Business networking before social networking was tough work.
You typically ended up with a stack of business cards in hand, with the challenge of determining your next best actions – who to follow up with and how.
Soon after getting back to your office the phone rings and you are off the hook. You settle back into your comfort zone of taking care of day-to-day matters.
And you feel good about it because you can now rationalize your actions.
LinkedIn can be another form of rationalization. You make connections and are now free to forget about them and move on to what’s more important.
Business networking is planting seeds of opportunity that will emerge at the right time. LinkedIn allows you to accomplish that with minimal effort.
Here are 3 simple actions that you can take that will allow you to use LinkedIn for its intended purpose – planting seeds for new business opportunities.
#1 – Acknowledge Every New Connection
Whenever I accept a new connection on LinkedIn I always send a message that acknowledges their effort in connecting. In other words, thank your connections for making the effort to reach out.
If they happen to mention why they are connecting, you should acknowledge that as well.
In fact, if you are the one making the connection, it helps to add a reason why.
For me, this is often the result of them having read one of my published articles or appreciating my presentation at a small business event.
More than anything, acknowledging your new connections is a courtesy.
And that’s something that is often remembered.
#2 – Tag Your Connections
LinkedIn gives you the freedom to create up to 200 tags for organizing your connections. A couple that I use are small business associations I’ve worked with – and others where I believe I can make a positive contribution.
We all have our own ways of making associations. This could be related to your products and services, location, or timing – such as seasonal influences.
You will have to choose the tags that are right for your business.
To give you an example, over the last several months I have been unsuccessful in connecting with a particular small business association to suggest a joint venture.
Yesterday I discovered I am connected with their COO – something that happened years ago at her request.
If you make the effort to tag your connections well, you can cultivate them when the timing is right.
#3 – Annotate to Remember How You Are Connected
One of the objectives of LinkedIn is to be your social CRM – your customer relationship manager. This is why they allow you to download your connections into your existing CRM.
My guess is they would prefer you to use LinkedIn exclusively to manage your connections.
This is why a notes field is offered to capture relevant information. Use this feature.
A few months ago I made a new connection with an executive of an organization that sponsored one of my presentations. We met at the evening reception, and then continued our conversation over dinner.
Relevant information about your first connection is memorable – and highly valuable when you are reaching out to suggest opportunities for working together.
To grow your business you not only have to plant seeds – you have to cultivate them too.
These three simple recommendations will make your hundreds (or thousands) of LinkedIn connections a goldmine for your business.
All of this will require some experimentation with the technology – but you can do it.
If you want some practice, add me as a LinkedIn connection by clicking here.
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Until tomorrow, Jeff