You are not imagining it. With every month that goes by, it gets harder to connect with your ideal prospects on LinkedIn. Strategies and tactics that worked beautifully last year seem to go nowhere now. Business owners new to using LinkedIn as a business development tool are finding the so-called best practices don’t get you many conversations with qualified prospects.
What happened? LinkedIn approaches that worked yesterday no longer work today because things have changed — both the network itself and its members. There are two main factors 1) noise and 2) familiarity.
LinkedIn has gotten noisy
It would be tough to argue that LinkedIn is not under siege from exploding levels of noise. We all see it every time we log on. The noise itself is coming from two major sources: 1) sheer number of members and 2) automation.
Not to bore you with statistics, but over the last nine years – the time in which I’ve been developing LinkedIn programs – LinkedIn membership has increased by over a half billion people – from 90 million to 620+ million, with more than 260 million monthly active users. With each increase, comes more posts, more messages, more activity competing for attention.
And then there’s automation. Although using them is against LinkedIn’s terms of agreement and can get your account closed down, the appearance of tools that automatically blast out connection invitations and even sequenced messages was probably inevitable. Marketers and business development people under extreme pressure to “ make the numbers” have latched onto tools that allow them to pile on more — even while they sleep.
Put the two together and you get chaos. According to LinkedIn, “every day, millions of posts, videos and articles course through the LinkedIn feed, generating tens of thousands of comments every hour — and tens of millions more shares and likes”.
We’ve grown accustomed to LinkedIn.
Not too long ago, LinkedIn was new. It was interesting, even exciting, to connect and start online conversations with other members, members we would never meet in the offline world. Linkedin groups were full of people exchanging ideas, helping each other out.
But now, connection invitations are a dime a dozen and InMail fills our mailboxes with spammy messages hawking products and services that have nothing to do with us. The novelty is gone; familiarity has set in. We’ve learned to question and ignore.
LinkedIn programs have not kept up.
In the pre-noise, pre-cynicism days, we could reach out to people with a minimal amount of customization and a barely-there reference to something we have in common — “I noticed we’re in some of the same groups”, “we went to the same school”, “we’re in the same industry”, “we live in the same town” – and get a satisfyingly good response.
We could identify and reach out to prospects with nothing more than industry-size-location-title criteria without offending most of them.
We could start our own LinkedIn groups and fill them with potential new customers.
We could assume people were interested in what we’re doing and send messages linking to content that they would actually read. Send a few of these and then ask for a call. And use the same message sequence for a year at a time.
Those days are gone, my friend, but many marketers and business development people have not received the message. Which, now that I think about it, could be providing us a competitive advantage.
The new LinkedIn approach: Be Human!
With everyone so focused on more-better-faster, we’ve reached a point where acting human is actually a competitive advantage. And the best way to do this is to slow down.
You can start by abandoning any use – or thoughts of using – an app to batch-send connection invitations and automate messages. According to lead generation and empathy marketing expert Brian Carroll, people are far better than we think at knowing whether or not we are sincere. And there is no way to be sincere when you are using any kind of app – or team of hired implementers – to crank out LinkedIn connection requests or messages without bothering to think of the recipients as individuals.
Yes, this means more work for someone. It also leads to higher acceptance rates and more conversations with qualified prospects.
Here are 3 fairly simple steps you can take to be more human:
- Tighten your focus. Dig deeper into your target prospect definition and weed out the people who don’t qualify. Instead of blasting out messages to 2000 questionably qualified people, find the 200 that really would be ideal clients and focus on them.
- Tweak your messages. By focusing on a more manageable number at any given time, you can bother to look at individual profiles and customize your messages to appeal to each prospect individually. This is not as hard as it may sound and, believe me, your response rates will go up.
- Test your approach. There is no way to know in advance exactly how people are going to react to your outreach. Even those of us who have been doing this for nearly a decade are often surprised by what gets the best response.