re speaking with and take your time to develop your ‘pitch’ or ‘spiel’ before they even say ‘Hello’ or swap business cards.

All the pressure is removed. You’re totally in control.

So where to start?
We recommend you start by having a company page and that you and everyone in your business is associated with, which has a professionally written LinkedIn profile. Your profile needs to contain far more than a basic outline of your CV. You should put more effort into crafting your headline, summary piece and seeking recommendations than you would ordinarily put into your resume.

Write for Your Ideal Client Persona
Like every good website, your LinkedIn profile should not be written from your standpoint. It should be written from the perspective of your ideal client or customer. But that raises an interesting question – who precisely is your ideal client or customer? In fact, if you sell a variety of products / services, there are possibly different ideal clients for each one. In such a case, pick the most important persona and focus on that for your profile (posts can be written for the other personas – more about that in a moment).

For starters, you need to have a clear picture in mind of the attributes of this person. What industry and location are they are in? What companies do they work for? What interests and level of experience do they have? We call this a client or customer ‘persona’. It’s a word picture (and often stock photo) that describes their personality type, their external influences and needs and also their motivators and emotional state.

Personas help you to be more targeted in everything you write or produce – not just your LinkedIn profile or articles and videos you share but also on your website, your email newsletters, or even your proposals and marketing materials. The digital marketing team at Contactpoint can certainly help your company define your target personas and compelling content to address their needs.

Next you need to identify what specifically you and your company can do for the persona, that sets you apart from your competitors. This type of language will also hopefully position you as unique and a thought leader against the many other individuals and companies in your field or sector.

Prepare to Connect
Armed with a clear picture of your target market, you should identify how you can add value to the prospect, before they have engaged your services; often that will be by providing useful information. You likely will already have information assets available to share with people you contact via LinkedIn, if not, we can assist you to brainstorm ideas and prepare such content.

We recommend that you think from your ideal client’s viewpoint. How they would like to be approached? What they might need in order to understand your organisation? What would help them in their day to day role? How you could collaborate together for mutual benefit?

Think about how a conversation may transpire; offline and online won’t be that different.

Connect
Now that you are prepared, LinkedIn provides tools to make it easy to find relevant people that fit within the persona you have described.

  1. Connect with each person, including a tailored note to ensure that the conversation gets off on the right foot.
  2. Continue the conversation using the information and value you had previously prepared.
  3. Be on the ready to arrange a meeting by phone or in person to discuss how you can work together.

LinkedIn Outreach: A New Business Case Study
At Contactpoint, we’ve recently been helping a client to develop his network and grow his digital transformation business. He has deep expertise and decades of experience in digital transformation, particularly in the big data and analytics space. We started by helping him to improve his professional profile on LinkedIn, including a professional headshot, and a headline that positions him as a thought leader.

Next, we worked with our client to identify his ideal individual lead with his ideal client account and the problems they may be looking to solve. His ideal leads were senior IT executives, usually the CIO or CTO, within mid-cap companies (annual revenues of $100M to $1B) across three different sectors in Australia looking to move their data and application servers to the cloud on their road to big data analytics and the use of AI. Then we began to target and build lists to outreach to, whereby we used many of the sophisticated targeting tools available on LinkedIn Premium, to identify and then reach out to appropriate individuals.

Finally, we assisted in the creation of thought leadership papers that could be shared via LinkedIn messages or email to start to generate some high-level conversations. Like many business owners and professionals, our client started the journey feeling somewhat uncomfortable reaching out to people they had never spoken to in real life. After all, what would you talk about? How would you get them to engage?

We took the time to tease out ideas and carefully craft several statements to use in personalised outreach. Our approach is always ‘softly softly’, one-on-one, personalised and professional. We always seek to add value up-front. For this client we’ve been using the ‘research approach’, whereby each conversation contributes to a higher purpose or understanding (the last thing you want to appear is too ‘salesy’).

Regardless of where you’re starting from, Contactpoint can help you build or refine your profile. We also have the skills, experience and expertise in-house to write (or edit) articles that position you as a thought leader in your sector or field. We can assist you to reach out and connect with dozens, if not hundreds, of decision makers working for your ideal clients or customers.

Most people don’t like doing business with strangers. LinkedIn means those on your ideal client or customer list don’t have to be strangers any longer. You can start a private conversation, share people you know or things you have in common, then add value to them or help in their role. Hopefully this means you’re not strangers when you speak over the phone or meet up for coffee.

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