How to Do Effective LinkedIn Outreach?

How to Do Effective LinkedIn Outreach?

Welcome to our special sales-minded series, featuring conversations with Matt Leddy, a Growth Consultant at OnlyGrowth!

There are so many channels available when it comes to social media, and often it can feel overwhelming to use in relation to your agency. Not only this, but it can be very easy to convince yourself that outreach on social media is ineffective or will come across as frivolous. However, not all platforms are created equal, and according to Matt, there is one channel that you should be using: LinkedIn.

What's So Different About LinkedIn?

The key factor here, according to Matt, is simple - the user base. Many social media platforms are broad-ranging, and aim to get massive portions of any population using on the regular (hello, Facebook). Some, however, are more limited in their attraction. LinkedIn is one of the latter platforms. It knows what it's for, and as such is attracts "all professionals, all over 18, all within a relatively narrow range of relevant verticals." This specific cross-section of social media users is a massive opportunity for people in the digital marketing game. When you reach out over LinkedIn, you are cutting out the time and effort spent qualifying these unknown potential leads. No need to spend a massive amount of time going through their activity, their likes, dislikes, hobbies, or favourite memes in order to guess if they'll be receptive to your message. You can approach users who are relevant to you. What's more, they're expecting just these kinds of messages. It's kind of the whole point.

Another huge benefit to using the platform? A big difference in open rates. The rate at which LinkedIn users actually open and read their messages is much higher than in other platforms or channels. Matt swears by it, assuring that the rates are "similar to email back in the 90s, or cell phone calls even a few years back." As marketers, many times the first effective step is making sure your message is seen, heard, or read. Knowing there is an increased likelihood of your outreach actually reaching your leads is motivation enough. But there's an added bonus involved, because LinkedIn, unlike other channels, hasn't been flooded by annoying messaging practices: "spammy marketers eventually ruin every communication platform, from land lines to push notifications...but they haven't gotten to LinkedIn quite yet."

How Do You Actually Get A Response?

Here, Matt is all tips and no tricks. His biggest piece of advice is that you should always be considerate of what you are doing, taking the time to understand how you would receive this message should it show up in your inbox one of these days. So what separates a good message from a terrible one? It's simple, Matt illuminates:

"Be helpful [...].  A message [from] a stranger bragging about themselves would not exactly light up your inbox, [and] it's the same for the person you're sending a message to.  When someone gives you something that's valuable or tells you something interesting, you generally appreciate it -- if someone walks up to you at a party and hands you a funny trinket they got in Mexico that reminded them of you, or mentions a crazy movie they just saw that they say you'd love, it's definitely memorable and rarely intrusive or bothersome.  So use that knowledge and try to give the person you'd like to connect with something that's actually valuable [to them]."

Even with a platform as focused as LinkedIn, you still need to remember how to really engage with people. You may not have to wade through a bunch of posts and shared images to get a feel for this person, but you still need to understand enough about them to actually give them something. They are already offering you their time - a rarity we are all well aware of. So always have something of value to offer right away, in exchange for them deciding to read a message from a potential stranger. They may have heard of you, but don't count on it - coming off as arrogant or pompous, and as if they are lucky to be speaking with you in the first place, is an express ticket to the delete button.

So saying "value" is all well and good, but what are some widely useful methods that can come in handy when approaching individuals on LinkedIn? Here again, Matt has some stellar points:

"If you meet someone whose interests, projects, products, or goals overlap with someone else you know, and you think both people would get something out of meeting or at least chatting, offer to introduce them.  It doesn't cost you anything, [and] even if it doesn't pan out for them it's always worth a shot,"

It's easy for you, and a brilliant rhetorical move. By offering to introduce them to someone who can potentially increase their success, you are easing your way in. It's the best kind of introduction you can have for yourself; you come across as a professional with useful expertise, and not as someone who is jamming their foot in the door to try and sell something immediately. It's helpful and allows people to feel comfortable letting their guard down. Plus, Matt adds, "there's always a chance their coffee meeting could be the very first step that leads to a successful new product or company years from now." Remember, you're trying to help these people grow and run more effective businesses. If you approach every situation reeking of trying to make more money for yourself, they'll smell it from miles away. It's the kind of bad reputation that sticks with you - and the worst way for someone to find out about you before you meet them.

You can also help them to clean up their messaging strategy. Matt again:

"[N]obody likes to walk around with spinach in their teeth.  If you've ever come home from a long night out only to find you've had a boogieboard-sized leaf of kale plastered to your incisor the whole time, your initial embarrassment probably segues [into anger] at your friends for not mentioning it.  Having a glaring spelling, grammatical, or punctuation error on your LinkedIn profile is just like [that].  You probably didn't notice it's there, and you'd really appreciate it if somebody pointed it out to you before you introduced yourself to people."

If you see a slip-up or a casual mistake that you recognize as potentially harmful, point it out. They may be slightly mortified at first, but they'll be so glad you did. It's an excellent way of proving your worth immediately, and a great way to stand out to someone you've just met. Plus, it's just great practice for you - this is the kind of thing that you should develop an eye for, and every little experience just makes you more able to catch these kinds of simple yet powerful things in the future.

Finally, you can provide some value through no actionable advice or suggested activity at all - just being positive:

"Congratulate them on good news -- if you see the person's company just completed a round of funding, or had a new product come out, or the CEO got quoted in an article, send them a hearty congratulations [...].  It's always nice to hear warm words of encouragement from a stranger; appreciation is a human need like food and water, and it costs nothing to provide."

The one key thing to keep in mind here is that, as with all of your communications, you should really mean it. Don't offer congratulations for the sake of congratulations. People will know, and hearing a disingenuous message is frustrating, belittling, and will feel like a waste of time. You need to make sure you are understanding and appreciating the milestones that you are congratulating these individuals on; otherwise, it will come across as hollow, meaningless, and off-putting.

What's the Next Step?

So you've found your people, you've engaged them, and they've shown interest in you and what you've got to offer. What's next? Matt points out that although LinkedIn is great for open rates, it is important to understand that this changes over time. "People don't check their LinkedIn inbox nearly as frequently as their email," so it is worth it to attempt moving your initial conversation over to email. Do it naturally; reference your conversation on LinkedIn so you have an in, and don't just seem like spam from an unknown marketer. Once the context is set, politely offer them some help or service - the goal here being for them to see the value in continuing a relationship with you. Reassure them that this was not just a fun one-off conversation, it is something worth following and nurturing, for both of you.

Remember, outreach is just an initial step. It is vitally important, but don't feel the need to stick on LinkedIn. Know what it is useful for, just like any other tool. Use it for that purpose, then gradually move on. You'll always need to put in this effort; no one platform, medium, or person will simply do the work for you. But it is incredibly useful to know the best way to make an impression, and make sure that it sticks.

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