Over the past 13 years, LinkedIn has quietly grown from 500 thousand users to over 530 Million. It is the number one place to grow and nurture your professional network online. Due to this growth, it is also becoming a popular B2B customer acquisition channel.

Seth Godin put it best: “Marketers ruin everything”. A popular marketing medium means that people will start to spam each other to death. It’s possible to add value and acquire leads effectively, but it has to be done the right way. This article will explore principles of how you can use LinkedIn without outright spamming.

The Problem WIth the “Hack” Mentality

There’s a problem with the “hack” mentality when it comes to outreach. When you just set things on autopilot without any regard for the person on the other side, your outreach can have the opposite of the effect that you intended. Your outreach can get annoying and can even get you outright blocked.

On LinkedIn, this looks like sending someone a connection request and then sending them a cookie cutter script asking them to do something — buy your product, set up a call, or go to your website. Most people who use LinkedIn for outreach have done this before. Myself included.

Why Your Prospecting Isn’t Working

The underlying cause of this is the failure to treat people like actual people and trying to take before you give. Sometimes we get overzealous about our product, mission, or goal and we forget that we are communicating with real people behind the computer screen.

The opportunity of LinkedIn exists (and anything for that matter) because there aren’t as many fish in the pond. There are more people cold emailing and cold calling than there are on LinkedIn so there are as many people competing for attention.

The person on the other end doesn’t know us, our backstory, or what we’re up to. We are coming at them completely cold. You have to remember that only the medium has changed, not the rules of the game. The old school rules of direct marketing still apply. So what’s the solution?

The Solution: A Step By Step Approach

You must demonstrate value, share valuable information with people who might be interested, and once they’ve shown interest, ask them to try not to buy, i.e., reverse the risk

1. Demonstrate Your Value

When someone views your profile on LinkedIn you get a notification. This feature of the platform is what will help you find interested prospects. You visit their profile and then they may check you out. At that point, you get a notification as well. They may even send you a friend request. But first, we have to increase the chances that they will check us out, to begin with. We have to optimize our profile. The more niche, the better.

Turn your tagline into a problem-solving USP

There are several ways you can do this. Here’s a quick formula you can use:

I help [niche] [benefit] in [time frame] without [pain]

Here are some examples:

I help empty nesters sell their homes in 90 days without going below their asking price

I help small business owners get working capital in 30 days even if they have bad credit

you get the idea…

Optimize Your Profile

Treat your profile like a sales letter instead of a resume. Your LinkedIn profile should just be an online resume. It should tell a story about how you use your expertise to solve a problem or set of problems. Here’s a simple three-step formula for doing this:

  1. Figure out the problem you solve — What pain do you remove for your ideal customer?
  2. Tell them how you solve it- How is the sausage made?
  3. Add a call to action — What do you want them to do next?

2. Connect With Others

Find your targets — Next, you want to narrow down your ideal customer. Remember, the more niche, the better. If you’re willing to buy a subscription to Sales Navigator, you’ll have the ability to get super granular with your searches and find the exact type of prospects you’re looking for.

Send them a connection request

Once you’ve got your list narrowed down, you’ll want to visit their profiles and send them a connection request. It’s best to go with quality over quantity. You’ll want to ramp up to a good amount of connection requests each day (~100) but you also want to make sure you’re personalizing your approach for them. Here’s a simple script:

Hey {Name}, saw that you’re in {Industry} and that you recently {accomplishment/fun fact/milestone/etc.}. I’m also in {Industry} and I would love to add you to my network. Looking forward to connecting on LinkedIn! Best, — Initials

You can use tools like Dux Soup to auto visit profiles and speed up the process. Dux Soup is a great tool but use it with caution. If you abuse the LinkedIn platform you could get suspended or even banned. Profile visit restrictions are more relaxed for Sales Navigator users.

Once you connect, send a “thanks for connecting” message

After a few days or a week, you should share valuable, relevant, and actionable content with them. Preferably, it should have a personalized message attached to it. Don’t just share any old blog post. Share something with them that could be a good fit for them personally and tell them why.

Hey {Name}, I found this {article/video/podcast} and I thought I would share it with you because {reason why}. Have a great day!

3. Ask them to try, not to buy

After some time has passed you can share more content or make an attempt for conversion. Usually, this means asking for an appointment. There are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Make a small ask — Don’t ask for someone to meet you in person or to buy something. Make sure your first ask is small. Usually a 10– 15-minute call to determine if there is a fit.
  2. Make it specific and benefit-driven — Make sure you tell them specifically why meeting with you will benefit them.
  3. Make it personalized — Solid personalization goes a long way. No one likes getting a cookie cutter message. Tailor the message just for them.

Wrapping Up

Always remember:

The tactics change often. The strategies sometimes change. But, the principles always stay the same.

  • Find a group of people who might be interested in what you have offer
  • Offer value up front
  • A small percentage of them will show interest
  • A smaller percentage of them will turn into customers
  • Rinse and repeat

Good luck with your LinkedIn prospecting!

Originally published here.