There weren’t too many small business owners on LinkedIn’s recently announced list of the 50 most visited profiles in Australia. But Sharon Melamed, Managing Director of an Internet start-up called Matchboard, was one of them, and here shares her tips for making a LinkedIn presence successful for your business.
Not too many business owners would say “no” to an ongoing free marketing opportunity, but LinkedIn is just that, and it continually surprises me how few small business people are really taking full advantage.
There are many ways to leverage LinkedIn for the benefit of your business and one of them is to use the tool as “glue”: it’s a great way to stay sticky with customers and prospects and you can do that by taking a few minutes to create a Company Page linked to your personal profile. By posting regular updates on this page, you can constantly but non-intrusively feed your followers information about new offerings, new hires and any changes to your business or contact information – ensuring you stay front of mind with your constituency, however small. LinkedIn also really binds your network together as people move around the place, to new ventures or cities, and you don’t have to track them down to let any old contacts know what you’re up to. After all, it’s often your long-standing contacts who are the ones willing to lend a helping hand when you need it.
In my own business, I use LinkedIn to find potential clients, and I feel like a spy sometimes scouring profiles for information before I approach them. But it’s worth it, because if you can find something even small in common, like you went to the same uni, or both speak Japanese, your chances of engaging are high. So LinkedIn is fantastic for developing business in a very personalised way.
Like most people, I don’t like cold calling, so I use LinkedIn as a tool to make cold calls warm. My approach is: 1. find the right contact by doing an advanced search on LinkedIn (focus on connections who are members of a group you are part of, or 2nd level connections, so you already have something in common by the time you reach out) 2. invite to connect, and 3. if they accept, email them, thanking them for connecting, and explaining in a customised way how they could benefit from your company’s service. This approach is far more effective than cold emailing, which is often perceived as spam.
If you haven’t got it already, include a “Share” button on your website. When I launched my business, we didn’t have much of a marketing budget, so I put the word out to my LinkedIn connections and politely suggested they click “share” on my website to let their networks (collectively comprising millions of people) know we existed. Within a few hours, more than 50 connections had shared matchboard.com.au with their LinkedIn networks of thousands. This produced three great clients on Day 1, with a marketing cost of zero!
Finally, a productivity tip: business owners are typically time-poor and downloading the LinkedIn smartphone app enables you to manage most of your LinkedIn activity when you’re on the go – you can quickly post an update, invite a prospect to connect, or see what’s happening in Groups you belong to, all while you’re waiting for a meeting to start!