A Marketer’s Guide to Selling on LinkedIn With Few or No Ads

Opinion: With the right approach and strategy, you can build a funnel that consistently generates leads without spending money on ads

Selling on LinkedIn is not going to happen overnight
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LinkedIn is the popular internet space for professionals. One of every three professionals on the planet is on its network.

But besides being home to millions of professionals around the world, LinkedIn is also an effective marketing tool. In fact, 80 percent of business-to-business leads come from LinkedIn, and 79 percent of B2B marketers view it as an effective source for generating leads.

However, not everyone knows how to use LinkedIn to generate leads.

As a marketer, finding your way around LinkedIn can be tricky, if not difficult. This is because you’re dealing with professionals who are usually knowledgeable about their respective fields.

Whether you’re just getting started on LinkedIn or you’re looking for ways to revamp your selling strategy, this article will give you insights into how to use LinkedIn to win leads and gain new customers, without breaking the bank.

Ready? Here’s the first thing you should know:

LinkedIn is all about relationships

Cold pitching and blatant selling do not work very well on the network. Messages that sell outright without established relationships will most likely be ignored. A survey by InsideView found that 90 percent of C-level executives never reply to cold calls or cold emails. The same happens on LinkedIn.

You need to provide consistent value to your prospects to gain their trust. Then you can sell to an already receptive audience.

The second thing to keep in mind is this:

LinkedIn is different from other social networks

Most people view LinkedIn like Facebook or Twitter and try to apply the same strategies that they would use on these other networks. But LinkedIn is different.

Think of LinkedIn the same way you think of the internet and it makes a lot more sense.

Your company page or LinkedIn profile is your landing page. Your statuses are emails you send to subscribers. LinkedIn Pulse is your blog. And LinkedIn community features are the other places on the internet where you go to find potential customers and drive them to your landing page.

Simple analogy, right?

Now that you have these points in mind, let’s discuss your overall strategy.

Step 1: Creating value and building relationships

The best way to do this is to be clear about who you are and what you offer. That’s why you should nail your homepage (aka LinkedIn profile or company page). All of your marketing efforts on LinkedIn will most likely be for naught if your profile is not set up properly. This is because all of your efforts will translate to one thing: People will want to know who you are. And they do this by viewing your profile or company page.

So, get this right: Your profile is your landing page, and you should treat it like one. Here’s how:

  • Use a professional photo: People are 11 times more likely to view your profile if it includes a photo. Plus, you get higher InMail response rates.
  • Maximize your banner image: As a marketer, you can’t afford to leave the LinkedIn default header image. That little space is your opportunity to visually introduce your prospective customers to your product or service in a non-intrusive way. Here are some LinkedIn banner image ideas to get your creative juices flowing: Fill out your profile completely—not only does this help you rank higher in search engines, but it shows you off as a serious professional. Include contact details and links to your website and other social media profiles. Include a call to action—ask your viewers to connect. Don’t just write your summary and leave the viewer to decide what to do with the information. Use it to make your first sale, which is the connection.
  • Share valuable content: Remember the analogy about LinkedIn Pulse being your blog? LinkedIn’s native publishing system allows you to publish articles directly on LinkedIn. Articles that you publish show up as links on your profile and are broadcast to your connections. These articles also rank well in search engines—publishing regularly will give your brand an extra boost. You can start by publishing two to three stellar articles. Popular topics revolve around business and career development. Always keep in mind that you’re writing for a professional audience and tailor your content toward their needs. If you do not wish to write original content or don’t have the time, you can repurpose your blog content or other articles on your website for your LinkedIn audience.
  • Display thought leadership with Slideshare: LinkedIn Slideshare reaches 70 million unique users per month, making it one of the 100-most-visited sites in the world. By publishing content on Slideshare, you not only reach more people, but you also show off your brand as a leader in your industry. Create new presentations or turn your old presentations and e-books into simple informative slides. Include links to your website and share your slides on your LinkedIn profile.

Step 2: Mining for prospects

Now that you have made it clear who you are and what you offer, you can confidently move on to finding customers for your business.

  • Participate in LinkedIn groups: LinkedIn groups are one of the most powerful tools on the network. Find groups where your prospective customers are and contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Your aim is not to sell, but to provide value and draw prospective customers to your LinkedIn space.
  • Identify prospective clients and connect with them: Always personalize invitations you send out to prospects. Do not just send generic messages to them.
  • Extra tip—expand your influence by starting a LinkedIn group: You can take your progress one step further by starting a LinkedIn group. Social media expert Lewis Howes says to think of LinkedIn groups as “independent social networks where you can spread your message, connect with key partners and take your business to another level.”
  • Stay top-of-mind with regular status updates: As you attract more people and make new connections, you should update your status regularly. This will help you stay fresh in the minds of your prospects.
  • View your LinkedIn status updates the same way you do your emails: Make them short, relevant and useful. Just like you wouldn’t want to overflood your subscribers’ inboxes, post regularly but not too many times in a day. Aim to use updates to increase engagement.

Step 3: Making the sale

  • Warm-pitch prospects: This is why building a relationship first is so important. It decides whether your message gets read or ignored. If your prospects are already familiar with you, they are much more likely to respond to your messages. Even if they are not interested in your product or service at the time, they can give you valuable feedback that would further strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Reach more people through sponsored updates: Although you can completely depend on your own connections and participation in LinkedIn groups, you can also maximize LinkedIn advertising to boost your reach. Since you already have solid presence on LinkedIn, it’s easier to convince new prospects about your offer.
  • Monitor your progress with LinkedIn analytics: As with any other marketing strategy, you need to track your efforts on LinkedIn to know if they are paying off. LinkedIn provides insight into a lot of your activities. For individual profiles, LinkedIn provides data for posts published on Pulse, which means you can see the overall performance of a post (views, likes, comments and shares). For company pages, the options are much broader. LinkedIn analytics gives insight on company updates, followers and visitors. It allows you to measure engagement and impressions. Keep an eye on the data so that you know what to improve upon.

Conclusion

Selling on LinkedIn is not going to happen overnight. It will most likely take a while before you reap the dividends, because it’s about building relationships, first. And relationships require nurturing.

With the right approach and strategy, however, you can build a funnel that consistently generates leads without spending money on ads.

Remember the sequence:

  • Polish your profile and make it clear what you do and what you offer.
  • Publish genuinely helpful and valuable content.
  • Find prospective customers and build trusted relationships.
  • Then sell to people who already know and trust you.

Eimantas Balciunas is founder of cryptocurrency trading startup The Big Coin.