If your LinkedIn profile reads more like a resume, you're making a huge mistake -- especially if you're hoping to land new customers.

But don't just take my word for it. I recently talked with Mike Derezin, vice president of LinkedIn sales solutions (and therefore a guy perfectly placed to know what helps small businesses gain new customers and build stronger business relationships), about ways you can create the perfect LinkedIn profile.

Here's Mike:

If you're tasked with generating new business for your company -- and if you're an entrepreneur, you definitely are -- stop thinking about your LinkedIn profile as a resume and start thinking about it as a marketing tool.

Why? Prospects or customers doing research find you through a search engine or on LinkedIn. That's why you shouldn't risk having a profile that simply highlights your wins and leaves out the context necessary to paint the full picture of who you are.

Imagine you're a salesperson. When prospective customers come to your profile, do you think they want to know that you're a 'quota crusher'? That you made 'club' last year? Or that you were the #1 salesperson for three straight quarters?

No way! Take it from someone who has been on both sides of the buyer-seller game. The people who decide whether to entrust you with their money and their time aren't interested in your ability to 'crush it.' They want to find out how much you know about their business, how you can solve their problems, and who you are as a person and a professional.

That's what your profile needs to tell them -- and if your profile doesn't present a well-rounded person, it's a huge miss.

Sure, you'll need to highlight your professional experience, but there is an art to striking a balance between showcasing your abilities and proving you can meet customer needs. Your profile is the first step, and spending a little time to make it pitch-perfect will absolutely pay off.

Here's how to do a quick makeover so it's ready for the customers you're looking for:

1. Add a professional-looking photo.

This may sound like an obvious tip, but you'd be surprised how many people use casual, blurry, or distant pictures that don't show faces clearly--or worse yet, no photo at all. According to LinkedIn statistics, your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed with a photo than without one--so why go without?

Notice I suggest using a "professional-looking" photo, which doesn't necessarily mean you need to get a professional photographer to take it. You just need to steer clear of bad selfies or vacation shots. If you don't have a professional-looking headshot from your company website or an event, get a colleague to take some quality smartphone pictures of you at your desk, in a conference room, or near a window with a good view.

(Quick note: LinkedIn's research shows that 35% of people aged 18 to 34 say they make an initial impression based on someone's online profile picture, compared to just 13% of those over 35. So yeah, photos matter.)

2. Be authentic.

The "summary" section of your profile is where you can go beyond your work experience and tell prospects and customers why they want to work with you. Talk about your passion for your company and the industry you're in. Talk about how you solve problems.

For example, if you're in the insurance business, share a story about how you helped a family deal with a major flood or recover after a fire.

Give potential customers the opportunity to see how you will work with them... and help them solve their problems or meet their needs.

3. Images, videos, and Slideshare.

Pictures and videos add a rich dimension to your words. Take advantage of the ability to embed these into your profile as a way to show off your great work.

If you have a presentation from a conference that demonstrates your knowledge, add it. If you're in the landscaping business, show off a video or pictures of your work.

You can also include your company's latest YouTube videos; it's a great way to get more mileage from your marketing materials and bring traffic to your social channels.

4. Don't forget your contact info.

As you build out your profile, make sure people can easily find a way to get in touch with you. You don't have to overdo it with tons of links to social media accounts, but you do want people to know that you are available and reachable.

5. Get personal... but not too personal.

Prospective customers want to work with people they can relate to, and that means personally as well as professionally. So add a few details about your favorite sports teams. Or better yet, describe your volunteer efforts: our research shows that profiles with volunteer experience get 6 times more profile views than others.

Personal information helps the customer see the human behind the professional and may offer common ground that helps build a relationship. But don't go overboard with personal data -- the goal is to better connect, not distract.

Remember, today's average buyer is 57% along the road to making a purchase before ever engaging with a salesperson. Fine-tuning your profile in a way that appeals to buyer interests will make you stand out when customers are considering potential partners -- it's a simple investment in professional positioning that will go a long way in socially selling yourself and your business.

Published on: May 27, 2015
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