“I need more leads!”
Whether you’re in sales or an entrepreneur (which means you’re also in sales) you’ve thought this to yourself or said it out loud.
I said it to myself for the first time in December, 1999.
That was right after I started my marketing agency MWI.
I was on the phone talking to my friend Aaron Walser, who had worked in an agency before, and I remember exactly where I was in a mall in Provo, Utah when I asked “So…how do I get clients?”
Notice how I asked that question after I had started a business?
Of course you’re smarter than I am, so you’re probably creating the plan for your business and mapping out how to get leads and sales before you dive in, but whether or not you’ve followed in my footsteps or been wiser than I was, I’m going to teach you the best way to generate leads using LinkedIn, because ultimately I figured it out (or MWI wouldn’t be around today).
Advertising is not the best way to generate leads on LinkedIn.
However, it can work well if your average customer lifetime value is around $15,000.
It can even work well if your CLV is lower, but LinkedIn ads are so expensive that $15K is where you’re more likely to do well.
If you’re going to do ads, my best advice is to hire someone else to do it, because it takes a ton more work than you think it will.
“Got anyone you can recommend?”
AJ Wilcox at B2Linked.
I’m not an affiliate, I don’t get a kickback, I just know AJ and know that he know’s his stuff on LinkedIn ads and is an honest, friendly guy.
LinkedIn ads are good, but imho organic is better, and when it comes to generating leads organically on LinkedIn I have two words for you:
You want LinkedIn leads?
Learn content marketing, and learn how to do content marketing on LinkedIn.
If you really want to dig in, here are some great books to read on content marketing (not talking about LinkedIn specifically, just content marketing generally):
These books will give you ideas you can apply to LinkedIn, but someone needs to write Content Marketing For LinkedIn…say, that’s a good idea.
While the book’s getting cooked up, let’s focus on what you can do right now to use content marketing to generate leads on LinkedIn.
Perhaps it will help to tell a bit of my story…
Back around 2013, LinkedIn bought the Pulse blogging network for $90M, and that acquisition gave me a reason to spend more time on the network.
At the time I was writing weekly articles for Forbes and I decided to test whether one of my Forbes articles would get any attention if I posted it to LinkedIn.
I copied and pasted one of my Forbes articles to LinkedIn and was blown away when it was read 14,000 times and received hundreds of comments.
That was many times the attention the same article had received on the Forbes website.
I repeated this process several times and LinkedIn always out-performed Forbes, and not by just a little bit.
I began to research how to write successful articles for LinkedIn and started publishing unique content there.
Some of the articles I published on LinkedIn were read hundreds of thousands of times and received thousands of comments.
Then LinkedIn pulled the rug out from under me.
In late 2017 LinkedIn changed their feed algorithm and stopped displaying articles in the feed as prominently as before.
Now, it was all about posts.
At this point, it’s necessary to clarify a few terms:
- Feed – The never-ending stream of content that shows up when you go to LinkedIn’s homepage.
- Article – On LinkedIn, this refers to what is essentially a blog post. They can be thousands of words long and include rich text editing with pictures, graphics, links, and video. When you create an article on LinkedIn this activity will show up in the feed on the homepages of your connections. That is, it will show up to a certain percentage of your connections.
- Post – A post is limited to 1,300 characters. There is no rich text editing available in posts. You can upload images or video that display that the bottom of the post. You can also include links to content, and LinkedIn will automatically preview this content at the bottom of the post.
- Algorithm – The automatic system by which LinkedIn determines what content will show up in someone’s feed, and what won’t. Whenever LinkedIn changes the algorithm, marketers cry.
When LinkedIn changed its algorithm to favor posts instead of articles, I felt like I had been robbed. I was just getting the hang of articles and attracting real attention!
No matter, one must carry on, so I began researching how to succeed in the feed.
I came across an instructive blog post by Josh Fechter, who had generated millions of views on his LinkedIn posts, and dove in to see if I could duplicate his success.
Fechter’s posts followed a certain format.
Every sentence was on a separate line.
Each sentence was short and punchy.
He started out with something catchy like “It was the worst day of my life.”
Then he would go into detail and tell a story.
There was always a story.
Then he would tie it up in a nice lesson that was helpful and inspiring.
There were no images, no links, and no video.
Just plain text.
He also focused on getting comments, which drive virality on LinkedIn (more about this later).
I copied his format, well enough that I enjoyed similar levels of success. I was also able to create posts that attracted millions of views.
Fechter’s writing format became known as “broetry,” and I mastered it to the point where both he and I were featured in a Buzzfeed article where a professor of poetry at College of the Holy Cross critiqued our work.
I was praised for my “concise and direct language” and how “the tension between the direct and professional tone and the latent emotional underpinnings of this poem spark an explosive recognition — the speaker, though he had failed at balancing family and career, has been granted a second chance.” The professor ended by stating “…we as an audience share in his joy as the speaker continues to invite us into the conversation and asks us whether we too have struggled with the very same questions this speaker raises.”
My posts resulted in far more than literary praise. I found clients for my marketing agency, MWI, or rather, because of my content clients found me.
I created an entirely separate, 6-figure business from the attention I gained on LinkedIn.
I received paid speaking invitations.
And of course there were all the new friends and relationships I built.
I suppose there was nowhere to go but down.
No sooner had I enjoyed a few months of success with my posts on LinkedIn, getting hundreds of thousands of views on even the worst of my short-form content, then LinkedIn changed the algorithm once again.
This time, native video was where they began to funnel the vast attention of the network.
Want an example? I was walking down an alley in China one day on the way to a lunch appointment near my apartment, and thought “I should make a little video about why I’m in China.” With no more thought I pulled out my phone and filmed myself while walking and talked to the camera.
I hadn’t shaved that day, so I looked a mess.
I was walking and filming at the same time, so the video was jerky as all get out.
I did no editing of the video.
All I did was get it transcribed by Rev.com and then I uploaded the .SRT file to get captions on it.
Then I wrote some text to go along with it and posted it.
300K views and hundreds of comments later, I had made new connections and landed at least one client as a direct result.
And it’s not just me, Adam Franklin had a similar experience with a LinkedIn video that went viral.
Video is hot, but while plain text posts have never quite regained their former glory they weren’t killed the way articles were, and as of this writing one can still gain a respectful amount of attention with nothing more than plain text posts.
If one thing is certain, it is that LinkedIn will change the algorithm in the future, and once again, marketers who have gotten fat and lazy with the status quo and short-term tricks will cry themselves to sleep.
But you won’t cry, because you know that algorithm changes get rid of competition and that you’ve built a foundation based on long-term strategies that can’t be knocked down with a few tweaks of the LinkedIn algorithm.
Like the hockey great Wayne Gretzky, you’ll focus on where the puck is going, rather than where it is.
Because you understand LinkedIn’s long-term strategy, you’ll engage in activities that feed it what it wants, and you’ll be rewarded for it.
What does LinkedIn want?
LinkedIn wants more users, it wants users to spend more time on the network, and it wants those users to spend money on LinkedIn’s products and services.
This doesn’t mean you need to help LinkedIn hawk its services, but if you produce thought leadership content you will be attracting new users to LinkedIn as well as keeping them on the network longer, and LinkedIn will love you for it.
No matter what algorithm changes LinkedIn makes, as long as you help it get what it wants, it will help you get what you want.
If you want to grow your business, find a job, or progress in your career, then engage in thought leadership on LinkedIn.
3 Ways to Create Thought Leadership Content On LinkedIn
Choose one of these methods to create thought leadership content on LinkedIn, or try out all three and see which fits best for you and your audience.
This term was coined by David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of PR & Marketing.
The idea is that when something relevant to you or your business enters the news cycle, you have content ready to go (or are able to create it very quickly) to take advantage of the news cycle.
Around the time the #metoo movement was gaining steam I created a LinkedIn post, asking women to comment if they had experienced harassment on LinkedIn.
Turns out many women, and a good number of men, have been sexually harassed on LinkedIn.
Prior to writing the post, I had no idea this was going on, and I suspect many other men didn’t know about it, either.
That post went to 3 million views, thousands of comments, and ended up inspiring someone to write an article in a major magazine, which brought a lot of traffic to my LinkedIn profile and helped me build up my reputation as a LinkedIn expert.
Newsjacking can seem like luck to those witnessing it from outside, but when you’re on the inside you know it’s preparation.
Is your business seasonal? Then prepare content for each season, update it each year, and be ready to pounce once it hits the news.
Perhaps your business isn’t predictable in terms of a specific date, like Black Friday shopping, but even if your business were related to earthquakes, you can still be ready–while nobody can predict exactly when and where an earthquake will happen, we all know that sometime within the next few years there is a 100% chance an earthquake will hit the news cycle.
Newsjacking is a way to get outsized attention and build your reputation as someone who is really on top of your area of focus, which will help your customers to trust you, and when your audience knows, likes, and trusts you, then they’ll give you their leads.
2. They Ask, You Answer
That’s the title of a book by Marcus Sheridan, and within the title itself is almost everything you need to know.
Figure out the questions your potential customers have, and answer them in posts on LinkedIn.
If you sold widgets, you might start with:
- How to buy widgets
- How to use widgets
- Who widgets work for
- Who widgets don’t work for
- Why different widgets cost different amounts
- The proper care of widgets
And so on.
There are tons of places to find questions you can use to build content for your posts. Here are just a few:
- Your customers. Do they ask you the same questions over and over? That’s a goldmine for questions you can post, and then answer, on LinkedIn.
- Your customer support team. If you don’t work directly with customers, talk to someone who does, like your customer support and sales teams. They can give you lists of questions that are great material for LinkedIn posts.
- Quora.com. Do a search for the service you offer or the product you sell, and you’ll get a bunch of questions back. Copy and paste these and then answer them on LinkedIn in your own words and invite others to answer them as well.
When answering questions, start your post with the question.
When you answer questions it will trigger your audience because they’ll see the question and say “Hey, I’ve got that same question!” and will rush to see what answers are given in your post.
Keep answering questions, and people will see you have all the answers.
Answer lots of questions about what you do, or the product you sell, and soon enough people will start buying from you.
Bonus tip: Start and end your post with the question you’re answering and invite others to comment as well.
3. Interviews & Research
This is for those who say “What if I’m not an expert?” such as when you hire a marketing intern and tell her “Take care of all our organic content on LinkedIn,” or when you’re a college student who just graduated and you get a new sales job and realize they don’t teach you how to sell at college.
I’m a trail runner, but when I began trail running I didn’t know anything about it.
Not long after I began trail running, I met the owner of a trail running magazine who found out I was a writer and asked me to write articles for him.
“Um, I don’t know anything about trail running, I’m just starting,” I told him.
“That’s ok, you can write the articles for the beginner’s section,” he said.
Each month I took a question I had (and I had a lot of them) and would research it, figure out the answer, and then write an article about what I found.
I was basically one month ahead of my readers.
The interesting thing is this actually made me the best writer for the job, because anyone with more experience trail running might not have remembered what it was like when they started, and they wouldn’t have been able to empathize as much with the beginner audience.
If you’re not an expert another way to create compelling content is to interview the people who are experts.
Check out Allen Gannett, for example.
Now, Allen is certainly an expert in his field, but he could do what he’s doing even if he weren’t.
On LinkedIn he interviews all sorts of interesting people and asks them questions to get them talking, and he’s got 75,000 followers on LinkedIn as a result.
This is how I wrote my book Chief Marketing Officers at Work.
I was no expert on CMOs, so I went and interviewed 30 of them to write my book, and became known as “The CMO Expert” in the process.
Whether you are the expert, or you are the gateway to the experts, you will become known as the expert on what you focus on, and leads will come your way.
It’s All About The Comments
Creating great content on LinkedIn is not enough to get attention and build a tribe.
I wish it were, but it’s not.
If you want your content to go anywhere, you MUST. GET. COMMENTS.
Not just 1 or 2 comments, but 20, 30, or 100.
The people you connect with are your 1st connections, and when you create a post on LinkedIn, a percentage of them will see it in their feed.
Your connections have their own 1st connections, and if those connections are not already connected to you, then they are 2nd connections to you.
Your 2nd connections do not see anything you post in their feed, unless…your 1st connections like or comment on it.
Then you get much more exposure for your content.
If your 2nd connections comment on your content, then their connections will also see your content, and so on and so forth.
Likes are good, but comments are much, much better, so ignore likes and focus on comments.
Compelling LinkedIn content + comments = expert status = lead generation.
Want me to help you kickstart things? Next time you post tag me in it, or the comments, and I’ll leave a comment and help get things going.
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