Getting connected

How to leverage LinkedIn to generate sales leads for your business

LinkedIn is quickly replacing the business card.

More often at networking events, people are asking for a person’s LinkedIn account to enter into their smartphones, enabling them to immediately connect to a source that has much more information than is available on a business card.

“It’s vitally important for people to have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile,” says Jennifer Cantero, marketing manager at Sensiba San Filippo LLP. “It’s equally important for companies to have a LinkedIn page and be active on it. If you are not active, it can’t serve as a lead generation tool.”

She says many companies, when they approach LinkedIn, incorrectly apply a traditional marketing approach that emphasizes selling instead of service, sharing and conversation.

“LinkedIn and social media allow companies to have direct conversations with potential clients, hear their pain points and respond within minutes or hours,” she says. “You’re nurturing relationships that build trust. Once that’s built, they’ll come back and buy.”

We spoke with Cantero about leveraging LinkedIn to generate sales.

What are some best practices for setting up a company profile on LinkedIn?
When setting up a LinkedIn page, fill everything out.

That might seem obvious, but many companies enter just their name and employee count. The platform offers the opportunity to display photos and videos that can be great branding tools because they stick in a viewer’s mind more than copy. It also adds a personal touch.

Once the page is up, nominate someone to maintain it. That will ensure a consistency of voice and create a level of accountability.

Populating the page with content can take as little as 15 minutes a week. It’s important to post things of value that reinforce your brand or directly serve your clients by solving a problem for them. Don’t spam your audience with sales messages. Content should be about clients, not about you.

The aim is to start a discussion. If you find an interesting article, post it and ask a question about it to start a conversation. You can also offer quizzes and contests on your page to better engage your visitors and gain more followers.

How can LinkedIn be used for lead generation?
You want to draw in prospects by posting short informational articles that serve as teasers for more in-depth white papers on the same topic.

If they want the full white paper that goes into greater detail, they’ll need to provide their contact information. These are warm leads that are telling you directly what they’re looking for by their choice to download a paper on a particular topic. Once you have this information, you can follow up with more on that topic and make yourself available to answer further questions.

It’s a mistake to take that information and try to go in for the sales kill, pressing them to buy. In this medium, that’s too harsh. Social media leads need a softer approach.

What does the lead generation/conversion cycle look like?
People visiting your LinkedIn page have done their research already, so the sales lead time is generally shorter. Your salespeople then become more of a customer service liaison.

They can fill in any information gaps, but it’s important to remember that the relationship is more about service than closing the sale. They should exercise patience, help customers solve problems and facilitate greater service.

How can ROI be measured?
LinkedIn and other social media allow companies to get hard numbers. You can see how many new followers, how many downloads and purchases your pages are generating. You can pick metrics to measure — such as the number of people who provide their contact information — set a goal and track it.

By assigning a monetary value to these metrics you can establish ROI and compare the performance to your traditional advertising.

LinkedIn and social media are offering low-cost inroads to connect with potential clients. It’s easy to get out there and start generating leads. Through analytics you’ll see what’s working and what’s not, then you can adjust your strategy to what you’re followers respond to most.

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