Why I Customize All My LinkedIn Outreach Messages

(photo caption: with this customized wardrobe this young man is ready for anything winter can throw at him)

I hear this so often that I finally had to write about it. I am talking with someone who wants to get more sales leads out of LinkedIn. One of the recommendations that I always make is that any kind of outreach should be customized and personalized to the person that will be receiving the outreach message.

And what do I get? The terrible too’s.

That’s too hard and it will take too long.

What do they want? They want a trick that requires no real work on their behalf. They want to automate with a templated cookie cutter message they can send to everybody, just changing the first name for each person, or the name and title something like that.

What they want is an email blast, only one done on a social network so they can convince themselves that what they are doing is “social selling.”

Here are four reasons why I customize and personalize every message that I send on LinkedIn:

Customizing and personalizing requires me to actually look at a person’s LinkedIn profile to ensure that my message applies to that specific person. It shows that I  have invested time and effort in the other person. I reviewed their profile and their LinkedIn activity. My message ties in with information found in those areas.

Personalizing sets me apart from the masses sending the same junk over and over. My messages are different. There’s a focus on the recipient that that recipient doesn’t see in other messages in their inbox.   

Personalizing shows my respect for the other person. At the end of this message I am going to ask the recipient for something and the respect I have earned can help get me a reply.

And the last reason? It works. In the last six months of 2017 I sent 157 unique outreach messages to people I did not know. I received 91 positive replies. If I had sent a cookie cutter message to those 157 people my responses probably could have been counted on one hand.  

LinkedIn is like a lot of things,what you get out of it is related to what you put into it.   

The Great LinkedIn Follower Riddle

If there is a LinkedIn connection whose posts I no longer wish to see, LinkedIn has me covered. In my Homepage feed, at the top right of any post from one of my connections,  are three dots. Behind those three dots is a menu, with one of the choices being:

“Unfollow <connections name>. Stay connected but stop seeing  <connections name>’s posts.”

So that’s how you unfollow someone. When you unfollow someone you see none of their posts. One would think then, that if you followed someone, you would see all of their posts.

One would think.

Of course, this is not the way it works on LinkedIn. I am imagining this conversation at LinkedIn a couple of years ago….

Product Manager A: “So let’s allow people to follow each other, and see all of each other’s posts.”

Product Manager B: “But when a LinkedIn user says “they want to follow,” do they really want to follow? What if they say they do, but really really deep down, they don’t, but they don’t realize they don’t?”

Product Manager C: “Good point. So how could we allow LinkedIn users to follow other LinkedIn users but only show them some of those posts? Not all the posts they say they want, only the some of the posts that we know they really want.”

(dramatic pause)

All three product managers together: “Algorithm!!”

Now, of course, that may not be the way it actually happened, but I am at a loss to think of a more likely scenario. When you follow someone on LinkedIn, you do so because you want to be notified when they publish an update or an article. You would expect to see all those posts. And you would be wrong. Because LinkedIn uses an algorithm to decide who sees who’s posts. So you may follow me, and I may follow you, but we are not going to see all of each other’s publishing. We may see bits and pieces go by in the homepage feed but that’s hit or miss.

LinkedIn provides us with the means to remove content we don’t want to see. LinkedIn does not provide us with the means to see the content we want to see.

The whole follow but don’t notify thing is like some bizarro world “let’s try and cut down on engagement and the amount of time people are spending here on LinkedIn” experiment.   

Or am I wrong here?

Is There Any Value In “Your Weekly Search Statistics” ?

Had a look at my Weekly Search Statistics for last week. I had appeared in 256 search results for the previous week. Let’s take a deep dive and see what we can learn from what LinkedIn told me about “My searchers.”

Where your searchers work

My searchers for last week work in

  • a travel business and
  • a supply chain company

And that’s it. I appeared in 256 search results last week and apparently all of those searches were performed by these two companies. This immediately makes me question the validity (not to mention the worth) of these statistics.

What they do

The top five business titles were

  • Executive director (that’s flattering I suppose, but exec director of what?)
  • Salesperson (that’s good, salespeople are typical clients of mine)
  • Process specialist (what type?…don’t leave me hanging here…)
  • Business strategy (not sure I have ever met a business strategist)
  • Business owner (okay lots of these are clients)

Okay this is minorly helpful, but some context as to what they were searching for is needed. Luckily I can turn to…

Keywords your searchers used

“WHO”

That’s it. “WHO”, all capitalized. No other search term apparently was used in searches I showed up in. Now, I can draw two possible conclusions here, both of  them a bit disconcerting:

  • Very few people actually search via keywords. They must be all searching by company or geography or title. This is too bad as when used effectively, keywords are the secret to  really narrowing down a search.  
  • Lots of people search via keywords but they have no idea what they are doing.

But the worst part of this whole exercise is the explanation for what these stats represent: “number of times your profile appeared in search results between October 31 – November 7” (I wrote this November 10th).

Note that that the “WHO” search I was in brings up over nine million people in the search results. Hardly an exclusive club. And the key here is the sneaky factor.  People and organizations that talk about the Weekly Search Statistics tool make it sound better than it is: “this new tool shows how you were found.” Sorry, not really. What the person found was a haystack, I’m just a needle somewhere in that haystack.

“Your weekly search statistics” reminds me of the LinkedIn Social Selling Index. Looks interesting on the surface, but when you dig into it a bit, there isn’t much there.