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If you’re an entrepreneur and have been ignoring your company’s LinkedIn profile, or worse, don’t have a LinkedIn presence, you’re missing out on a goldmine of opportunity.
One of the deadly startup sins is ignoring free marketing tools, especially when those tools have the power to deliver genuine leads and sales.
Every social media channel has its own unique personality, audience and function. While Snapchat and Instagram are popular with younger generations, LinkedIn is seen as a necessary tool for professionals and job seekers. It’s the straight-faced, serious head shot kind of place, where you end most personal messages with a “Best Wishes,” rather than an emoji. LinkedIn means business, but it’s not just the cut and dry recruiter haven it’s been made out to be.
I could spend all day singing praises of LinkedIn’s utility as a personal networking tool. Yet, what value does this leave for startup companies? Large enterprises may struggle to make emotional connections, according to an HBR study, yet this gives small businesses a very real and incredibly strong advantage.
5 proven steps to market your startup on LinkedIn
As an entrepreneur, you and your small team are the company, and that alone gives you a powerful card to play on LinkedIn. What exactly are these superpowers?
Here are a few impactful ways to leverage LinkedIn for your small business marketing.
Step 1: Consider the end goal. What are you trying to achieve?
You’ve gained a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and have your digital marketing toolkit on point. Now it’s time to add LinkedIn to the mix and build even more meaningful leads.
Before building a strategy, you must give thought to what it is you’re trying to achieve. Are you a consultant looking to connect with business executives? Do you have an innovative medical device that would be useful to chief nurses at hospitals?
While other social channels are ideal for B2C marketing, LinkedIn is better geared toward B2B, allowing you to identify key decision makers at companies and make connections purposefully and deliberately. Once you identify a goal and target audience, you can begin to formulate your brand for LinkedIn.
Step 2: Create polished company and personal profiles
Like with any social media platform, each channel’s strategy should be carefully curated and customized for the differing audiences and uses of the platform.
Instagram uses bright, visually appealing images to draw in an overall younger demographic, while LinkedIn targets professionals with enticing article shares and company news about growth and innovation.
Because a small business owner is the face of the company, building a personal brand is a vital part of company branding. Individuals may even be more interested in connecting with the person behind the curtain than following the company page itself. As a result, it’s vital to manage a personal profile as if you represent your business, sharing milestones and anything else that illuminates the company’s strengths.
Step 3: Connect purposefully with target groups
Every week I receive at least a handful of LinkedIn messages from hardworking individuals looking to promote their services. Typically, I don’t know the person and after a quick scan of the first few lines, I know they’re trying to sell something and will move on.
In this age of ever-present advertisements, our brains instantly process sales pitches as noise. LinkedIn is not a spam tool. Don’t approach connections in this manner, or you’ll be wasting your time—and theirs!
Instead, refer to the initial master plan from Step 1: Who are the decision makers and change agents that have purchasing power for those companies?
Any number of search combinations can get to you the same end goal, which is connecting with a highly targeted group of individuals. Personalize each connection message stating why you would like the person in your network (shared passions?), but don’t sell.
Step 4: Build relationships and maintain them
This is where LinkedIn shines! For connections near your geographic location, you can meet in person to chat over coffee. This is a great option once you have a conversation going and feel there is mutually something to gain. You can pick the brains of other entrepreneurs about their journey (yes, competitors can be friends, too) or talk more about your offerings to an interested party.
Another option to foster relationships is to create content for your own website using input from LinkedIn connections. Reach out with a specific question and once you publish your article, those same connections can then share the content with their own networks, which increases your sphere of influence.
Step 5: Establish yourself as a thought leader in industry groups
A unique LinkedIn feature is the option to join groups within your industry, interests or affiliations. This opens up more opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals and share your experience. Again, this isn’t an opportunity to sell your startup’s products or services (at least not directly), but it is a way to put yourself and your brand out there for more exposure.
With ads and selling propositions drowning out every corner of the web, it can be frustrating for any entrepreneur to stand out without investing mountains of money into ads. However, LinkedIn provides a personalized niche that brings back what the web has deviated away from—meaningful, direct connections. A carefully tailored network is a lifeline for long-term growth and can give startups that extra nudge to success.