Leverage LinkedIn to grow your small business.

LinkedIn logoThe powerful social media tool LinkedIn is the leading online tool for managing your professional network. As at June 2011, LinkedIn had more than 120m professionals actively using it. It can be great in assisting you in recruitment, marketing and even sales.

Your use of LinkedIn should fit with your overall philosophy to business and sales – the one I recommend is a selfless approach, aimed at helping others. My philosophy on selling was reinforced by Bill and Bryan on the excellent Advanced Selling Podcast, one of the top 3 sales resources I recommend for growing a small business. They speak about concepts like “detachment”, “abundance” and “inner game” which tie in nicely with an approach to sales I use – based on long-term relationships with the customer, not short-term transactions.

As Seth Godin speaks about, you need to build a Tribe of people who are interested in what you have to offer them. Be brutal about this Tribe, especially on LinkedIn. Make sure you have a clear definition of your Tribe – who are they – then only allow those people in.

From a sales perspective, it is OK to make announcements about new products and promotions, but be careful bombarding your Tribe with spammy sales ads. You should always be communicating with your Tribe with their interests in mind, not your own.

A sales philosophy of trusted adviser and long term relationship usually always wins over a short-term transactional approach. With this in mind, LinkedIn should be seen more as a marketing tool than eliciting direct sales.

Marketing on LinkedIn in pretty easy. You should have an up-to-date and professional looking LinkedIn profile. And post news about your industry and business on a regular basis. Easier still if you already send Tweets, link your Tweet platform to your LinkedIn account so both communities see you news.

Balance the announcements between industry news (information that is relevant to the people following you) and your business news (winning a new large customer account is a good example, as your Tribe can then understand what your business does better, and quickly.)

People watch their LinkedIn updates (where updates from their community are posted) and will remember and sometimes respond to your news. As a marketing exercise this keeps your brand in their mind. When they have a need for your product or service – or know someone who does – they are more likely to put your business forward.

Finally, join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your business and industry, and actively participate in group discussions. This allows you to be seen as an expert in this field. Keep in mind the mentality that you are there to help others, not thrust sales pitches into the group. Be selfless and aim to genuinely help others and people will notice and in turn, want to help you and your business.

As with any marketing activity, set a budget. Just because most social media marketing is your own time it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a cost. Set a weekly budget and stick to it, it is easy to go over-the-top with social media so you need to be both focused and disciplined.

What a small business owner / manager can do to leverage LinkedIn when growing their business:

  1. Make your LinkedIn profile sparkle
  2. Have a policy of only connecting with people on LinkedIn that you have met, and as importantly, that you like
  3. Make it a habit after networking to connect to people on LinkedIn within 1 business day, and send them a personal message in the connection. And remember to be selfless, find something of value to email or send them (the above article on how to make your LinkedIn profile sparkle can be a good one, if their profile is scant or new)
  4. Use the update area of LinkedIn (or connect your Tweet platform – like HooteSuite – to your LinkedIn account) to post news to your Tribe at least once a day
  5. Join groups relevant to your business and industry, and actively participate in group discussions on topics (I set the LinkedIn email summaries to weekly)

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