In this cold, hard, competitive online world, everyone is looking to generate leads.
And that’s understandable… your business sulks without leads… no sales, no revenue, no nothin’.
Before you even think about possibilities, there’s a lot to do. From identifying your targets, to brainstorming a pitch, to establishing a lead generation timeline based on your resources… hey, if you really want your lead to perform, you need a great game plan.
The reality is – whether you sell DIY tees or copywriting services – you have to generate leads first. How do you accomplish this vital component of boosting your bottom line?
LinkedIn, it turns out, is a happening lead generation tool. While young sellers flock to Facebook, LinkedIn is where you solve the quandary; where introducing a service can be a little more involved; and where you get recognized by real people.
As the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn provides a great platform for networking with the purpose of generating leads. With over 3.5 million companies and 260 million registered users residing on the network, turning a blind eye to this network is a wasted opportunity and a marketing fail.
I must say – LinkedIn was the only social network that felt unfamiliar and foreign to me for a really long time. However, after experimenting a lot (and I mean a lot!), it become less scary and a lot more exciting.
But as with all those dating websites (curse me, if I am wrong), you don’t get the full scoop until you subscribe for a membership. On LinkedIn, you have to be a Premium member to reap the most benefits when it comes to lead-generation.
Sure you can network, create new opportunities and be successful with a basic LinkedIn profile, but if you really want to leverage the depth of LinkedIn, upgrading to a Premium account is something you may consider.
Welcome to LinkedIn Premium
Here’s a simple way to look at the Premium account. There are five premium memberships offered by LinkedIn:
Business professionals (business)
Recruiters (enterprise recruiters)
Job seekers (job seeker)
Sales professionals (sales)
Talent Finder (individual recruiters)
For lead-generation, the business & sales professional categories are a good fit. With each membership category there are a different upgrade levels, which let you access more of the features accessible in a LinkedIn Premium profile (the basic difference between upgrade levels is the quantity of features you’re able to access).
What you’re really getting when you sign up for a Premium account is access to a bunch of exclusive features. And the more you upgrade, the more access you get.
That’s just scratching the surface… here are the perks of being a Premium account holder on LinkedIn:
A free account lets you conduct some basic searches, but a Premium profile takes it up a notch with detailed search queries. For example, you can perform a search that includes Fortune 500 executives interested in the service(s) you sell.
Premium account holders see a gold logo beside these additional search features indicating access. The number of features you can access depends on your membership level.
Free profiles are extremely limited when it comes to sending messages to people outside your connections. Usually, you need an introduction via a mutual contact, but that all changes with a Premium account where you can send a message to anyone using the InMail feature.
InMail are credits you receive being a premium member that can be applied towards sending messages. A response is guaranteed by LinkedIn, so if you don’t get a response in 7 days, LinkedIn returns your InMail credit. The quantity of InMail credits depends on your Premium account plan.
See Whos’ Viewed Your Profile
This feature displays a list of people who have recently visited your profile. Free members can only see last 5 people who have visited their profile; Premium members can see the full list of people from the past 3 months.
So you’re now able to take a deeper look at those who search for you, view your credentials. This feature also includes a list of keywords that people have used to search when they came across your profile, and the Industry they came from, which could be a great way to fill the lead pipeline (more on that later).
Full Profile View
One of the best perks of being a premium member is that you are able to see full profiles of everyone in your network, including group members and 3rd-degree connections. This feature gives you 35x more access to profiles than you’d have with a free account. The latter includes limited access to profile information of distant connections.
The greater quantity of profile information can help you understand the makeup of a lead and his/her interest regardless of whether you do or don’t have mutual contacts, making the Premium profile a valuable tool.
You can save particular searches and receive alerts for them weekly or monthly. For example, if you want to reach someone who is interesting in content marketing services, you can set that search to alert you once every 7 days with new results.
Alerts are quick and non-invasive and ensure that you don’t waste your time with disconnected results. It’s a great way to follow and message new leads, without making manual search endeavors time and time again.
Generating leads with LinkedIn premium
So how might you use these features to generate new leads, specifically? Here’s a 4-step blueprint for using LinkedIn premium features more effectively to gain new leads:
1. Build a targeted list
For any industry, LinkedIn Premium presents the Advanced Search option that includes several fields such as company size, interested in, groups in common, when joined, seniority level, location, school, past company and keywords. These fields are valuable because they give you the ability to narrow down your leads.
For example, if you are selling content marketing services, you may want to target content marketing managers of Fortune 50 to Fortune 100 companies.
For the purpose, you would type content marketers in the keyword field, choose Location Anywhere, check 2nd connections, group members and 3rd degree connections, select managers from seniority level, and Fortune 51-100 from the Fortune 1000 section.
From the search listings, you can make a list of leads you want to pitch to. Most profiles will display full information about an individual courtesy of your Premium membership.
Specifically, Full Profile View will display information that will help you narrow down the list further, such as avoiding prospects who work at companies you’ve had bad experiences with.
2. Set alerts for new leads
Advanced Search under a Premium account allows you to save searches. This feature remembers your search and also sends you weekly or monthly notifications of any new members that became a part of the LinkedIn network for the keywords you searched before.
These profiles can be scanned from the Saved Search Tab by clicking under New. Premium members can save up to 7 searches and view additional 500 profiles displayed in the search listings. You can include any suitable new leads in your list of potential leads.
3. Search for additional leads
Who’s Viewed Your Profile page is a great source of searching additional leads. This page includes all those people who have recently visited your profile in the last 90 days. From this list, you can find prospects to include in your potential lead list.
There’s another feature in the Who’s Viewed Your Profile page that augments your effort to cast a wide lead net: Views by Industry. This is a section that will highlight the top industries consisting of individuals who have viewed your profile.
If more people are coming to your profile from industries you are not selling to, this may indicate an untapped market that you should consider when searching for leads.
4. Reach out directly
Use InMail to directly send a message to your leads in your list and convert them into sales. InMail increases your chances of lead generation success as it has a higher open rate compared to traditional emails. This improves your ability to reach prospects directly and generate sales for your products and services.
Although a 7-day response rate is guaranteed, you would want to follow pitching best practices for best results. Also, study a lead carefully before sending out a message… don’t scare away people by making it clear upfront that you’re selling… engage first, go for the kill later.
LinkedIn returns a credit if the response isn’t received in 7 days, so you can apply that credit to another lead. InMail credits accumulate month to month – if you have 10 inMail credits to begin with, but can only reach out to 5 leads in a particular month – the rest 5 will be added to the next month’s total InMail credits, so you’ll have 15 InMail messages to send the next month.
You’re in the hot seat
Does all of this work? Of course, but with focused efforts.
You’ll only benefit from these Premium features if you put time and effort into exploiting them.
So before you upgrade (putting the experimental nature of Michael Dell aside if you’re on a budget), ask yourself – have you been making good use of LinkedIn’s free features?
Feel free to leave comments, ask questions, or suggest anything that knocks your head.
Article by Dan Virgillito
Dan Virgillito is a professional blogger and content strategy consultant who loves working with startups, companies and nonprofits and help them tell their story better, engage fans and find new ways to drive business through content. You can learn more about his work and get in touch with him via his website. Connect with Dan on Google+ / Dan Virgillito and Twitter / @danvirgillito