Building relationships on LinkedIn requires a different tact than with people you meet in person. You might attend a conference or a networking event. There, you work the room introducing yourself and learning about others. Before moving on, you exchange contact information and follow up.
With LinkedIn, you’re in a room with millions of other professionals. Who do you talk to? What do you say? Should you send a message? Start a conversation in a forum? It’s almost like trying to clean an overflowing garage. Where do you start?
First, know that there are no shortcuts or speedy ways to cultivate relationships in LinkedIn. The good news is that following this process will ensure you take a direct path to building relationships on LinkedIn.
Start with the reason why you’re on LinkedIn. What do you want to get out of it? Grow business? Find partners? Connect with investors? Invest in startups? In answering this, it’ll help you define your target audience.
And now you’re ready to start the process of building relationships in LinkedIn. Here’s the process:
1. Search for new connections.
Begin searching LinkedIn Groups to find the people who meet your defined target audience. For example, if you want to connect with managed services providers (MSP), look for MSP-related groups to join. Be careful. If you’re not an MSP and the group is specifically for people who work for an MSP, it would probably be best not to contribute. Still, you can listen.
Look for groups with a decent amount of members and lots of activity. For every group, LinkedIn displays the group’s activity level. After joining a few groups, monitor the discussions while noting the names of people you may want to contact.
LinkedIn’s search tool gives you another way to find people. Its search tool allows you to save searches, search by keywords, company, location, job title and more. Read Advanced LinkedIn Search Tips and Tricks for more ideas on how to maximize your searches to find the right people.
LinkedIn Groups can open the door to an introduction. When a contact you’d like to meet posts something you found intriguing, send a message that references the post. Use it to introduce yourself with a request to connect.
For people you find by searching LinkedIn, where you don’t have a group in common, you’ll most likely need to look up their email address. (LinkedIn Premium Members can send InMail.) Check the person’s profile and contact info for clues on how to contact the person. Once you’re able to send a message, explain why you want to connect while including a benefit for the recipient. Your message should include:
- Why you chose them
- What you have to offer, or how you might be able to help
- What you would like them to do
Do you and the prospect know someone in common? Ask your mutual friend to connect you. People tend to follow through when receiving referrals from people they know.
3. Build Credibility
Yes, it’s harder to build trust online when you can’t look someone in the eye and shake hands. But you can show you’re reliable, likeable, and competent through your actions. An easy way to do this is with education.
You gain trust by sharing useful resources like case studies and articles, forwarding news, sending analyst reports, and letting people know you saw their company mentioned in an article. Every time you stay in touch on LinkedIn by providing valuable resources, it nudges up the trust meter.
Another way to build credibility is to make and follow through on promises. Most people fail to follow up or are generic about how they will follow up. A good promise is one that you know you can deliver, is under your control, and doesn’t rely on other people to make it happen.
A promise can occur in an email, phone call or tweet. When you make a promise, be specific about when you’ll follow up whether it’s tomorrow or by next Monday. Then, deliver on the promise.
Life happens. Sometimes you can’t keep a promise for whatever reason. Contact the person as soon as possible, apologize, and make another promise that you know you won’t miss.
If you have an email list, you can add new LinkedIn connections to the list. When people accept your LinkedIn connection request, it gives you permission to stay in touch with them. But you don’t want to abuse that. Yes, you can add them to your email list. But it’s better to ask them first if it would be OK, and explain why the emails would be useful to them. Respect them enough to give them the choice.
Nurturing is the process of building relationships with non-sales-ready leads to keep them your funnel. LinkedIn provides some tools to support relationship-building.
You may get notification emails from LinkedIn letting you know who’s celebrating a birthday, a work anniversary, new job and so on. If not, you can see this in your Connections section on LinkedIn, under Keep in Touch, where you’ll find all of your LinkedIn Contacts. Use those and these six excuses to stay in touch on LinkedIn.
Check your home page for news, articles, and content from your connections. Like, comment, and share their content. Little things like this build warm fuzzies.
Endorsements offer another quick way to do something for others. Visit a person’s LinkedIn profile and simply click the skill you wish to endorse. If someone endorses your skills, that’s another excuse to send a message of thanks and check in.
You can go further as a lead moves along in your sales funnel.
Eventually, when the lead moves from cold to warm, you’ll mention your product or service and explain why it’s the right one. Education works well with prospects in the awareness phase of the customer decision journey. It also helps overcome potential objections and teach them what they need to know.
You can invite serious prospects to webinars and events, a great way to demonstrate your expertise. Effective companies have a marketing strategy that identifies what content they share with the leads based on where they fall in the sales funnel. When your LinkedIn connections reach the next phase of the customer decision journey, be sure to include them in the activities for that phase.
At the right time, you can share video customer testimonials, podcasts, white papers and product demonstrations.
Remember that you can enter notes about connections in LinkedIn. No one else can see these notes. You can also use tags. When meet someone, you can tag that person with “Awareness” or whatever you call the first phase of the funnel. When someone moves from “Awareness” to “Consideration,” then you can drop the “Awareness” tag and replace it with “Consideration” or your name for the second phase. Do this for your connections to know where they are in your funnel.
Do consistent nurturing to keep your company in front of prospects. That way, when they need you, they’ll remember you.
5. Move offline.
You’ve reached the end of the line. Your prospect is sales-ready. Take the relationship to the next level by requesting a phone call or in person meeting. Before you connect offline, prepare to share what you have to offer that benefits the other person. It’s easier to create value when you focus on giving rather than receiving.
The most successful LinkedIn users stand out because they always offer value. There’s a reason why answering “What’s in it for me?” still works. Thank them for their time.
Don’t forget – keep nurturing the relationship even after you move it offline. Sharing warm fuzzies never gets old.
What other ways can you build relationships on LinkedIn?
The easiest way to have a steady stream of leads is to set up a simple nurture marketing program designed to get referrals.
Most small businesses are built on referrals.
They are the easiest leads to close. They tend to close faster, and they usually buy more than leads that come in cold.
You can set up an inexpensive program that will reach out to people who could refer business to you on a regular basis. You can use email, you can use social media, or you can do it with regular mail.
You can do it for less than $100 a month (you can do it for free if you need to).
And if you do it consistently, you will be generating a steady stream of leads.
If you would like to have a program like that for your business, sign up for our new Nurture Marketing Workshop.
New Nurture Marketing Workshop
This is a 2-hour online workshop where we teach the basic concepts behind nurture marketing, and then go hands-on - walk you through the steps to design a nurture marketing project for your business.
At the end of the workshop you will have a project plan, ready to work on or hand off to your assistant.
You can use the workshop to design whatever kind of plan you want – you can focus on referrals or you can nurture leads, customers, the press, or whatever group you want.
You can use email, social media, SendOutCards, postcards or letters.
You’ll get a comprehensive introduction to what to do, then you’ll actually create your own project plan.
At the end of the workshop, you’ll have a list of topics for emails/mailings or an editorial calendar for social media posts. You’ll have a starter mailing list. And you’ll have a list of action items for what needs to happen next.
We will share resources – where you can get inexpensive writers (if you need that) or find a good virtual assistant (if you don’t have one yet).
Bring a friend for free
The workshop costs $197, and you can bring a friend for free.
So if you are a business owner, you can bring the virtual assistant who will be helping you with the nurture project for free.
If you are a virtual assistant you can bring a client for free. (Or get the client to pay for it and you come free.)
If you don’t have an assistant (or a client) yet, this workshop will be a good place to meet one. We’re going to have online chat throughout the workshop so you’ll have the opportunity to network with the other participants.
The first workshop is Sunday, November 20, from 2-4pm Eastern.
I hope you can join us.
If you can’t be there live, sign up anyway. You’ll get a link to the recording plus all the materials, templates and worksheets.
There is more information about the workshop, including the agenda and list of handouts and workshop materials that you will receive at
If you know anyone else who might be interested, please share this with them.
Instead we recommend that you find someone you can work with on a regular basis, who can handle a variety of similar projects for you.
When you are looking for someone you can have a longer relationship with, the first project is important.
You need to find out several things:
1. Can they do the work?
Yes, they looked good on paper and sounded good on the phone. Now you need to see if they can actually do the type of work you need done.
You need to find out… Did they do the work right? Did they pay attention to the details? Was it what you asked for? Was it the level of quality you need?
2. Do you like working with them?
Are they reliable? Did they understand what you wanted? Did they deliver work as promised? Do the two of you get along? Can you see yourself working with them over the long term?
3. Is the price right?
Did they take a reasonable amount of time to do the work? Is the price what you were quoted?
4. How much training do they need?
How quickly did they understand what you were looking for? Did they ask good questions? Did they listen to your answers and act on them? How much more education will they need if they are going to take on bigger projects? How do they learn best?
Choosing that first project…
A good first project is one that lets you answer all of those questions.
It should be something that takes relatively little of your time to pull together.
It should not require you to do a lot of training.
And preferably it should deliver something that will be useful to you whether or not you continue working with this person.
Here are 9 characteristics of an ideal first project for your new marketing person:
1. Requires relatively little background knowledge about the company and its products/services.
2. Has a process that is fairly simple to explain or is already defined somewhere.
3. Requires materials or information that is easy to gather and can be easily sent to someone by email.
4. Is not critical to the business or highly confidential.
5. Takes 5-10 hours to do.
6. Does not require the involvement of a lot of other people in the company or outside it.
7. Has an output that you can easily describe.
8. Has goals that are easy to define or where it will be easy to tell if they have done a good job or not.
9. Does not have a hard and fast deadline.
This is why we say a nurture marketing project makes an ideal way to start working with someone. Nurture marketing meets all 9 of these characteristics.