Imagine your best client introducing you to a business associate whose company may need the very thing that your company specializes in, the same service you provided to that top tier client. For most of us, this doesn’t happen often enough. Now imagine taking the business card and information received from this new connection and tossing it into the trash can. That is what most of us are doing on a daily basis.
What many have failed to realize is that the business card has been replaced by an internet version called LinkedIn. The handshake over lunch at the country club has given way to a LinkedIn “connection” invitation. The LinkedIn network recently announced it has passed the 200 Million user mark. Forty Six percent (46%) of those users have over 500 connections to other LinkedIn members and over 60% of all these users have incomes over $93,000. That is a lot of business cards, a lot of potential introductions and a lot of saved lunch money at the club. If used appropriately, LinkedIn is a non-threatening, non-aggressive way to stay connected to those in your circles and allows you to seek the opportunity to help others based on proper introductions and meaningful connections. Don’t get me wrong, the importance of personal relationships in business will never go away; however the path to starting those relationships has taken a new turn.
I know this because we lived it here at Strategies Group. Our firm has been very successful in helping companies in the construction, distribution and service industries get the most out of their technology investment and we believe we add great value to each relationship. Our relationship building techniques have pretty much remained the same for more than 13 years. We attend trade shows and are active members in local industry associations, we meet with those in our clients’ centers of influence (CPAs, Bonding Agents, Industry consultants, etc.) and we pick up the phone and call prospective clients. When we started to notice a downward trend in our ability to meet prospective clients who may need our expertise, it became clear that our tried and true recipe has become a little stale. It was time to add a little zing and tweak our methods for identifying and meeting these potential clients.
The answer came after a prompting from a business mentor of mine who encouraged me to try LinkedIn. This was the second time a well regarded marketing mind guided me this way. Dan Kraus at Leading Results also extolled the praises of social media marketing with a plan that included LinkedIn. Okay, you don’t have to beat me over the head too many times! My plan was to challenge my sales team to reach out to our current 1,700+ client base and connect electronically to as many of them as possible through LinkedIn. I asked them to dedicate two hours of their time each day for one week to identify and connect with our current clients. It became obvious very quickly that most of our clients have connections within their industry (our core market) with companies who could probably use our expertise. While the sales reps were skeptical at first, they persevered and completed the week long exercise.
While the experience itself was challenging and exciting, the results really stoked our sales reps. Within one week, a newly established LinkedIn electronic client connection who happened to be in the middle of the buying process reached out to us to help them solve a problem. This prospect quickly turned into a client and we were able to help them with a major inefficiency in their business. The sales rep was rewarded with a sale, the company had a happy new client and the new client had a solution to their problem. A few days later a second new connection who was beginning their buying process contacted us after noticing us through a mutual LinkedIn connection. We have been working diligently with this prospect and they should be a satisfied, valued customer by month’s end. While this is definitely not the norm, it is a great picture of what could happen by expanding your marketing into the electronic realm. LinkedIn connections are now a measured part of our sales activity plan.
Like all good marketing ideas, LinkedIn is only effective in the long run if used responsibly. This requires some time and effort to identify those people you already know on LinkedIn and then finding those people within your expanded network who truly need your services. Asking for an electronic introduction from a commonly known LinkedIn user is a great way to avail your company to a potential client but don’t be afraid to seek out the contacts that have raised their hands in the past for your assistance and ask to connect with them too. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.