One of the biggest mistakes I still see people making on LinkedIn is not taking the time to send a personalized invitation. Just trying to bang through the generic "I'd like to add you to my professional network" LinkedIn invites is not only ineffective, but it can also lead to you getting flagged as a spammer, which then restricts your ability to send people invites in the future.
Here's a simple way to personalize an invite that takes just a few seconds to execute. Open up the profile of the person you want to connect with in a new tab, and scan his or her profile. Look for something personal and non-work-related to mention in your invitation. Where did he or she go to college? What city does this person live in? Does he or she have any hobbies or volunteer organizations or causes listed?
I love mentioning something NOT related to work in my LinkedIn invites. First, people aren't expecting it, and it makes my invite stand out because it's so different. Second, when I ask someone about his or her hobbies, passions and interests outside of work, it helps build a relationship and context around something important to them, which again helps me stand out in their memory. It also paves the way for future messages as a friendly, non-work theme I can weave into each one.
At the end of the day, we are still human creatures. We still gravitate toward choosing people we know, like and trust to do business with. Even if they don't have the flashiest product or the best pricing, there is a relationship there. Also, it's much harder to stop doing business with someone you consider a friend than it is with a cell phone company that routes you to a call center in a foreign country every time you need customer service.
Relationships matter. And I can't think of a faster and easier way to scale that 1-to-1, humanized marketing approach than on LinkedIn. Getting to know my clients, and actually caring about them as human beings is not only good for business, but it's also the right way to live my life. Wouldn't you agree?
3 Keys to a Successful LinkedIn Invitation
As I've already mentioned, you will want to personalize your invites every time. Plus, remember these three keys to a successful LinkedIn invite:
1. How I Found You. This is really easy if you're connecting through LinkedIn Groups - it gives you an option to choose "Groups" as the way you know this person. That immediately gives them context as to how you found them. You can also mention a professional connection you both have in common, or a company you've both worked at in the past, a school you both attended or something similar.
2. Why We Should Connect. What's in it for the other person? Why should they connect with you? What do you have to offer them? What problems can you solve or headaches can you make go away?
3. The Ask. The final part of your invitation should help move your soon-to-be connection into a deeper online relationship. Do you have a LinkedIn Group that would be perfect for them to join? Do you publish content on LinkedIn that you think they'll find interesting and useful? Include that in your invitation!
Here's a sample invite I might use if I wanted to collect with a small business owner:
"Hi Joe - Would love to connect + invite you to my new LinkedIn Group on Small Business Marketing Tips. Think you'll find the posts/info really helpful, plus we'd LOVE to have your insights and input to add to the mix. Thanks! - John Nemo"
Note that a little flattery doesn't hurt, either! Also in the sample invite above I used some shorthand and symbols. That's because LinkedIn limits how long invites can be. Every character is precious, so cut the fluff and get to the good stuff!
Let's take this invite a step further, and add a personalized tone. Say "Joe" lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Pretty much everyone who lives in Wisconsin worships that state's professional football team, the Green Bay Packers.
(Just writing that last sentence makes me want to scream. I live in Minnesota and hate the Packers. Our state's professional football team, the Minnesota Vikings, are bitter rivals with the Packers, and the only thing I like better than seeing the Vikings win is seeing the Packers lose!)
Again, tapping into my passion for sports, I'm going to personalize "Joe's" invite based on the fact that he lives in Green Bay.
Here's a more personalized invite:
"Joe - Against my better professional judgment, I'm going to reach out even though I suspect you're likely a Packers fan! On the non-NFL front, I'd love to connect + invite you to my new LinkedIn Group on Small Business Marketing Tips. I think you'd find the posts/discussions valuable to helping grow your company, and I know our members would benefit from your insight and input as well. Thanks! - John Nemo"
See what I did there? Sure, I don't really know if Joe is a huge Packers fan, but I guarantee you that living in Green Bay means he has an opinion - one way or another - on the Packers. I've immediately made my invite stand out from all the others he gets, and tweaked his curiosity to think, "Who the heck is this guy?" I promise you that Joe is going to go look at my profile right away to figure out what my deal is. And once he lands there, he'll see how I'm all about helping (in this example) small businesses like his add more revenue and grow their business.
Not only is he likely to accept my invite, but he's also very likely to join my LinkedIn Group as well. In the span of a few seconds, Joe went from stranger to connection to member of my LinkedIn Group, where he'll see me repeatedly sharing valuable content and insights that ensure I'm somebody he wants to pay attention to.
This is why I love LinkedIn: It literally does our job for us as marketers and sales people. In the past, I would have had to meet you in person and start asking you a bunch of questions: "Where are you from? Are you a big fan of the Packers? Where did you go to college? Are you a big fan of golf? Where do you like to volunteer?"
Worse, I'd have to remember it all! I'd have to take notes on each person I met at that networking event or mixer, and try to remember ways to do personal engagement the next time I had a reason to talk with them.
Instead, LinkedIn literally does it all for me: Here's Joe. Here's where he works. Here's where he lives. Here's where he went to college. Here are his hobbies and interests. Here are people you have in common and both 'know' via LinkedIn.
That's why LinkedIn remains the best online platform I've found for quickly and efficiently engaging in the type of personalized, 1-on-1 engagement marketing that works so well on social media.
Your Turn: Are you starting to sense the power this network can provide you when it comes to engaging with your ideal clients and customers? Have you taken a similar approach in personalizing your LinkedIn invitations to connect? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!