By Brandon Timinsky, Co-Founder of GasNinjas.

There are a million ways to make connections online, but the outbound prospecting I did on Linkedin led to multiple high-value B2B deals and the eventual acquisition of my startup. Whether you're shooting for new customers, trying to land an investment or playing the field for exit opportunities, this platform is arguably one of the most important arrows in your quiver. If you haven't already discovered them, here are a few simple steps for making the most of your account.

Define Your Purpose and Find Your Target Audience

This is a professional profile, so make sure you have a professional photo. LinkedIn asks everyone to fill in their work experience, skills, etc., but I can't express enough how important it is to take the time to do this well. Make sure the summaries in your experience section align with your personal brand and join relevant LinkedIn groups to show involvement in your industry. It also helps to get some skill endorsements. Endorsing your connections usually results in reciprocity (start with your friends). Lastly, make sure to expand your network and connect all of your existing contacts from your phonebook and email accounts. You never know knows who. In business, connections are everything. The more people you add on LinkedIn, the more connections you'll be able to leverage for warm introductions or other opportunities.

Validate Your Market Using Advanced Search

Your mother and grandmother will always love your idea, but you need real feedback from real customers. Before my co-founder and I invested a single dollar, we used advanced search to target directors at the largest property management companies in Miami. We pitched our service as an amenity they could market to their condo residents without taking on any additional administrative burden. And they loved it. The interest validated our idea, so we moved forward and purchased our first fuel trucks. As our company matured, we pivoted to focus on fueling large corporate fleets. LinkedIn has become instrumental in getting in contact with operations executives at some of the largest companies in the world.

Dynamic Capital Duo: LinkedIn Plus Crunchbase

Not all investors are created equal, so make your efforts more effective by identifying ones who have done similar deals to yours. Take some time to create a spreadsheet and research competitors or other startups that are similar to yours in some way. If they've raised money, you'll typically find their list of investors on Crunchbase. Click around to find partners or co-investors and collect all of their LinkedIn profiles while building your list. RocketReach is a neat tool for LinkedIn that lets you find almost anyone's email. Lastly, make note of any mutual connections that you have for potential warm introductions before reaching out.

If Opportunity Doesn't Knock, Build a Door

At one point, I was prospecting product management teams at big oil companies in hopes of landing a fueling partnership. Surprisingly enough, as one of the discussions advanced, the interest in our company pivoted toward talks of an acquisition. The deal began to materialize over the next few weeks but fell apart in the last mile, leaving us with a virtual mountain of due diligence documents. Instead of letting them go to waste, I turned again to LinkedIn to seek out the Mergers and Acquisitions teams at every other big oil company to see if they'd like to place a bid. I even reached out to our competitor on the west coast who had raised some serious venture capital funding, which is actually where we got our best offer from. We closed the deal a few weeks later with better terms than we'd expected.

LinkedIn has proven to be an invaluable tool to make business connections and see through my projects, and if you use your tools the right way they can be really effective. Our biggest and best opportunities came from our outbound efforts on the platform. And even though we ended up choosing to stay self-funded, I made invaluable connections with potential investors for future projects. 

Brandon Timinsky Co-Founded GasNinjas (Acquired), an on-demand fuel delivery startup.

Published on: May 3, 2018