By now it should be safe to assume most people are aware that LinkedIn has much more to offer than as just a place to park your resume. But don’t think it’s a free-for-all opportunity to spam the heck out of people with cold business pitches.
To success at generating leads from LinkedIn, you want to gradually build a network of people that are your ideal prospects. To do this, set up a process where you build rapport, gain trust, and determine if you can help with their pain points. Then begin a gradual process of explaining how that might look to them, and constantly stay top of mind. That is the key to successfully navigating and utilizing LinkedIn for your business.
Rich: She’s a preeminent authority on social selling and LinkedIn. Author of two, #1 best-selling books,LinkedIn Unlocked, and The LinkedIn Code, and creator of Cracking The LinkedIn Code 3.0, an online training and coaching program. Her company, Top Dog Social Media, helps B2B individuals and businesses build authority, credibility, and trust, and ultimately increase sales & revenue. I am very excited to welcome Melonie Dodaro to the show. Melonie, thanks for being here.
Melonie: Hey Rich, so great to finally get on the show with you.
Rich: I know, we’ve been trying this for over a year. I had no idea how popular you actually were. No, I knew how popular you were. So Melonie, what first drew you to LinkedIn?
Melonie: I think that the reason I’ve always really been drawn to LinkedIn is, I’m a business owner and entrepreneur first and foremost. So when I was looking at social media from a business perspective, it just made sense to get on the world’s #1 social business network.
Rich: Alright, and you’ve done quite well with it. I feel that most people – at least the listeners of this podcast – know that LinkedIn is more than just a place to post a resume. But how do we turn LinkedIn into a lead generation machine?
Melonie: Yeah, great question. I’m glad that you say that. I think most people know that. I think people are really starting to understand that there’s been a lot of misconception about what it can be used for. And I find that there’s a lot more people gravitating towards LinkedIn right now more than ever before. And I think it’s because of some of the changes that Facebook’s made.
But LinkedIn is a powerful site to generate leads because the difference between using your personal profile on LinkedIn, for example, versus a business [age on Facebook – or even a business page on LinkedIn – is that you can connect with people. You can connect with people one on one and have conversations with them. And that’s what’s missing with business pages. Because at the end of the day, people don’t connect with a logo. They connect with businesses, they connect with the individuals within that business.
And so what you can do is you can have an outreach plan where you can find and connect with your ideal prospects. Connect with them and start conversations and start to establish relationships.
Rich: You know, I see a lot of people who I have no idea who they are doing some outreach to me on LinkedIn, and I’m not sure that they’re doing it right. So when you’re working with clients and they’re looking to maybe build their network because either they just haven’t before or they’re moving to a new territory or a new industry, what are some of the things that you’re trying to get them to do so that they can actually do better prospecting and generate more leads on LinkedIn?
Melonie: Well I love what you just said that you’re not sure some are doing it properly. And they’re not, that’s the problem. So many people are doing it so poorly. They’re either using automation, or they’re hiring lead generation companies that are doing a horrific job for them.
For example, just in the last week two people that I know fairly well from their face – I don’t know them in person but I know them online – have sent me very sales-pitchy messages on LinkedIn. So both of them I sent them a message back and asked if they were using automation. So one of them said she wasn’t and was actually using a lead gen company. And I said she might want to rethink that. And the other one never responded, but I got another message the following day with another pitch.
So this is the problem, is that people are trying to use shortcuts all the time. And when it comes to sales and when it comes to relationships, shortcuts don’t work. If it worked, trust me, we’d be hiring all those SEO companies that are emailing us 10 times a day. People wouldn’t have to do anything if those things worked. They don’t work because you’re not establishing a relationship with them.
So one of the things that absolutely necessary to happen is to start a conversation and build a rapport without talking about your services or your products. Nobody is interested in that. People look at everything through their WIIFM filter, which is, “what’s in it for me”. Whether it’s the message that you’re sending them, your profile itself, the content you create, the things that you share. Everything they look at, is there something in this for me. And so when you’re messages are coming across as self-serving, people are going to quickly ignore them – or worse – they’re going to disconnect, or they’re going to mark you as spam.
Rich: It is a struggle. Because on one hand you want to hit as many people as possible, so you do take shortcuts. Whether it’s an automation tool or you’re outsourcing it, or that you’ve got a script and you’re just copying and pasting it in one after the other after the other.
Let’s say we’re helping companies generate more leads for their business. Bottom line is if I say, “Hey, would you like to generate more leads for your business”, it’s still coming off as self-promotional. So what are some of the ways that you’ve taught people to make more of an authentic outreach to somebody? Is it just that we’re trying to do too much and we should just be concentrating on a few key people?
Melonie: Well no, not necessarily. You know I still do like the idea of a script, however, the key to making them work is personalization. So every single time you’re sending a message to someone, you have to take one or two minutes to really personalize that message to that person. Whether it’s reviewing their profile and commenting on something within it, or it’s reviewing their activity feed on LinkedIn that shows you everything they’ve commented on, liked, posts, or even articles they’ve shared, and making mention of them in a conversational really natural kind of way.
LinkedIn gives you so many opportunities to find this information so that you’re not going in cold, you’re not going in with just a script. You’re actually really taking the time and you have the ability to personalize them so that somebody knows that it isn’t an automated script. Like I said, a couple of individuals send me these messages all the time via email and Facebook and LinkedIn. But when it’s coming from people I know, it’s like are they really that sloppy.
Rich: Right, right. I’ve received those, and I can also admit that I’ve been guilty of some of those things, too. You know, I get so many invitations sometimes that I’ll have somebody from my office just log in as me and respond. And I’ve got this canned response that it’s the kind of thing I’d say to somebody I don’t know and I do know, because you never want to respond like you just had, or reach out to someone and act like you don’t know them when you’re actually really good friends with them. It certainly turns them off.
Melonie: Exactly, yeah. So in my book, LinkedIn Unlocked, I talk a lot about that I’ve coined the “Link Method”, which is basically a 5 step approach to finding prospects and ultimately moving the conversation offline.
So the big mistake people make, well there’s actually 2 big mistakes that people make. There’s the people that go in for the sales pitch right away, and we know who they are, we’re getting those on a daily basis. But then there’s also the people that just like to have conversations online and social media forever, and never move those conversations offline. So they never translate that into business.
And so what the Link Method is, is a 5 step process to go from utilizing LinkedIn’s incredible advanced robust search function, where you can dial all kinds of things down to geography and size of the company, and industry, and keywords, and titles, and all kinds of different things if you have a very defined prospect or target market.
The next step is to send them a connection request. And most people are really quick to hit that ‘connect’ button without any kind of personalization. You have 300 characters here, we’re not talking about some big long script, we’re talking about 1-2 sentences of personalization. So you get those people willing to hit the ‘accept’ button.
And the third step in the Link Method is, after they’ve accepted your connection request you want to start to engage in conversation, you want to build some rapport. So that’s just simply sending a really nice welcome message thanking them for connecting, again, finding something to make it personal. Whether it’s something you find in their profile, or something you found that they’ve shared, or a question you have to ask them about something that’s going on in their industry or in their business. Really just all about them. So just basically getting them to talk to you a little bit.
The next step in that is to really start to establish a relationship. Because most people stop right there. So most people will send a connection request and do nothing. Some will actually send that follow up message, but very few go beyond that.
So the next step is really where you start to establish a little bit of a relationship with a bit of trust. Ultimately what your goal is – like most B2B companies – is to get to the point where they’re willing to be conversational with you, because that’s where you sell. Never through this process should you be trying to sell, because first of all you don’t know if they need or want what you have. So that has to come through a conversation.
So the next step is to really continue the conversation and maybe add value. So add something that would be of interest to them and very specific to them. So this might be a piece of content, but again it needs to be so specific to them, their industry, their profession, their target market, and their specific problems.
Once you’ve done that and you have a couple conversations back and forth, then you can get to the point where you can go to the 5thstep, which is move the conversation offline. Because here once you get that opportunity to get that conversation offline, you can actually ask then the questions that you need to ask them to really find out the problems that they have and the struggles that they have. And if your solution is the right solution for them, then you can talk about it and mention it. But you don’t’ want to do that until you’ve actually gotten to know them a little bit and got to know is this somebody that actually needs what I offer or am I just going to send a cold sales message. Which, 99.9% of the time is just being ignored.
Rich: Right. So it sounds like during this process that we’re ultimately going to be taking this conversation offline. We’re doing a lot of paying attention to them. We’re looking at their accounts, we’re thinking about them, we’re finding articles or content that might be valuable to them. We’re really kind of proving our value and worth to them, with the focus on them. Would you agree with that?
Melonie: Everything is 100% about them.
Rich: Ok. The flipside of that, are there things that we should be doing to our own profile, or the content we share? Because my guess is if we’re spending this much time on them, a certain percentage pf these people are going to come check us out.
Melonie: They’re all going to check you out in most cases, especially in the initial connection request. I mean there are some people that just hit ‘accept’ and don’t bother checking out whose connecting with them. But the vast majority of people are checking out whose connecting with them. So Rich, that’s actually the most important place to start. Because you shouldn’t be doing any kind of outreach or targeting your ideal prospects on LinkedIn until what they see represents what you want them to see. So it represents your personal brand, your professionalism, it builds authority and credibility right in your profile. But most importantly it speaks to them. So it’s a client focused style versus a resume style or a professional bio.
Rich: I like that, “client focused”.
Melonie: Yeah. So your profile absolutely needs to be client focused, because there’s a few goals that you want to achieve with your profile. The first one is you want to build authority and credibility. You want to establish yourself as somebody that provides the solutions to what they offer. So you need to describe how you solve your prospect’s problems. And then of course you want to increase trust and build engagement, so let them know that they’re in the right place.
What you want them to see is you want them to see themselves in your profile. If your profile speaks to somebody completely that’s not them, it’s not going to resonate with them.
So that is the most important place to start, and you want to definitely make sure that you have a complete profile that you’ve got the very basic. Which is the profile picture and a catchy headline, or a headline that’s going to position your credibility. A summary that’s going to speak a little bit about you. So who you are, what you do, maybe your “why” story. And then it really goes into who your ideal clients are and specifics problems they have. And you can even touch on the solutions you offer.
And then you want to end with basically a couple call to actions. Tell them what to do next. So, “If you’re looking to utilize LinkedIn better to generate a steady stream of leads and clients, feel free to email me at xxx”. So tell them specifically what to do.
So yes, that’s absolutely the first place that you want to start. Make sure that you look good before you start sending messages out, because the last thing you want to have happen is people hitting that ‘ignore’ button.
Rich: Right. You definitely don’t want to go out to a networking event only to find out that your fly is open. So make sure that you look good before you start doing any outreach.
Melonie: Yeah. And I can’t stress how the importance of your LinkedIn profile enough as well, because think about it. If somebody is interested in learning more about you, even if they met you at a networking function, the first thing they’re going to do is they want to learn more about you is to Google your name. And LinkedIn is going to show up at the very top of the search results. It might not be in the 1st, 2ndor 3rdposition, but it’s going to show up really high.
And when somebody wants to learn more about you from a professional standpoint, LinkedIn is absolutely going to be the thing that they click. So it’s often your very first online impression. So you have to ask yourself, what kind of impression is it currently making, even if you’re not interested in doing prospecting.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. So let’s say that we’ve got our profile down, we’ve got a good photo, better bio, all that sort of stuff. You had mentioned earlier something about content, so what kind of content should we be creating or sharing to kind of fill out our LinkedIn persona?
Melonie: Ok, so in thinking about sharing content on LinkedIn, there’s a number of different things. You can be sharing links, which is articles, you can be sharing images, text space posts, whatever. Text space posts on LinkedIn tend to perform better, and not simply because LinkedIn doesn’t like to send traffic off of LinkedIn, the same thing with Facebook. Images can be good as well, images tend to be more sharable than a text space post. But a text space post often gets engaged with more often.
So what you want to be thinking about when you’re sharing content is, are you sharing things that are specific to your target market? Is it solving a problem for them? Are you getting them thinking? Is it insightful or is it a tip? Whatever it is it needs to focus on something that you’re going to educate them with. It might be a short video, it might be a quote tip or just a text space tip. But basically you’re sharing knowledge and sharing information. So you want to position yourself as that authority.
Now this is especially important if you’re starting to build a network of people that are your ideal prospects, and not all of them are going to move into that, “let’s have that phone call or offline conversation”. It’s not going to happen all the time, in fact, it’s not going to happen most of the time. It does become a numbers game.
So what you need to do is you need to stay relevant and stay top of mind in your network. You have to keep in mind that you might be pursuing a group of prospects that just don’t need what you have right now. Or this is just absolutely not top of mind, they’ve got other things going on, maybe they’re on vacation or having business problems. So staying in contact with them, not inundating them but maybe sending them a message if you come across something that’s related to their industry, as well as sharing content as a status update is really important to stay top of mind.
The other thing that’s important is to pay attention to what’s called “trigger events”. So you can at any time be paying attention to if your prospects are sharing content, you can be liking, commenting, and sharing their content when relevant. Maybe they’ve changed jobs and maybe they’re now in another company that can use your services, congratulate them on that job change. Or if they’ve shared an article you can engage with that article. So there’s lots of opportunities to look for where you can naturally engage with them without being sales-y.
Rich: Yeah, that definitely makes a lot of sense, and obviously LinkedIn helps us by reminding us about job anniversaries. Although honestly, I’m so over getting 300 people congratulating me on my work anniversary, and I’m like, I don’t even know what anniversary this is. I don’t know if that happens to you.
Melonie: Yeah. I personally don’t congratulate for work anniversaries or birthdays. I do for birthdays on Facebook. I think that’s very much a personal network. If I’m friends with somebody I’m sending a message through Facebook for a birthday. For work anniversaries, yeah, sometimes they just set up random dates and stuff like that, so it’s not often accurate.
Rich: And it’s usually one click and then all of a sudden you’ve sent off the message and LinkedIn hasn’t given you an opportunity to personalize it either.
Melonie: Oh yeah, that’s another great point, Rich. Anything that’s a default message is not going to be effective because a zillion other people are doing that. We are in the era of personalization, and when you’re trying to take shortcuts you’re going to find that you’re just actually wasting time. I’ve had people say to me, “I don’t have time to personalize everything”, well just do 1/10, because you’re not going to get results. You’re actually wasting your time doing these things that are not personalized.
Rich: Agreed. And you’re just adding to the noise. And I don’t think any of us that take this job seriously want to be adding to the noise, we want to be providing value.
Rich: So this all sounds great. Can you give us any kind of action plan? Like, what are the things on LinkedIn that we should be doing daily, or weekly, or monthly?
Melonie: The first thing – like we talked about – is get your profile in order so that’s good. Then, if you’re looking for ideal clients what you want to be thinking about is, is finding new clients the priority for me. If it is, then set a target and reach out to 5 new prospects a day, or 20 new ones a week, or whatever that number is, and have a target plan. Go in and set up link searches so LinkedIn will begin to go in and populate those searches for you.
So when you’re doing searches ad you find one you like that’s giving you good targeted results. Of course it’s not going to be 100% targeted because people will show up in the results that shouldn’t be there because maybe they did what you’re looking for 20 years ago, so you filter them out. But LinkedIn makes that really easy for you if you use some of the tools and the functions that are available to you.
Then you basically just so this outreach and you send some of the initial connection requests and you send out that sequence of follow up messages that you do, typically on a weekly basis. So not more often than that. It’s really important to slow down the sales than speed it up. If you come on too strong and leave messages too quickly, it’s going to backfire. So slow it down. Once they begin to engage with you then you respond back.
Outside of that its status updates on a daily basis and then watching for those trigger events. If you just do those things and nothing else, that’s all you need to do. I really try to break down LinkedIn to be as simple as possible and only focus on the highest leveraging activities. Which is, you want to share content so you stay top of mind to the people in your network, but the results will come from that proactive outreach. So you can’t just share content, update your profile, and hope miracles are going to happen. That’s not enough.
Rich: So how much time do you spend every day and every week on LinkedIn?
Melonie: Well let’s not talk about me, let’s talk about somebody who’s prospecting. Because I don’t actually do a lot of prospecting because I get a tremendous amount of inbound leads. So I’m not actually spending a lot of time prospecting, I’m engaging with people that engage with me, I’m sharing a status update, I’m responding to people who have messaged me, so what I do is going to be different than what other people do.
But on average I’m telling people that depending on what their goals are, as little as 15 minutes a day or it can be as much as an hour a day, depending on how aggressive they want to be in terms of reaching their sales goals. So you might have a person or a company that they literally don’t need any business or they just take one big client a year. So it depends for each individual. But I say on the low end, if you’re generating new business and building a network is important to you, spend 10-15 minutes a day as a minimum. And if generating a consistent flow of leads and clients is important to you, spend 30-60 minutes a day until you reach your goal, and then you can cut it back.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. Now I’m afraid of asking this next question because I think you’ve already answered it, but I had written it down so we’re going to go with it anyways. Now do we have to do all this ourselves, or are there parts of this that we can outsource?
Melonie: So you can absolutely outsource. Once you’ve set up searches and you’ve gone through them and you know exactly who it is that you want to be connecting to, you can have a virtual assistant sending out those personalized connection request messages.
Here’s the problem. Not a lead gen company, because they’re outsourcing it to somebody overseas that only knows how to function with a script. So if you’re going to outsource they need to be smart enough to know when they need to be personalizing and doing that. So it can’t be a $4/hour Filipino virtual assistant doing it. It has to be somebody that if your native language is English, that English is theirs.
Sharing status updates, for example, and content. Again, that just takes 2 minutes. So outsourcing that is challenging, too, because the key to sharing content effectively is sharing your perspective. Can a virtual assistant share your perspective? They can if they know you well enough. I’ve got one that’s been working for me for 6 years, she can talk in my voice and do a lot of things for me that I wouldn’t be able to have anyone else do. So it really depends on the situation.
But in terms of responding to people. So when people are responding to you, that you need to do yourself. You’re trying to build a real relationship with somebody and you can’t really do that with a script or with a virtual assistant.
Rich: I think that resonates. That makes a lot of sense. Especially if we are looking to move somebody, we’re doing prospecting, we’re ultimately going to hopefully get on the phone or sit across from somebody and do business with them, there is a limitation to automating that or outsourcing that.
Melonie: And there’s exceptions to this, Rich. For example if you’re selling a priced online course, for example, if you’re never getting on the phone with people and you’re just guiding them to your webinar, then it’s a different scenario. So it really depends.
Rich: Good point.
Melonie: A lot of the information I say is relevant to a very large group of people, but I always say it depends. Everything depends on the individual, their business, who their target market is, the resources that they have, what their sales flow looks like. There are so many things that apply that there is no one size fits all cookie cutter approach. And the problem is that people are trying to use a cookie cutter approach and it’s not working.
Rich: Good stuff. Melonie, this has been great. I know that a lot of people are going to be interested in connecting with you, learning more about you, learning more about your course. Where can we find you online?
Rich: Great. Thank you so much, Melonie, for coming on and sharing your expertise.
Melonie: Thanks so much, Rich, it was great to be here.
Melonie Dodaro’sLinkedIn expertise has not only spawned a blog, and online course, and multiple books, but it has cemented her as a go to expert for businesses to help them use LinkedIn to successfully generate leads, create strong branding, and increase their prospect’s trust and engagement. BE sure to connect with her on LinkedIn.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conferenceto inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitterto check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his book!