How to Leverage LinkedIn To Grow Your Small Business

This professional social platform is an untapped goldmine for business owners.
Linkedin logo wooden
The benefit of LinkedIn is that you can build a big network, which moves business relationships forward. (Photo: Miss Ty/Shutterstock)

If you’re not using LinkedIn to connect with potential customers and leads, you’re missing out on marketing and networking opportunities.

One networking expert who uses LinkedIn’s marketing capabilities is Bill Corbett, CEO of Corbett Public Relations. Corbett teaches, coaches and writes about LinkedIn regularly. He says LinkedIn is the best social site for business and for individuals seeking to build their brand.

“LinkedIn is a tool for marketing, branding and relationship building,” Corbett said.

He suggests using these four strategies to make LinkedIn effective for your small business:

1. Download your contacts and use them for email marketing

Most people don’t realize they can download their LinkedIn contacts into a database such as Excel, which can be used for email marketing. Many small businesses don’t do a great job of keeping track of customers, and don’t always have organized email lists.

“This is a great workaround, which gives small business owners current email addresses for people who may have moved, changed jobs or email addresses,” Corbett said.

Need help creating a database? Corbett provides a quick tutorial to help you get started. Once you have a list, use it to connect with all of your LinkedIn contacts.

“Remember that you are building your brand and relationships with these people. The biggest mistake people make on LinkedIn is hard-­selling. Nothing is worse than getting spam and other sales­-related messages from a LinkedIn contact – especially a brand new one,” Corbett said.

2. Video, video, video

“Every LinkedIn profile should have a video embedded after the summary area. Failure to do this puts small business owners at a competitive disadvantage,” Corbett said.

People want to watch video, and there is no better way to demonstrate your brand message and expertise.

“In the next year or so, video will be much more prominently displayed on LinkedIn,” he said.

“Everyone is going to need a video, and the time to start is now.”

Before you post a video, be sure to practice. Make sure the video looks and sounds professional, and remember: don’t sell. Instead, tell people who you are, why you love what you do, and why your customers choose to work with you.

“I regularly coach people on how to prepare and create their videos. This is a process and should not be rushed; a bad video can damage your image and brand,” Corbett said.

3. ABC: “Always Be Connecting”

Although small business owners should connect with as many non-­competitors as possible, Corbett does not believe in being a LinkedIn Open Networker, or LION.

“A LinkedIn Open Networker is a person who will connect with anyone and everyone,” Corbett said.

The benefit is that you can build a big network, which generates a large database. However, you should create criteria regarding whom you’ll connect with.

“There are a number of fake profiles and people who simply create LinkedIn profiles to connect and get your email address so they can add your email to spam lists,” he said.

You’ll also want to connect with people in a specific geographic area if you need to be in close proximity to your customers.

“Don’t dismiss anyone before looking into their profile, and if you have questions, ask them before connecting with that person,” Corbett said. “If they don’t respond, simply disregard the person’s request.”

Connecting means bringing real-­world contacts with you into the LinkedIn world. Corbett suggested using Evernote’s business card scanner to streamline the connection process. Evernote is a cross­-platform app for note taking, organizing and archiving information.

“The Evernote app connects to LinkedIn, and when you scan a business card, it will immediately send a message to a person on LinkedIn if they use LinkedIn.” A business card scanning tutorial is available here.

4. Build relationships

Don’t focus on selling, and never hard­-sell.

“Focus on building relationships, sharing content, helping, asking questions or asking for advice. Make introductions and be proactive. Don’t just like a person’s posts, be sure to comment on them,” Corbett said.

This helps you and your small business get noticed and moves relationships forward. It creates an environment and opportunity for selling. Be patient, though. “Building relationships may take time, and it certainly takes effort,” Corbett said.

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