1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile - Chances are when people are looking to buy products/services, they might just stumble upon your profile. A good description of what kind of services/products you provide might just help you rope in few leads.
#Tip: The new skill endorsement feature is another reason why you should list your skills and expertise on your LinkedIn profile.
2. Brand your company page and keep it active - LinkedIn has realized the importance of a company page as a community building tool and is in the process of re-designing it to make it more visual in nature. Having a products and services tab and doing status updates is a must. If you can get a couple of existing clients to recommend your products/services that will give your company page the initial buzz that it requires. Also, it will have a significant impact on the purchase decision of your prospects. Company pages also serve as a medium where existing customers can come and ask for support. Once you have a good number of followers, you can lure your prospects by special offers in addition to giving existing customers discounts on repurchases.
3. Identifying prospects through LinkedIn Groups & Answers - This one has worked wonders for my current clients. It's always better to target people who are already looking for a product/service you provide. It's more of shifting the paradigm form "push" to "pull". Use LinkedIn signal to look for such prospects. There are numerous conversations going on in LinkedIn groups and answers. You just need to find them :)
4. Using LinkedIn advanced people search - This one is more of building a prospect network and tends to give benefits in the long run. Add people who fall in your target category and start interacting with them. But be careful about being too pushy. This method is a double edged sword and might lead to a social media backlash. There is surely an amount of success rate involved with this process but you just need to be a little extra careful. For quicker results, Inmails with guaranteed responses are also a good option.
#Tip: Upgrading to a premium LinkedIn account will help quicken the above process and also give you insight on prospective clients visiting your LinkedIn profile.
5. LinkedIn advertising - A solution offered by LinkedIn which is totally worth it. For B2B specially, the ability to target people by job function and industry gives a great ROI. The self advertising program starts with $2/ad click. This is great and you tend to get better results when you target the mid-bottom section of the organizational pyramid. These people may not be decision makers but are most definitely strong influences.
For targeting the upper section of the organizational pyramid (in a b2b scenario) or if you are looking for a b2b/b2c branding + lead generation solution, you must take a look at LinkedIn custom ad units & solutions - http://socialmediatoday.com/rohit-onkar/688031/customized-linkedin-adver...
These solutions though a bit on the higher end ( you need a minimum budget of $2,000 ) give you better reach and "hotter" leads. So if you are looking to beat the competition in the self advertising program and reach "only" decision makers, you should consider using them.
6. Converting "Weak Social ties" into "Strong Social Ties" - Quite a few times, the prospects you have identified on LinkedIn via any or all of the above steps, don't convert into customers immediately. This is specially true for high end b2c products and almost every b2b product wherein the purchase cycle is long and involves a lot of social elements. In such a scenario, you must create a LinkedIn group and get all of your prospects to join the group including your existing customers. When your prospects hear the experiences/testimonials of your existing customers, they sure will convert into customers. In addition, by doing this you are creating a community of product/service/brand evangelists and advocates.
The group will also be a resource to cross sell/ up sell your services/products. Just like your company page, customers can also seek support within your group.
Once the group becomes large enough, you can create sub groups for existing customers and "weak social ties" ( prospects ). Also, if you have a large sales force, you should invite them to join the group as well and get them to close some sales :)
The major difference between a company page and owning a LinkedIn group and the reason you must own both is the fact that via a company page you will always be the one who has to initiate a conversation ( the functionality is such ). Whereas in a LinkedIn group, people talk amongst themselves. Another point to consider is that whenever you post a company page update, it is pushed into the news feed of the people who follow the company, whereas group discussions are sent via email to people ( 1 email per week ).
7. Being patient and staying away from myths about LinkedIn - Just accept the fact that good things take time to materialize. Be patient and LinkedIn can work wonders for you. Finally, stay away from myths like "LinkedIn is only for HR" or "people come to LinkedIn only when they want to switch jobs". A recent study shows that people come to professional networking sites like LinkedIn because it helps them perform better in their present job assignment as opposed to "just" looking for a new job. You can refer the snapshot below.
P.S. I asked myself why I come to LinkedIn and the better part of me agrees with the “blue” guys on top. Do you agree too? How successful has LinkedIn marketing been for you? Let us know in the comments section.