Everywhere you look, you see articles about social media tactics you can use to get more traffic or leads for your business.
And while tactics can be useful, you need to combine them in a cohesive strategy if you want them to be effective.
Some marketers have no problem doing that.
They’ve already been able to figure out how to generate a constant stream of leads from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
But that’s a very small minority of marketers.
If you haven’t had great success with social media, I urge you not to give up. You just need to keep learning and testing until you find the right tactics for the right situation.
I’d like to give you a complete strategy filled with effective tactics that complement each other.
But to do that, I need to focus on one particular social network: LinkedIn.
I’m going to give you a strategy that you can use to produce as many B2B leads as you need (provided you have the manpower to put behind it).
Why LinkedIn? If you sell products to other businesses, LinkedIn is the social network you need to focus on.
That’s where people who are trying to further their careers and improve their job performance go.
With more than 400 million members worldwide, LinkedIn has a huge pool of potential leads in just about every single niche out there.
Additionally, case study after case study revealed that LinkedIn, on average, drives the most customers to B2B companies.
Yes, there are exceptions. But for the most part, LinkedIn is either the best or one of the best marketing channels a B2B business will find.
From that short introduction, you should know whether LinkedIn is a good option for your business.
And if it is, this step-by-step strategy will get you started from scratch. Even if you’ve never used LinkedIn seriously, it will still work.
Best of all, it’s simple. The main thing it requires is time and effort.
As long as you’re determined to succeed, it will work.
Ready? Let’s get started.
Step #1: Optimize your profile for connecting
Any LinkedIn strategy will involve growing your network on the site by “connecting” with other users.
You need to connect initially so that you can communicate with users in the future.
From there, you can apply whatever tactic you choose, and I’ll show you a few here.
For this strategy, you’ll mainly be connecting with people you don’t know. Because of this, you need to make sure your profile is optimized as much as possible, or else you could be marked as a spammer (on top of getting poor results).
What users see when you request to connect: To understand the most important parts of your profile, you need to look at what LinkedIn users see.
When you send an invitation to another user, they can view it in two ways.
In their notifications bar, they will see a mini preview with your name, title, and the start of any message you sent:
Since these people don’t know you, you won’t get many invitations accepted just from this.
In the best case scenario, they’ll want to learn more about you.
First, they’ll click on the invitation to see the full message you sent:
They can also view this directly if they use their LinkedIn inbox on a regular basis.
Take note of the elements in a full message:
- Name and picture
- Your tagline/title
- Your message
You have 3 different ways to make your first impression.
In this section, we’ll deal with the first two—the ones that are part of your profile. I’ll go into how to craft an effective message later.
Element #1 – Your name and picture: I’m guessing you’re pretty stuck on your name, so I’ll let you keep it as it is.
Now, with the picture, you have a little bit of leeway.
Let me be clear upfront: you need a profile picture. No one will take you seriously without one.
Ideally, get a professional headshot done. See my LinkedIn profile (and go connect with me while you’re at it) for an example:
If you can’t do that, find a white wall somewhere, put on a professional outfit, and have someone take a picture with your smartphone. It won’t be the same quality as a professional picture, but it’ll be good enough—phone cameras are pretty good these days.
Element #2 – Your title: LinkedIn calls it your “professional headline.” When you’re logged in, you can click it and type in whatever you want to say:
Typically, you’ll want your job title(s) in here as well as any other impressive titles you hold.
Take a second, and think about the type of people you’ll be connecting with.
If you’re going after smaller companies, you’ll likely be targeting CEOs.
I’ll go into more detail on why later, but for now, know that you want to have a similar position in your professional headline.
So, if you were in fact targeting CEOs, you’d want something like:
CEO of (your business)
If that’s not true, try to find a term that’s on a similar level that describes what you do:
This is a good start, but we’ll improve upon it further in a bit. Save it, and set it aside for now.
Rounding out your profile: Assuming you nail those three aspects of your invitation, the person you invited will likely check out your full profile (not many will connect just based on the invitation).
The main thing they’re looking for is to ascertain whether or not you’re legitimate.
There’s nothing fancy you need to do here other than making sure your profile is completely filled out.
List all your past jobs and the things you accomplished at each of those jobs.
In addition, I recommend adding a line that shows you’re open to connecting with new people. You can even copy mine:
Once your profile looks complete, you can move on to the next step.
Step #2: Create your own group – there’s a huge reason why…
For this strategy to work, you’ll have to create a group.
Then, you’ll have to consistently add the right people to it (I’ll show you how in a bit) and manage it.
It’s a long-term commitment, but it only takes a few minutes a week after you get started.
Here’s what you need to know about the overall strategy at this point:
You’re going to invite potential leads to join the group you created. You’re going to leverage the group to get more connections and get more leads.
Your first step is creating the group, which is pretty simple, but I’ll still show you how to do it.
Before you do that, you need to decide what kind of group you should create. You want the group to benefit your potential customers.
So, if you sell products to marketers, create a group for marketers.
If you sell products to manufacturing companies, create a group for manufacturing leaders.
If you only sell to local businesses, it’s a good idea to add a location to the name of the group as well.
Here are a few sample titles for groups:
- Marketing Leaders of America
- Southeast Manufacturing Leaders
- Texas Financial Marketing Elites
Make it sound prestigious so that your potential customers would actually want to join.
How to create a group on LinkedIn: It only takes a few minutes to create a group from scratch.
Start by hovering over “interests” on your top menu, and then pick groups. Then, from the “my groups” button at the top, pick “create group” from the dropdown menu.
Alternatively, just use this link.
That will bring you to this form:
There are only about 10 fields, and most are self-explanatory.
The only crucial things are the group name (which we just went over) and the group logo.
I highly recommend at least getting a cheap logo for the group made on Fiverr.
You can change this later though, so you can use a placeholder for now. You won’t be getting members for the group quite yet.
Seeding a group with content: Although you’re not really getting the group fully going yet, it’s not a bad idea to post a few pieces of content (3-5) just to make the group look a little more alive.
The fastest way to do this is to type in your niche into BuzzSumo.
This gives you a list of popular articles. You can make a post in the group for each of them (if they are relevant)—just write a quick intro to introduce each of the articles (e.g., “What do you think when you see manufacturing being relocated to cheaper countries?”).
Once you have your group fully functional, move on to the next step.
Step #3: Create your hit list of potential customers
Now we’re getting to the fun stuff, where you’ll actually start finding the people who will eventually become leads.
The goal here is to compile a list of 500-1,000 potential leads. It sounds like a lot, but remember, LinkedIn has over 400 million users.
In most situations, you’ll be able to find tens of thousands of users who match your buyer’s profile.
To find them, you’ll use LinkedIn’s built-in search function.
Click the “advanced” link to the side of the search bar at the top.
This allows you to get a lot more specific with your searching.
You’re welcome to narrow down the results however you like, but I’d recommend starting with:
In B2B sales, you’re typically targeting the same level of employee/employer in each company, which is why you add a title filter (e.g., CEO, Founder, Marketing Manager).
The industry filter will make sure that the results are in the industry you sell to, and the location filter will make sure that these contacts can actually become your customers eventually.
Below are the results for an advanced search I did for CEOs in the health, wellness, and fitness industry:
As you can see, the results might not be perfect, but they’re pretty much what I’d be looking for with that search.
From here, you can start a list in a spreadsheet. Just copy their full information or even the URL of their profiles.
Once you’ve done that, you can move on to Step #4 to start connecting with them.
Step #4: Make initial contact with each member
You’ve done all the groundwork so that you can finally start taking action now.
The first three steps shouldn’t take more than 4-5 hours to complete in most cases.
This step, however, will likely take longer.
The goal here is to connect with every person on your “hit list.”
Perfecting your first impression: Remember what the basic connection invitation looks like? If not, here it is again:
I couldn’t show you how to create a completely optimized invitation before because there was still more groundwork to cover.
But now, you’re ready.
You have the picture already at this point, but you might be able to improve your professional headline.
Let’s say you sell marketing consulting to manufacturing companies.
Right now, your headline looks something like this:
President, CEO of Quick Sprout.
That’s good, but think about it from the point of view of the people you’re trying to connect with (CEOs in manufacturing companies).
They see another CEO wanting to connect with them. That’s a plus. They will think of you as a peer, not someone who wants a job from them.
But with that headline, they know you’re the CEO of a marketing company. What does that have to do with manufacturing?
That tells the user that you might just be trying to get something from them, and you don’t want them to have that impression.
So, how else can you show some credibility in their industry?
Remember that group you created? That’s how you establish your credibility.
Now, my theoretical professional headline becomes:
President, CEO of Quick Sprout. Founder of Southeast Manufacturing Leaders.
Do you see how that makes a big difference to the manufacturing CEOs I would be connecting with?
All of a sudden, it looks like I’m more than just a marketer. I have a professional interest in manufacturing as well, and I’m active in the community. It’s a great first impression to make.
Crafting a convincing opening message: The final part of that initial impression is your opening message.
You basically have two sentences or so to come across as a professional and explain why you want to connect with someone.
Here’s what a good basic template looks like:
Hi (name), I came across your profile on LinkedIn and thought we might both benefit from connecting with each other. If you’re open to it, I’d love to connect. Thanks, (your name).
When you combine that with the other two factors, you’ll get an acceptance rate between 40-60% (in most cases).
If you want to make it even better, look at their profile first, find something interesting that you can relate to, and mention that in your invitation.
Maybe you’ll see that they are located in a nearby city, so you could change your invite to something like this:
Hi (name), I came across your profile on LinkedIn and thought we might both benefit from connecting with each other. I see that you work in Austin, and I’m actually just down the road in Georgetown. If you’re open to it, I’d love to connect. Thanks, (your name).
That message is 258 characters long (maybe a bit longer or shorter, depending on names). The limit for a connection request is 300 characters, so you don’t want to write anything much longer than that.
Sending the invite (incredibly effective tip in here): Honestly, this is the easiest part, but it’s where a lot of people get stuck.
When you request to connect with someone, LinkedIn will show you a form that asks you how you know them:
If you pick most of these options, LinkedIn will ask you for the user’s email address in order to let you send the request. You probably don’t know it, and even if you could find it, it’s a waste of your time.
Instead, pick the “friend” option. Then, you don’t need to enter their email address. You can add your message in the textbox and submit your connection request.
Don’t worry about looking weird to users because you picked the friend option—they will never see it. That information seems to be for LinkedIn only. Your recipient will only see the parts of the invite we’ve looked at so far.
I recommend sending out invites slowly at first until you know how people are reacting to them.
If your messages are a bit “off,” they might get reported as spam (although unlikely if you’ve done everything I’ve shown you). If too many spam reports are filed against your account in a short time period, it could be limited or suspended.
Instead, do it slowly at first, and see if you’re getting an approval rate of at least 40% (aim for higher). Keep tweaking your message, profile, and lead targeting until you start getting above 50% acceptance rate.
Step #5: Continue to engage with each member over the next several weeks
Let’s quickly recap.
At this point, you have an optimized profile and a list of potential leads, and you’ve started connecting with those leads.
Now is the time for some grinding work. It doesn’t take too much skill or knowledge, but it needs to be done.
There are two parts to this step.
Part #1 – Getting your group up and running: Remember that empty group you created? We’re finally going to give it a push and get it full of useful activity.
The main strategy here is to simply invite your new connections.
When you make a new connection, just send them a message like this:
Hi (name), I’m glad we could connect!
I just wanted to give you a quick heads-up about a LinkedIn group I’ve created and am trying to grow. It’s called (group name).
It’s a place where all the members can discuss anything related to (industry of leads). I hope you’ll join if you get a chance.
You won’t get a 100% join rate, especially at the start when there’s not much activity.
But…if you personally invite 100 targeted users, you will have a small, core member group that will be enough to get started.
You’ll have to be active in the group at first, or else no one else will start discussions.
Post content from tools such as BuzzSumo on a regular basis, and monitor the news for any big industry announcements. Just search for your industry in Google News once a day to see if there’s anything interesting going on.
Once you start getting other people posting comments and participating in discussions, don’t stop!
Keep going until you have at least 5-10 regular members who post new content without any prompting on your part.
And while they do that, try to comment on, like, and share everything they post to encourage them to post more.
The more active your group is, the easier it’ll be to attract new members.
At some point, you’ll start getting members you didn’t invite, who will then want to connect with you. Lewis Howes says he gets 15-20 new invites every day from members of his group.
Not all of those will turn out to be leads, but it still helps you keep your group active and expand your personal network.
Tip: Keep track of who does and doesn’t join your group after you ask them to. They may not be interested at first because there’s not a lot of activity.
Invite them again a few months later when you have a good amount of discussion going on. You’ll get a much more favorable response this time around.
Other options to grow your group: If all that sounds good to you, you’re set. That tactic, by itself, will effectively grow any LinkedIn group.
However, there are a few options to accelerate your group’s growth if you’d really like to:
- Advertising – You can use LinkedIn Ads to promote your group. You can target similar to your hit list people to bring in new members who may end up being leads as well.
- Group partnerships – I’ve talked about using this tactic on Facebook, but it works on LinkedIn too. Find similar groups in your industry, and offer to do a cross-promotion. You’ll tell your members about their group, and they’ll do the same for you.
- Posting statuses – When you post a status on your LinkedIn account, it will be shown to people you’re connected with. It gives your new connections (from your hit list) another opportunity to join the group.
Again, none of these are required to grow your group, but it can make it grow faster if needed.
Part #2 – Making personal connections: At this point, I’ve shown you just about all of the overall strategy we’ll be using.
The main purpose of the group is to make connecting with potential leads easier and to establish yourself as an authority in their industry. It may also bring you some leads in the future, but that’s more of an additional bonus.
The main goal now is to turn all those new connections from your hit list into leads.
And by “leads,” I mean people who are willing to do a sales call, attend a webinar, or participate in some other event that could lead to a sale.
The first thing you need to do is forget about turning them into leads. If that’s all you focus on, you’ll never get much success.
Instead, take a long-term approach of building a relationship with each and every one of them.
How do you do this?
The best way by far is to send messages through LinkedIn. Now that you’re connected with these potential leads, you can send messages to them without many restrictions.
Let’s get more specific with this tactic:
You should send at least 5 or 6 messages to a connection before asking for a phone call or anything that could lead to a sale. These messages should be solely focused on showing your new prospects something interesting or adding value to their lives.
How often should you send these messages? That’s up to you. I’d suggest only sending them 2-3 times a month. You don’t want to come on too strong when you just met someone.
There are three types of messages you can send:
- The follow-up – Good to send right after you connect. Thank them for connecting, and invite them to join your group (or do this in a message later on).
- The resource suggestion – Send them an article or resource that would be useful for them in their professional life (job).
- The discussion suggestion – Let them know about a particularly interesting discussion in your group, and invite them to jump in.
Out of those 5-6 messages, 4-5 will be a combination of the second and third types of messages.
Your success will depend on how useful those suggestions are. If you send them a case study where they actually take action based on the results, it will solidify your relationship in a big way.
Step #6: Get off LinkedIn!
LinkedIn is an amazing site to make new connections and build relationships, but it has its limits.
You can’t effectively sell products or services on LinkedIn—it’s just not the right environment.
So, how do you do it?
Well, it’s going to take you 1-3 months to send those initial 5-6 messages.
I did warn you that this is a long-term investment, but it will pay off. Plus, you’ll have many potential leads to whom you’ll be sending several messages a day, so it’s not like you’ll be just sitting around waiting.
After you’ve sent those messages and established a relationship, send them another short message like this:
Hi (name), I’m glad we connected a few months ago. It’s been great getting to know you a little better. I’d love to jump on a quick call sometime soon to see what you’re up to. Does next (day) work for you?
It’s not a pushy sales request, and it reminds them that you didn’t just connect so that you could pitch them a product right away.
What to do when it fails: It’s going to happen. Not every single prospect will agree to a sales call (even though many will).
You could just stop focusing on them altogether, but I have a better solution.
Instead, just put them in a different category of connections. They may still become a lead some day, but it’s clear that they won’t at this very moment.
You should make a list of all these users and keep in touch with them. Send them monthly messages highlighting the best discussions in your group or the best resources you’ve come across.
Don’t put in as much effort as you do with your other prospects, but don’t give up either. There are still some very high quality leads in this group, so continue to nurture them.
LinkedIn is the best social media site for B2B sales.
I’ve just shown you a relatively simple 6-step strategy that you can use to get leads. When you’re done with your initial hit list, create a new one. Keep repeating it so that you have a consistent source of high quality leads.
There was nothing too complicated in the strategy, but it takes a lot of work and time.
Know this, plan for it, and execute the strategy. It will make a huge difference in the growth of your business.
If you have any questions about any of the steps in this strategy, let me know! Leave me a comment below, and I’ll try to clear things up.