Ever wonder whether LinkedIn is worth your time? LinkedIn seems to have a ton of promise—especially for B2B companies—but it can be challenging to make good on that promise.

After all, LinkedIn has the highest cost-per-click of any social media platform. To make matters worse, people don’t check LinkedIn nearly as frequently as they check other social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

So, when it comes to marketing, is LinkedIn worth your time? Can you really drive results for your business on LinkedIn?

As it turns out, the answer is yes!

Over the years, I’ve developed a simple, straightforward approach to using LinkedIn that generates regular leads and sales for my business. It takes a bit of extra effort and consistency, but the results are worth it.

Here’s how I use LinkedIn to generate new business:

#1: Network Strategically

If you’re just starting to use LinkedIn as a lead gen platform, you might be tempted to try and connect with everyone. After all, the more people you’re connected with, the better your chances of landing a deal, right?

Well, this might seem like an obvious approach, but let’s dive a bit deeper. If your business sells a customer relationship management platform like Salesforce, are you likely to get much interest from the manager of a fast food restaurant?

The key to successfully using LinkedIn to produce business sales is to build a network of people that is relevant to you and your business. Fortunately, LinkedIn has multiple ways for you to connect with the right sort of people, especially when you’ve opted in on a premium membership.

The easiest way to make useful connections is to use LinkedIn’s search feature to search for terms that relate to topics you’re interested in. This will pull up a list of people who match your search term in some way. Look through those profiles and if someone looks professionally or personally interesting, reach out!

For example, if you’re working in online advertising, you might try searching for “online advertising” and then filtering by second-degree relationships.

online-advertising-search-results

Since these people are already connected to your existing network, they’re much more likely to respond to your invitation to connect.

#2: Focus on Them, Not You

The best way to start a professional relationship is with a sales pitch, right? I mean, if you’ve been on LinkedIn for long, you’ve likely seen a few messages like this:

linkedin-cold-pitch

Messages like this just make you want to say “Sign me up!”, don’t they?

LinkedIn isn’t for connecting to sell things. People on LinkedIn are looking to make meaningful connections. If you ever want any sort of sales to come from those connections, you need to help them see how you’ll benefit them.

The trick here is to focus on your new connection, not your business. Ask genuine questions, find out what their business is about and make them feel good about their accomplishments, like this:

compliment-their-business

See? That was easy.

There’s nothing people like more than feeling admired and appreciated, so sincere compliments are one of the best ways to get good conversations going.

Good conversations lead to good relationships and people buy from people they have a good relationship with…see where we’re going with this?

#3: Secrets Make Friends

All meaningful relationships come from a foundation of trust. Making your LinkedIn connections more than just a tally mark means you’ll need to take a bit of risk and share the right secrets with the right people.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to talk about what you’re working on and share whatever might make you or your business stand out, like so:

sharing-your-secrets

Just so you know, this conversation ended up leading to a sale.

Now, while you should be wise about what you share, don’t worry too much about revealing what makes your business tick. The majority of people won’t steal your ideas and implement them on their own. They’d rather hire someone that they know and trust to get the work done for them.

And even if people do steal some ideas and recommendations, just wish them well. If you’re truly good at what you do, chances are that these would-be thieves won’t be able to make your ideas work and they’ll end up coming back for help from a true expert.

#4: Stay In Your Connection’s Minds

One important thing to remember about making new LinkedIn connections is the fact that most people aren’t going to be ready to buy your products or services. They might not know your business well enough to buy or they may not have a current need for your services.

That’s fine. If you focus on building real relationships, you’ll be the one on their mind when they do finally have a need you can fill.

Fortunately, LinkedIn makes staying on your connections’ radars easy. Here are a few ways to stay top of mind:

Regularly Send Messages

If your messages are well-intentioned and well-timed, they’ll really make a big impact.

Possibly the easiest way to do this is to Go to your LinkedIn homepage and look at the list of major events going on in the lives of your connections. Then, use the direct link to send sincere messages to them about those events.

keep-in-touch

Ss an example, if you were to see the message above, you may consider sending a message like:

Way to go for being at [your job] for [however long]! What was your biggest accomplishment this year?

Messages like this will let your connections talk about themselves while providing you with good insight into what’s important to them and what sorts of things they’re struggling with.

As a quick side note, you’ll want to be careful with this approach, because people often forget to update their LinkedIn profile.

So, it’s best to check out their profile and make sure everything adds up before you send a message that basically communicates “I don’t really know you…”

Share Updates

This might sound simple, but sharing updates consistently can be a really good way to keep yourself in front of your connections. Make sure to use this in a way that will portray you and your business as industry experts by sharing meaningful content, videos and relevant quotes.

share-content

As a bonus, you’ll be showing up regularly in your connection’s feeds, which will keep you on their minds for sure.

stay-top-of-mind

Scheduling tools like Buffer can help you out if you don’t have enough time each day to find articles to share every day. You can schedule updates for the next week in under an hour.

While you’re doing this, be sure to mix up your updates with other people’s content. It’s good to share your own ideas, but it’s great to help people see you’re well informed and familiar with your industry’s issues.

Put Some Posts on LinkedIn Pulse

One way to really stand out is to regularly publish posts on LinkedIn’s publishing platform, LinkedIn Pulse. Unlike updates, LinkedIn actually notifies your connections when you post on Pulse, which puts you in front of a lot more people.

publish-on-linkedin-pulse

Thanks to this visibility boost, Pulse posts often get more comments, shares and views than most normal updates will.

LinkedIn posts also give your connections a good feel for who you are and what your business is all about. People naturally prefer interacting with people they already know and at least trust to some degree—what better way to do that then to give them a peek into what makes you tick!

#5: Just Ask

At this point, you might be wondering when you actually get to pitch your product and services. Well, the good news is, on LinkedIn, people expect you to be a professional with a business you believe in.

What’s more, if you’ve done your job right and created a meaningful relationship, they’ll want to hear about what you do. With this in mind, keep your eyes open for opportunities to talk about your business in a relaxed, non-threatening way.

let-them-know-you-can-help

Remember, you need to really care about people and then you’ll be able to offer help without offending. We all want to be successful, so remember to show them how you can provide them with value—don’t just talk about how awesome your business is.

The more real your relationships are, the more real your results will be.

Conclusion

The key to turning LinkedIn into an effective lead gen platform is simple: Focus on building real relationships. This takes time and patient, but your efforts will produce remarkable returns; financially, professionally, and personally.

What do you think? What do you think LinkedIn can do for your business? Have you ever used this effectively? How about ineffectively?

Read more: Melonie Dodaro’s Advice About Promoting Yourself On LinkedIn