Without a doubt, having a LinkedIn networking strategy gets better results. So whether you are networking online or offline you need a plan to make best use of your time and to meet your professional goals. I don’t mean a throwing things out and hoping something sticks kind of strategy, I mean knowing your ideal contact, their company and background.
Networking is about discovery and relationship building. Here are 7 steps to creating a networking strategy that you can use on LinkedIn or your next in-person networking activity.
Define your networking goal
What is your main purpose for networking – the WHY am I doing this question?
Getting clear from the beginning will keep you hyper focused on connecting with the right people. Remember the SMART acronym which is a guide for setting your objectives.
It is always a great place to start and refine your goals and if you are not great at this task, the SMART criteria will help you make a good decision for your time and effort.
Be Specific – is your goal specific enough such as the number of people you will invite to connect with in a week. Is the goal measurable, in other words how many people did you invite and how many responded is something you can measure.
Is the goal attainable or maybe you need to refine the criteria.
Is your goal realistic or is your big idea not something you will stick with in time. LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups but I would challenge you to ask how realistic is it that you will monitor let alone make meaningful connections or engagement in 50 groups.
Lastly, is your goal timely, will you be able to set a specific number of appointments in a week as an example.
Here are some possible goals, take each one and get more specific.
– attract new clients
– position yourself as a thought leader
– connect with influencers in your industry
– find and hire employees
– connect with potential donors or sponsors
Define your ideal connections
Here’s the deal, if you are not clear on who is an ideal connection for you then there is a good chance you are wasting your time. It may seem like a harsh statement but I know this is true from years of working one on one consulting clients on marketing strategy.
You have to understand who you want to do business with! When you are clear on this you will be able to identify these people by what is in their LinkedIn profile and you will be more skilled when talking to people who could be possible referral partners as to the type of people you want to connect with.
Can you find a warm referral?
There are a number of ways to get introduce no and look for ‘shared connections’ you can also look on the right sidebar for ‘how you are connected’ which provides the same information. Now you can find someone that might be willing to make an introduction for you.
Where does your ideal connection network?
To gain an introduction and network with your ideal connections you need to know where they network. On LinkedIn you can scroll to the bottom of a profile and see what groups they belong to and join the same group. You can also carefully read their profile and locate what organizations they belong to. There are many clues in profiles so take the time to read them!
Research their company page on LinkedIn
Does your ideal contact have a company page on LinkedIn? If yes, scour the page for posts that you may offer you a way to open a conversation. That could be a post about a new product or service their company introduced, or a new employee or an article about something they did in the community. Obviously, you will want to go to their website, but you may not find news events there that you might find on their LinkedIn company page.
How to start a conversation on LinkedIn
Some people struggle with what to say and on LinkedIn people continue to send the default invitation that says ‘I’d like to invite you to join my LinkedIn network’ – but guarantee this strategy will never get you noticed. Personalizing your invitation to be welcoming and specific will get results. Tell the contact in a short sentence why you are inviting them. Here are a couple of examples:
Hello Jane, I see we share some mutual connections and from your profile you are someone I would like to learn more about and network with in the future. Please accept my invitation.
Hi Joe, I am looking to expand my network of digital marketing experts and from your profile your experience and credibility is so notable that I would like to have you in my network.
Follow-up is the key to success on LinkedIn
Follow-up is the key to building successful relationships that result in long-term customer retention and advocacy. It starts with building relationship and I believe in giving first.
There are so many ways in which to be a giver and to stay top of mind with your connections, here 6 just a few of them to get you started.
- Share an article with a connection that you know would appreciate it. Don’t do it with the intention of selling them something, rather if you know what interests them because you have followed their posts, comments, and shares.
- Make an informed comment on something they posted in a status update or a published post. This lets them know you read what they posted versus those people who click the thumbs up which does not mean they person read the article at all.
- Take the time to endorse the skill of a connection. I prefer to make endorsements on skills that I actually know the person has and not endorsing them for all 25 or 50 skills because I simply think I am helping them. Being particular really shows more thought.
- Congratulate your connections on an accomplishment – always be looking for these opportunities. Was their name mentioned in an article you read? Do you notice they just had a milestone work anniversary or something else notable.
- Message a connection you haven’t been in touch with in a while just let them know you were thinking about them or perhaps include a link to an article you thought they might find interesting.
- Invite a connection to meet you at an upcoming networking event or association meeting as your guest.
LinkedIn continues to be a powerhouse platform for professionals if you invest some time in creating a strategy and executing on that strategy in a way that will get you results. To get better results, sometimes you need a better plan.