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LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for entrepreneurs who know how to use it correctly. Unfortunately, most business owners fail to take full advantage of the site’s Groups feature.
Thanks to some fresh innovations, including a standalone app that lets you start discussions and provides new group recommendations via its algorithm, making the most of all that LinkedIn Groups has to offer has never been easier. The old rules still hold true, of course: Blatant sales pitches and low-effort comments remain unwelcome.
However, by taking the right approach, you can benefit by using LinkedIn Groups to establish new relationships, pick up valuable business tips and identify better prospects.
Right now is the right time.
From the outside, LinkedIn Groups might appear to be less popular than ever, as recent changes and new restrictions make groups seem smaller and less active. Yet, while at first these changes may seem a bad omen, they are not the result of a decline in the feature’s popularity. They actually reflect a substantial increase in LinkedIn Groups’ exclusivity. And that’s great for your sales.
Paradoxically, the illusion of a reduced population has led to a corresponding spike in perceived value. Groups are now split between “standard” and “unlisted.” Unlisted groups dodge search engines and require the group owner’s permission to add new members. Standard groups do appear in searches and only require the invitation of a current member to enter.
The key here is that people are more willing to share their strategies and talk at length about industry trends when their insights aren’t public. What’s more, LinkedIn Groups aren’t as crowded as they were a few years ago.
Less content appears, but the content that does get posted is more visible to the people who actually visit and engage with the groups. If you can offer them something of value, you’ll be publishing and stand out to to a more captivated audience.
Sharpen your focus to appeal to a smaller crowd.
All of these big changes mean that right now is an opportune time to leverage LinkedIn Groups.
Some 76 percent of B2B buyers prefer to work with people whom those in their professional network recommend, according to one study. So what this means is that you’ll be able to leverage the commonality of being in a shared group when you reach out to new potential connections.
To improve your LinkedIn game, follow these steps to make the most of the platform:
1. Define your ideal prospects. When attempting to influence a group, ask yourself, “What are my prospects’ industries and interests, and what groups correlate with those?”
Market intelligence allows you to treat LinkedIn Groups as you would any other sales demographic. Job titles, location, age and industry all tell a basic story. Conversations revolving around pain points and exciting opportunities reveal more specific information, which allows you to narrow your target to people experiencing complex problems in real time.
Swip Systems, for example, a custom softweare-development company, gathered data about what its clients wanted to talk about and started a LinkedIn Group. That group, Midwest Manufacturing Leaders, enabled the company to address the issues its prospects most wanted to discuss. By taking this initiative, Swip created not only a forum, but also a magnet to bring prospects’ conversations right to its doorstep.
2. Home in on highly engaged groups. Because group members already share a common purpose, the best content creators in any group will attract the most eyeballs and, in turn, the most interested leads. Nearly half of B2B buyers view between three and five pieces of content before they ever speak to a salesperson. So, make sure the content you share with a group is geared toward its specific interests and is relevant to its collective pain points.
Data regarding group size, user demographics and the average level of interaction with content will indicate whether a group is worth your time to focus on. With LinkedIn’s Discover tool, you can easily find some basic statistics about any group and request an invitation, if that’s desired. Areas of deep engagement exist all over the site, and if you can identify and contribute to these groups in meaningful ways, you’ll be positioned to reap significant rewards.
3. Maximize your involvement. Just having a LinkedIn presence makes a company 70 percent more likely to get an unexpected sales appointment. The stronger your company’s presence on the site becomes, the more that percentage figure increases.
Users can join up to 100 groups on LinkedIn, and you should join every group that seems relevant to your prospects’ interests — especially those where you can provide meaningful content. Sharing content with 50 groups can have a major impact on your business, so why not find 50 more groups with similar interests?
One client of ours who owns a software company joined 74 groups that he found relevant to his prospects and started posting content in those forums. He generated 1,213 new connections, many of which turned into sales leads for his business. With minimal effort, he filled his pipeline and freed up more time that he could use to focus on other areas of his business.
So, don’t dismiss that old adage; there truly is strength in numbers. Figure out where your prospects congregate, and then dive into those groups. If you can wow them with relevant content, you’ll not only create new leads, but also become a true thought leader in your industry.