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Advice on using LinkedIn for business marketing

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 07 Nov, 2011
Essential Essential topic

4 steps to getting more from LinkedIn by LinkedIn expert Jan Vermeiren

November 7th update

When I originally did this interview with Jan in August, he mentioned that he was working on an updated version of his "How to really use LinkedIn". This update is just published, so this note to alert you that you that you can - download Second edition - How to Really Use Linked In. It's worth taking a look since it has over 200 pages of detailed practical advice which can help marketers use LinkedIn both for themselves personally and their company. It's also free - charity donation encouraged, so kudos to Jan.

Linked In Interview

I first heard Jan speak about how businesses can get more from LinkedIn in this podcast which is definitely worth a listen. I was interested in his practical tips on how businesses can use LinkedIn, so I thought it would be good to pass on some of his advice to readers of Smart Insights. In this interview I start by asking about the basic steps to review your LinkedIn presence, then move on to the mistakes to avoid and more advanced uses of LinkedIn.

Jan Vermeiren is the founder of Networking Coach, so check there for advice on personal use of LinkedIn. Jan has built a reputation as one of Europe’s top experts on networking and referrals. Jan and his team have been hired by large international companies like Alcatel, Deloitte, DuPont, IBM, ING, Mobistar, Nike, SAP and Sun Microsystems as well as by small companies and freelancers.

Onto my questions about how to make better use of LinkedIn.

The main features for marketing businesses on LinkedIn

Q. Please give an overview of the main features in LinkedIn which can be used to market a small business?

You shouldn't think about LinkedIn so much as a set of features, but rather how it helps build relationships between people. Simply put, it shows us who knows who and who can introduce us to new customers (or other interesting people). Then we need to take action ourselves to contact them and ask for the introduction or referral.

These are a few of the most important ways LinkedIn helps to get more visibility with a passive, one-time effort:

  • Company Profile. Surprisingly few organizations use the Products and Services tab yet. That’s a pity, because it’s free and really easy to do. If done properly this page and its subpages can be an extra lead generator.
  • Personal Profile. The most important aspect is that it is congruent. If someone hears about your expertise, but doesn’t see that reflected on your Profile, they won’t contact you.
  • Applications in Personal Profiles. Use the SlideShare, Google Presentation and Box.net applications (and other ones) as an extra lead generation tool. However, refrain from selling too hard, instead share tips and lead them to your website.

Don't forget to make the most of the company page

On the overview page of the Company Profile, the only part that can be adapted is the introduction. All the other information comes from the LinkedIn Profiles of employees. The better these personal Profiles are, the better.

The Products and Services page is something completely different. As a business owner or marketer you have full control over what is shown here.

On the “home” page of Products & Services there is an automatically generated overview of all the product and service pages you have made. You can also choose to put up to 5 of them in the spotlight. Next to that you can create up to 3 banners and add a YouTube video.

You can even make different versions of this page, depending on the profile of the visitor of this page. For example you can show other products to a UK HR Manager than to a quality manager from the USA.

Per product page you can give a description what it is about, but also a YouTube video and even a promotion.

The good news is that all of this is free.

In my opinion the Company Pages might become very important in the future. Not only to get more business via LinkedIn. Since LinkedIn is a website with lots of traffic (and as a consequence a high PageRank in Google), they might show up high in search engine results.

A step-by-step guide to smarter use of LinkedIn

Q. Which steps should businesses use to review how they use LinkedIn?

Step 1. Profile

It starts with having an attractive Profile. Focus on building the “Know, Like, Trust factor”, not on selling your products or services. People need to know, like and trust you before they will buy. Use the applications in personal profiles I mentioned above to help generate awareness of what the company can offer. The simple step of encouraging employees to feature their LinkedIn in their email signatures can help too.

Step 2. Build your network

Then you need to build your network. LinkedIn offers 4 ways to do that fast through Contacts/Add Connections.

It's also really important to involve as many employees as possible in building their personal networks to help them promote the company also.

Step 3. Use Groups

Become member of the Groups your target group is member of. Again, refrain from selling and only promoting yourself. Build the “Know, Like, Trust” factor by participating and contributing.

Step 4. Be proactive

If you have done the previous steps, you have your foundation ready to get real results. They come from starting from your goals, thinking who are the people in the best position to help you reach those goals and then use LinkedIn PROACTIVELY to find them. Unfortunately many people don’t give enough attention to who is their target group and don’t take action themselves. And then LinkedIn remains like a car that is parked right in front of your house, but is never driven: nice to look at, but not very useful to get anything done.

Mistakes to avoid

Q. What are the worst mistakes you have seen companies make with using Linked In which should be avoided?

Where do I start?! Actually the biggest mistake is that people and companies use LinkedIn and other social media to market themselves, meaning to put themselves out there (in a one-way communication broadcast manner) hoping that anyone would see them and buy from them.

Although you can use LinkedIn for that, many people and organizations are disappointed in the results.

A few of the most common mistakes I've seen:

  • Only use LinkedIn as a billboard, but not be active and proactive.
  • When being active in Groups and Answers (and via Status Updates), trying to promote and sell themselves instead of building the “Know, Like, Trust” factor.
  • Use the Company and Personal Profiles to sell directly instead of building “Know, Like and Trust”.
  • Not starting from their goals.
  • Not using the 10 ways to find new customers (or employees, experts, investors, partners,…) PROACTIVELY.

Advanced uses of LinkedIn

Q. How are more advanced businesses using LinkedIn?  Could you share examples of where companies (or your clients) are using Linked In to drive significant new businesses.

What we see happening is a shift in training and consulting requests. In the past, individuals bought my book “How to REALLY use LinkedIn”, then sales and recruiting teams hired us for in-company workshops and now we are talking at CEO level to see which benefits LinkedIn has on an organizational level.

The role of marketing and recruiting is changing: instead of doing campaigns with a small team they will turn into the support team for the rest of the organization. A company with 100 employees now has 100 ambassadors on LinkedIn. The new role for marketing and recruiting will be that they feed these 100 colleagues with interesting information for their LinkedIn Profiles, PowerPoint presentations for their Applications and suggestions for Status Updates/Tweets etc.

If you'd like to read more of Jan's advice - download a free "lite" version of his book on How to REALLY use LinkedIn.

Do let us know what you think of Jan's 4 steps and whether you think other approaches can help with LinkedIn.

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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