Using LinkedIn To Research People And Companies

Someone very serious about their research

I thought today I would go over an example of the research I would do before talking to a prospect. Here are the steps I take:

I will check their company page to see how it matches up with their website and to review all their recent activity.

I will check their LinkedIn profile for the following:

  • Current experience section for responsibilities and accomplishments
  • Previous experience to get an idea of their career path
  • Then I read the About section to see how they see their progression themselves
  • I will also look for recommendations given and received.
  • What their skills reflect (sometimes the order someone puts their skills in can tell you a lot)
  • The companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to.
  • Lastly, I will check their recent activity (if they have any) on LinkedIn. Is he or she  posting? How often? What topics? Are they interacting with other people’s or company’s posts?

This will take me ten minutes (I’ve done this hundreds of times) and it is time well invested for three reasons:

  1. It gives me an overview of his or her professional career.
  2. It helps me prepare and have ideas for my outreach message (if this is outbound) or the topics this person might be reaching out to me for (if this is inbound).
  3. And perhaps most importantly, it will show them the respect I have for them in preparing in this manner.

This can make all the difference in tilting the playing field in my favour. Having the facts and a lot of ideas at my fingertips going into a discussion with someone gives me a huge advantage in coming across as a credible resource who respects their time, takes an interest in what they are doing and wants to help them.

So that’s the prep for an individual. But what about a company?

I will do all of the things I did with respect to my individual prospect, but will add five more pieces of research. Here are the applicable ones from the list above that I will repeat for a company:

  • I will check the company website, to see what they do and to get a sense of their value proposition.
  • I will check their LinkedIn company page to see how it matches up with the website and to review all their recent activity.
  • I will check key contacts profiles, and carefully. Headline, photo, about section, work history. Focus on current experience section, but also look at  recommendations, both received and given, what their skills reflect (skills and which ones they emphasize are often a window into how people see themselves), where they went to school, the companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to. All these are things I can do very quickly, and give me a sense both of the person and how they view LinkedIn as a tool.

Here are the additional things I will look at:

  • I will see if they are active as a company on any other social media and if they are, how they are using those networks.
  • In looking at their company page I will examine the company insights LinkedIn provides very carefully (if they have more than thirty people with LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn premium members can see these insights). Hiring trends, headcount, and turnover by department all give me clues as to how the company is doing. A company growing at 20% a year is very different from one that has had headcount go down by 20% in the past year.
  • I will review the sales and marketing employees’ LinkedIn profiles, asking myself the critical question, “do they get LinkedIn?”
  • I will look for active users in other parts of the company. I will often find people who are active LinkedIn users where you normally wouldn’t expect them.
  • Lastly I will look to see if I have any connections who might know people at this company. I look to see if there are any company employees with a “2nd” beside their name.

Say that you were to land a new client this month. What would the value of that satisfied client be over the next five years? Does that potential warrant the type and depth of research I have listed here? I think it does.

Obligatory boilerplate: 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. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) 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: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Some Observations On Writing On LinkedIn

(shining the light on LinkedIn publishing) 

I was scrolling through my old articles in my LinkedIn Activity feed the other day, and it got me thinking about the vagaries of how we judge our success. Here are some observations on my writing for LinkedIn. See if they match yours.

If I look at my articles on face value, it is easy to see that most were opened and read a few hundred times, a small percentage a few thousand times and there are a couple outliers in the tens of thousands. Now that has changed somewhat as having a LinkedIn Newsletter gets my content in front of a lot more people than my articles used to. But even the newsletters only get opened a maximum of eight thousand times.

Being lucky helps. An article on the topic of Linkedin Search I wrote almost five years ago got over a hundred thousand click-to-open’s. And it still gets clicked on to this day. Why did this one do over twelve times better than my current LinkedIn newsletter does? It got indexed on Google and my topic apparently was one that people search for a lot. I had no clue. That article was no more or less good than the one I wrote before it, or the one I wrote after it. I just got lucky that week.

On the other hand, LinkedIn gives us pretty rotten tools for parsing our readers, so a lot of views doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

I know the best practices for publishing, or as well as you can know them when they are a moving target, though many I don’t bother with as I don’t write for views and I really don’t write for engagement.  I write for credibility, both to establish myself with my ongoing readers, and to have my articles and newsletters attached to my profile where people can find and read them. Publishing is the long game on LinkedIn for me. Every week I get one or two messages from people I don’t know at all saying they have been reading my articles – sometimes for a couple years! – and would like to connect and speak with me.

I have stuff I thought was gold and it was then met with complete disinterest. Ideas about aspects of using Linkedin that I thought bordered on profound and a couple hundred people read it. I had other content  that I was reluctant to publish and people loved it. We are all our own worst judge I suppose, we’re too close. I have learned to let go of my expectations for any single article or newsletter. I hit “publish” and it’s out of my hands.

Understanding how the algo works helps, but 90% of your readership, views and engagement will come from what you write about and how well you write. And when I say how well, it’s not well like Stephen King, it’s just being clean and relatable. The algo is always changing, best practices are always changing. Good choice of topics, and writing clearly about them, will always be in style.

Summary? Don’t overthink it. Once you have a handle on what your ideal reader wants more information on, write about that. I prefer writing articles and the newsletter because they stay findable through my LinkedIn profile. Don’t worry about the immediate reception or lack of one any single piece of content gets, let your ideal readers discover your work through your profile. I’m a believer in the long tail on LinkedIn, let the way LinkedIn works work for you.

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. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter is a three or four minute read, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

 

 

How To Make Publishing Content Work For You On LinkedIn

Yes, it’s nice, but will it generate sales leads?

This applies to all three types of content on LinkedIn – written, video and audio

Part One: The Sales Lead Myth

Here is how people think it works on LinkedIn. They see someone publish a post and get lots of likes and comments. They think: “wow, look at all the sales leads that person is generating.”

Then they go off, write an article, publish it on LinkedIn and nothing happens.

You can generate leads through publishing. All you need to do is the following:

  • Write about what your target audience wants to know more about. Not about how great you or your company are, but about providing answers to the questions that your target audience has.
  • You publish regularly. “One and done?” Haha. No. You need to keep it up. In my case publishing a newsletter is easy. Publishing a newsletter every other week? Not as easy.
  • You engage with your readers (or viewers or listeners, whatever the case may be). It is possible someone will view your video, realize you are a genius and call you to hire you. I don’t know about you, but sadly for me, that doesn’t happen very often. However, if you engage with someone who engaged with your content, something may come of that conversation.
  • You follow up with logical leads. I make a point of reviewing not just the commenters on my content, but also everyone who liked it, shared it, and also the new people who followed me, or viewed my profile. If any of them match my target audience, I may contact them.

It takes a ton of work. Between my writing for my weekly email newsletter and this LinkedIn newsletter, plus the followup required and monitoring and responding to comments, I typically devote one day a week. An entire day. Every week. Are you ready for that sort of commitment?

Part Two: The Increased Reach Trap

Where most people go wrong is in what they assume publishing on LinkedIn is doing for them. Everyone assumes publishing will increase their reach, and while this is the case, this is misleading. Let me explain using an example. Say you publish a post or a video on LinkedIn and I get notified. I read your post and comment on it. This would seem great for you as I have over ten thousand followers. Although LinkedIn won’t say, it is generally agreed that after I comment, LinkedIn will alert a small percentage of my followers about your post and my comment on it. Some of those followers of mine may then go and read your post, may be interested in you and either follow or connect with you. Even if they don’t engage with you, they are aware of your existence and your goal of increasing your reach has been achieved.

But I would argue that while you have increased your reach you have increased it in a kind of untargeted and sloppy way. I may have ten thousand followers, but are they the people that you’re targeting? I think that’s highly unlikely. My followers tend to be people that want to figure out how to use LinkedIn more effectively. Some are self employed, some work for the government, some work for multinationals. They come from all over the world. Two thousand of them are in Europe. Does that describe your ideal customer? Probably not. So if thirty of my followers see your post, how likely is it that they are a good match for your target audience? Pretty unlikely.

The bottom line is that unless your only connections and followers are people going after your exact same target market – in other words, your competitors – your increased publishing reach will be with largely random people. There will be some “good” prospects there, but for most people, using content to increase reach will be not nearly as effective as they think it is.

So if publishing for reach isn’t effective, how can publishing help us?

Part Three: The Authority Game

The less measurable but important side of publishing is that some content stays attached to your profile, and most content is searchable on LinkedIn. That means that if you have written about a topic that your ideal customers want to know more about and search for it on LinkedIn, they can find your content…and you.

This is where content shines on LinkedIn, in building authority, credibility, thought leadership, whatever you want to call it. Building authority takes time. I often say to my clients that their goal should be to be seen as the number one resource in their area of expertise. It’s a great way to get a seat at the table of companies being seriously considered for a purchase.

And if you keep at it, the odd thing is that in the end, after a long time, the authority you build leads to sales leads and sales. People and companies that build authority get incoming requests and over the transom requests every week. People find you, seek you out, usually test drive your content, they have a feel for what you think, what you and your company are like and they have a positive feeling about you.

Every week I get one or two people messaging me out of the blue. Invariably they lead off with how long they have been reading my content, then they describe a problem they or their company is having, that they want to address the problem now, and can I help them?

The good news? This is just the type of lead that the person I described back in part one wanted to get. The bad news? It takes a while to earn this type of lead.

In the end, if you are willing to put the work in – something a lot of people are not that keen on – publishing content on LinkedIn can pay off big time.

Obligatory boilerplate: 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. 

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: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/