I hope that you have thought of or already found some ways to put last week's list of LinkedIn Strategies for Small Business to good use.

We covered the first of the 6 LinkedIn Strategies that I'll share with you:

  • Building a live community
  • Business development
  • Promoting a blog/branding/building traffic
  • Getting work as a freelancer or consultant
  • Promoting a product
  • Strategies for everyone

Business Development

A piece of advice that I will never forget receiving from an older, wiser mentor of mine who started and ran 2 successful businesses including a luxury goods marketing firm — he has a rolodex of more than 1,000 people who he keeps in touch with on a regular basis. How does he do this? For him it's a simple phone call that usually lasts no more than 5-10 minutes and if appropriate leads to a follow up email and possible work. This very simple technique kept him busy.

One of the simplest ways of using LinkedIn is just as a "modern Rolodex" a list of the people you want to communicate with on a regular basis so that they remember you're out there, what you have to offer, and why they like you. The only tools you need for this is your LinkedIn profile, sending LinkedIn invitations to people you know and an hour per day to make phone calls. One of the biggest challenges for a freelancer or consultant is just making sure people remember you when they need something you offer. These quick check-in calls (with an appropriate time lapse in between) are a great way to just stay on your prospect's radar.

Of course LinkedIn search is also a great tool for this — whether you are searching within your networking or outside of it, using keyword searches on LinkedIn to find people who match your target audience is a great way to "mine the network".

NileGuide, a trip planning website, used LinkedIn to help with a variety of successful "business development" campaigns.

The primary tools? LinkedIn Search & LinkedIn InMail. Here are the 3 ways they used it:

  • Fundraising - to identify relevant venture capital firms during their fundraising process

  • PR - to identify a target list of publications to build awareness of their product, they searched on the publication names, and proactively contacted journalists with whom they had at least a "friend of a friend" connection.

  • Strategic Partnerships - to contact people in the right departments at target companies with whom they wanted to explore business partnerships in selected industries. Their goal was to find partners who were interested in providing personalized travel guide functionality to their users.

Let's look more closely at how they leveraged LinkedIn for strategic partnerships'�

How NileGuide used LinkedIn to build Strategic Partnerships

  1. Identify Companies they identified the top 20 companies to partner with in each of several target sectors within the travel and online media space.

  2. Identify Contacts they laid out a process to search for people with specific job descriptions in these organizations that aligned with who they believed would either be the key decision maker for a business development partnership, or one rung up or down the ladder.

  3. Filter Contacts - given the effort invested per contact, the contact list was filtered for both relevance and "closeness" to improve response rates. Contacts had to be at least 3rd level (i.e. a "friend of a friend of a friend"), and they carefully decided whether to reach out to the contact directly using LinkedIn's InMail tool (which requires a paid subscription), or to request an introduction through a mutual contact when the relationship with that mutual contact was strong.

  4. Craft & Deliver the Message - NileGuide's messaging strategy was a great example of creating a targeted message that caters to your audience. Josh Steinitz, CEO of NileGuide describes how they did it:
    "We referenced a personal connection in order to qualify ourselves. Then, as a relatively new company, we knew we needed to provide a short, pithy introduction that summarized our core value proposition and differentiation in the marketplace. Finally, we summarized in no more than 2-3 sentences or bullet points some areas of opportunity, indicating that we'd been thoughtful about their business before contacting them... and had some specific ideas to discuss."

    BIG CAVEAT: they never attempted to add the new contact to their network

    "saying you know someone when you don't undermines your credibility (not to mention that it can get you 'dinged' by LinkedIn)."
  5. The Investment - the NileGuide team invested 20 hours to contact approximately 100 people.

    They also spent time creating a visually detailed landing page on their site, and in a few cases they put together creative mockups customized to the contact. NileGuide learned that these visual aids were key. The sooner a contact got to "seeing something interesting, the more likely they were to 'buy' from us."

The results - roughly 33% of their inquiries yielded immediate results, which is an incredibly high success rate. These partnerships have yielded customers, brand benefit, content, and a variety of other valuable assets for NileGuide.



Promoting a Blog — Traffic and Brand Building

A blog is basically about building a community. Instead of a community of people who meet, it's a community of readers and comment-ers. So generating traffic for a blog can certainly use all of the "tribe" techniques, although when you are using it to drive traffic to your own blog, you have to be a little more careful about how you reach out. Connecting with other practitioners, industry experts, leaders of communities where your target audiences congregate, and directly with the communities themselves needs to be done respectfully or else face the "spammer" label which could get your ability to email and invite people on LinkedIn dramatically limited.

A great example of how to drive traffic to a blog or content site and build your brand via LinkedIn is the new content portal Ventureneer started recently by Geri Stengel. Ventureneer offers free Webinars and other content relevant to socially driven enterprises.

When launching her business and Web site Geri had three goals — 1) to build her brand, 2) to build relationships with content providers and 3) to build her "contact" list including email subscribers and Twitter followers.

Here's what she did:

  1. Build the Network - Geri spent 9 months carefully building out her connections on LinkedIn one person at a time. Mind you these were not *new* connections — these were people Geri already had worked with, served on boards with, volunteered with, gone to school with. Geri now has more than 300 close connections on LinkedIn — their familiarity with her makes them more likely to be interested in what she has to offer. She spent about 2-3 hours per week doing this for 9 months (72-108 hours).

  2. Plant the seed - when Geri was ready to start letting people know about her Webinars, she very carefully chose groups and carefully chose discussions within those groups to post to. She spent 20-30 minutes per week finding and posting LinkedIn discussions.

  3. Support growth with valuable content - Geri's marketing also extends beyond LinkedIn, and the things she used to fuel her growth include:
    - free Webinars
    - Twitter
    - regular online submission of press releases
    - a viral survey
    - a blog with regularly updated content
    - a staff member who helps her write, edit, manage and publish her content

Her results — having launched her site just a few months ago, she has more than 1,600 followers on Twitter (@ventureneer), more than 300 LinkedIn connections, and gets about 150 attendees per week to her free Webinars. Way to go Geri!