Using LinkedIn: Practical Tips for Service Business Owners

  • September 18, 2015
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Is your business taking advantage of LinkedIn to find new customers and partners? If you’re not, you should be.

In today’s business environment, the world’s largest online social network for professionals is an opportunity you can’t afford to ignore. For those who are unfamiliar with LinkedIn, the site is an online community of more than 433 million business owners, managers and working professionals worldwide. LinkedIn is free to use, and getting started with a profile takes just a few minutes.

“LinkedIn has tapped into a core set of jobs that professionals want to get done around managing your professional network, looking for a new job, refining your skills,” says IDC analyst Crawford Del Prete in MarketWatch. “They kind of disrupted the Rolodex.”

Collaboration is key to successfully growing your business, and LinkedIn is the world’s premier destination to networking with fellow entrepreneurs to create valuable partnerships. More than simply a utility for job-seekers, LinkedIn is in fact the largest directory of working professionals in human history. It’s with this in mind that we’ve compiled a few helpful tips that will get you up to speed on LinkedIn, and will equip you to harness the power of the social network to find new customers and business partners.

Create a Polished LinkedIn Profile

To get the most out of LinkedIn, you’ll need to invest some time in creating a profile. A well-crafted LinkedIn profile combines professional accomplishments, skills and experience to give a high-level view of each user. While some people mimic their resume, avoid this temptation (and the idea of a resume might make you chuckle as a successful business owner).

One of the keys to success in building your profile is to keep in mind that LinkedIn is a search engine, much like Google. The more relevant keywords and service-based information your profile contains, the more easily you can be found by potential collaborators and customers. Even though you may have a wealth of experience across disciplines, restrict your profile description to those services lines, products and experiences that earn you the highest margins, or are most profitable for your company. No sense being found by low-value customers, right?

Check out Random Byte for more tips on how business owners can optimize their LinkedIn profiles to find better lead generation and sales potential.

Join LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups are self-organized collections of individuals who share common skills, problems and goals. Group members share relevant news articles, ask questions, offer advice and participate in discussions. LinkedIn places limits on who can be emailed without a direct connection. People who are members of the same group can directly email one another, which can be the start of a client relationship, or a collaboration with someone who shares your interest in an industry.

Participate in a Group Discussion

The key value-add of LinkedIn groups are the discussions started by the group moderator and participants. Group members interpret industry trends, troubleshoot and share best practices. Active participants get to demonstrate their knowledge, and expertise, as well as learn from others about problems in the marketplace. Adding value to LinkedIn discussions is a great way to grow your services business, as a respected expert in your field.

A Caveat about LinkedIn Discussions

Don’t treat discussion as a venue promote yourself or your services. Self-promotion and endless salesmanship is a huge turnoff, and will not advance your agenda. If you generously share valuable, actionable information, you will quickly develop a reputation as a trusted expert. And The next time a group member—or someone in her network—needs your expertise, you will be top of mind. Think of your contribution to groups as an investment that will pay off over time.

Fish Where the Fish Are

Contributing expertise to your peers is a great way to grow your brand and earn a reputation as a thought leader. But balance this with customer-facing discussions as well. While you want to network with your peers, remember that your customers are also on LinkedIn looking for answers. Divide your time on LinkedIn between networking with peers, and serving the needs of your customer base, who are unlikely to be in the same groups that serve your industry. While it’s safe and fun to connect with your contemporaries, don’t be afraid to be where your customers are. LinkedIn’s new Pulse publishing tool helps your content get discovered by the people who matter, so experiment with publishing directly to your profile.

A Final Word about Content Sharing on LinkedIn

Company blogs are sources of great content that can be helpful to other LinkedIn members. In addition to sharing your personal experience and industry knowledge, don’t be afraid to pull in information from your blog. This is a great way to provide helpful, targeted information with minimal additional investment of resources. Just make sure to add unique commentary and insight tailored to the needs of the group.

Growing your service business is about seizing opportunities and creating new ones for yourself. As a platform, LinkedIn offers you unrivalled access to customers and business partnerships that can take your company to the next level.