How I Increased My LinkedIn Message Response Rates

Anyone home? (photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

A simple idea that improved (as in quintupled) my response rates to messages on LinkedIn. It can for you too.

So you are sending outreach messages on LinkedIn and your response rate is abysmal. See if you do any of the following in order to improve your situation:

1. Improve your message writing skills

2. Change your call to action at the end

3. Work on improving your subject lines

4. Try sending your messages at different times of the day

5. And different days of the week

6. Throw money at the problem

May I suggest that before you do anything else you should check to make sure that the person you are trying to contact actually sees value in LinkedIn and uses it regularly.

Let’s say I find someone who nominally fits my customer demographic. I check their profile and here is what I see:

  • They have something like 122 connections.
  • And no activity.
  • No meat in their experience sections, just company, title and years worked there, in other words, the bare bones.
  • They have eight skills listed, each of which has been endorsed by three or four people.

I can see that this person places little value in LinkedIn as a work tool, and that they likely come around every couple months…or less often than that.

It doesn’t matter how good my message may be. If the other person is not there to see it, how can I hope for a response?

The last statistic I saw said that sixty percent of LinkedIn users show up less than once a month. So what percentage use LinkedIn at least once every two weeks? Twenty?

My point is that sending a message to someone who will next come around to LinkedIn around Thanksgiving is not a recipe for success. And my guess is that someone who doesn’t see any value in coming around to LinkedIn that often is not going to carefully go through all the messages and notifications that have piled up since the last time they were here. So my goal is to identify that unresponsive crowd and avoid sending them messages on LinkedIn. For those people I will try introductions or referrals (via email), or Twitter, or cold calls for that matter.

One of the advantages of LinkedIn is you can get a fair idea of who the regular users are – you can see lots of connections or followers, you can see if they are active, and you can see if they have a completed profile with things like lots of recommendations and endorsements. When I send a message to someone who fits in this category I can feel confident that they will see my message, and because they are a regular LinkedIn user who sees value in LinkedIn, at least give me a fair hearing.

Not hard to do. Doesn’t cost a pile of money. And can increase the number of responses you get by two to five times.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but I am very thankful, especially as this feature’s rollout speed could, at its kindest, be called “stately.”

I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

The 8 Components Of An Effective LinkedIn Outreach Message

I have been using InMail as an outreach method on LinkedIn for years. I am good at it – I usually get a response rate ranging from sixty to sixty-five percent, depending on what I am trying to accomplish with a given program. 

Most people are not good at InMail: they take a couple swipes at it, get lousy – or no – responses, and give up. 

This week, I thought I would cover the eight basics I use for any InMail. These eight ideas are also transferable and usable in your emails. This is not an in depth InMail how-to. When I teach how to put InMails together to a client or a company, it usually takes three Zoom sessions, with lots of practice in between. Some people are put off by that idea, but I make no apologies. A sixty percent response rate takes work. 

If there is one overriding principle behind my InMail teachings it is that you write a specific personalized message for each specific individual you are sending a message. When you send a generic message to twenty individuals you will get a generic response rate, that is, a low one. When you send twenty individualized messages to twenty individuals you will get a very good response rate. Most people are used to getting crappy messages, so that when we send a good one it really stands out.  

Component #1: Send your message to people who will see it

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But this is the biggest single problem I see with using LinkedIn for outreach. As maybe 80% of LinkedIn users use LinkedIn less than once every couple weeks, 80% of your messages are going to people who either won’t see them, or yours is just one more message that has piled up since the last time they used LinkedIn.

If you have a 3% response rate now, paying attention to this idea alone can quintuple your response rate. 

Component #2: A great subject or title line

The role of the subject line is to make your recipient want to read the message. That’s it. 

Component #3: A hyper personalized message

What personalization is not: “Hi <insert first name>, I see you are the <their job title> at <their company.>  Hyper personalization means writing something that shows you have done their research; it means mentioning something that is completely idiosyncratic to them. This involves research, but it is worth it because you want to show the recipient that this message has been written specifically for him or her.

Component #4: Establish your credibility

There are several ways you can do this. The best way to do this is to allude to the specific, tangible results you got for someone or some company that the recipient knows. 

Component #5: Provide the reason you are reaching out to them

Many salespeople are taught that they should hide the “real” reason they are contacting someone. If you do a good job with these InMail components, the recipient will understand why you are reaching out to them and they will be willing to respond. 

Component #6: Focus on their potential results

Always, always, always talk in terms of their results. And there are effective ways of doing this that they will accept and be interested in. There are effective ways of doing this and setting them up so that the only question they have is, “How do they do that?” 

Component #7: Have a call to action that is realistic

Too many people over reach. They ask for a sales call or to set up a demo or a trial in the first message. That’s ridiculous. 

Component #8: Make it short. 

You should aim for 100 words. 80 would be ideal. That’s the real art in an outreach message, whether it is via InMail or Email. Can you accomplish everything I have listed above in eighty or a hundred words? Yes, it absolutely can be done.

If you went back over the last few outreach messages you sent, how many of these eight would be present?



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.