Previously, we discussed how LinkedIn is not just for job seekers, it is a very powerful tool for anyone to use to advance their career and showcase their expertise. I was caught off guard when I spoke to a friend who has a professional position of influence with a nonprofit and she was not on LinkedIn. How can she mentor others without doing what she teaches? Also, where else can someone learn how she feels about or sees the role of the nonprofit than promoting it on her LinkedIn account? Many of us are accustomed to looking someone up when we meet them or are looking at doing business with them. At my last event, I met two people who I exchanged business cards with, the one with the complete LinkedIn profile and picture was the one I connected with. I felt she was more serious and engaged in her work.
This time I want to discuss the power and benefits of LinkedIn for businesses and services. Any company, no matter what size or industry can find ways to benefit from what LinkedIn can offer them. I will focus on the free membership level so your only cost is time, whether you do it yourself or designate someone else, either an employee or contract it out.
The LinkedIn profile is a great place to either start making your web presence or to intensify it. There are over 2 million companies presently on LinkedIn. These could be your competition, your venders, your customers, or your potential customers. With over 187 million members … well find me a newspaper with that kind of readership. And all of them seeking to reach out, that is why they are on there.
Now if I was doing the profile, I would first want to identify what my goal is: is it to increase sales; connect with customers, clients, or other companies; promote my brand, etc.? The good thing is it doesn’t have to be just one. Unlike an advertisement, I can use the profile to reach a diverse audience and not be so constrained by word limits. I can see using it as a platform to tell what I do and why I do it. You can personalize it some to give your background or story. Or keep it more formal. This is like art; there is no one way to do it. How do you see using it to connect with your specific target the best? You can try different profiles and then check your viewing numbers to see which one works the best. There is no limit to how often you are able to change or edit your profile.
LinkedIn allows you to promote products and services that your company provides. Think about the power of having a new product that you promote by sending it out as an update, linking it to a YouTube video that you have done, and then having them to get more information or order from your connected website. All without them dealing with a salesperson from their home at 2 in the morning.
But I would want to go further with the services. Tell me about your community initiatives or community involvement. Are you doing any within your industry such as promoting new safety methods or developing apprenticeships or helping the unemployed get job skills or participating in local events like 5K’s or mud-runs? (Mud-runs are just one of those activities that make me shake my head. They have to be a hoot to do, but I am not driving that car pool.)
Clients are becoming more eager to do business with companies who are community involved and this is a way to get that information out there in a proper manner. It will also help to keep you employees more motivated and positive.
One of the biggest pluses of LinkedIn has to be its ability to get you connected to your clients, actual or potential. This is done in a couple of ways: making direct connections, through groups, and by followers. Following, not stalking, is great because you don’t commit but you get to see the company’s updates and activities. These are people who I definitely want to try to engage or communicate with.
Groups are a great asset that that LinkedIn provides us. You can inform clients of products or services in a more trusting atmosphere. You can show your expertise and knowledge. And by properly answering questions, you have an audience that is open to you without questioning your motive; in other words you are informing, not selling. These can be groups that you either join, started yourself, or for your employees. What a great way to help your different departments stay in touch and allow open access to clients so they can get information that YOU want them to have.
When you look at someone’s LinkedIn profile, you are able to leave recommendations. Think about how powerful that is. Your targeted potential client looks you up and there are several recommendations (a positive vibe) and there is one form someone using the service or product they are considering (making them feel more confident that you ar ethe one) and then they see a recommendation form someone they know. (Ka-ching) Once again an organic, and free, way to make the public more comfortable with doing business with you.
LinkedIn is not for everyone. I know companies who are using Twitter or FaceBook to connect with the public. I do suggest you looking into one of these. Just having a website out there is not a big help if no one looks for it. Which of these tools do you think will hit your target client and present business in the way that you want it to be presented?