Ever been to a business networking event and wondered why you bothered.

You had your ear twisted, cards shoved into your hand and the next day emails arrive in your inbox trying to “sell” you? You then thought… “there has to be a better way?”

Recently I bumped into Alex Pirouz, not in a room full of suits and ties but on LinkedIn. I checked him out on Google, then LinkedIn and after that we caught up for a coffee.

Much of the conversation was how he had used LinkedIn to reinvent his business and apply its technology to enable effective and powerful business networking and grow his revenue.

While we chatted over a coffee he revealed how he had used LinkedIn over the past few years to:

  • Get featured in over 50 media publications without sending out a single press release
  • Grow his business advisory firms by over 328% by securing joint venture partnerships through LinkedIn
  • Generate thousands of leads whilst spending $0 on advertising or marketing

I thought that it was worth asking him some more questions so I could share his insights into how to use LinkedIn to build business success.

1. What made you focus on LinkedIn instead of Facebook, Twitter or even Google ?

I came across LinkedIn more out of frustration then anything else. At the time I had just moved back to Sydney after exiting one of my previous businesses (door to door sales company) to start a business advisory firm.

By that point I had failed in 4 businesses and exited 2 so I thought it would be a good receipt when mentoring others. But when I moved back I soon realised that the industry was filled with a ton of coaches, out of which 95% had no business experience.

I knew at that point that the only way I was going to stand out and out compete against my competitors was to build a personal brand both on and offline. After speaking to various PR agencies I decided to do it myself . I also came across an article by the Artike media group which said that over 94.2% of journalists are on LinkedIn. It also revealed that for most journalists, LinkedIn is their preferred social network.

The light bulb went off.

What started off as connecting with journalist here and there eventuated to a network of around about 250 contacts. This resulted in getting featured in 50 media publications over the course of just 6 months.

2. How important is the creation of that optimum LinkedIn profile?

In my opinion how we do business has changed significantly. Nowadays people are buying into people first, your company and than your product. You could have the best product but if they don’t like you they will not enter into that new business relationship, buy your product or try your service. It’s as simple as that.

Because of the sheer size of LinkedIn most often when you Google someone’s name their LinkedIn profile will come up first within the search result before their company website or even blog.

The problem is that most people’s LinkedIn profiles look and read like a resume. I call this approach the inside outside approach instead of the outside inside approach.

Rather then thinking internally on what you should put in your summary, job experience, heading etc you should instead think about the top challenges and objections your clients are facing and build a personal brand around that so that when your clients read your profile they see that you understand them and have a solution to offer.

In this fast paced world your first impression could be your best or last.

3. LinkedIn has recently opened up its platform for its members to publish. How important is this and why should members participate?

The LinkedIn publishing platform is a great way to build a following on LinkedIn and get your message in front of key decision makers and or potential clients.

When you publish an article on LinkedIn those who read your article can then follow you for future posts even if you are not connected. If your content is good it will get liked, commented and even shared which in a relatively short period of time could go viral and therefore get your message in front of thousands if not millions of people. The more people who follow you; the greater your reach.

If your article is good, LinkedIn will publish it in one of the categories within Pulse or even better on the homepage which is exactly what happened to me.

My very first post reached over 65,000 views, over 10,000 shares and I gained 1,500 new followers. Out of that exposure I secured 3 new clients and another media appearance. Because of its viral nature, you just never know who could read your next article.

4. You mentioned that over 90% of journalists are on LinkedIn. How do you use LinkedIn to gain mass media attention including interviews?

Well the first thing you need to do is make a list of the top 5 publications you want to get featured in. These would need to be publications that your audience are currently visiting/reading etc

You then visit each publication and look for journalist and editors who are covering stories on your chosen topic or industry. You simply connect with them, discover what their key challenges are so you can add value and than once you have built a relationship with them, naturally throughout that process they will find ways on helping you gain exposure. What networking is all about, you scratch my back I scratch yours.

5. Business networking can lead to more opportunities and sales. How do you recommend people use LinkedIn for networking?

I mentioned earlier that I originally joined LinkedIn because I was looking to build my personal brand and get some exposure throughout the media.

After getting featured in so many publications I became very excited about the potential of LinkedIn. At the time I was spending a fair bit of money on traditional forms of advertising, so I wanted a more cost effective way to generate and convert leads.

Having had success already on LinkedIn I decided to use it again to find joint venture partnerships. Over the next 6 months I connected with over 500 accounting firms out of which I created 16 partnerships and grew my business by over 328%. So finding, connecting and developing joint venture partnership is my first recommendation.

My second recommendation would be to attract one on one clients especially if their clients are B2B. Over the past 3 years I have gone from 50 contacts to over 7,500 and successfully used that to and hundreds of clients, hold multiple events with some reaching over 300 people in attendance as well as generating thousands of leads for my business.

With over 300 millions members and 49% of them being key decision makers, LinkedIn has become one of the most powerful business tools of the 21st century.

6. Building online credibility is vital in a digital age where the social web can define you. How do you use LinkedIn to build online authority, credibility and trust?

Going back to my earlier point, in most cases the first thing people see when they search for your name through search engines is your LinkedIn profile. Knowing this and the importance of building your profile based on the outside, inside approach, I would recommend doing the following:

  1. Cut down your skills and endorsements to 3-5. This shows you are an expert not a generalist
  2. Look at how many recommendations your competitors have and then aim to double it. Recommendations on LinkedIn are perceived to be twice as more powerful than those listed within your own website.
  3. Make sure your headline tells potential prospects exactly what you do (try not to make it too salesy)
  4. Ensure your summary is written in a story format, targeted at showcasing how your service/product is solving the challenges your target marketing are facing. Also important is having it written in third person. This section is by far the most important within your profile given it’s one of the very first things people look at.
  5. List publications, interviews, key achievements, endorsements and provide any links where possible.

7. What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when using LinkedIn?

Whilst there are many mistakes people make, the one that I see the most is not having a plan or purpose for being on LinkedIn. Most people are generally on LinkedIn because a friend or associate told them they should join or maybe they read an article about it and thought it would be worthwhile to join.

And usually that’s where it stops, they put up their profile and visit the network a few minutes here and there without any concrete plan on how they plan to use it as a marketing tool.

My advice to anyone in this position is to look at your marketing objectives over the course of the next 6-12 months. Then think of the people you need to connect with to achieve those results and use LinkedIn to connect with those individuals.

For example, if I own a business advisory firm, my marketing objectives could be to secure a total of 10 new clients over the course of the next 6 months. Then I now know that in order to achieve those goals I would need to do the following, connect with lawyers, accountants as potential JV partners. Also important is to connect with journalists who write on the subject matter.

8. What is one tactic that you have implemented with LinkedIn that surprised you?

I would have to say connecting with journalist and editors. For years now it has been extremely hard getting in contact with those in the media simply because of the red tape you would have to go through. When I first started connecting with journalist through LinkedIn I found the process of finding, connecting and building relationships with them so easy and effortless.

9. How do you identify and then connect with your ideal customer on LinkedIn?

First of all you need to get very clear and specific in terms of whom your target market is. Some of the things you need to look at is: industry, profession, location, organisational role, gender, company size and other demographic data.

Once you are clear on the above metrics, you can than search for them in one of two ways through LinkedIn:

  1. Quick Search: Do this if you are looking for one person or wanted to get more of a generic result on your target market. For instance if you are looking for accountants in Sydney, that’s what you would type using the quick search box which can be found at the top of your profile located in the middle
  2. Advanced Search: To the right of the quick search box there is the “Advanced Search” function. In my opinion this is the best method to use because of its ability to really drill down and get specific about your target market. Using this function, you can search based on all of the metrics listed above which will ensure you have a more targeted list of contacts to connect with. Once you are happy with your criteria click search and start going through the various profiles within the search result.

Now, in my opinion quality is better than quantity. Even though I now have over 7,400 contacts quite easily I could have 15,000 to 20,000 if I wasn’t as selective with who I connected with.

There is no point having connections for the same of increasing your network if those connections are not going to help you achieve your marketing objectives.

In saying that, there are 3 things that identify whether a contact is going to be a good connection or not:

  1. Good profile photo
  2. Over 150 connections
  3. Filled out at least 50% or more of their profile

If they don’t fit these three guidelines, chances are they are not as active on LinkedIn or take it seriously. So generally what will happen is that they will connect with you but hardly respond to your emails which defeats the whole purpose of connecting with someone.

10. What are your top 3 tips for making the most of LinkedIn?

1. Value Bank

Connecting and effectively communicating with people through LinkedIn is no different than dealing with people outside of the network. Whether they are a supplier, potential partner or customer you need to build enough value for them to trust you in order for them to grow an interest in your company and therefore your product/service. I call this: “Value Bank”

2. Connecting with a purpose

Building your connections for the sake of having a large following is not really a sound strategy if you want to effectively grow your business using LinkedIn. Every connection needs to be linked to your goals and objectives in business both now and in the future.

3. Segment your connections

Most people don’t realize that LinkedIn is in effect a very powerful CRM system that allows you to segment your contacts by tagging them into specific folders. This is extremely important because the key to LinkedIn success is ensuring that your communications is targeted and personalised to each individual person you are connected with.

Unfortunately if you don’t have your contacts segmented you simply can’t do this without going through your entire network one by one which is very time consuming.

What about you?

How are you using LinkedIn? Are you being effective? What surprised you about Alex’s insights?

Could you do better?

Look forward to your feedback and questions in the comments below.

Read more: Using LinkedIn Effectively to Build your Business