LinkedIn has always been the professional social network, and it now boasts over 187 million users across 200 countries. While that may not seem like a lot compared to the astronomical user bases of Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn also lacks the personal and often meaningless information that clutters up those other platforms. Instead, it is where people come to showcase their careers and find information relevant to their professional lives, making LinkedIn an invaluable resource for businesses.

However, LinkedIn is too often discounted as nothing more than a place to search for jobs. While that is certainly one of its core functions, LinkedIn is also a powerful marketing tool that should be a part of every brand’s digital strategy.

socialconversion-resized-600According to a study of over 5,000 businesses, HubSpot found that LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversation rate at 2.74 percent. That’s almost three times higher than both Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s the best tool we have for business development,” writes Anna Bratton of Salesforce.

So to kick off a new series on how to effectively grow your business with LinkedIn, we’ll examine how to use LinkedIn to make prospecting and lead generation more efficient—ultimately leading to more sales and an increased ROI.

Find Who You’re Looking For

LinkedIn’s search function is excellent, and the advanced search is better. It allows you to filter by company, title, location, and keywords. With a premium account, you can even look at company size and seniority level.


Use this to find influential people at companies related to your industry and you can uncover hundreds of new sales leads. Save your searches and have LinkedIn send weekly updates when a new person matches your criteria, effectively creating a potentially endless mine of new business.

Let’s Get Social

LinkedIn groups are an invaluable way to discover new opportunities. With a quick search, you can find groups of all sizes discussing topics relevant to your industry. Participate in the conversation, ask questions, and answer other people’s questions earnestly. If you have content, share it, but be sure it is relevant to the topic. You absolutely do not want to be labeled a spammer, so don’t enter a group hoping to do nothing but promote your brand.

Your contribution will set you and your company apart as thought leaders. In addition, you can view the profiles of other group members and send them direct messages, even if you aren’t connected with them. So if you identify someone who looks like they could benefit from your services, check them out and connect.

Finally, consider creating your own group if you can’t find the specific topic you’re looking for. This has its own advantages, such as seeing every LinkedIn user that joins.

Never Cold Call Again

After searching and joining groups to identify potential leads, use the information in their profiles to learn about them before making contact. Who are they? Which team do they work with and what are they currently working on? Do you have any common connections with them? Most LinkedIn profiles will provide the answers to these questions. Check out which apps they use and if they are attending any events. All of this information can help you reach out to a prospect in a more meaningful and relevant way.

Change often means new opportunity. Pay attention to a lead’s status updates, profile changes, and new connections to find new ways to connect.

Reach the Unreachable

Have you ever attended a conference or panel discussion and seen that one C-level employee with whom you would love to speak? And then that person leaves before you or anyone else gets the chance?

Big companies always have those high-level people that just seem impossible to contact. They don’t have public profiles on social media, and their contact information is completely missing from the corporate website.

You would be surprised with how many of these “unreachable” people maintain a presence on LinkedIn, and are actually very reachable.

After you find them with a search, see what groups they are in and join the conversation. Remember, you can send direct messages to members of a similar group.

Also check out their connections and make note of any similarities. LinkedIn has a function that allows users to introduce common connections in a personalized manner.

If all else fails, premium LinkedIn accounts have access to InMail—LinkedIn’s private messages that are guaranteed to reach the intended person. According to LinkedIn, these messages are 30 percent more likely to get a response than cold calling, and it could be just the thing to reach that executive that filters out all other forms of communication.

Remember that prospecting and lead generation on LinkedIn is about building relationships. Don’t be a hunter; participate and contribute in a meaningful way. Use common sense and don’t be obnoxious.

Next week, we’ll examine using LinkedIn for recruiting, and show how your brand can take advantage of the professional network’s resources to attract the top talent in your industry.