How to Use LinkedIn for New Customer Development
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, everyone’s definition of “normal” life has undergone serious modifications. Economic considerations have been driving many of the conversations, and if someone’s business is fortunate enough to survive the crisis, that company will need to adjust its selling approach.
Print and promo professionals are always brainstorming ways to attract and retain customers anyway, but they, like their commercial peers, lack a magic wand to suppress titanic changes in the marketplace.
Especially now, when engaging people can prove pretty difficult, given the instability of, well, essentially everything, these creatives must remember that they make vital contributions to our daily lives by cultivating brand awareness, conveying information and bridging communication gaps. How, though, can they make connections? Must they, out of panic, change course, or should they look to use a thoughtful combination of trusted resources? For Nick Lateur, the second option is the obvious choice.
“There’s always pressure no matter what or to whom you’re looking to sell,” the national sales manager for IMAGEN Brands, Mason, Ohio, said. “We’re experiencing something that’s requiring major adjustments, but we still need to be vigilant and find solutions, particularly through online engagements with our bases and potential customers.”
Lateur uses LinkedIn to appeal to the commerce community, due to its more educational identity than, say, Facebook or Twitter. Thanks to a plethora of opportunities, notably the “Mondays with Nick” video series through which he touts IMAGEN Brands’ products, he has come to see LinkedIn as an influential part of his sales identity and looks forward to witnessing further growth for the platform. To see how others could count on LinkedIn as a tool to resonate with consumers, Print+Promo spoke to Lateur; Sarah Scudder, president of Real Sourcing Network (RSN), New York City; and Kristina Davis, sales executive for Brand Advantage Group, a Safeguard Company, Plymouth, Minn.
The Present Link
As Lateur mentioned, looking to land anybody’s interest can rattle one’s nerves. After all, the scope of the print and promo sector, which certainly allows salespeople to cast a wider net, can make it hard to find a voice in, owing to the assortment of skills, years in the field and partnerships that others have already secured. People might even feel tempted to try to uncover a missing operational element, and while that soul-searching might do well and might do them good, it could be more beneficial to concentrate on a present link, namely, LinkedIn.
“LinkedIn is my main outlet for sharing my ideas,” Davis said. “I also have a Facebook business page, but I struggle to build my business network on that platform. On LinkedIn, I know my reaches are more qualified candidates, whereas other social media platforms are reaching mostly friends and family. I do both, but LinkedIn has been more successful because it’s a business network.”
Indeed it is. As of earlier this year, more than 30 million companies had been relying on LinkedIn to do business, with 675 million overall users helping it earn the title of the world’s largest professional network. Since its May 2003 launch, it has won favor as not only a place to seek employment, in part to the 20 million-plus open positions listed on LinkedIn Jobs, but also as a rich environment for the promotion of one’s offerings to clients. What has bred that oh-so-welcomed change?
“I’d say that people are seeing it as a complement to their companies’ websites and as a chance to be informative and light at the same time,” Lateur stated. “It has that blend of standard business professionalism and opportunity for levity that you should never overlook.”
The IMAGEN Brands employee explained that when he began using LinkedIn, he did not see it as a social media site, per se, focusing far more on its inclusion of a job board. Thanks to an ebullient personality, though, he has grown to appreciate his contributions to revamping the notion that the platform is stodgy and limited as a customer engagement and development tool. Through his videos, which he only recently made a Monday ritual, Lateur has dubbed LinkedIn the antithesis of the status quo, presenting them as quick, comedic kickstarters for the week.
“What you see in the videos is my true personality,” he revealed. “I think the best salespeople are real—flaws and all. Being real for me has always been about bringing humor and humility to my profession.”
With a replicable format, Lateur has gained a solid following based on that mindset, with LinkedIn being a high traffic generator for his output, usually to the tune of more than 500 views. Lateur, who has sported a superhero costume and shiny gold tights in the name of customer-centric entertainment, is not taking to LinkedIn to launch an eventual standup career. Rather, he uses it to encourage something that should be top of mind anyway—the believing in and fostering of one’s brand. This is something Scudder can get behind as well.
“I’ve heard people say social media is a waste of time,” she relayed. “I disagree. LinkedIn is a powerful way to share content and build your personal and company brand. It allows you to post frequent content for your prospects to read. Prospects can follow you, learn about your company and reach out when they have a need for your product or service. LinkedIn gives you a platform to become a thought leader.”
A Lasting Fancy
The popularity that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram enjoy could lead someone to believe that they’re appropriate only for lighthearted interactions and that LinkedIn stands as the site where humor goes on hiatus. Had the last part of that quartet originated decades ago and been an element of business dealings among those with a limited understanding of commerce’s intricacies and nuances, that might have ended up as LinkedIn’s fate. We are fortunate that the current business scene teems with professionals who see it as a perennial motivator. Like a book that offers fresh insights with each read, a trip to LinkedIn feeds the curiosity of those who seek to maximize it, especially early adapters such as Davis.
“When I first started on the platform [about 15 years ago], I was not in sales so I used it to network and build a profile/résumé for new job opportunities,” she said. “I also found it to be a better Rolodex than keeping a stack of business cards, so I used it to connect with people. Now that I am in direct sales, the last five years I have been using the platform heavily for sales promotions and finding new prospective clients.”
Scudder has spent the last 20 months becoming a highly active LinkedIn aficionado, a period that coincides with her transitioning to RSN. Having grown tired of working at companies that emphasized cold calling and emailing, she studied personal branding and learned the importance of building an online brand by picking something she wanted to be known for and by establishing an online persona. Identifying procurement industry suppliers who had strong personal brands, Scudder learned that those parties had prospects coming to them and, therefore, avoided having to chase down possible partners. She wanted that same come-to-us reputation for RSN and soon identified LinkedIn as a key tool in its branding strategy.
“LinkedIn is the most effective marketing tool my team and I use,” she said. “It allows me to post useful, timely and thoughtful information about print and marketing services in a non-salesy way. LinkedIn is my team’s main outlet to post articles, white papers and benchmark reports, and to share webinars, which can be virtual or in-person events. Over time, we hope that marketing and procurement prospects begin to like our voice, our messaging and our Sourceit e-sourcing tool and that they will follow us.”
“Hope” resonates as a chief facet of how Lateur regards LinkedIn in that he would like for sales hires to use the space to make their content more visible. Relying on the element of surprise through his humorous Monday uploads, he has used every LinkedIn login as a way to reinforce what he considers a mainstay of marketing 101: having a consistent message.
“When dealing with our customers, we should always be approachable and compassionate while also being highly knowledgeable,” he said. “If we can make our customers smile while also educating them, they will always find a way to work with us.”
Scudder likewise holds that LinkedIn has earned lasting fancy distinction, noting that profiles and posts set the stage for individuals to make evident how creative they are, how they can address particular needs and how clients can continue to find steady business through them. As for profiles and posts, the more they lack a corporate feel, the better they will be.
“Both should reflect your personality and your unique value proposition,” Scudder, who spends up to four hours each day on LinkedIn, said. “You stand out by being different. Don’t be afraid to use humor.”
How does one go about being an exceptional ally through LinkedIn, how does the site lend itself to seeking out business and growing it accordingly, and where is it heading as an aid for fostering bonds? For Lateur, pondering and answering those inquiries make him feel lucky to be in the industry, a mindset that Davis and Scudder likewise nurture.
“I love posting about projects that I have helped with and tagging [the people I’ve helped] in it,” Davis said. “I share events and topics they write about that I feel are important. All of those actions make connections and build relationships.
“For me, using LinkedIn is just a way to set myself apart from others,” she continued. “I think people can see how passionate I am about the industry and that I would be fun to work with.”
Each time Davis meets someone, she is quick to add the person as a connection. When an individual has a work anniversary or a job change or posts something that calls to her, she also composes a message as a way to remain a considerate business option in an ever-expanding digital age.
Given her dedication to being a LinkedIn user and advocate, Scudder has developed many go-to recommendations for people to leverage the platform to generate new business. Practical and imitable, they figure to propel RSN to greater success and could do the same for those who are already enjoying LinkedIn and those who want to add it to their outreach and brand identity.
- Do a post each day. A post should not just be a link to an article. It should include your thoughts and insights.
- Tag influencers, prospects and clients.
- Use hashtags throughout and at the end of each post.
- Include short videos and pictures: Funny pictures get significantly more views than standard photos. Videos get more engagement than photos.
- Get other people to share your content.
- Send 10 connection requests per day, and include a personal note with each request.
- Create a library of notes to send to new connections so you don’t spend time crafting a custom note for each new connection.
- When accepting a connection request, send a note with something useful about your company, such as an interesting article you’ve written that the person might find useful.
If you are nodding your head after having read those, you crave meaningful interactions with your audiences and respect how LinkedIn can bring them about while also revealing your uniqueness. Whether you take to the medium to be funny, informative, considerate or curious, always refrain from being a run-of-the-mill user. To Scudder’s tips, Davis added that she uses Sales Navigator so as to be able to dig a tad deeper to find prospects. As far as where LinkedIn will soon take business and what she would like to see it do for various markets, Scudder again abounded in hope.
“The most important LinkedIn advancement I look forward to this year is live streaming for all users,” she said. “I want to be able to live stream our events on LinkedIn to get global participation. LinkedIn will allow you to share in-person events with everyone so people can participate without being present in person.
“I anticipate that LinkedIn will add more functionality to their search feature, with the paid version, so you can get more information about your prospects and create better lead generation lists,” she concluded. “I expect LinkedIn to do more to promote genuine, authentic content. This will reward people who put the time and energy into writing meaningful posts and articles.”