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If you’ve spent any time with us you know how much we believe in the power of LinkedIn. But there’s a right way and wrong way (in our opinion to use it.) It requires a more patient approach than what most LinkedIn consultants might recommend, and is informed by our beliefs around what does and doesn’t create a Trusted Advisor relationship.

What Many People Get Wrong

LinkedIn is amazing. There is no other platform that gives you access to your Ideal Client Profile at scale. It’s the only social network that people approach specifically from a business perspective. And after several years of minimal improvements, it is one of the platforms that has been most active from a product development perspective.

But too many professionals try to microwave results with it. Perhaps they’ve been pitched by lead gen consultants promising the world. Perhaps they are simply desperate themselves. But the result is they are far too aggressive with trying to turn relationships into leads.

I’m sure you’ve seen it (or have tried it yourself - no judgment.) You blast out hundreds of connection requests. A fraction accept. You immediately hit them with a request to have a sales call. They ignore you.

So you send another one. And another one. Perhaps you’ve learned to use tactics like the “quick question” subject line, or the “you aren’t responding to my messages for one of three reasons…” Eventually you give up in frustration.

Not a particularly effective use of time.

If you hire a lead gen firm, you might think it’s better. You aren’t seeing all the ignores or rejects - you’re just getting the trickling of leads. Is that better?

Some people might argue it is. They argue it’s a volume game. They argue the benefits of the “mere exposure effect.”

While we agree about versions of these platitudes, we think this microwave approach does more damage than good.

Yes, a tiny fraction of the people you reach out to might respond. But the rest are turned off by it.

And the repeated hits are likely taking the mere exposure effect and turning it against you, by repeatably annoying the prospective client you seek to serve.

A Better Way

So if that approach is so flawed, what should you do? Should you not do outreach at all?

No, outreach is fine. But there’s a big nuance. Here’s what we generally recommend:

Get your profile right.

Your profile is the “home page” for your LinkedIn efforts. It should be crafted to resonate with your audience.

You want your profile image to look professional.

You want your headline to speak to the pain point of your Ideal Customer. This is the first thing they read - it’s goal is to get them to click through on your profile.

You want your profile masthead image to reinforce the problem you solve for clients.

You can supplement with credentials to provide reason to believe, but you want the emphasis to be on the customer you seek to serve.

Build very specific lists based on your ICP.

LinkedIn doesn’t like spamming too many people, and has started to crack down on it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do outreach. You just need to be more selective.

This is a good thing - it means you’re only reaching out to the people who are likely to need what you have to offer anyway.

A couple pointers on targeting your ICP (assuming you know who that is - if not go back and read this first.)

  • You’ll be doing this inside of LinkedIn Sales Navigator, not the main interface.
  • Make sure you use derivations of the title, not just autocomplete. So Vice President of Innovation and VP Innovation, for example.
  • We generally start with industry, title, head count, and geography if relevant.
  • We heavily prioritize 2nd degree connections, as accept rate tends to be much higher.
  • Once you have your list, you’ll want to go through it and look for titles to exclude. Usually in spite of your targeting you’ll see title that LinkedIn thinks are relevant but aren’t. You can add these to your list of exclusions.
  • LinkedIn provides some smart filters as well if you want to either prioritize your list or supplement it. Examples include ”posted in last 30 days” (more likely to respond since they’re more active), “mentioned in the news” (depending on the use might have some context to personalize outreach further), “similar to this person”, etc.

How many is too many? The most we’d recommend is 400 touches per month. That’s plenty to accomplish your goals.

Connect… to Connect

The purpose of the connection request is NOT to sell them. It’s not to schedule a discovery call or a free consult.

The only purpose of the connection request is to connect. To add them to your list of connections or followers. That’s it.

Think of the connection request like handing someone a business card at a networking event. You aren’t closing the deal. You haven’t even opened the deal. You’re simply memorializing the relationship, and gaining permission to keep in touch with them over time.

One common question is what to include in the connection request text. Our opinion is nothing. We’ve found that any text makes it more likely it’s perceived as a salesperson. Let your bio do the heavy lifting here.

Share your best ideas

By agreeing to connect with you, your followers are giving you permission to show up in their feed, through the creation of Authority Marketing.

This is not the random “humbled and honored” post every three months. This is regularly sharing truly useful and novel insights about your area of expertise. It’s giving away your secrets.

This is how you turned the mere exposure effect into your friend.

When someone follows you, the algorithm shows you in their feed fairly often. By sharing truly insightful content that is actionable, thought-provoking, and interesting, you make sure you stay in their feed.

They find themselves consistently thinking, “wow, Gary shares interesting stuff.” They start to look forward to your content.

Trusted Advisors don’t talk about how great they are. They demonstrate it, through the repeated delivery of highly useful content over time.

When the time comes for prospective clients to look for what you have to offer, you are top of mind and ideally positioned to help them.

Get them to raise their hands.

You don’t have to only wait for opportunities to emerge. A small percentage of the time (10%?) you can create what we call a “hand raising” post.

This can be an offer of something of value like a worksheet or template or slide deck. It’s a way to either get them out of LinkedIn and into your email list, or to get into their DMs, by providing them something that is legitimately valuable that they actually asked for.

One of the best tools we’ve found to create opportunities is through live webinars or workshops. You don’t want these to be random interviews or insights. Rather you want them tailored to the specific pain points you know the ICP has, that you have the solution for. But these are great because you get them in a setting where they hear more about your insights, build greater trust, and have the opportunity to make a light pitch at the end.

Use LinkedIn Like a Trusted Advisor

LinkedIn can be incredibly powerful if you use it the right way. But don’t abuse it. Treat people the way you would if you met them at a networking event. Ask for permission to build a relationship, be useful to them over time, and create natural opportunities for them to come to you.