Occasionally I like to write about things other than email marketing … shocker! This time I thought it would be great to talk about LinkedIn, and how small businesses can harness the power of this valuable business networking tool.

A lot of small business owners ask the same question: What is LinkedIn and how can I use it to help my business grow? Well, since LinkedIn’s inception in 2003 there are over 80 million people using this business social networking site that allows for super easy business networking. That’s a lot of people to get access to. So here are just a few ways you can utilize this great solution.

How Do You Start?

Create Your Profile – What’s important for using LinkedIn successfully depends on the amount of information you contribute to your profile. You’ll surely want to display where you work now and your past work experiences, as well as your interests and company website.  But after that it’s up to your comfort level for the type of information you want to include.

Make sure you define what you want to get out of LinkedIn. Most people use it as a business tool. If that’s how you want to use it then that’s what you should be thinking about when you accept “Invitations to Connect” from people that may or may not know you. Now that you’ve created your free account, the real stuff happens.

Personal Accounts are free with limitations, but you can upgrade to a Business Account for more functionality. Check out pricing and functionality here.

Human Resources

Reference Searches – If you want to get a snapshot of what a new prospective employee is like, check out their LinkedIn profile. See if what they have on their profile matches their resume. To take it one step further, if you upgrade to a Business Account, you can do a Reference Search to find out who they’ve worked with in the past. Then you might even see that you’re connected with someone they know and you can then send that contact an “Inmail”, an email that is generated through the LinkedIn network, with some questions you might have about your candidate.

Find New Employees – You can post a job description on LinkedIn then send it out to all of your connections or a subset of them. It’s $195 for a 30-day listing. Here’s where it pays to have some great connections. If one of your contacts knows someone that might be perfect for the job, they’ll forward the job description to them. Then you’ll get your contacts referring people they know for the job.


Learn About Your Prospects –  If you’ve been talking to a prospective customer, it pays to know as much about them as possible. Check out their LinkedIn profile, you might even find you have a connection in common or are a few degrees away from it. This might even help you close the deal.

Find New Prospects – Investigate a company you want to do business with, it’s simple with LinkedIn. You can even do an advanced search on the type of title you’ll need to be speaking to. For example, if you need someone on the marketing team you might type in “VP Marketing” or “Vice President Marketing”. Once you’ve found them you can send them an “Inmail”. Then it’s up to your prospect to decide if they want to communicate back with you. You’d be amazed at the response you’ll get if you articulate clearly why you want to talk to them. Note: If they don’t want to be contacted they’ll have already added that to their profile, and you won’t be able to contact them using Inmail but many people are on LinkedIn for the purpose of networking. You’ll need to upgrade to a Business Account for Inmails, but IMO it’s worth it.

Get Introduced – If you’re looking at someone you might want to do business with, you might find that you’re connected with someone who knows them. Then you can ask your connection for an introduction to them. Sometimes it’s easier to get in front of someone if they know someone you know.


Get Advice – The “Questions & Answers” feature is a fantastic tool you can use to get your name out in your LinkedIn Network. If you have questions on anything about your business or industry you can simply ask your LinkedIn network.

Give Advice – The “Answers” feature enables you to establish yourself as an expert in your industry. I’ve had a few people forward me questions on direct marketing and email marketing because they thought I’d be a great resource to answer them. Then people rate your answer and you can have it display in your profile. One thing to note here, when you’re answering questions try not to be too self-serving and salesy. It’s ok to talk about your company just try not to be too pushy, it seems disingenuous.

Here’s a funny story about LinkedIn. The building next to where I live was having their windows washed very early on a Saturday morning with a very loud machine. Now I don’t know about you, but Saturday mornings for me need to be a bit quiet. Somewhat angry and pretty tired, I wanted to find the CEO of the company that was having the work done. I looked him up on LinkedIn, sent him an Inmail and that same day he emailed me back apologizing for how early they were starting and promised they’d never start work that early on a weekend again.

If you’ve got any great LinkedIn stories please share!

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