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By the time this column appears I will have about 3,000 connections on LinkedIn.
That’s a lot.
Some are clients or people who work for client companies, and many are potential clients, but the majority are just…connections. But all 3,000 connections are important because each one of them is a gatekeeper to his or her own LinkedIn network.
All of my connections’ connections show up on LinkedIn as second connections or “2’s” to me. I tend to connect with people who have a lot of connections, about 2,000 on average. That means that my 3,000 connections are in turn connected to 6 million people. That’s 6 million people who they can help me with. I look at this as having 3,000 ambassadors who can help me if they choose to.
I want that choice to be an easy one for them. That’s why I give them things. More accurately, I offer my LinkedIn connections information they may be able to use. I have a series of primers, guides and how-tos for using LinkedIn. They tend to focus on one particular facet of LinkedIn, like advanced search or LinkedIn notifications. Typically, they run eight or 10 pages each, including screen captures.
Every week I write and offer one or two of these primers to 40 or 50 of my connections—for free. No strings attached, no trade-off, no sales pitch, and no call to action. It’s my way of thanking them for being valued connections on LinkedIn. Typically, 30% of the people who I offer my guides to will respond and I will send them one.
And then something magical happens.
People call, wanting to do business with me. The guides act as prompts. My LinkedIn connections remember what I do and maybe they are interested in talking with me further about a project or some assistance they need. But even more often, the written guides or even just the offer of the guides prompts them to remember that conversation they had with one of their connections where the connection was talking about maybe looking for someone to help them with LinkedIn. My guide offer brings this memory to the surface and suddenly I am getting someone saying they want to introduce me to a friend.
I have been doing this for over six months now and I get a couple of these calls a week. Sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don’t. But the fact remains that for the work involved—four or five hours to write a guide, an hour every week to send out the offers— I have started getting one or two new clients every month, and that’s a good return on my investment. Plus it’s a completely low-key, no-pressure strategy.
This is something that works for me, and there are a couple of takeaways I would like you to have from this story:
I have knowledge about using LinkedIn. You have knowledge about your business, knowledge that your prospective customers would like. Consider sharing pieces of it with them.
Use your imagination. What I am doing is turning my 3,000 LinkedIn connections into my sales force and setting them loose on 6 million people. Your customers, your fans, your followers, wherever they are, can do the same for you.
Bruce Johnston is a sales coach and strategist specializing in social media and especially, LinkedIn. He has 30 years of experience in high-tech sales and management. To reach Johnston, click here, or find him on LinkedIn.