LinkedIn is more powerful than you realize.
If you’ve been in the business world long enough, you’ve likely heard it can be one of the best tools to generate quality business leads.
According to Statista, LinkedIn has over 364 million users as of May 2015 — all of whom are business professionals and many who are decision makers.
So how do you turn LinkedIn into a lead-generating machine? How do you grow your business and authority among high-ranking business professionals?
Simple. You implement a LinkedIn strategy.Lucky for you, we’ve created one for you to copy.
We pulled together advice, statistics, and best practices from some of the greatest practitioners on LinkedIn, polished it up, and packaged it into a guide just for you.
(Note: We turned this strategy into a free guide for you to save and keep. Click here to download it now.)
Go ahead and copy this LinkedIn strategy. We just ask that you remember us when you become LinkedIn famous. 🙂
Optimize Your Profile
The very first step to generate business leads through LinkedIn is pretty simple: complete your personal LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn reports that “users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn.”
You will earn more trust and validity on LinkedIn when people can see your face, read your profile, and know you aren’t a spammer from some little island trying to take their money.
Here’s how you can optimize your profile for lead generation:
Add a Professional Profile Photo
LinkedIn is a networking site for business professionals. Your profile picture should reflect that.
Avoid pictures of you on the beach (unless you run a business teaching surfing lessons), cuddled up with your spouse, sitting in your backyard, or that picture you think makes you look cool but everyone else thinks otherwise.
Your profile picture should represent you and your business. Make sure the lighting accentuates your face, avoid clutter in the background, and dress professionally — whether that means a suit and tie or just a polo shirt.
James Carbary, the founder of Sweet Fish, displays this well in his profile picture.
Another option is to use an action-based picture related to your potential clients’ needs.
For example, if you are trying to grow a public speaking business, using a high quality picture of you speaking is a good option. This is the version I opted for.
Here are some tips for taking the right profile picture:
- 7 Tips to Make Sure Your LinkedIn Picture Is Helping, Not Hurting, Your Prospects from Entrepreneur Magazine
- 5 Tips for Picking the Right LinkedIn Profile Picture from LinkedIn Talent
- 15 Tips for Choosing the Best LinkedIn Photo from Staples
It may even be worth dropping a few dollars to set up a photo session with a professional photographer. Your profile picture is the first thing people will see.
What is it saying to potential clients?
Write a Professional Headline
The professional headline is the statement that appears immediately below your name at the top of the profile. It’s one of the first things people see on your profile.
LinkedIn defaults this headline to your most current work position — and for most people, it stays right there. But your current position isn’t the best indicator of who you are and the skills you possess.
Think of this headline as a 120-character sales pitch.
What do you want potential leads to know about you? What would grab their attention? What skills and descriptors will communicate trust and authority to them?
Here are a few tips to write a lead-generating professional headline:
- Use keywords your potential clients will search
- Write in a human “voice”
- Be specific
- Include top skills or accomplishments
Need to see some concrete examples to get your creative juices flowing? Check out these posts:
- 4 Headline Hacks to Create an Irresistible LinkedIn Profile from Brazen Careerist
- The Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile Headline from Career Thought Leaders
- 10 Overused Words to Remove From Your LinkedIn Profile from HubSpot (not really examples, but some great thoughts on words to avoid using)
Be Thorough with Your Experience
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to really sell your skills and accomplishments, so do it!
Include all past work experience that might be interesting to potential leads, and use the description area to showcase accomplishments. Don’t just give a trimmed down job description.
Include measurable results, such as:
- Increased revenue by 10%
- Developed $1 million client
- Trained 30 new sales people
LinkedIn also allows you to include links and media under each work experience listing. This is a great way to showcase a portfolio or link to a project you worked on.
You might even include a client testimonial video. I included an “About” video, testimonial videos, and a link to the marketing materials portfolio I created for Ignite.
Images and videos grab people’s attention, so use them!
And, as always, use keywords throughout.
Add Your Skills
Seriously. Add as many skills as you can to your profile.
The skills section increases your chances of being found on LinkedIn, showcases skills that might not be readily determined from your work experience, and connections are able to endorse you for those skills.
It makes a lasting impact on potential clients when they see 50+ people endorsing you for a skill their project requires.
Ask Former Managers, Co-workers, and Clients for Recommendations
LinkedIn allows you to showcase recommendations on your profile.
That’s the equivalent of saying: don’t just take my word for it, here’s what these people have to say about how awesome I am!
Not sure how to ask? Here are some tips to getting high quality LinkedIn recommendations:
- How To Get Great LinkedIn Recommendations from Laura Rubinstein
- The Secret to Great LinkedIn Recommendations from Veronica Fielding via The Ladders
- 4 Keys to Scoring Amazing LinkedIn Recommendations from Jenny Foss via The Muse
Join & Engage in LinkedIn Groups
Once your LinkedIn profile is complete and optimized, it’s time to start engaging in the LinkedIn community.
LinkedIn Groups provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts.
You can meet other professionals, build connections, share your expertise, and find potential new clients for your business.
Here are a few ways you can utilize LinkedIn Groups for lead generation:
Find Relevant Groups to Join
Currently, there are over 2 million different groups you can join — and LinkedIn allows members to join a maximum of 50 groups.
You need to be strategic with the groups you join. It can be tempting tempting to join the Dog’s Best Friend group (who doesn’t love dogs?), but that might not be the best group to grow awareness of your business and generate leads.
Consider these questions when trying to choose what groups to join:
- What are the main interests of your potential clients?
- What industries do your potential clients represent?
- What keywords do your potential clients search?
- What topics gain the interest of your potential clients?
Check Activity in the Group
LinkedIn Groups are great networking tools…when they’re active. Sadly, many groups sit dormant for months with little to no activity.
Before making the jump into going a group, check the level of activity in the group. Here are a few things to look for:
- Discussions added to the group daily or weekly (any longer than a week, and it’s probably becoming a dormant group).
- More than 1 or 2 people post discussions.
- Discussions have likes and comments (it shows group members are interacting).
- Discussions are mostly on topic to the group’s purpose (a few off-topic discussions are great, but a whole list of them shows the group isn’t focused).
You can’t build relationships and generate leads in a group that has no activity.
Join the Group and Change Your Settings
When you feel you’ve found a group that meets your goals, it’s time to join!
Depending on the group status (open or closed), you’ll either be able to join immediately, or need to wait for administrator approval.
Once you’re able to join, the first thing you want to do is change your settings.
This will allow you to determine if you want group digest emails, where you want them sent, if you will allow group members to message you, and more.
To access the group settings, simply click the gear icon in the group title bar and then choose Your Settings. A screen will pop down with options you can choose.
Here are a few recommendations for group settings:
- Group Logo: if you plan to use this group for lead generation, you will want to display it on your profile. It shows you are active on LinkedIn and gives potential clients a bit more insight into your thought leadership.
- Contact Email: you will likely want to choose the email address you check the most — whether home or office. An extra tip: create a rule to send all LinkedIn Discussion Digests to a separate folder. It will keep your email inbox from being overrun.
- Activity: While it may seem like a good idea to receive an email for each new discussion, if you join 50 active groups, that’s a lot of email. You might want to keep this unchecked.
- Digest Email: This is a better option for group updates. You will get one email per group with a list of the day’s or week’s new discussions.
- Announcements: I recommend checking it at first and adjusting if you need to. Until you allow the group manager to send you an email, you won’t know the frequency with which they send. Some managers get a bit crazy with the emails.
- Member Messages: Same as announcements, start with it checked and adjust if need be. Most groups are good at keeping out spammers, but a few always slip through the cracks. You don’t want to keep group members from contacting you, but you also don’t want your LinkedIn message box flooded with spam.
These suggested settings will help you stay active in the group, while also keeping you from being overwhelmed with notifications.
Like, Follow, and Comment on Current Discussions
This is where the magic happens. Discussions are the core essence of LinkedIn Groups and a great way to build your authority and expertise in the group.
Before you go wild and start posting links to your website left and right, it’s beneficial to take a step back and evaluate the discussions already in the group.
Scroll through and see what discussion topics generate the most attention. This will give you a sense of what topics you want to start.
You will also want to engage in current discussions.
“Like” topics that peak your interest, comment with your thoughts and opinions, and “Follow” the discussion to receive updates when more comments are added.
Start Your Own Discussion
Once you’ve gauged the lay of the land, so to speak, it’s time to post your first discussion.
First impressions are important, so you’ll want to put some time and thought into what you want to post. Make it too much like what’s already in the group, and you’ll likely get ignored. Write something too far out there, and people will write you off as the group weirdo.
How do you make a great impression with your first discussion? Here are a few tips:
- Never, under any circumstances, make it a link back to your own website. Shameless self promotion is rarely tolerated in LinkedIn Groups.
- Link to an interesting article on a topic affecting your industry.
- Choose a catchy discussion title. Consider asking a question, referencing a pain point, explaining (briefly) why someone would want to read your discussion.
- Add some details. This is where you can write out more about the link or topic you are posting.
Let’s be honest, this is why you joined the group in the first place.
You want to build connections and find potential clients, but you don’t want to come across as the clingy girlfriend who stalks your every move and won’t let go. The group members don’t want that, either.
The best way to build connections is to let it happen naturally. Respond to those who comment on your discussions or reply to a comment you left. Comment on others’ discussions. Share posts group members would find interesting.
Think of it as inbound marketing, LinkedIn Group style.
Be the person who comments on their posts, likes their discussions, responds when they comment on your discussions. It will build your reputation in the group as someone who provides value.
Once people start engaging with you, it’s safe to send connection requests and build the relationship beyond the group.
Just don’t be the creepy person who sends connection requests when you first join the group. Nobody likes that guy (or girl).
Authority and expertise isn’t built in one discussion. The more you engage in the group, the more your reputation as a thought leader will grow.
Define a time of day (or minimum, every week) when you can visit the group and contribute in some way — posting a discussion or like, follow, or comment on someone else’s discussion. The more you contribute, the better.
LinkedIn even provides a nifty “Your Group Contribution Level” gauge in the right hand column of every group so you can see how well you are contributing to the group. The higher the gauge, the greater your influence in the group.
Become a LinkedIn Group Expert
Looking for more tips and insight to becoming a lead-generating whiz through LinkedIn Groups? Check out these resources:
- The Definitive Guide To LinkedIn Groups For Marketing from Jayson DeMers via Forbes
- 8 Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Boost Your Business from Jennifer Lonoff Schiff via CIO
- How to Network Using LinkedIn Groups from Stephanie Sammons via Social Media Examiner
Publish Long-Form Posts
Long-form posts are a great way to build authority and influence on LinkedIn, and, as of 2014, are available to every LinkedIn user for free.
Long-Form Posts — Explained
A long-form post on LinkedIn is just what it sounds like — a LinkedIn post that is long.
Think of it as a blog platform tied to your LinkedIn account.
You write content (like you would for your company blog), upload a featured image (like you would for your company blog), you publish it to an eager and waiting audience (like you would for your company blog), and you reap the benefits of content marketing (you guessed it, like you would for your company blog).
All of your published long-form posts will show up on your public profile and on Pulse, which is the platform LinkedIn uses to showcase long-form posts published by all LinkedIn members.
You can find more detailed information about long-form posts, as well some great tips on how to get started, on LinkedIn’s Help Center.
The Impact of the Long-Form Post
LinkedIn long-form posts can greatly affect your number of profile views and connection requests, as well as building authority in your industry.
According to LinkedIn, long-form posts are distributed in a manner that gets you viewed by members you aren’t connected with and who you might not otherwise know:
- They appear in the Posts section on your profile.
- They’re shared with your connections and followers.
- Likes, comments, and shares distribute your content beyond your immediate network.
- Your long-form posts are searchable both on and off LinkedIn.
- Depending on the quality of post, channels such as LinkedIn Pulse and emails.
A single long-form post has the potential to connect you with members outside your network, as well as those outside of LinkedIn.
According to Dave Lloyd,Senior Manager of Global Search Marketing at Adobe Systems, “long-form posts appear to be fully indexed by Google, so publishing offers the potential to get more links to your website—and having more of your branded content fill up a search engine result page.”
The LinkedIn network — both profile pages and Pulse (the home of your long-form posts) — rates incredibly well for search engine optimization. Often even better than your personal website.
How to Crush Your Long-Form Posts
Our friends over at Percolate analyzed 250 of the top LinkedIn long-form posts to determine the secrets to LinkedIn publishing success.
The findings of the study break down to five easy tips to crushing your long-form post:
1) Write posts answering Who, What, Where, When, and How.
28% of the top posts on LinkedIn contained one of those words — the highest statistic in the study.
These posts try to answer a specific question, and the possibilities are endless.
Here are some examples:
- Here’s How You Can Keep Your Top Performing Salespeople
- Why Logo Design Contests are Bad for Business
- What to Look For in a New Hire
2) Personalize your titles.
People scan through Pulse looking for ways to grow in their career. Titles that use “You” or “Your” stand out more — 27% more to be exact.
That’s right, according to the Percolate study, 27% of the top posts contained “You” or “Your” in the title.
Here are some examples:
- How Doing this 1 Thing Will Advance Your Career
- When You Should Fire a Client
- Using Evernote for Your To-Do List
3) Use lists in your posts.
List style posts are extremely popular right now and do well on LinkedIn.
They tend to be quick reads, easy to scan, and easy to digest — all things the busy professional is looking for.
Percolate found that 20% of the best long-form posts were lists.
Here are some examples:
- 5 Tips to Avoid Burnout
- 8 Skills to Include in Your LinkedIn Profile
- 6 Leadership Books You Should Read This Year
4) Write about career management.
LinkedIn is the network for professionals. It’s where people go to connect and grow in their careers.
Writing posts about career management — how to advance in your career, balancing career and family, ways to gain more skills — will serve you well.
Percolate found that it is the single most popular LinkedIn post category.
5) Write about talent management and leadership.
Next to career management, talent management and leadership were the next top performing categories in the Percolate study.
Put your own spin on these topics, add your advice, and your post will be in one of the top categories to get the most views.
While this is a great list, here are a few other tips to make your long-form posts really stand out:
- Write what you know.
- Keep your voice authentic.
- Share your opinion.
- Include pictures, video, charts, and other visuals in your content.
- Attribute when necessary.
- Don’t try to cover too many topics in one post.
- Be yourself.
- Add value to the conversation.
The same rules that apply to any blog post apply to LinkedIn long-form posts.
Write what you know, use bullet points and section titles, make it easy to digest, include images and you’ll be well on your way to long-form post stardom!
Here are a few great articles with other tips to being successful with your Long-Form Posts:
- Here’s What I Tell People When They Ask How to Crush it as a LinkedIn Writer from Daniel Roth, Executive Editor at LinkedIn
- A Beginner’s Guide to Publishing on LinkedIn from HubSpot
- LinkedIn Best Practices for Long-Form Posts from Larry Levenson via The Sensible Marketing Blog
Send Connection Requests
As you spend time on LinkedIn, you’ll start to receive (and want to send) connection requests.
Think of them along the lines of a Facebook friend request — you find someone on LinkedIn you would like to connect with, and send a request to add them to your connections.
Writing a Professional Invite
All the LinkedIn experts will tell you: write a custom and professional invitation in the optional field.
Here are a few reasons why this is important:
- You’re reaching out to professionals. If you wouldn’t send a pre-formatted stock email or make a pre-formatted stock phone call when trying to connect, you shouldn’t do it on LinkedIn, either.
- Tailoring your invitation to them helps answer the question: why should I accept your connection invite?
- It shows you’ve taken the time to think through how this connection is valuable to both sides, not just you.
- If you’re trying to generate business leads, sending the stock invite is lead-generating suicide.
So what are the best practices for sending a custom invite? Here are a few to consider:
- Tell them how you know them (or if you don’t know them, why you are reaching out to them).
- Explain why you want to connect. Why are you reaching out to them? Why do you want to add them to your network? Answer that question, and you likely won half the battle of winning them over.
- Find something in common. Remember, you’re reaching out to a human being. Finding a common interest helps build better relationships.
- Make it personal. Seriously. Don’t copy and paste one invitation to every person you send a connection request. Again, you are reaching out to human beings, not robots.
- Keep it short. No one has time to read a five-page dissertation (or a three-paragraph invite) on why they should accept your LinkedIn connection request. Keep it short and simple. Their time is too valuable to waste.
Need to see some concrete examples? Check out these posts:
- 7 Tips For Writing A Great LinkedIn Invitation from Ariella Coombs via Careerealism
- What To Write in Your LinkedIn Invites [Templates] from Jörgen Sundberg via Undercover Recruiter
- How to Write a LinkedIn Connection Request from Jeff Molander via MakeSocialMediaSell.com
Pro Tip: If you use Gmail, install Rapportive and start sending LinkedIn connection requests straight from your inbox.
Avoid the Shortcuts
If you’ve done any searching on LinkedIn connect requests, or avidly use LinkedIn already, you’ve likely discovered a few shortcuts to bypass the connect request screen.
Many so-called experts will tell you to just click the Connect button under a person’s picture and name on the People You May Know page, or even in the little box on the right hand side of your LinkedIn homepage.
Don’t do it.
Clicking that button immediately sends out the stock invitation text which, as you’ve learned above, is not best practice for building business leads. It makes you come across as lazy in your LinkedIn strategy (simply using the stock invite), impersonal, and not worth the time.
It may seem like the easier route, but it will likely result in fewer connection acceptances.
Don’t believe me? Sending the stock LinkedIn connection invite is one of the main reasons people deny your request.
Take a look at these articles for yourself:
- Why I Don’t Respond To Your LinkedIn Requests from Joshua Steimle via Forbes
- Stranger Danger: 3 Good Reasons to Reject a LinkedIn Connection Request from Kim Lachance Shandrow via Entrepreneur
Sending a personalized invitation request on LinkedIn is professional, much more likely to garner a response, and the best practice for generating business leads.
One of the last steps to lead generation on LinkedIn is to advertise on their platform.
While spending money to run ads might not seem like the best choice, the LinkedIn platform is a great place to invest if you are looking to generate highly qualified leads.
According to LinkedIn, they have 347 million-plus members worldwide with 2.5 million-plus who are business decision makers active on the site. No other network will get your ads seen by that many decision makers.
The Four Tools
LinkedIn offers four main tools to help you reach decision makers on their platform:
- Sponsored Updates allow you to put your native advertising in the LinkedIn feed, and reach professionals on desktop, smartphone and tablet. Your ad comes across as a regular LinkedIn update right in your target audience’s feed. You can learn more about Sponsored Updates here.
- Lead Accelerator allows you to convert the 95% of Web visitors who are anonymous prospects with relevant ads and content. It’s LinkedIn’s version of remarketing platforms, with better targeting and seen across sites that most business decision makers frequent. You can learn more about Lead Accelerator here.
- Sponsored InMail allows you to send highly targeted messages to the people that matter most to your business — right to their LinkedIn inboxes. It’s like email marketing, only better. Sponsored InMail guarantees 100% deliverability (aka, your message doesn’t get thrown into the oblivion of spam folders) and is delivered when the user is active on LinkedIn. You can learn more about Sponsored InMail here.
- LinkedIn Text Ads allow you to drive new customers to your business — on a budget that works for you — with their easy, self-service pay per click (PPC) advertising platform. You can learn more about LinkedIn Text Ads here.
LinkedIn offers a number of great resources to learn about their advertising and marketing programs, as well as tutorials to help you get started. Here are just a few to peak your interested:
Get Started Today
LinkedIn provides you direct access to nurturing highly qualified leads for your business all in one place.
Through optimizing your profile, joining LinkedIn Groups, publishing long-form posts, sending connection requests, and advertising, you will begin racking in the leads in no time.
So what are you waiting for?
Download our free LinkedIn Strategy Guide, jump in, and get started today!