Using LinkedIn To Find and Connect With Your Ideal Customer

When you think of LinkedIn do you just think of an online resume and site you use when you are looking for a job? LinkedIn is so much more than that and is an essential social network for professionals. Depending on who your ideal customers or clients are, you should take another look at LinkedIn. LinkedIn has almost 700 million users, and when people are active on LinkedIn, they are open to business outreach and content.

This post will dive into:

  • How to optimize your LinkedIn profile to appeal to your ideal customer
  • How to research and prospect on LinkedIn
  • How to make connections that convert

How to optimize your LinkedIn profile

Because you’re looking to connect with your ideal customer, not find a job, you’re targeting a completely different audience than most professionals. You want to appeal to prospects, not hiring managers and recruiters.

That means your profile shouldn’t show off how great you are at your job. You’re ideal client doesn’t care about that. So what do they care about? One thing: How you have helped customers similar to them. 

That’s where your LinkedIn profile comes in. There are 4 areas of your profile to optimize. Your profile photo, headline, summary and experience.

LinkedIn Profile Picture

According to LinkedIn’s data, simply having a picture — any picture — makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed.

Which makes sense. If you’re represented by a generic icon, you look like a spammer.

But not all photos are created equal. Yours should represent you in the best light possible, meaning it looks like you, focuses on your face, has good lighting, and doesn’t have a distracting background.

If you can, hire a professional photographer to take a headshot. You can also easily take your own headshot. When you are taking your own photos, make sure you choose a place with lots of natural light, and take way more photos than you think you’ll need.

LinkedIn Headline

Remember that your profile is trying to connect with your ideal customer. There are no requirements on LinkedIn that require a traditional job title. You want this important profile real estate to illustrate how you can help prospects. There’s a simple formula for creating a memorable, eye-catching LinkedIn headline:

“[Title], helping [prospects] do X.”

For instance, I might use “One-woman digital agency helping businesses create strategies that convert.” Note: it is a good idea to have this match or be similar on your other professional profiles as well. For example, the statement above is part of my Instagram bio as well.

Remember that your profile needs to focus on your customers, not you. Your LinkedIn profile is designed to showcase how you help customers. You are using your profile for sales, not to try to get a job. Since your goals and objectives are different, your tactics need to be different, too.  While you are researching your prospects, they are researching you, too. Make sure when they land on your profile they like what they see. 

LinkedIn Summary

Your summary should be one or two paragraphs describe what you do, what differentiates you, and why you’re passionate about what you do. Use your one-liner here. And don’t be afraid to give your summary a little personality. Write your summary like you would talk to a friend about what you do and how you help clients. You want readers to feel like they know you already and when you do connect with them you don’t want there to be a disconnect.

Experience Descriptions

Don’t just list off all your past jobs. Again talk about how you help customers and clients. You want your experience and accomplishments to illustrate and tell a potential buyer, “I can have a positive impact on your business.” Once they believe that, they’ll almost always accept your connection request, respond to your InMail, or agree to a call.

Downplay the presence of your previous roles. Your profile should be optimized for selling your current business to prospects – not yourself to a recruiter. 

Keep in mind…the more fleshed out your profile is, the more credible and legitimate you’ll seem. Add your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram profiles if you use them professionally. Your email and phone number should be visible as well, along with your website.

How to Prospect on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a lead generation goldmine. There are several strategies for finding prospects. Here are some.

Search

Thanks to LinkedIn’s vast user base, the ability to see mutual connections, and a wide variety of filters, search is the most powerful and well-known way to identify potential customers.

If you have a free version of Linkedin, you can look for prospects with the following qualifiers:

  • 1st and 2nd degree connections
  • Location
  • Current company
  • Past companies
  • Industry
  • Schools
  • Interests, and more. 

It’s worth investing in LinkedIn Sales Navigator if you’ll be doing a fair amount of prospecting on the platform. Not only can LinkedIn Sales Navigator users run very specific searches, they can also save leads and accounts. But there is a lot you can do with the free version and it is a good idea to get the most you can out of the free version before upgrading.

“People Also Viewed” Sidebar

Once you’ve found a prospect, navigate to their profile and find the “People Also Viewed” box in the right-hand column of their profile.

As they say, “The friend of my prospect is another prospect.”

Your Customers’ Connections

Looking for referrals? Have a super happy current or past client or customer? Check their activity. When other LinkedIn users comment or like their content, investigate them to see if they’re a qualified prospect. Then ask your current customer for an introduction or simply contact them directly (don’t forget to mention your mutual connection).

Advanced Search – (sales navigator)

LinkedIn Sales Navigator users can take advantage of Advanced Search which helps you build your prospect list and narrow your searches for new leads by company, title, industry, region, and more. Once you save a lead, you’ll have visibility to their updates and shares right on your Sales Navigator homepage to help provide context for you to reach out and start a conversation. you can warm them up with comments and likes and find a relevant, timely reason to reach out.

Saved Search – (Sales Navigator)

Rather than periodically running a search for a certain type of prospect, set up a saved search. Every day, week, or month (depending on your preference), LinkedIn will send you an email alert with new search results. Essentially, you’re getting a steady stream of pre-qualified prospects right in your inbox.

Job Alerts

Every job change is a potential opportunity. To see when people in your network have been promoted, changed jobs, or moved to a new company, periodically scroll through your Notifications section.

How to Research on LinkedIn

While you want to optimize your profile for when potential clients research you, there is a lot you can learn about your ideal clients through their profile. Your prospect’s LinkedIn profile tells you basic but essential facts like their title and company, primary responsibilities, job tenure, location, and industry.

But it can also give you insight into their personality, interests, and preferred communication style. After skimming their summary and recommendations, try to gauge their character. How do others describe them? How do they describe themselves?

Have people left reviews/recommendations about them? Read those and see what trends you can spot. If every review mentions how “high energy” they are, you should try to match their enthusiasm in your outreach to them.

You should also review the highlights and activity sections of your prospect’s profile.

Highlights shows you any existing mutual connections and employment overlap. This is valuable intel for building rapport; in your outreach.

Articles & Activity shows your prospect’s content in chronological order. You can see which posts they’ve liked, commented on, and/or published themselves. This is a great tool to use when reaching out to contacts since this shows not only content they have published, but other peoples’ content they have interacted with. You can mention articles they have commented on or liked in your outreach. Think about how you can thoughtfully use that in your communication.

The Interests section will give you insight into the companies, groups, influencers, and schools they follow or belong to. Get a quick overview of their role models, professional communities, and more. This is another potential conversation starter.

How to be active on LinkedIn

Now that you have your profile optimized and know how to research prospects, what do you do? What should you post? How can you strategically use the platform?

1. Share valuable content.

First and foremost, you should be sharing valuable, engaging content that is relevant to your ideal customer just like on every social platform.

You can share original content, relevant insights from thought leaders in your ideal customer’s industry, or a combination of both. Your goal should be to share information that speaks to the main challenge or problem your prospects are looking to overcome.

LinkedIn lets you create posts, write articles and post videos. How can you repurpose content you are creating other places? Did you write a blog post? Share it as a LinkedIn article. Filmed a video for Instagram? Share it on LinkedIn. You do not have to reinvent the wheel here.

TIP: Develop a daily routine. Adding another social platform to your routine can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. Set aside time to build an outline for a 15-30 minute daily routine for your LinkedIn efforts. For example, spend 15 minutes reading the latest news and updates in your industry, 5 minutes crafting and publishing a post to share, and 10 more minutes reaching out to prospects pointing them to the piece of content with an explanation of why it’s applicable to their situation.

2. Join LinkedIn groups that serve your target audience.

In 2019, there were over 2 million active groups on LinkedIn. LinkedIn lets you join up to 50 different groups, and there are a bunch of perks to joining. Here are a few: 

  • You can see what potential customers are talking about and offer a comment when appropriate. 
  • You can submit your own posts or articles to further cement yourself as a thought leader.
  • You can expand your potential reach and LinkedIn network

Don’t limit yourself by only joining groups relevant to your industry. Seek out groups that your ideal customers belong to and be an active, engaged member of the groups you join. This is a great opportunity to conduct “social listening” and hear first-hand the challenges your clients are facings.

3. Personalize connection requests.

When sending connection requests to prospects or individuals you don’t know personally, including a personalized message is critical. By sending a personalized request you provide necessary context telling this individual why they should add you to their network, and it can help you stand out in a sea of generic requests.

To add a personalized note, make sure you complete the message box when prompted before sending your connection request.

The message doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed. In fact, it can only be 300 characters, but it should provide some context for your connection. 

If you’re feeling stuck, here are some points you could choose to include:

  • A personalized greeting using their name.
  • Mutual connections (if applicable).
  • Mutual groups (if applicable).
  • A piece of content they engaged with.
  • Experience on their profile that stuck out to you.

4. Facilitate meaningful conversations.

Once you connect with a prospect on LinkedIn, keep the conversation going. While it may not be ideal to go in for the sale right away, you’ll want to stay in touch so you remain on their radar. The personalized message you sent when making your connection request can serve as a good conversation starter.

You can also keep the conversation going by engaging with their posts, and sharing content they may be interested in with them.

Want to see how your Profile stacks up? Check your Social Selling Index

Your Social Selling Index (SSI) measures how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships. It is updated daily. While there is debate about how important your Social Selling Index is, it does give you some benchmarks to see how you can best optimize your efforts on LinkedIn.

Improving Your Social Selling Index Score 

Once you’re familiar with your score, commit to consistently taking action to try and make it better. Here are some ways to improve your score in each part of the index’s framework.  

  • Establish Your Professional Brand: To increase this score, ask happy customers to write you a recommendation, which shows those who visit your profile how you’re able to solve for industry pain points. 
  • Find the Right People: Boost this score by reaching out to relevant people who have viewed your profile. With the free version of LinkedIn, you can see the last 5 people who have viewed your profile, so you want to check this regularly.
  • Engage with Insights Before sharing an article or piece of content with prospects, research them and their specific industry to ensure what you’re sharing is relevant to them specifically. Be sure to reference the reason why you’re sharing the content in your message so they know you took a catered approach. 
  • Build Relationships: Improve this score by focusing your outreach efforts on decision makers. This way, both you and those you reach out to don’t waste any time. 

I hope this helps. If you have been out of the LinkedIn game for awhile, don’t get overwhelmed. Start small and work on creating daily habits and routines to get more active on the platform. If you want help optimizing your profile, writing your summary or creating a LinkedIn strategy, let me know.

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