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How SMEs can leverage LinkedIn to grow their business

Posted On Monday 27th February 2017 12:57 PM

LinkedIn is one of the world's largest social network with over 470 million users globally. While most use LinkedIn to manage their professional profile on the web, SMEs have made the most valuable use of the professional network. Today, LinkedIn is considered to be amongst the top platforms for B2B lead generation globally.

The sales-cycle is usually longer for B2B businesses. This happens because there are multiple decision makers involved in the process of onboarding a new vendor/partner. The most powerful way for B2B businesses to increase sales while reducing the overall cost of selling is to build powerfully engaged customer communities. Building customer communities provides deeper insights into what customers find valuable.

The three stages to building an engaged customer community!

Clearly define who your customer is and search :

For a software development company the customer is the CIO/ CTO/ CMO/ CEO. Remember, business happens between people. Your customer is another person and hence you must clearly define who it is?

The second level to defining your customer is his/her geographical location. Now imagine if within seconds you were to discover your customers in the locations/ companies you find most relevant!

Once you define your customer clearly, use 'LinkedIn Search'. The powerful LinkedIn Search shows results categorized into people, companies and jobs. Choose 'people' from the options and enter the location where you think most of your customers will be. LinkedIn will show the people working in various organisations who are your target audience.

Even if LinkedIn displays a list of people that you are already connected with, visit their profile and explore the similar people suggestions that LinkedIn gives as 'People Also Viewed'.

Connect and build relationships :

Once you have a list of potential customers, it is time to make connections. Making new connections is always the tricky part on LinkedIn. Being a professional network, it is important to keep in mind that you must not choose people at random and send them LinkedIn invites. You must see if you have a common connection between you and the person you intend to connect with and ask for a recommendation/referral.

If you want to still explore the option of doing it yourself because you believe that people will find you valuable, before sending a LinkedIn invite, ensure that you write a 'custom message'.

A custom message will ensure that there is a powerful context established between you and the person that you intend to connect with. The right context increases the probability of a third person accepting your LinkedIn invite. When you are connecting with a third person for the first time, offer a valuable opportunity instead of asking for something on the invite itself.

Example: "Hi [name], I intend to introduce technology that will save you time and money. Look forward to getting connected."

Such an invite tells the other person that you are valuable and you will not be another random connection that adds no value to the professional network.

Engage and communicate value :

LinkedIn offers a powerful way to engage with one's network at scale. Use the LinkedIn Posts feature to author blog posts that you feel will be highly valuable and relevant for your network. Share actionable insights and thought leadership via your LinkedIn posts. As your network starts engaging with your content, your LinkedIn profile discovery increases.

Yamaha Motor Solutions India Managing Director Sanjay Singh says, "I use LinkedIn Posts to share with my network the most incredible content that I come across on the web around technology and future of humanity. I have created a post format that I call #MyFeed. I curate content that inspires me and I share the same with my professional network. This has actually generated incredible reactions and meaningful relationships with people around the world."

While LinkedIn posts are engaging and have an amplified reach via LinkedIn Pulse, the ones who find it hard to express their thoughts as a blog post can use images as status updates on LinkedIn.

The best way is to create set templates of content that you intend to share with your professional network. The LinkedIn timeline/ feed design makes images stand out. This increases the probability of your professional network engaging with your content.

How do the above 3 steps grow business ?

If you carefully spend time to build a network of the most relevant and valuable people around you, it increases the probability of your message reaching out to the most relevant people who could be your potential customers or the audience that you intend to engage with.

When you use great content to engage your network you spread value. Everyone likes being part of a valuable ecosystem because it leads to new opportunities. LinkedIn Posts and updates present a powerful opportunity to share and engage with a powerful network. As you become more active on LinkedIn you spread value and become more discoverable as a professional.

Train your sales and business development teams on LinkedIn. Hero Mindmine and Hero BPO President Rajiv Gupta says, "Most businesses are exploring ways to reduce cost of sales and yet reach and convert more customers. The cost of sales makes profound impact for B2B businesses as they always have a longer selling cycle. Training your sales and business development teams is critical. This is why most of our customers ask for sales trainings that employ new tools and technologies."

LinkedIn is a powerful platform for SMEs and startups. When combined with great quality content marketing it can help SMEs establish great relationships and grow faster.

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