Using LinkedIn to create leads and sales is a must in today’s marketplace. There are no excuses for small businesses to not be on LinkedIn. It is the place where businesses get together to socialise, network and most importantly, to do business. In a recent survey over 20% of all levels of management using LinkedIn were using it for networking purposes. Where once it might have been seen as a time-suck, LinkedIn is now a bone fide platform to network and find new business in the Middle East and elsewhere.
So if you’ve not been on before, here are a few handy hints for using LinkedIn for your sales and marketing strategy this year.
Create a profile
Unbelievably many small businesses still don’t have a profile on LinkedIn. Some of their staff may have a profile of their own, but without all the company being linked together on the site, you are missing out. Not only can you look at other people’s profiles, they can look at yours. For a small company this means you have to have a company profile with your staff and with their profiles. Anyone who looks at this will see you are a transparent and a real company – i.e. someone they can do business with.
Make sure your company profile is complete and gives a call to action in it. This could simple be a ‘give us a call on…’ or ‘visit our website’.
Just as in life you have to get out and about and talk to people. Socialising on LinkedIn means finding groups where your prospects are hanging out. So, for example, if you are selling swimming pools you may want to find contacts in hotel chains. The best place to find those people is in hotel groups. Don’t forget to be visible within your own business niche as well.
There is a free version of LinkedIn, which for many people is the ideal starting point. But once you’ve got past the learning curve the only way to really understand how you can make good connections on LinkedIn is with paid membership. Paid membership for LinkedIn gives you more in-depth search capabilities and allows you directly mail someone.
This is the big tool for most sales people on LinkedIn. It can be difficult to get your prospect to take your call or read a standard email. But on LinkedIn an InMail is delivered straight to their mailbox in LinkedIn. They may still not read it, that is true, but it gives you an edge you’d otherwise not have.
Build your connections
Creating sales opportunities through LinkedIn means creating connections. You can start with family and friends to ease yourself in gently. Then get serious by looking at your prospective clients websites and seeing if they have a LinkedIn button on their site. If they do then use it!
But also think about your offline activities. When you meet someone at a business event it is usually acceptable to connect with them afterwards on LinkedIn.
The best way, and the most laborious way is to search for companies and people you want to make a connection with.
Target your searches
LinkedIn is a brilliant way to find exactly the person you need to talk to in a business. If you know the name of the company, a quick search in LinkedIn will most likely bring the company LinkedIn page up – with a list of who works for them. This means you can see instantly which person is most likely to be the one you need to talk to. As an advanced member you can also see the full profiles of people you don’t yet know.
Don’t be too pushy
Nobody likes a pushy sales person whether they are at a conference at Dubai’s World Trade Centre, or meeting with them in their office. So keep it personable and don’t do the hard sell. Use your common sense, or rather your sales sense here. Don’t do the hard sales push with a LinkedIn connection when you know more work needs to be done first.
Just about every website has a couple of social media buttons, but just how effective have your social media efforts been? Are you really making the most of the opportunity to market your Dubai-based company on the internet?
Well the answer is no if you are simply Tweeting, updating Facebook occasionally or just sat there watching your LinkedIn account.
Social media isn’t a stand-alone component of your marketing plan. By integrating social media with the rest of marketing activities, your chances of success significantly improve.
More and more, marketing departments are realising that they need a cohesive strategy based around something called Content Marketing. This is where you create content on your website (and social media sites) to disseminate across social media and traditional media, to increase awareness of your product or company.
The concept of Content Marketing is fairly new, but as with all new marketing ideas, planning is the key to making it a success.
The 12 month plan
This is your master plan, with milestones plotted in. Every good marketing department should already have one of these. It gives you and your team a firm foundation of what is going on. You place each product launch, each marketing effort, industry conference and exhibition on your plan.
Example: if you are creating a TV ad you pencil in the air date, the date you are posting it on YouTube and when you are going to mention it on the company blog.
The six month plan
Here you give your marketing team a clear target to hit at the half way point. Everyone in the team should have a personalised version of the six month plan showing what they and their team are aiming to achieve during this period.
Example: The web designer will have a list of pages to be set up on the website to promote the new ad, a competition, the company podcast, or the company magazine.
The 3 month plan
This is the workhorse plan. Each day (or hour on some days) should have a detailed ‘to do’ list. Actions taken on a daily basis will build up the momentum to turn the 12 month plan into a success story.
Example: The person in charge of social media will have dates for when to tweet, update Facebook and LinkedIn to tell everyone about the new ad (competition, podcast, etc) and where they can see it.
Using Social Media to enhance content
When it comes to social media, you have to evaluate where your company will make the most impact. Think of social media almost like weaving. Use your Twitter account to link to your latest blog post, the video you uploaded to YouTube, the competition you have on Pinterest or Facebook. Then have a link from YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn back to pages specifically set up for the competition, blog, video, on your website.
The essentials of content marketing for a Dubai company is no different from that of a New York company. But it isn’t a simple thing to achieve. It is a full time job. But done properly, it will build a buzz around your products and your company on the internet.