This social network can be a helpful way to grow your business, if you know how.
Business.com Community member Carrie Dunham asked, “How do you generate leads from LinkedIn Groups?” We answered.
Social media can be a powerhouse tool for making valuable business connections, if it's leveraged correctly. But it can be difficult to know how and where to make these connections.
Carrie Dunham, owner of the Carrie Dunham handbag and accessories line, asked the business.com community how to generate leads through LinkedIn Groups: "I am curious how others use social media and social networks to generate leads. I used to like LinkedIn Answers and Groups, but they got rid of Answers … they just released their new navigation, and groups are being buried. Seems like they are moving to being just your online resume and helping people find jobs. Social media is important, but I am just getting my feet wet."
We spoke with social media and marketing experts and outlined the steps to generating leads on LinkedIn Groups. [Interested in social media management? Check out our best picks.]
1. Join the right LinkedIn Groups.
The first step to creating leads from LinkedIn Groups is finding and joining a group full of potential customers. To do that, decide who your ideal client or audience is. Once you know who you want to market and sell your product to, find a group the caters to that community. [See related article: How to Reach Your Target Audience.]
"Using that profile, go to the groups that have a large number of individuals as members," said Bill Corbett Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations. "For example, if you want to market to accountant groups, you go to accountant groups. To effectively convert sales, you have to be in a target-rich environment."
Popular LinkedIn groups for small business owners and entrepreneurs include Executive Suite, Band of Entrepreneurs, and Social Media Marketing. [For more great LinkedIn groups for small businesses, check out this article on Business News Daily.]
Carefully read the group's description to see if it fits your business, your goals and that the people posting in it are contributing valuable content rather than joining as many groups as they can.
"Spend some real time looking through the groups and thinking about who is genuinely a fit for what you do," said Oliver Roddy, sales and marketing manager at Catalyst Marketing Agency. "A scatter-gun approach will not work, and people will sense a salesy approach miles off, so just be real."
After you join a group, you can run a filtered search of members based on things like location, job title, and industry to identify your ideal prospective connections.
"Knowing the right people to connect [with] makes it easy for you to engage with them," said Asim Rais Siddiqui, CTO and co-founder of Tekrevol.
Avoid sending connection requests at random to whoever is in the group — this comes across as salesy, and can alienate several potential connections. Instead, take the time to see who is in the group and who can be most valuable to you and your business, then send a carefully thought-out invitation.
2. Gain trust, create relationships and paint yourself as an industry leader.
LinkedIn Groups are a great way to promote your business and build your community online. By using it correctly, you can establish yourself as an industry leader and expert. This helps drive traffic to your LinkedIn profile and to your company's page as well as bolster your business's reputation in your industry.
"Groups are a significant part of developing your expertise, your personal and/or business brand, and your community ... which can translate into leads as well as network," wrote Bernadette Boas, CEO at Ball of Fire Inc. to the business.com community. "But you have to be purposeful, genuine and contribute value to those discussions."
It's important not to come off as pushy by only sharing ads for your business. Instead, share content that is valuable to the people in the group and answer questions. Doing so drives profile views and inbound connection requests, Corbett said.
"You want to be a giver and share relevant information that will allow those within the group to grow, develop a business and become more effective at what they do," Corbett said. "Do not post ads or aggressively solicit members of the group – get to know them first, build a rapport and then identify those that are potentially interested in your products and services."
Many groups on LinkedIn have strict rules against ads and self-promotion, and doing so could get you banned. Focus on creating meaningful, mutually valuable posts that educate others in the group about what you do and what you are looking for.
Each of your posts in the group should inspire engagement by asking a question, sharing a personal story or asking for feedback. If you are unsure what types of posts the group community typically engages with, spend some time observing the group after you join.
Pay attention to who posts the most often and what kinds of posts get the most engagement, and why. Take note of how many likes and comments they get and if their post is shared by other group members, then adapt the practices for your own business.
Matthew Mercuri, partnership specialist at Broadsign, also recommends being active in LinkedIn Groups by answering questions.
"It's a good idea to have thorough, well-researched and well-reasoned answers with a ton of evidence or personal experience," he said. "One-liners won't suffice. The time you put in to answer those questions tend to develop into actual relationships."
3. Connect and communicate with potential customers.
Once you are engaging with people in the LinkedIn Group and creating relationships, ask them to connect. Because you are in the same group, you become a second-level connection with everyone in the group, which makes it easier.
"Sending a LinkedIn invitation is an art," said Siddiqui. "It needs to be personalized and concise. Always start with a personal sentence and explain why you want to connect with them, [then] explain the value you [could] bring them as a connection."
After you create a connection, you can start communicating with them directly through LinkedIn messaging and share ideas, growth strategy support and teaching them about your product and services, Corbett said. This is also the time to learn about their needs and pain points.
"When the time is right, set up a call or meeting … see if there is an opportunity for a sale or a relationship with a referral source or just an ally," he said.
LinkedIn is, above all, a social platform that is designed to help people connect on an authentic level.
"To get the most out of LinkedIn as a lead-generation tool, don't think of it as a lead-generation tool," said Robert Morgenroth, executive vice president at Mason Frank. "LinkedIn is a social platform, so focus on engagement."
Look at your participation in LinkedIn groups as a mutually beneficial relationship. You stand to learn from and be supported by the other members, and they can learn from and be supported by you.
For more information about how to use LinkedIn for business, read this guide on our sister site, Business News Daily.
Additional reporting by Saige Driver.