Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
This concept holds true, especially in business, and as a small B2B business owner, you need to be clear not only on your goals but also about the way you plan to achieve them. That means having a plan, and to successfully implement a plan, you need to factor in the time and resources that you'll need to invest into your plan’s execution.
If you're like many small business owners, you likely wear many hats, tackling sales, content marketing, bookkeeping, and customer service, among others. Trying to accomplish all these tasks can be challenging - but thankfully, with small, achievable goals, a step-by-step action plan, and the right tools, you can make your vision a reality.
One of the tools that can help your B2B business grow is LinkedIn.
In this post, we'll go over five essential LinkedIn strategies that you can use to create an action plan to achieve a number of your key business goals.
1. Build your professional and personal brand
Establishing a professional brand is vital to relationship building on LinkedIn. Building relationships with your prospects and clients is crucial, because people are more likely to buy from those they know, like and trust. This is more difficult to achieve in today’s digital world, where we have to rely on our digital brands to get our prospects to the “know, like and trust” stage.
As a social media platform for business professionals, LinkedIn is most effectively used by small business owners who create both a LinkedIn personal profile and a company page. Both of these assets will showcase you and your business in a professional light when someone finds you or your business in the LinkedIn - and often Google - search results.
To create a powerful professional brand, ensure your personal LinkedIn profile is professional and complete.
Your profile visitors should be able to learn quickly about who you aim to serve, what you offer and why they should listen to you. Your credibility can be further enhanced by the Recommendations and Skill Endorsements part of your profile - you should aim to have at least five LinkedIn recommendations from people who can speak to your expertise.
And while your personal profile will do most of the work on LinkedIn (because people connect with people, not logos), you also need to create a LinkedIn company page for your business. This is important, even if you're a solopreneur, consultant or freelancer. Again, your company page needs to be complete, representing you and your business the way you want your ideal clients to see you.
A completed LinkedIn company page with a proper logo kills two birds with one stone:
- It provides additional opportunities for your business to be found in the search results for the services you offer, and
- It ensures that your company looks legitimate on both your own and your employees’ profiles.
2. Establish your authority on your topic
This strategy is about fostering the sense of “know, like and trust” among your ideal clients and network toward your brand. To win trust, you need to demonstrate that you know what you're talking about - in other words, you need to establish your authority on your subject matter. You can do this by sharing content and resources that your ideal clients will find of value.
When you curate content, ensure the articles you share look professional, and solves a problem or challenge your ideal clients face. Further, provide your own opinion or perspective on the material. Your ideal clients can find this content elsewhere - what will make it unique is your perspective on it.
If you have the skills and resources, you should also create and share your own original content. You can post it is as status updates or long-form articles via LinkedIn Publisher. The content you create should be 100% client-focused and of interest to your ideal clients.
You do this by identifying their problems and challenges and then creating content offering solutions to those challenges. If you understand where they’re coming from, and what their motivations are, and you speak their language, you’ll be able to connect with them in a meaningful way and build trust.
You may be reluctant to give your ideal clients a complete step-by-step guide to solve their challenges for free, but if you want to establish yourself as an authority, and build trust, you must be willing to share your knowledge. Keep in mind thjat you're solving only micro-problems in your content - your target audience will still have problems they’ll be willing to pay you to solve. Sharing your very best tips and strategies will position you as an expert, and create more demand for what you offer.
Some people will always be glad to pay for the services of an expert because they lack either the time or the desire to do it themselves. By giving away your best information, you position yourself as a trusted authority. When they decide they need a service or product like yours, they’ll think of you.
3. Generate new prospects and clients
If you're like most small businesses, getting more business and making more sales are always your top priorities. If you've successfully established your brand and authority on LinkedIn, you will have set yourself up for success with this third strategy - generating new prospects and customers.
Start your LinkedIn lead generation process by searching for the job titles (keywords) of your ideal clients (i.e., Marketing Manager, VP Marketing, VP Sales, Director of Customer Experience, etc.) in LinkedIn’s Advanced Search.
Once you find a search that produces good results, go through the list, looking for potential matches. Do a quick research on each profile of a possible match to ensure that they fit your criteria, and to determine the best way to connect with them.
Check, also, whether you share a mutual connection with them - buyers are 5x more likely to engage with you via a mutual connection (warm referral), and 84% of B2B decision makers begin their buying process with a referral.
If you know the mutual connection well, send a message asking them whether they know the person you’d like to be introduced to. If they say yes, ask them if they’d be comfortable making an introduction.
Asking for an introduction
There's a right way and a wrong way to ask for an introduction.
Unfortunately, most people approach this incredibly valuable request the wrong way, producing either no results, and in some cases, hurting their existing relationships. Remember, you're asking the other person for a favor, so regardless of the outcome, be appreciative and respectful.
To increase your success when requesting an introduction, follow these best practices:
- Build rapport
- Explain why you are asking for the introduction
- Make it easy for them
- Give them permission to say no
Approaching a contact directly
While it's ideal to get introduced to prospects, most often it’s not possible. In that case, you'll need to approach your prospect directly.
Send them a personalized connection request, answering the question they will have in their mind when they receive it - “who is this person, and why are they trying to connect with me?” You only have 300 characters to do this.
A little research of their profile and the posts they share will help you create a personalized message. Here are some strategies to start a conversation:
- Find commonality
- Comment on something in their profile
- Comment on content they have shared
- Compliment their company
- Compliment them
Once a connection has accepted your request, begin building rapport and creating a dialogue with them.
4. Build your network of partners and vendors
One of the LinkedIn strategies most people miss is the opportunity to build relationships with other businesses with similar audiences, and/or complementary products or services.
What better place to build a network of strategic partners than on a platform full of professionals?
Start by reaching out to people who know and trust you within your existing network, then continue to expand your reach by asking your trusted network to make further introductions for you.
You can widen your search for a potential partner by using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search - when you find a good match, send them a concise, personalized connection request, and initiate a conversation by showing interest in their business.
5. Stay up-to-date on your industry
It can be tough keeping up with the latest news and trends affecting your business and your clients, but LinkedIn is also an excellent tool to stay up-to-date on recent, and relevant, developments within your industry.
Here are many some of the ways in which you can keep current using LinkedIn:
- Read your news feed - Visit the LinkedIn news feed on your homepage to see the latest posts by your network. You can sort the feed by 'Top' (most popular) and 'Recent' posts to find the ones most relevant to you.
- Follow thought leaders and influencers - Follow thought leaders and influencers in your industry, as well as those who serve markets similar to yours to stay on top of leading trends and market opportunities.
- Follow companies and organizations - Find and follow the leading companies and organizations in your industry, as well as any regulatory bodies.
- Follow your competitors - Follow your competitors to gain insight into what they're offering, whom they're serving, what they're sharing and what's important to them. You may glean which niches of your market are over, or underserved, highlighting opportunities for growth.
- Follow hashtags - Search for and follow hashtags most commonly used by individuals, companies and organizations in your industry on LinkedIn. This way, your news stream will be populated only with topics most relevant to your business.
Create your plan with these LinkedIn strategies for small businesses
Running a small business can be challenging, but with an actionable plan, and the right tools, you can achieve your goals and more, and LinkedIn can be an excellent tool to help your company grow.
The LinkedIn strategies outlined in this post have been highly effective for B2B businesses of all sizes seeking to attract more leads, clients and referrals consistently - the only caveat is that you have to put them into action.
Are you ready to take the next step?