How to Use LinkedIn to Build Relationships that Generate Leads
by Erin Connolly-Kriarakis and Lauren Gitlin –
March 16, 2017
Building a strong network on LinkedIn starts by connecting with key contacts including clients, prospects, referral sources, current and former colleagues, friends, classmates and family members.
This article – the second in a five-part series on developing relationships – will discuss the power of using LinkedIn for networking and relationship building, in addition to best practices. We will present ideas for building activity through liking, sharing and commenting on posts and topics that you find interesting or complementary to your business. We will also discuss how you can create your own content and share it through the LinkedIn post feature. The piece will also advise on proper etiquette to follow when connecting with new or existing contacts on LinkedIn.
The following tips should help when you connect with each person on LinkedIn:
- Review your contacts’ degrees of connection. This is where you may identify that your friend has a direct connection with a CFO of a major retailer or someone with whom you are eager to connect and share your expertise. Make note of important connections that your key contacts may have, and you do not. Then, make a plan to reach out to your contacts to better understand their relationship with the prospect and how they may be able to make a meaningful introduction for you.
- Effectively search for new leads and contacts. The search bar on LinkedIn enables the use of Boolean terms to narrow a search to very specific criteria. When you find someone that you want to connect with, be mindful of the recommended connections that LinkedIn provides. These recommendations will be similar to the initial profile you found and can ultimately be great connections for you in terms of business prospects. For example, amanager at CohnReznick was recently invited to join a new focused networking group. One of his former high school classmates belongs to the group and had located him by using his high school as a search criterion to invite new members. As it turned out, the group is comprised of key referral sources for CohnReznick.
- Conduct research and create a hook to draw them in. When connecting with professionals you do not know, be strategic – you shouldn’t simply send the generic “join my network” in-mail that LinkedIn prepopulates for you. Take it to the next level and include a personalized, intelligent request to connect. Perhaps the person has recently written an article or his or her company has recently had a significant success that you can work into your message. In most cases, individuals that you do not know directly will accept a request to connect. However, it is important not to ask for a meeting in your first message. Rather, direct the dialogue toward their interests.
- Make cold connections, if all else is not available. While not an ideal approach, success stories do exist. Here’s an example: At CohnReznick, one of our business developers had a very large food manufacturer on his target list and looked for ways to cultivate the relationship. Using LinkedIn, he connected with the executive assistant of the CFO. Since the business developer knew the address of the company, he decided to bring a nice bottle of wine to his new contact as a thank you for connecting. When the executive assistant relayed the story to her boss, he was impressed that the business developer used LinkedIn as a tool to get in front of him, and he agreed to meet with the CohnReznick team.
Keeping Your LinkedIn Empire Engaged
While making connections and developing a strong network on LinkedIn, make sure that your network is engaged with your LinkedIn activity. This may include creating a strategy for sharing information, posts and stories that are of interest to you and that may be of interest to your network. The ubiquitous nature of social media makes it possible to frequently and easily share, like or comment directly from a webpage to your LinkedIn network. Consider sharing information specific to you. For example, perhaps there is an upcoming speaking engagement or event that you plan to attend. Create a post with the link to the event website that shares the event details and your role. You might even want to recommend that members of your network participate in the event. To increase visibility of your posts outside of your immediate network, use hashtags where appropriate. This will allow your posts to be included in a larger social conversation.
If you are ready to advance from sharing the content of others to becoming an influencer yourself, consider writing a LinkedIn article. This may be considered a blog, where you are able to fully customize an article in order to enhance its impact. Such enhancements include inserting a header image, embedding links, images and video, and including tags so your article is searchable by those inside and outside of your network. Our CEO recently wrote a post about his thoughts on innovation. We noticed that a major influencer in the accounting field, with over 13,000 followers on his own social sites, commented on our CEO’s article and asked to visit CohnReznick’s new innovation lab in New York. Consequently, our CEO invited the influencer to take a tour of the innovation lab, which he did, and then shared the experience with all of his followers. This led to maximum impact and reach outside of our CEO’s immediate network.
Lastly, it is crucial to focus on the frequency in which content is shared and the subject matter that is shared. If your LinkedIn profile is built around your expertise in the tax and accounting field, your thoughts and news about tax reform, updates on tax regulations and tips for your network to use in preparing their tax paperwork would be fitting. While information on different topics can be shared, for engagement purposes, it is beneficial to focus on one or two areas of expertise instead of many.
Thus, developing a few great habits in enhancing your LinkedIn profile and activity can make a meaningful difference when engaging with your network. It can also help you attract deeper connections and showcase your expertise. A good rule of thumb is to put a reminder in your calendar once per quarter to review the contents of your profile. Additionally, you should review and become familiar with LinkedIn’s new desktop redesign.
Stay tuned for next month’s article. We will focus on finding the right networking group or activity in order to make meaningful connections. For the first article in the series, click the following link.
Erin Connolly-Kriarakis is the senior marketing manager for the New Jersey region of CohnReznick LLP, one of the leading accounting, tax, and advisory firms in the U.S. Erin has more than 10 years of experience providing strategic marketing solutions for the accounting industry with a focus on increasing an organization’s bottom line. Her expertise in strategy development and implementation include CRM, data analytics, building multi-channel campaigns, developing strategic partnerships, target relationship development plans and tracking ROI on activities and tactics. In 2016, she was named a Leading Woman Brand Builder by Leading Women Entrepreneurs & Business Owners.
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Lauren Gitlin is a corporate marketing specialist focusing on digital and social media management at CohnReznick, LLP, one of the largest accounting, tax, and advisory firm in the United States. With a background in accounting, Lauren brings a unique perspective to her marketing role by understanding the challenges and needs of the Firm’s client base. Lauren focuses on managing the corporate social media channels and provides social media training to the firm for all levels from entry level to partner.