Make Your LinkedIn Outreach Messages Short

There is a time and a place for storytelling, and your outreach message is not that place.

This is one of the hardest parts of writing a good outreach message or InMail. Given practice and some coaching I find people can write gorgeous InMails…that are two hundred and fifty words long. Figuring out how and where to take 60% of that verbiage out is where the real work is. Because the general rule of thumb for InMail message length is 100 words. The result is most people either give up and send their message regardless, or they make some quick edist, get to 135 to 150 words and call it a day.

I, on the other hand, consider 100 words to be my limit, and my goal is to always try for 80. In outreach, brevity is huge. You can’t afford any flab in there as the prospect’s attention will wander and then you are toast.

So to start with, remember what we need to accomplish in those 80-100 words.

  • Tell them why I am contacting them
  • Customized to them personally
  • Establishes your credibility as an expert
  • Alludes to their results (sometimes called a value snippet)
  • A call to action

Heck, there’s 30 words in those five bullet points!

Here is the process I use:

1) I write each bullet point separately.

2) Then I cobble them together. This usually requires some changes in the wording in order to be able to segue from one point to the next.

3) Then I count the words. Often some swearing is involved when I see how many words my first draft has.

4) Then I get my word processing machete out and go to work.

Here are some tips that help me a lot:

A lot of the verbal flab actually falls away pretty quickly. You can dump the written equivalents of saying “um”…like giving your name. That was in the InMail header. It’s unnecessary.

If you can figure out how to make it work, combine two of these objectives in one sentence. Credibility and their results can often be combined for example. Find a company they would know that you have worked with and allude to the results that you got for them.

Take any sentence you have written and challenge yourself to say the same thing in half the words. You might surprise yourself when you see how close you can come to doing this. I don’t often make the half, but two thirds is usually doable.

Try it yourself. I think you will like the results. In outreach messages, length does not mean strength.

LinkedIn’s Agenda Is Not Necessarily Your Agenda

It’s all in your perspective: You see a teddy gear. The teddy bear sees lunch.
LinkedIn is on a roll these days introducing lots of new features.
But a lot of these features are experiments. If they work, great. If they don’t that will be the end of the feature. A lot of these features are just copies of what is working elsewhere. Video is huge somewhere else? LinkedIn is all over it. Stories are big? Tiktok? Here we come.
 LinkedIn’s product managers are no smarter than you or I.
You have to remember that what LinkedIn wants from us is three things:
  • Our money via subscriptions or advertising dollars. LinkedIn should never be confused with Mother Theresa.
  • Our time. The more time we spend on LinkedIn, the more money LinkedIn can charge advertisers.
  • Our data. The more info we have on our profiles, the more lucrative LinkedIn is as a platform for the sales, marketing and recruiting people that make up the majority of their customer base.
I have no problem with the first one, the subscription and advertising dollars, that’s obvious. I have no problem with the third one either because that is easily controlled and we understand that. It’s the time one in the middle that is insidious and that we need to watch out for.
Getting more utility out of LinkedIn is nice, but for LinkedIn, getting you to spend more time on LinkedIn is nicer. So you will see features that appeal to your vanity like post views. You will see features that make you think you are not spending enough time on LinkedIn like the Social Selling Index. And you will see features like LinkedIn Stories that quite frankly are a complete and utter waste of your time.
So when you see any new feature on LinkedIn or suggestions as to what you should be doing on LinkedIn, remember that LinkedIn is making that recommendation because it is good for LinkedIn. If it is good for you, that’s a bonus. It’s like the old joke we used to make at a company I worked with twenty years ago, that our ideal customer had to have a pulse and be able to pay their bill. And if push came to shove, the pulse was optional.
LinkedIn can be just as dangerous a time suck as TikTok, Instagram or any other platform. Your time is precious. Have a plan for how you use LinkedIn and stick to that plan.

Solving The “I don’t know what to write about on LinkedIn” Problem

“I don’t know what to write about.” is one of the two objections I get when I talk to people about writing content for LinkedIn or elsewhere.

If you are one of those people, here is an exercise that will help. Take out a pad and pen, or open a new document on your laptop. 

Answer these questions. Take your time. 

1) What is the specific problem that your product or service solves for your client?

If you can’t answer this one, your problems are bigger than not knowing what to write about! 

2) What issues do your clients face?

What do they need to do that they can’t do now? Or what they want to do, but they don’t have enough information to tackle it yet. Note that the answer to these questions may be as simple as “increase sales by 5%” or as complex as “address new market opportunity.” 

3) What is their current solution? 

How are they addressing the issues in question number two currently? 

4) Why are they unhappy with it?

This is the “gap” question, and it is critical. What is your prospect’s perceived gap between where they are now and where they would like to be? 

5) What information do they need?

In order to close the gap, they need to do something. The information they need may range from something as simple as “how do we get a little bit better at what we are already doing” to something more open ended like “is it possible to close the gap?”

6) How do we reduce the fear of making a wrong decision?

This is where we come in. We are in possession of the information they need to feel comfortable with the decisions they are making. In the end, it’s all about risk. And your customer wants to know how they can lower the risk of doing something.

7) What kind of information will help the client?

What specific information can we provide that will help them in their decision making? 

8) Is it targeted at a specific personna?

Who does your information target? The user, the buyer, the technical influencer? You may need to tailor your content for the specific audience you have in mind. 

9) How does this content help me reach my business goals?

What specifically does providing this content do for me? Provide credibility? Proof that they belong in the funnel? Proof they don’t? 

10) Does this information help the client?

Sanity check: this had better help the client and not just help me!

And another thing: At the top I mentioned two objections I always get. The other objection is “I don’t write that well.” Which is b.s. Everyone of us can tell stories, it’s in our nature as human beings. A lot of my work with my clients is helping them see that they have a lot of good stories that their prospective customers would find interesting and educational. 

For all you reluctant writers and publishers ut there, repeat after me: 

“This isn’t’ rocket science.”

Have a process.

Work the process.

Get feedback.

Adjust the process.

Repeat the process.