Bob and I recently did 2 episodes of Creative Independence where we talked about how to get yourself established on LinkedIn, (part 1 and part 2) where we covered everything from signing up to tricking out your personal and business profiles. While we felt we had hit everything, a question from Marty Qatani made it apparent to me that though we had covered the “how” quite thoroughly, we had kind of glazed over the “why”, and maybe a bit of the “what”. So, here are Marty’s questions, and my response to him.
Chris & Bob… just listened to PT 2 of your LinkedIn Podcast…. all good info, but I was wondering if you would be touching on how to find potential clients on LinkedIn, or even LinkedIn ettiquette. Anything planned ?
I know you guys answered how to find people, …. [but] I’ve tried to find people with specific job titles such as Art Director and sometimes that title doesn’t seem to be listed for certain companies. More importantly is [it] appropriate to contact companies through LinkedIn to ask for that specific information, as if I were making a cold call, or is that considered bad ettiquette ?
So, getting back to Marty’s question…
A couple of things to understand about LinkedIn. First, just because a company is on LinkedIn, doesn’t mean that all of its employees are. Like any other social site, it’s up the individual to join if they’d like. In this way, LinkedIn may not prove to be the greatest tool if you’re building your own sales list. One way to perhaps find people you can contact would be to check the LinkedIn job boards for the type of work you’re looking to provide, then under each posting, there’s a link to click and see who you might know at that company.
Second, as far as etiquette goes, one of the great things about LinkedIn is that you can specify how or why you’d like to be contacted, so each user can set their own terms for why and how people can contact them. So, for instance, at the bottom of my profile, you’ll see that I’ve asked to be contacted for:
- career opportunities
- consulting offers
- new ventures
- expertise requests
- reference requests
- getting back in touch
I personally don’t want anyone asking me if I can hire them (I can’t) or sell me services, so those are not listed. However, some people are interested in those opportunities, and they’ll give permission on their profiles. In those cases, feel free to approach them with your resume or sales pitch. A possible work around that might be helpful is this; if you’re already contacting someone through another channel, you can use your LinkedIn profile to solidify your reputation by shooting them a quick note, inviting them to visit your profile for more information about you before you meet, which can be especially helpful if you’ve got good recommendations or know people friends in common. You can even invite your client to question any friends in common about you, your work and your reputation.
Also, as far as etiquette goes for contacting a company, if you know the company you wish to contact, and if they’ve got a profile page on LinkedIn with contact information, it is absolutely permissible to contact that company and ask how to get in touch with the person that you need to speak with. They may not give it to you, but that’s a different discussion entirely.
So, we’ve discussed that LinkedIn perhaps isn’t the best list-building search tool. It is, however, is a great network-building tool. Once you’ve done your best to spiff up your profile, link to it from everywhere. If you want to build your network, you need to let people know you have a profile; get THEM to find YOU and request a link. Put your link on your business cards, your website, your twitter account; anywhere. I put it on my email signatures, that way folks who I deal with in business or even socially that I might not be linked to might see it and reach out to me. The reason for building the network is to increase your own reach. For instance, I don’t know ANYBODY at Pixar, but because of the connections I’ve built over the past 5 or 6 years, I can contact dozens of folks there by reaching out through people that I know who can get me in touch with them. Again, there’s the whole etiquette thing, but even sitting down for a phone call just to feel a place out or conducting an informational interview with someone is often priceless.
LinkedIn is also a great promotional tool. LinkedIn has good Google juice, so any links you provide from your profile to your site can only help. Anyone, say a potential employer or client, who might be checking you out will most likely run across your LinkedIn profile at the top of any Google search, and your LinkedIn profile is likely to be much more professional than many of your other profiles they might run across. Participating in the Questions and Answers section will help to brand you as an expert in your industry when people come looking for a problem solver.
Finally, if you’re interested in getting hired either as an employee or as a consultant, LinkedIn is a great place to be, since hiring professionals are looking here all the time.
In my own experience, LinkedIn is more of a long-term relationship building tool than a quick-hit sales tool.