There are several things that can go wrong as the result of a poor LinkedIn business development program – and failure to get new business opportunities is just one of them. Improperly designed or managed programs also damage brands, waste resources and contribute to the increasing noise level that is driving all of us crazy.
So let’s take a look at 5 ways to know you need to take action.
1. Your target audience is loosely defined.By this I mean you’ve defined your ideal client or customer by industry, size, geography and buyer’s title only. In a few, rare, cases, this criteria may be enough but usually it’s a sign that you haven’t really thought through who you want to target. This is a problem because aiming at such a broad audience almost ensures you will resort to fairly generic messaging and that makes it hard to cut through the noise to connect with the right people. It also means you are likely throwing too wide a net and wasting time with prospects that will never be good clients or customers for you. Spend a bit more time considering who you want to do business with. For example, a management consulting firm is targeting US industrial manufacturers with $50M to $250M in annual revenue. With a little more thought, the firm realizes its ideal clients are privately owned, have 50 to 500 employees and a baby boomer CEO President/CEO/Owner. With each added detail, the ability to focus and connect with qualified prospects becomes much stronger.
2. You do not look at every profile before you send a message.The LinkedIn/Sales Navigator search engine is not perfect. No matter how well-designed your search criteria is, there will be a significant number of people who don’t belong on the list. (We find this to be somewhere around 25%). Blindly sending messages to every one of them is dangerous primarily because it means you are sending irrelevant messages to a lot of people. This is otherwise known as spam. If you’re using a 3rd party app to send connection invitations, LinkedIn messages or InMail, you’re especially at risk of brand damage caused by sending irrelevant messages simply because you can send so many. You’re also at risk of weakening a potentially good connection when it becomes obvious you’re not acting like a human. And you’re running the risk of getting kicked off of LinkedIn for violating the user agreement, but that is the topic of a separate article.
3. You have not aligned your personal brand with your target audience.People go to LinkedIn to connect with other people, and your personal brand is your business card, personal website and platform for showcasing your expertise combined. The anchor of your personal brand on LinkedIn is your profile. There are 97,000 (at least) articles on LinkedIn profiles, so I won’t spend much time here, except to say that if your profile is weak or reads like a resume instead of being crafted to appeal to your target audience, you have a problem. The first time your prospect receives any communication from you — connection invitation or InMail – if they don’t already know who you are they will immediately click to your profile. This is first impression territory and if your profile hasn’t been considered an essential part of your LinkedIn program, you may be repelling the very people you want to attract. Auto-posting blog articles or company/product news to your profile without adding your reason for doing so, is another sign of a hole in your program. (This one is not so much dangerous and simply ineffective.)
4. You are not tracking relevant KPIs.If the only numbers you look at (or are given) are number of likes, comments, shares, new connections and, yes, even phone calls, you’re not getting deep enough into the data to recognize flaws or opportunities in your program. Likes, comments and shares (aka vanity metrics) are feel-good numbers that are fun to track but tell you nothing about the success of a business development program. Number of phone calls with prospects generated by the program begins to give you useful data, but without looking at call-to-opportunity and opportunity-to-new business ratios, you might be driving calls with the wrong people and you’ll soon tire of talking with them. See more about what to track here. Similarly, if you’re still using the exact same approach you used six months ago, your program is probably not producing its best results – and may have veered off course. LinkedIn is a dynamic marketplace undergoing constant change driven by its human members and its own “rules”. There’s no guarantee that worked yesterday will still work tomorrow. You need to analyze the right data monthly and quarterly, pull some levers and turn some knobs, and try new things to keep your program in good working order.
5. You’re operating without a written strategy.It’s been said that the most valuable part of a plan is not the plan itself but the act of planning. Same is true here. The act of designing a good LinkedIn business development strategy forces you to consider critical factors such as your target audience (see sign #1), your value proposition, your messaging and outreach methodology. It’s fine to test a few things when you’re just getting started, but investing resources – time and money – into a program without a plan is crazy. Even if you accidentally succeed, you won’t know why and you can’t repeat, control or improve it. LinkedIn has the ability to be the most powerful business development channel you can use right now, but it’s power is easily missed. If you want to ensure you’re harnessing the power of LinkedIn to get you conversations with ideal prospects, just remember these three things:
- The more tightly you focus, the more easily you’ll find and engage with your best prospects – and the fewer people you will annoy.
- Your personal brand is critical. It can draw prospects closer to you or it can push them away. It can also be damaged by ignoring point #1.
- Planning, tracking and analyzing the right numbers is the surest path to LinkedIn success.