Rule number one for any database: it goes bad over time


And at its core, LinkedIn is a database

Today’s post starts in the old paper catalog days, ventures more into the email database realm, but come back to LinkedIn, so stick with me for a couple minutes. 

My first job in high tech sales was selling the company’s low end products – those under $1200 – to catalog companies. This was 1985, and there were maybe twenty big ones specializing in datacom and telecom products. I would typically be allotted a quarter, a third or half a page for a photo of the product and the accompanying copy. 

I learned a lot about the catalog business (these were my customers after all) and one of the basic principles was that their mail lists “went bad” at the rate of two percent every month. Every month two percent of the people on the mail list would change companies, jobs or addresses so that a catalog was undeliverable. If a catalog company had a hundred thousand people on their mail list, that’s two thousand people that disappeared every month, and sending two thousand catalogs out that were not going to generate any revenue was something these companies wanted to avoid. 

So imagine my surprise when I was reading a post on Hubspot’s blog and they said statistics show that 22.5% of email databases go bad every year. Things haven’t changed much in 35 years!

So what does this have to do with LinkedIn? Just this: 

LinkedIn is a database that updates itself.

When someone changes jobs, one of the first things they do is change their LinkedIn profile (if this wasn’t the case you wouldn’t see recruiters paying eight thousand a year for access to LinkedIn). 

This is one of the great things I love about LinkedIn as a database. It is the most up to date one there is. This is the jumping off point for all my searches. 

Coming up with content is not rocket science

I get this a lot. “I don’t know how to write. We have nothing to write about.” 


Just ask yourself, “What are my customers having problems with?” 

Then write content that will help them understand the problem, solve the problem, or see that they are not alone with this problem.

I was speaking with a client that makes prototypes. They had no clue what to write about, “It’s impossible.” So I asked them a couple questions. Typically one of their customers sends them the drawings and technical info required for my customer to build the prototypes. 

Now, I found this genuinely interesting so I asked, “Do you ever have problems with the info they send?” I actually had visions of napkins with products drawn on them. But the reality wasn’t that far off. My client and his engineers started rattling off all the things that their clients did incorrectly, left out or didn’t understand. 

After listening to this for a few minutes I said, “There’s your first 12 blogs posts. One a week for the next 12 weeks. This is info your customers should have. They will design better and get their products more quickly with less back and forth. This is information they can use that will help them.” 

Then I asked him about the time they saved their customer, because everyone has at least one story like that. When he finished telling me about the time they dropped everything, and worked through the weekend for a customer that was in a pinch, I told him, “Great story. Now write it down. There’s another post for your list, or maybe even a case study.”  

That great story was always there, it just took me to remind him of it. 

The only reason coming up with content is hard is because you think it is hard. 

Why the first three lines of a LinkedIn post are critical to its success on LinkedIn

Simple but important message today

You see this on your homepage for posts – perhaps a heading, then some text, and then a “see more” at the end of one of the first sentences.  

When you publish a post you get three lines before the “see more” shows up (if you don’t use an image, you get five lines). 

Blank lines count towards the three lines. If you purposefully leave a line blank, that counts as one of your three. 

Okay, so how does this help or hurt us in our posting? 

Those first lines of a post are effectively a teaser for the rest of the post. If people do not become intrigued by those first few lines, you lose them.  They don’t bother clicking “see more”. They don’t read the rest of your post and of course they will not like, comment on or share it. 

So use those three lines wisely. Treat them like you would the subject line in an email. 

This post was originally published a couple months ago in one of my “using LinkedIn more effectively for sales and marketing” newsletters. You can sign up to receive them here:

How I Generated Hundreds Of Sales Leads Using Content On LinkedIn


This works, but it takes a lot of work. If you are looking for something easy, this isn’t the place. 

It starts with engagement on LinkedIn. Commenting on other people’s posts will work, as will sharing other people’s and company’s posts, but publishing your own content works best. 

In my case, I published articles and posts almost every week on LinkedIn for several years. I would send messages thanking people who shared or commented on my articles. Almost invariably, an online conversation ensued. After a few months of this it dawned on me that the percentage of people who responded to my outreach was very high. 

The key seemed to be that the other person had expressed an interest in something I had written. So I wondered if I could systemize this idea and methodically reach out to possible prospects that liked, shared or commented on my articles. I had a Sales Navigator account, so I could send them InMails (I will talk about free LinkedIn accounts in a bit). Whenever I found someone I was interested in, I sent them an InMail and started tracking my results. And I also started sending messages to possible prospects who had viewed my profile or had started following me. 



A year later, 268 of these people had responded to my 444 outreach messages. A response rate of 60%. 

Here’s the breakdown by category:

  1. Outreach messages to “Likes” – 55% response rate
  2. Outreach messages to Comments – 84% response rate
  3. Outreach messages to people who shared my content – 77% response rate
  4. Outreach messages to people who Followed me – 54% response rate
  5. Outreach messages to people who viewed my profile – 64% response rate

I sent more messages to followers than the other four categories put together, which is why the blended average response rate was 60%. It is worth noting that the 54% response rate from my followers would be an outstanding response rate for just about any means of outreach. 


I figured there were a couple factors behind this response rate: 

  • The person I was reaching out to was aware of me before I reached out to them. I think it is a fair assumption that this made them much more receptive to reading and responding to my message. 
  • When one of these five trigger events occurred, I was the only one responding to it. I was  not competing with everyone else. For example, I was not one of dozens of people congratulating them on their new job. 
  • I did not pitch them. They may fit the demographic of people I work with, but I don’t know anything about them or if they have problems I can help them with. People are a lot more receptive when, you know, you don’t bludgeon them over the head with a sales pitch.

If there is a downside, it’s this: it is time consuming. I don’t do boilerplate. Boilerplate is death. I hyper personalize everything. I make an effort. This approach eats minutes. While I have a framework for what I include in my messages, it can take me fifteen minutes to write a message I am happy with. 


And if you don’t use Sales Navigator? Send connection invites. I tried it and it works, though not as well. The acceptance rate is excellent, but I have found that adding that connection step makes it harder than just responding to their first interest in me. So I think connecting works, but I still prefer InMail. 

I am not advocating you take the four or five hours a week I did to write and publish content, parse through the people who engage with you and reach out to them. You can do this on a small scale, even just to people who view your profile. Just be consistent, and keep at it. 

I suppose if there is a lesson in here it is: Build it and they will come, but you had better have a plan for going after them when they do.

This post was originally published a couple months ago in one of my “using LinkedIn more effectively for sales and marketing” newsletters. You can sign up to receive them here:

What Works For Me: Using Research To Turbocharge LinkedIn Outreach

When I want to reach out to someone on LinkedIn, finding them is just the start.

I do a lot of research on the person and their company and then I write the message.  

I start by reviewing their LinkedIn profile. This is where most people start their research. It is also where most people end their research. That’s why a lot of outreach messages seem to revolve around where people went to school or who they used to work for. 

Their profile is a nice start, but that’s not good enough for me. My goal is to mention something in my message that makes them stop in their tracks.

So I also….

  • review their LinkedIn activity
  • research people that seem to be their peers at their company 
  • check both their company website and the company page on LinkedIn
  • Have a look at how this info stacks up for their competitors

You would be surprised at the information you can pick up doing this. My goal is to send them something like, “in doing my research, you appear to be investing 20% more on R&D than your competitors.”

If I do this well, when the person reads my message, three things come across: 

  • I have not just sent them some cookie cutter crap with their name swapped in at the top like most people do.
  • I have really put some effort into this. 
  • I am different from everyone else out there.

Is this time consuming? Yes, but not as much as you think it would. I know what to look for and I have done an awful lot of these messages. And with a much higher success rate, it is absolutely worth it. If I do it well the recipient of the message above is obsessed with wanting to know just how the heck I figured out they were spending more on R&D. 

Let’s face it. If I really want this person to become a customer of mine, someone I want to have an ongoing successful business relationship with, why wouldn’t I invest the time to show them some respect up front? 

Of course, a lot more goes into an outreach message than just upfront research, and sometimes my research efforts don’t yield anything of value, but the ability to add a wow statement that sets me apart is worth the effort. 

This post was originally published a couple months ago in one of my “using LinkedIn more effectively for sales and marketing” newsletters. You can sign up to receive them here:


Thinking of trying LinkedIn Sales Navigator?

Thinking of trying LinkedIn Sales Navigator?

Take advantage of a few edges.

There are a couple idiosyncrasies with LinkedIn that you can use to your advantage in deciding whether or not to sign up for Sales Navigator. 

The first of these is that LinkedIn (as of this writing) charges $79.99 per month for Sales Navigator Pro or $799.88 a year if you pay up front. Subscriptions are non-refundable. 

That being the case, here are some strategies you may want to explore:

  • If you are uncertain at all, you should buy a month to month subscription. The last thing you want to do is pay for an entire year and then find two months later that you are not using it. Consider the “extra” you are paying each month to be an insurance policy 
  • Given the option of going month to month gives you a very low cost experimental period. But before you sign up, have both a clear idea of what you can do with Sales Navigator, and how you are specifically going to use it. 
  • If you have one specific purpose in mind for needing Sales Navigator and it looks like a one time thing, treat your subscription that way. Get Sales Nav for a month or two and conduct that monster search, or use InMail to reach out to all those people at that target company and then drop Sales Nav. You can always come back a few months later!
  • From your free LinkedIn account, go look at Sales Navigator features and pricing a few times. This can sometimes generate a free trial offer. Some free trials are good for 90 days. I call this ”fishing for freebies”.
  • Then go do the same thing except from your web browser. A Sales Navigator ad with a free trial may pop up on your screen sometime in the next few days.

And if you need training, you know where to find me. 

This post was originally published a couple months ago in one of my “using LinkedIn more effectively for sales and marketing” newsletters. You can sign up to receive them here:


LinkedIn Articles vs LinkedIn Posts – A Real Life Look

(all views are not alike)

I thought it might be interesting to compare the results and statistics from an article I published in January on LinkedIn and from a post I published two weeks later on LinkedIn. 

The article was one on statistics, and was published Tuesday January 28th around 7:30am.

The post was about followers, and it was posted Tuesday February 12th, also around 7:30am.

The article got 515 views, while the post got 15,500. While this would seem to indicate the post was better, getting 30X the views of the article, this is a classic case of views being a misleading statistic on LinkedIn.

Let’s dig a little deeper and look at the engagement each piece of content received. 

Here’s the article results:

  • 78 reactions
  • 7 reshares
  • 50 people viewed my profile

That is 157 engagements in total, so 30% of my viewers engaged with my article.

Here’s the post results: 

  • 149 reactions, 
  • 2 reshares
  • 47 people viewed my profile

That is 280 engagements in total, or just under 2% of my viewers engaged with my post. 

So, the post generated more engagement, but nothing near what the views would suggest. 

Because posts are short and easily written, I use them to start conversations and increase my reach. Articles can be longer and have more flexibility in terms of presentation – font sizes and headings, photos, bullet points and numbering – so I use them for longer content that increases my credibility. 

But the post will die and be buried in my activity, whereas the article will live on, searchable on google – which it has been six times already – and getting new readers in. In a lot of ways articles and posts are the tortoise and the hare. Over time articles show their worth. Each has their place in a LinkedIn content strategy. My rule of thumb is to use posts to start conversations and use articles to increase my credibility. 

A LinkedIn feature that can be ignored: Your weekly search stats


This just in: No one is searching for you.

Every week, LinkedIn slips you a notification that says something like: “You appeared in 412 searches this week”.  You can then click on it and go to learn more about “your searchers” 

Take it from someone who knows: “You appeared in 412 searches this week.” is about as disingenuous a statement as you will ever read. 

Here are five reasons why “Your Weekly Search Stats” should be ignored

1) You are not told where you ranked in those search results. 

LinkedIn doesn’t say whether you were on page 1 – and likely to be seen listed in the results – or on page 27, where you will hardly ever be seen. When was the last time you performed a Google search and reviewed all the results?

2) LinkedIn shows you five companies where your searchers work. This has absolutely zero value because you don’t know what these people were searching for. Was it the HR department looking for employees? Was it someone researching an industry? A vendor doing research? A salesperson looking for prospects?

3) LinkedIn shows you what your searchers do. Again, with no context what am I to think of this. Six percent of the people whose searches I turned up in last week were Founders. Of what? IBM? Fred’s Flower Shop?

4) And lastly, LinkedIn will tell you what keywords they used to search. In my case they were VP Marketing, Coach and Consultant. 

5) And this is the biggest one, which ties all the others together:

                      Most LinkedIn users have no clue how to search effectively. 

They put titles in the search box instead of searching by title. They search too broadly by geography. And they get too many results, most of them garbage results. Those are the searches you showed up in. 

Let me summarize with an example: I just stopped writing for a moment, hopped on LinkedIn and did a search for people in North America. So congratulations, if you are a LinkedIn member and live in North America, you just showed up in my search results….with 18o million other people. But my search will be one of the ones you showed up in this week. 

You may turn up in LinkedIn search results, but that does not mean the searchers are looking at your profile. 

This post was originally published a few weeks ago in one of my “using LinkedIn more effectively for sales and marketing” newsletters. You can sign up to receive them here:

An idea for people new to working at home: “walk” to work.

I have been working from home for years now. Last year I started going for a walk early in the morning and starting work when I got home. At the end of the day, I would close my laptop and go for another walk. When I finished that walk I was “home from the office.”

Here’s what I found:

The walks helped me mark the start and end of my business day. My walks were my commute to and from the office. 

I used the time on my morning walk to gather my thoughts and get myself in a business mindset.

I used the time on my afternoon walk to leave work behind and think of what I wanted to do for dinner and my evening. 

Eventually, I got into listening to podcasts while I was walking. In the morning I would listen to business podcasts – mostly sales and marketing related – and in the afternoon I would listen to music. In particular, I have found listening to music stops me from being preoccupied with work. 

I think it is important at a time like this to be able to separate work time from personal time. 

Free LinkedIn vs Sales Navigator: Comparing Search Tools

I get asked about this a lot. The usual trigger is someone banging up against the commercial search limit in free LinkedIn.

The difference in the Search tools available in Sales Navigator is one of the key differences between the two.

What You Can Do With Free LinkedIn Search

Using the search bar, you can look for people, jobs, content, companies, schools or LinkedIn groups which contain the search word or phrase you enter. The main thing search is used for is finding people, and if you search for people, additional filters are at your disposal. While these are limited in number and many of them are frankly quite useless (“Interested in joining a non-profit board” ??), there are a few filters such as location, industry, and job title, that can be used to great effect.

You can also look specifically for first and second degree connections. This is really, really important. If you are good at asking your connections for introductions, you may not need the search tools in Sales navigator at all.

You can save up to three people searches – handy if you have used multiple filters and want to come back to a search again.

Two under utilized uses of free LinkedIn search are hashtag research – enter the hashtag term and LinkedIn will show how many people follow it – and searching for content based on words or phrases, which can help you tell how popular a topic is on LinkedIn.

The Commercial Search Limit

Almost everyone who uses Free LinkedIn for search bumps up against the Commercial Search Limit. After a certain number of searches (and LinkedIn won’t tell you how many it is) you are shut out of search for the rest of the month.

Whoever came up with the idea of the Commercial Search Limit at LinkedIn is an evil genius.

Additional Search Tools In Sales Navigator

The key word is “more.” More searches: there is no limit to the number of searches you can perform and you have more saved searches – ten at a time. But the big thing is more filters. Sales Navigator has over twenty search filters, including better granularity in geographical searches.

Additional Sales Navigator people filters include:

  • Seniority level (CXO, VP, Director, Manager etc),
  • Function (engineering, operations, sales, marketing etc)
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Years at current company (great for finding new people who may be open to new vendors and shaking things up a bit)
  • Years in current position (ditto)

Sales Navigator users have the ability to re-filter search results, in other words, the ability to see what effects changes to filters can make to results on the fly. This is a very useful feature for getting your results down to a manageable number to work with.

One outstanding filter only shows up once you have done a people search. Sales Navigator will allow you to see all the people within that search who have changed jobs in the past ninety days.


If you find yourself bumping up against the commercial search limit quite often, you are making a case for Sales Navigator. If you are getting weird, lousy or unusable results you may also need Sales Navigator.

However, most people have a poor grasp of how search works on LinkedIn or have never been trained on how to use it effectively, so the results they get are going to be sub optimal, regardless of which version they are using. Taking the time to really understand how search works on LinkedIn and what exactly the filters do and don’t do will pay for itself regardless of whether you are searching using regular LinkedIn or Sales Navigator.

This post originally appeared in my Advanced Strategies and Tactics for LinkedIn newsletter as part of a 7 part series comparing free LinkedIn with Sales Navigator. You can sign up for this and my newsletters on using LinkedIn for Sales and LinkedIn for Marketing here: