How I Decide When To Use LinkedIn InMail 

Knocking on doors when no one is home? Not a recipe for success.

LinkedIn InMail gets a bad rap. “It’s all spam.” “No one answers InMails.” and so on. But I think a lot of that comes down to a poor understanding of what InMail really is and how it can be used.

LinkedIn InMail is an in-app alternative to email. That’s it. It’s just a tool. Saying it is better or worse than email is like saying a Phillips screwdriver is better than a Robertson screwdriver. They both have applications where one may be better suited than the other.

But because of the way LinkedIn works, there are instances and places where I much prefer InMail to email. Here are three aspects that I like about LinkedIn InMail and that play a role in my deciding when InMail could be more effective.

Closed system 

LinkedIn is a closed system where you have tacit permission to send messages to people you do not know. LinkedIn users can turn off InMail anytime they like to keep from receiving messages from people who they are not connected with. 

While I receive as much and likely more spammy crap InMails than other people, I have no problem with being sent and receiving InMails…it’s the spammy crap aspect I don’t like. 

The research capability 

One of the great aspects of LinkedIn and Sales Navigator is that you can research people and come up with clues as to how people fit in their organizations. 

When I am going to send someone an InMail, I am doing research in three places: that person’s LinkedIn profile, the profiles of his or her obvious company peers that I have found using Search in Sales Nav, and their LinkedIn company page. In all of these areas I am looking for information I may be able to use in my message. For example, I will see something on their company page such as their headcount is way up in the past year (or way down!). Either of those two extremes can give me guidance as to what to say in my message, talking about their growth or their need to watch their costs. 

These things don’t always jump out at you, but there is often something there you can use. 

While the information you glean about someone in your research can certainly be used in an email, I will prefer to use InMail where it makes sense, which brings us to…

The user who is more likely to respond

I have found that LinkedIn users who use LinkedIn a lot are more likely to be open to receiving a message from a stranger, which makes sense. So I wondered how I could identify those people and it turned out to be pretty easy. I just look for people with lots of connections  – which I can see on their profile – and even more so, I look for people that are active on LinkedIn – which I can also see through their profile.  

If I find someone with two thousand connections who shows up on LinkedIn once or twice a week and comments on posts or shares other people’s posts, I like the odds that if I send him or her a message that they will read it. But if I send a message to a LinkedIn user who has two hundred connections and doesn’t look like they have been on LinkedIn for months, well that person doesn’t “get” LinkedIn and my odds of them ever even seeing my message let alone responding to it are awful. 

This is my not so secret InMail weapon, in that it is kind of obvious when you think about it. I only send InMails to people that I think are likely to actually open and see my message. You sure can’t get clues like this as to whether someone is more disposed to opening your cold email message. 

My experience is that when I send outreach emails and outreach InMails, the InMails sent to active people on LinkedIn get a higher response rate (14% higher in a program for a client who used both, for example). And that makes the effort worthwhile. 

While finding people more disposed to opening and reading my InMail message is one thing, it all comes down to the quality of your message when they do read it. Writing really good outreach messages, regardless of whether you are using InMail, Email or writing on coconuts being delivered by African swallows is hard work. I have found that I can write four and sometimes five LinkedIn InMail outreach messages in an hour and while many people would balk at that level of time and effort invested I have found that my results merit that effort.