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How to generate leads on LinkedIn Add to ...

With over 135 million members in over 200 countries and over 4 million users in Canada, LinkedIn is the largest site for business professionals. Consider it an online Rolodex that is constantly updated. Following are 10 ways to use LinkedIn for lead generation for your small business.

Optimizing your personal profile.

The first five tips focus on optimizing your own profile making it both captivating and informative in order to be found by your target audience – known as inbound lead generation.

1. Write a descriptive headline. Your headline is the sentence that appears just below your name. Rather than just stating your title and company, make it a short descriptive phrase that provides a snapshot of the product or service and the benefit you provide. You only have 120 characters to work with, so make every word count. For example: Certified Management Consultant, Award-winning writer, helps people with expertise to be recognized as thought-leaders.

2. Upload a professional photo. You know the saying; a picture is worth a thousand words. Make sure you upload a professional photo of yourself, preferably in colour and against a light or neutral background. It’s best if you wear professional attire. Crop your photo to show your head and shoulders – and leave your kids and pets out of the shot! A friendly photo of yourself will draw people into you. LinkedIn statistics prove that a profile with a photo is seven times more likely to be viewed than one that without a photo.

3. Tell your story under the summary section. Are you passionate about your business and the work you do? Do you have a certain philosophy about how you serve customers? Why did you decided to start your business? This is where you can show how you are unique. Also ensure that you summarize your experience here incorporating key words that relate to your business. For this section, write in full sentences in the first person. With 2,000 characters as your limit, three to four short paragraphs will suffice.

4. Add specialties and skills. There are two places in your profile where you can list your expertise. One is in the specialties section below your summary and the other is under skills – where you can add up to 50 of them. Make sure you pay extra attention to skills, because this one of the ways in which you will be found when someone conducts a search using key words on LinkedIn. Get specific, using descriptive terms such as: project engineering, wedding photography, resume writing, lifestyle coaching.

5. Get recommendations. In order to have a 100 per cent complete profile on LinkedIn you will have to add at least three recommendations to your profile. This is the place where you can ask your satisfied customers to provide a short testimonial for you. After all, nothing beats a word of mouth referral.

After your profile is complete, you need to get active on LinkedIn to not only increase your visibility to your target audience but you will also come across new prospects.

6. Add quality connections. Connect with people you know such as customers, suppliers, prospects, and other business owners. Since you are exposing your network to your connections, there has to be an element of trust. One thing that will differentiate you from your competitors is if you send out a personalized invitations to connect. Be sure you include a short note reminding your contact how you know them and why you’d like to connect with them.

7. Share a status update. Now that you have added people in your network, share an update with them. Keep in mind who your target audience is and share something that will not only be of interest to them, but also showcase your expertise. Appropriate updates are: sharing an interesting article, posting a business event you will be attending, or providing business tips. Personal updates about your family or social life are not appropriate on LinkedIn – so leave those for the other social networks.

8. Comment on others’ status updates. Monitor the activity and status updates of your network. If you notice that one of your contacts has changed jobs, then send them a note of congratulations. If someone posts a question in their update, then try to answer it. When a connection posts that they are attending an event that you are also going to, let them know that you will also be attending and suggest meeting them in person. Pay particular attention to the articles and updates shared by your prospects, because that will be an indication of the business issues or news that’s important to them.

9. Participate in groups. There are over 800,000 groups on LinkedIn, so you are bound to find one that is of interest to you and relevant your business interests. Join a group where you think that your prospects are but before you do check out the group statistics to determine whether the membership profile is right for you in terms of location, and function or seniority of its participants. Once you are a group member, be sure to share your knowledge and respond thoughtfully to discussion topics. It’s not appropriate to post blatant promotional messages about your company.

10. Set up a company page. It’s one thing to have a personal profile on LinkedIn. By setting up a company page you can extend your reach and visibility even further. On a company page you can feature your products and services and get recommendations for them. Adding a video, a map, and integrating your blog posts and Twitter feed, will further enhance your company presence. You can also provide company updates to people who follow your company page.

Anita Windisman is the president of One of a Kind Marketing where the philosophy is building business relationships one at a time through social media. The company specializes in providing LinkedIn training for sales teams and business professionals.

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