Category Archives for "Latest Articles"

Jan 09

My Case Study: How Leveraging Relationships and Using LinkedIn Can Make You Money and Even Get You a Book Deal

By LinkedIn Ninja | Latest Articles , LinkedIn , Marketing on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Treasure MapI’ve been meaning to write this article for quite some time, but I’ve been holding out because it keeps evolving into bigger and better things and I wanted to wait and see what happened first. Well, the biggest thing that I could have comprehended has now happened, so I think it’s a good time to dive in.  Finding the starting point is also hard because you can keep tracing things backwards, but since my business is now LinkedIn and nothing but LinkedIn I think it makes sense to start there.

I found LinkedIn in October 2007 and became the 17,056,420th member. I was on the verge of taking an extremely large career risk and was searching online for different tools that I could use to accelerate the potential success I would have and I stumbled upon an article about LinkedIn. The risk I was looking at taking was re-entering the financial services industry (after being out for almost a decade) in my home town of Cleveland, OH (which I hadn’t lived in for 15 years), and specializing in a very niche market of charitable giving and working with nonprofit organizations. I had been a financial planner for 2 years with what was then American Express Financial Advisors (now Ameriprise) in Evansville, IN. I was one of two financial advisors who had successfully completed their first year in almost five years (from that office). After two years, my now ex-husband decided he needed to move on to another university to teach and thus ended (at least I thought) my short lived financial advisor career (every financial advisor will tell you that the first two years are H, E, double hockey sticks and that anyone who would want to do that again is crazy!).

So, with LinkedIn in my pocket, my strong networking and relationship skills, a great contract to get started with a new financial advisory firm, and my graduate education and experience in nonprofit  management, I went up to Cleveland and half moved back in with my parents (my fiance and dog were still down in Cincinnati and wouldn’t be joining me until my business was solid). It’s January 1, 2008, and the future was looking pretty good!

I was using LinkedIn and showing other advisors how to use LinkedIn. It was so different than any other marketing or advertising that we weren’t even really thinking about compliance issues and the compliance department wasn’t even aware that it was out there. Until…we had a young guy right out of college join the firm, connect with all of the senior advisors, and jump into the LinkedIn Answers section answering all of the financial questions in a super salesy way and acting like an expert (which, of course, he wasn’t) . A senior advisor sees what he’s doing (and how it’s impacting him as part of the firm) goes to the general agent, complains and the kibosh is put on LinkedIn. We have to remove all affiliation with the firm and broker-dealer. This severely limits how I’m using LinkedIn, but I continue to use it without any branding or specific identification as a financial planner.

So the stage is set and now we’re going to speed things along a bit to the chain reaction.

While still a financial planner, I attended a networking/training conference for women. I was getting a cup of coffee and turned around to find myself standing in front of Jessica Hanes. I had gone to high school with Jessica. We hadn’t been close friends, but were in the same friend circle. We rekindled and strengthened our friendship. She decided that I needed to meet Jill Banner. Jessica’s company (ServiceMaster) was a client of Jill Banner (The Fedeli Group). Jessica invited me to have lunch at The Fedeli Group to meet Jill. Jill and I became great referral partners (she handled business insurance and worker’s compensation) and ultimately a great friend.

The second half of 2008 “happened.” Markets crashed, the economy tanked, and things looked really bad as a somewhat new financial planner for the foreseeable future. Not to mention that I had found social media and was loving it, and my hands were being tied in how I needed to use LinkedIn. So I decided to take another risk and make a major change – leave financial services for the wild west of social media. It was new and hot. The only “experts” were those who learned it by doing it and this looked like it would be a heck of a lot easier to sell in this economic market than financial planning services.

In November 2010, I held my first seminar on LinkedIn for Financial Advisors. Thanks to my great friend Jill Banner, I was able to use an amazing 50+ seat auditorium that Fedeli had available at no charge. Without that, I couldn’t have done the seminar. To advertise the seminar, I only used LinkedIn. I sent it out to a lot of my network who were financial advisors, but I also used a great strategy to access financial advisors I didn’t know. Essentially, I ran a search for financial advisors in the Cleveland area that I was in groups with (I was in a lot of local Cleveland groups). Then I sent them a message telling them about this seminar. Even though I wasn’t connected to them, because I was in a group with them I was able to do that. I ended up with about 15-20 financial advisors attending, one of whom was Bob Moore, SVP of the Northeast Ohio office of Wells Fargo Advisors. I didn’t know Bob. Bob received one of the cold messages that went out to my group members. Bob signed up himself and another VP from UBS and then shared the information with several others who weren’t originally on my list. The following spring, Bob also had Wells Fargo hire me to come to their Northeast Ohio region marketing conference and train all of the Wells Fargo advisors on LinkedIn.

One of the people Bob shared the information about the first seminar with was Ned Van Riper who helps financial advisors change broker-dealers. Ned also attended. A couple months later, I decided to offer that seminar virtually in a webinar format. Now that Ned was connected to me and a past client, I shared it with him via LinkedIn and he shared it with Adam Koos who is a wealth advisor in the Columbus, OH, area. Adam attended the webinar and found it very valuable.

Adam was working with Matt Halloran who was a financial practice business coach (he helped financial advisors build stronger businesses). Adam thought that Matt’s other clients would benefit from my expertise and he suggested that Matt connect with me. Matt sent me an invitation to connect on January 27, 2011, explaining why and how he wanted to connect. I gladly accepted, responded back and we began a dialogue.

Shortly thereafter, Matt referred me to his client Gary Sullivan who is a wealth advisor in Boston, MA, and specializes in working with small business owners. Gary hired me to develop customized LinkedIn strategies and marketing plan for his firm which included his partner Karen Busanovich. Additionally, I did some custom training, profile development and their company page.

Matt ends up securing a contract with Wiley to publish “The Social Media Handbook for Financial Advisors on their Bloomberg Press label. It’s a “how to” guide covering Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn specifically for financial advisors. Knowing what a great resource I am, he decides to bring me in as his coauthor to cover the LinkedIn content. The book is scheduled to be out in July.

The book is a game changer for me and I’m looking forward to an exciting 2012. AND…it all started with a cold message via LinkedIn to a financial advisor who I didn’t know, who I happened to be in a LinkedIn group with.

So what about you? What are your success stories with LinkedIn? What wouldn’t have happened if this amazing tool hadn’t been part of your business or career marketing plan?

Oct 26

How to Message LinkedIn Group Members You’re Not Connected To

By LinkedIn Ninja | Latest Articles , LinkedIn

Several months ago, many people thought that LinkedIn took away the ability to message group members they weren’t connected to. They didn’t take it away, they just made it harder. Instead of launching messages to group members from a search list or the person’s profile, you now have to go into the group that you share with that person to launch the message. The following video demonstrates how to send a message to a LinkedIn group member you’re not connected to.

Sep 25

How to Opt Out of LinkedIn’s Social Advertising

By LinkedIn Ninja | Latest Articles , Uncategorized

This is a short video demonstrating how to opt OUT of LinkedIn‘s Social Advertising platform. By DEFAULT, everyone is opted IN. This means that your name and picture may appear next to company pages and advertisements that you follow or like. If you are uncomfortable with that and want to change your setting, please watch this video.

 

If you’re interested in hearing LinkedIn’s side of this issue, please refer to the article on their blog titled, Privacy, Advertising, and Putting Members First.

 

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Sep 25

New LinkedIn Profile Sections Not Just For Students

By LinkedIn Ninja | Latest Articles , LinkedIn Profile , Uncategorized

You may have seen the recent announcement from LinkedIn about new LinkedIn profile sections designed specifically for students. The article titled, Introducing New Profile Sections Designed for Students, explains how the new sections can enhance a student’s LinkedIn profile as well as how to add these sections to your profile (which I’m not covering in this article).

After quickly looking at the new sections, I realized that only 2 of those 5 new sections were truly specific to students (Courses and Test Scores) and that those of us long past our college days can take advantage of these sections to add depth to our profile beyond just our career involvement. These sections can be used to highlight your community and volunteer involvement as well as special “honors” – like speaking engagements – that may not be part of our normal work activity.

Here are the new sections that you can use for your profile and how the non-student can take advantage of them.

 

Organizations: It doesn’t say Student Organizations, it just says, Organizations.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about the limitations of the LinkedIn profile is the ordering of current positions. As people progress throughout their careers, they often become involved in significant community and nonprofit work where they hold a leadership position or have played a significant role, and they would like to share this information on their LinkedIn profile. Sometimes it’s because of the prestige of the role, sometimes it’s because they want to promote the organization, and sometimes it’s for reasons that aren’t obvious. Regardless, this becomes a problem because the new volunteer position transcends the “real job” because all current positions are listed newest to oldest.

Now, instead of creating an “Experience” listing for your volunteer work, you can use “Organizations.” This new section allows you to list leadership positions and even associate it with one of your career experience items – so they are tied together – if you want.

If you’ve had a volunteer position listed on your profile and you’ve gotten recommendations for that position, you may be thinking that you’re stuck with the old format – you’re not. If you delete the volunteer position, the recommendations aren’t deleted with it; they go into a limbo where they’re not shown on your profile. After deleting, you simply go into Manage Recommendations and reassign them to the Experience position you’ve tied the Organizations to, click on “show” and they’re back on your profile. If someone wants to give you a recommendation for the volunteer Organizations, they simply assign it to the position in Experience tied to the organization and reference in the recommendation that it is for the volunteer work.

Projects: Projects aren’t just for students!

The new Project section can benefit both your volunteer and for-profit work. From the volunteer side, this is a great place to list significant community projects you’ve been involved in that are clearly defined. For example, most city Leadership programs require the participants to work together on a community project. Additionally, you may be part of a major project at work that would be beneficial to highlight. One of my personal examples is that when I was at Cincinnati Museum Center, I was part of the team that helped coordinate the first tax levy campaign. That wasn’t a normal part of my job activities and doesn’t really “fit” into my job description. The Project section will now let me share that accomplishment more easily.

Honors & Awards: This is DIFFERENT – and better – than the Honors & Awards section that is already on the profile!

This new Honors & Awards section isn’t just an empty text box like the one right above your Personal Information Section. This Honors & Awards section lets you enter specific honors and awards and connect them to a specific position. An “award” is defined by an outside source, but an “honor” is defined first by us. If you feel “honored” by any organization or event, then list it here! To be honest, I think this is a perfect place to list things like pro bono speaker engagements and the like. I was already doing that in the original Honors & Awards section, but the character limit was too small.

So, how are you going to take advantage of these new sections?

Interested in more tips? Don’t forget to sign up for the FREE LinkedIn Ninja eCourse, join the LI Ninja Black Belt LinkedIn Group!

Sep 25

Effective Use of LinkedIn Groups Takes Strategy, Time, and Effort

By LinkedIn Ninja | Branding with LinkedIn , Latest Articles , Marketing on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Groups can be the most valuable part of your LinkedIn strategy to grow your business, but a Groups strategy can be the most difficult to understand and implement. Add into that the fact that it also takes the most time and I hear a lot of groans and moans when I suggest it.

However, a recent study from LeadFormix on traffic from LinkedIn to their B2B client websites found that 38% of the people coming to the site from a LinkedIn Group resulted in a completed form on their website! True, tangible leads are coming from LinkedIn Groups!

LinkedIn currently has almost 1 million groups! And more are started every day. Some LinkedIn Groups are big and some are small. Some are super active and some are dead. Finding the right LinkedIn Groups for you and your business – let alone the right discussion opportunities within those groups – can be a very daunting task.

To help, LinkedIn created the Daily and Weekly Group Activity Digests that land directly in your email inbox. But if you’re in 50 groups (the limit available in LinkedIn for free and premium members), getting those every day can be just as overwhelming. So having a clear strategy is crucial to your success in using LinkedIn Groups for sales and business development.

Choosing the Right Groups

First and foremost, the LinkedIn Groups that you select should be the groups where your target client is spending their time. Depending on how the group is set up and who is allowed to participate, you sometimes may not be able to get into all of the groups that would be most valuable. Most of the time, I see sales people in mostly industry related groups and they are wondering why they aren’t finding any new clients and customers. The answer is that they’re spending all of their LinkedIn “group time” with their competitors! A few of those are great for professional development, but I would recommend limiting the number to only those that actually helping you.

Essentially, you have to evaluate each group that you join and decide how you’re going to use it. You have to be an Opportunist. I have 3 main purposes for the groups that I’m in.

Market reach to prospects – What’s important is match to target market, size, and a low level of duplicate members in other groups. I’m using these groups mostly for hunting and if allowed, advertising.

Establishing myself as an expert – Those are groups of my target market where there are good discussion happening and I can demonstrate that I really know what I say I do. Those are groups like Sales Playbook. I don’t have too many of these because they take a lot of time so I’m very selective.

Groups for broadcasting/advertising – These are large groups that are a bit more general in their make up so that it may pull in some prospects in need of my services that I may not have thought about. They would be the large local groups and the like that address many different topics.

You probably aren’t going to like this, but the bottom line is that you have to look at and evaluate each group individually to develop the strategies that will work within that group.

Since the owners have free reign to decide who can be in their group, what they can post and how everything operates, you have to abide by their sandbox rules. In some groups blatant self promotion is fine and in others it’s not.

 

Case Study

Let’s use a case study of a popular LinkedIn group focused around the topic of improving sales. Now, nothing that I’m going to say is meant to be disparaging to the group owner in any way, it’s simply a distant, academic evaluation of how I have observed him successfully using groups. (disclaimer: The owner of this group did not participate or provide feedback in my analysis so his views may be different. To be honest when I shared this analysis in response to a question in my own LinkedIn Group – LI Ninja Black Belt – he disconnected from me and wouldn’t reply to my email messages. I can only assume that he was not happy with the light I shed on his activity even though it is very clearly a positive review of his activities.)

The owner provides sales coaching services and training, so his target market is sales professionals and teams. So he built a group around discussing best sales practices. He set very strict criteria prohibiting any and all self promotion. Even if someone is asking for your services, you cannot reply or provide a link back to your site. If you do, these are immediately deleted. Despite these tight restrictions, this group has grown to over 20,000 members and is very active. This is a group where active participation and giving first is a requirement to get any benefit. The owner provides one outlet in the group and it is a running discussion called “Pimp My Company.” Although I get frustrated at how tight of a line he is keeping with not even allowing you to fit in a little promotion where it’s asked, makes sense and you’re still adding value, I recognized the value of that one discussion item. There are over 1,000 comments in that discussion. When you add your comment to a discussion item, an email message with your comment is sent to all who are still following that discussion item (which is likely most). So, I became active for a couple of weeks and built some relationships and visibility within the group. Then I timed how I used that discussion when I was launching something important instead of doing a basic introduction of myself. The result was 3 people buying the program that I “pimped” in that discussion.

Now, the owner has sent out announcements to all 20,000+ members “selling” his free services and resources on his website – thereby promoting himself when he doesn’t let other members do so. He has effectively created a competitor-free fish barrel of prospects for his business. Bravo! That is what we should be aspiring to.

Now, if you were able to watch the owner’s activity in other groups, you would see that he doesn’t live by his own group’s strict rules in other groups. He posts links to his blog without adding a discussion. He promotes himself in the groups where that is allowed. He gives links to other sales related freebies.

To be honest, I was a little surprised when I first noticed it, but I have no problem with the double standard. There are some “true believers” who would find this different behavior practically sacrilege because they believe groups should be these sales free, equal societies. I think it’s brilliant and can only hope to aspire to such success.

It’s brilliant because he has recognized – as should you – that each group is it’s own sovereign entity and that it’s foolish to essentially apply a socialistic theory to a group that is running based on pure capitalism (and that would be those spammy groups that everyone says they hate yet those groups remain some of the largest groups in LinkedIn).

Conclusions

Bottom line is that there is no cookie cutter approach that you can take to truly get the most out of LinkedIn Groups. However, with a well developed, targeted strategy, dedicated time, and true engagement with the groups, you can benefit from participation and get new clients.

As of the writing of this post, I am conducting a LinkedIn Poll to get user feedback on what they see as the biggest challenges to using LinkedIn Groups. It has about 2 weeks left until it closes. If you haven’t answered it yet, I would love for you to participate. If the poll has closed, you can simply check out the results. CLICK HERE.

There is also a lively discussion of the problems taking place in LinkedIn Answers: Click Here.

Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments below. I would LOVE to hear about some LinkedIn Groups success stories!

To join the LI Ninja Black Belt Group where I give out TONS of free LinkedIn advice, CLICK HERE!

Sep 30

A Company-Wide LinkedIn Strategy

By LinkedIn Ninja | Latest Articles , LinkedIn , Marketing on LinkedIn

I recently finished a full day training the support staff, sales force, and leadership team of Oswald Companies, an independent insurance brokerage firm based in Cleveland, OH, with offices in multiple states.  I have to say that I am truly inspired with how they have embraced the power of LinkedIn and are working to leverage it in ways rarely found in corporate America.  Essentially, they are creating and leveraging a company-wide LinkedIn network that can be accessed by the business development staff.

I first have to mention that as powerful as this strategy is, it will not work for all companies.  It is a strategy that is highly dependent on a strong collaborative corporate culture and high levels of trust in the company leadership.  Companies that use head to head competition to motivate and incentivize their sales staff are not good candidates because there likely is not a significant amount of trust between employees.

One component that really makes this strategy work for Oswald Companies is that non-business development staff earn bonuses when they play an active role in introducing or opening the doors to potential clients if the deal closes.  Therefore they have a true personal incentive to connect with the sales staff and to continue to update and add to their LinkedIn network.

Connecting is obviously the first step.  The sales staff must be connected to both the support staff as well as the leadership team.  More importantly, the leadership team needs to be especially diligent in adding all of the new people they meet into their LinkedIn network because those connections are most likely to include connections with the decision-making authority that you would want if they are a prospect for your company.  Additionally, you want to encourage the administrative staff to actively add connections.  This may be difficult because employees in these positions are often not as active in networking and meeting new people in professional settings.  However, the new “blood” in the network is crucial for the strategy to continue providing new prospects.

The second step is for the sales staff to develop custom searches and run those searches at regular intervals to uncover the new prospects that have been added into the company-wide LinkedIn network.  The searches will uncover how the sales person is connected to the prospect – internally and/or externally.

The final step is for all pertinent employees to work together to develop the most effective strategy leveraging the strongest and most valuable relationships.  When possible, take advantage of connection paths that go through the leadership team.  I simple phone call or email message from someone at that level can quickly open the door and then they can turn things over to the appropriate sales person.

Interested in developing this strategy for your company?  Feel free to contact me and we can schedule a conversation to explore it’s feasibility and likelihood of success.

Aug 02

Does Your LinkedIn Profile Match Your Purpose for Using LinkedIn?

By LinkedIn Ninja | Branding with LinkedIn , Latest Articles , LinkedIn , Marketing on LinkedIn

One of the most common errors I see when reviewing LinkedIn profiles is when people fill out the profile as if it’s a history document without first considering what their purpose is for using LinkedIn. Now, don’t get me wrong, people are interested in learning about your experience because it gives your credibility. However, experience and history are two different things.

When you treat your profile like a biography, the problem is that it’s not likely to compel people to action. Further, if it does, it’s not created to compel a specific type of action, such as contact you about a job opportunity or to do business.

Essentially, I have found that most peoples’ purposes for being on LinkedIn can be boiled down to three main purposes: Business Development, Personal Branding, and Job Seeking.

Business Development: The goal obviously is to find clients and customers on LinkedIn to grow your business. If this is your purpose, then your profile should be focused on what you do. It should identify the services or products you provide, who your target client is, and what results you get. Your summary is your elevator speech. Your past is only as important to the extent that it builds the case of why people would want to do business with you.

Personal Branding: A personal branding profile is for people who are career oriented but not working in a sales capacity. This profile is about who you are. It should address your mission and values and identify your future career goals so that those opportunities can find you.

Job Seeker: The job seeker profile is a combination of the business development and personal branding because it has to address both what you do and who you are. Recruiters want to get to know both sides of you as a candidate. With the third party applications, LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to show recruiters that you are much more than a resume.

Ultimately, when people land on your profile, you want your purpose and message to be crystal clear. If you’re looking for a job, say you’re looking for a job. If you offer payroll services to small and mid-size businesses in the Greater Cincinnati area, then say that! The more fancy you get with your language and the more you leave up to interpretation, the less likely people are to understand what you want.