In this final part of the series, I will focus on the topic that is probably of most interest to start-up practices and indeed to more established firms too: How can you use LinkedIn for lead generation purposes, to find prospective clients?
Most people, when they talk about lead generation using LinkedIn, then go on to simply reference ways in which you can raise your profile or advertise on the site.
Of course these may be worthwhile activities but they are not the only ways to use LinkedIn for lead generation.
Remember that everything you type into LinkedIn could influence a prospective client or a referrer. Many of your posts on groups, your recommendations, endorsements and status updates will be identified as your activities on LinkedIn.
As such they will often appear on your connections’ LinkedIn home pages and in update emails they receive. So be sensible as to what you do, say and post. Aim to add value rather than to be constantly self promoting.
The starting point
Regular readers will not be surprised if I say that you will find it easier to find prospective clients via LinkedIn if you are clear about who you are looking for and why.
I will therefore take it as read that you have identified your specific expertise, niche and focus. If you want to know why I consider this to be so important see, for example, this article on AccountingWEB: Are you a bog-standard accountant?
This is where the real magic happens on LinkedIn. You can search for and find all of the business leads you will ever need, subject to one caveat: your target audience needs to be registered on LinkedIn.
It wouldn’t be much use if, for example, you were looking to work for babysitters as I doubt that many have posted profiles on LinkedIn.
You can use the advanced search facility to search for business people in your local area, in your niche or both. You can go further and search for key people within specific target companies or within companies of the size you prefer to approach and with the very name and job title of the decision maker you wish to engage with.
Here is just one example of a search: let us assume that you have particular expertise in advising physiotherapists and that you are based in Harrow. Just type the word ‘physiotherapist’ into the ‘keyword’ box on the left of the advanced search page, then further down add a Harrow postal code and choose the ‘within 10 miles’ option beneath this.
You can also determine whether people you already know should be included in the search.
When I did this just now I found that I have 32 second-level connections who meet those search criteria. Thirty-two! Unsurprisingly none of us are in the same groups, but if I was really targeting them I would have joined their groups already.
How you then approach these new leads is a subject in itself, but I have shared some ideas in other parts of this series of articles.
This is simply a facility to send messages directly to someone within LinkedIn where you are not already connected with them.
LinkedIn tell us that the open rates for InMail on LinkedIn are greater than the open rates for typical email marketing messages. So, in theory this is a new way to send out email spam, but that is hardly going to endear you anyway and is unlikely to generate new clients.
Fellow Group members
Another reason you don’t need to worry about InMail is that you don’t need it to reach your target audience. LinkedIn allows you to send messages to fellow group members even if you are not yet connected to them.
The same principles apply though. Do not send spammy promotional messages as these are a turn-off and are unlikely to have the desired effect.
If you have yet to join local business groups and those that are of interest to others in your target niche, then do it now. (see part five in this series)
Despite my earlier comments, your lead generation efforts may well be enhanced if you also look to raise your profile on LinkedIn. I have listed below some of the ways in which you can do this.
1 Ensure your LinkedIn profile is complete and attractive to prospective clients (see part one in this series)
2 Grow your network by increasing the number of people with whom you are connected (see part two in this series)
3 Participate in local business groups or niche groups (see part five in this series)
4 Post useful and interesting status updates with links to helpful third party websites, blogs and commentaries (see part three in this series)
5 Provide recommendations for other LinkedIn users where you have first-hand knowledge of their services or skills (see part four in this series)
6 Provide endorsements of skills you believe other users to have, as prompted by Linkedin when you visit their profiles (see part four in this series)
From a lead generation perspective your raised profile may result in prospective clients getting in touch with you, or you may be recommended by fellow LinkedIn users to their contacts who are looking for a new accountant. But this is all very reactive. As a start-up practice you are probably keen to find prospective clients in a more pro-active way using the advanced search facility I described earlier.
Who visited your profile page?
LinkedIn will show you, on the right hand side of your home page, a few people at a time.
Some of the visitors may be prospective clients. Most however will be other accountants, recruiters, suppliers or spammers. I work on the assumption that if a visitor does not then message me, they are not interested in what I do. My profile should be sufficiently compelling to ensure that anyone with a genuine interest will get in touch.
Another strategy is to message your profile visitors and see what sparked their interest. I suspect that you will find this is not an effective use of your time. Better to enhance your profile and make it more compelling to your ideal target clients.
You will note that, throughout this series, I have made no reference to LinkedIn premium accounts.
Please do not waste your money on upgrading to such an account within LinkedIn until and unless you find it necessary. This might be, for example, because you are making so much use of the facilities that you want and need longer lists and more detailed access to more profiles than you can obtain as a free member.
For what it’s worth, I have not upgraded and see no need for me to do so. I would love to hear from accountants who have upgraded and who feel they are getting value for money from the additional facilities. Maybe I am missing a trick myself!
The leads that you generate through your use of LinkedIn could be suspects or they could be prospects. The former are people you suspect or hope may want and need your services. Prospects are those who have indicated a degree of interest or are at least evidently looking for a new accountant. How you follow up with your leads depends on what you have found out about them of course.
For now, if you have questions, ideas or views on anything above or in the earlier articles in this series, please post your comments below. And, by all means, connect with me on Linkedin.
Earlier parts of this series
Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and writes the BookMarkLee blog. This and his ebooks are for accountants who want to stand out and be more successful in practice, online and in life. He is also Chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax experts.
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