March 06, 2009

You Should Be Using LinkedIn for Demand Generation

LinkedIn can be much more than simply a site to host your online resume, and connect with colleagues. While the site's core mission may be to keep your job history in one place, and to leverage connections you have to find new people, the vast, fast-growing, database can be leveraged for much more. At a time when many companies are cutting back on their marketing and prospecting budgets, LinkedIn presents a significant opportunity to find new targets and stir up business.

In late 2007, I talked about how LinkedIn is an incredible resource for sharp reporters and bloggers. Earlier in the year, I'd also given the company some suggestions to improve, many of which have since been implemented. But there is no question in my mind that most LinkedIn users are not taking advantage of the features that are there now.

Finding Targets By Territory and Vertical

LinkedIn's advanced search offers the ability to search by many different attributes, from the user's location to their title, and industry, not just their current job or school history. If you are a sales account manager, inside sales rep, a researcher, or in marketing, the right set of search combinations can get you a list of people, with titles and companies, giving you a starting point to get calling and e-mailing.

For example, if you own the Los Angeles territory, and want to reach technology VPs in the entertainment industry, enter the Zip Code ("90012"), choose the title of "Vice President of Technology, and the Industry of Entertainment. (See the search here)

The results are sorted by their linkage to you, starting with those you are connected to, and then to those who are connected to your friends. The more connections you have on LinkedIn, the more likely you are to have top matches. And once you have these names and companies, with their titles, it just takes a little Sales 101 to get their phone numbers and e-mail, either through the Web, or by being nice to their office receptionists.

You can see more examples here: (CTOs near Sunnyvale in Computer Hardware or Internet and VPs of Sales near Seattle in Airlines and Aviation)

If you're not sure exactly how targets refer to their industry, do a search first on someone you know, or are connected to, and use them as the template. That person you thought would choose "Entertainment" just might have put themselves in "Motion Pictures and Film" instead.

Finding Contacts by Title and Company

If you already know the company you want to break into, you can do searches on the company and reduce your targets by title. For example, on LinkedIn, you can search for "artist at Pixar" and pitch them the latest animation tool, or "scientist at Sandia" to find out who is keeping watch over our atomic weapons arsenal.

Depending on the query, you can end up with many targets, or you can drill down to the perfect one you need. (Such as the Technorati CEO)

Execute a Friendly Game of Competitive Espionage

Here's one I am particularly fond of. Even in the most cutthroat of environments, you can sometimes make friends with your competitors' staff, be it through trade shows, or other venues where you both need to show up at the same place and play nice. Getting connected to them won't hurt you all that much, especially if you hide your connections from others. But it can especially benefit you if they don't hide their connections, giving you a Rolodex you can walk through, to find both potential partners, and, potentially, naming their entire prospect and customer list by name.

The very best person to link to in this case is your competition's sales territory manager. I've done it. As LinkedIn shows you their latest connections, you can get good insight into which meetings they have held this week, and traded business cards. Or, you can go to their Web site, see listed customer references, and then cross-check those company names against your new friend's LinkedIn list.

It's pure gold. And if the person is high enough up in the chart, you might just want to hit Print on every single one of their LinkedIn connections pages and hand it off to Inside Sales. In fact, connecting to the competition is the primary reason I don't share my connections list. I want access to their business cards, but I don't necessarily want them to have mine.

If you're using LinkedIn in hopes of attracting a new job, or just to keep a PDF copy of your resume handy, that's fine. But if you already have a job, and you want to make it as successful as possible, you should be using the tools right in front of you. Don't be afraid to link up to more people, as it gets you more names as the connections extend and open you new routes of communication and search detail. I've been using LinkedIn for demand generation for years, and if you're in Marketing or Sales, I recommend you do as well.