by Jen Bishop
LinkedIn and other forms of social media can be a useful way to grow your business, but how do you maximise the return on the time you’ll need to invest?
Over the last 18 months I’ve invested a lot of time in LinkedIn, and garnered some insights that I hope will help you get the most from your own time on this increasingly important online networking site. Like every other form of marketing activity, identifying your target market is key, especially when it comes to determining which of your connections you’d like to meet up with in person.
Understand what you’re engaged in
Getting together for coffee catch-ups and other offline activities is a natural extension of connecting with people via LinkedIn, but if you’re not careful it can also take you away from your core business, especially if you continually find yourself having your brain picked, but not actually picking up any sales!
After a while, it can be tempting to throw your hands in the air and say to yourself, “Why do people keep wasting my time? My knowledge hasn’t been acquired for free so why do people expect me to give my time for free? My brains aren’t free and nor is my mortgage, my phone or my time.”
If that sounds familiar to you, it’s time to re-assess what you’re engaging in. This is a networking activity, not a transactional sale in a retail store.
The question you ask shouldn’t be “Why are people wasting my time?” but ”Why haven’t I defined my target market more effectively?”
Do your homework
On LinkedIn, many of your business opportunities can be found in your second level connections. If one of these people connects with me and then asks to meet in person, I research their profile on LinkedIn before accepting their invitation, and often have a phone conversation to determine what the nature of the relationship might be. v
Using these two simple steps you should be able to gather enough information to help you decide whether to go ahead with the meeting, including:
• The size of the business they’re associated with
• Whether they’re looking for contacts, partners or suppliers
• Whether they’re in your target market
• Whether they’re out to pick your brains or learn from you
• Whether they are a competitor (or potential competitor)
The information you collect means you can prepare your own objectives for the conversation that follows.
Make it win-win
Before the meeting have a think about how you and your new contact may be able to benefit each other, either now or at some time in the future. Much can be learned and shared through such an exchange, and this is a much more valuable way to commence your new relationship than by focusing on a sale.
If you’re able to help someone else, an invisible social contract can be established where they’re motivated to help you also. If you start out by thinking about money, you’ll miss out on that social contract and the opportunities that can come out of it.
Measure your return
When measuring the return on time invested (ROTI) on LinkedIn, assess it against the time you spend on other business development activities like cold calling, direct mail and online marketing.
How should you measure your ROTI? Consider some numbers:
• What percentage of the people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn are in your potential market?
• What percentage of them are prospects?
• How many are qualified prospects?
• How many have become customers? Or even better, repeat customers?
Aside from helping you determine whether your current approach to LinkedIn is paying off for you, assessing your connections in this way makes it easier to determine which of those coffee invitations you should accept (and perhaps end up giving free information to), and even more importantly, who you should be initiating contact with yourself.
Improve your conversion rate
To assist with targeting the right audience and increasing your conversion rate, a better understanding of your existing customers is required, especially those you’ve gained via LinkedIn. Why did they choose you? Why did they refer you? How can you get more referrals?
Run your own business?
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