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January 26

The complete guide to predictable and scalable LinkedIn lead generation

The complete guide to predictable and scalable LinkedIn lead generation without paid ads

LinkedIn lead generation seems to be the next big thing for many businesses.

Despite being around for a long time (2003), LinkedIn is attracting new marketers and companies in record numbers.

New sales strategies, methods, and tools are created on a daily basis.

All areas of the B2B market are starting to see its appeal.

But while it's been around since 2003, many companies still haven’t fully mastered a predictable system to generate leads.

Maybe you tried LinkedIn in the past as well.

However, it probably didn’t produce the results you expected.

Generating leads remains of the main problems for marketers.

lead generation problems

Source: Hubspot

Before we get into the specific strategies, let’s discuss the reason why you should get serious about LinkedIn.

  • It's considerably cheaper than paid advertising
  • Building your LinkedIn account, a following of readers, and the whole lead generation machine, will become a stable asset for your business
  • It's not time-consuming - you can outsource and automate majority of LinkedIn lead generation activities

....and last but not least, it's exceedingly effective.

The next section will describe the data behind LinkedIn's effectiveness.

LinkedIn will grow your business - The numbers don't lie

Why should you start using LinkedIn in the first place?

Well, it's the largest professional network in the world.

LinkedIn has 660 million users, with more than 40% users accessing it on a monthly basis.

Linkedin lead generation_number of users

Source: Linkedin.com

LinkedIn now features more than 30 million companies!

LinkedIn creates a record of a new company anytime someone adds a new (past or current) company name into their profile, so this number isn't maybe too accurate, but it's the best and biggest professional platform we have at this time.

Nevertheless, LinkedIn aims to have 70 million companies, and they're not far from it.

Just because of this fact alone, you shouldn't ignore it.

While marketers are realizing its power, LinkedIn continues to linger behind Facebook in terms of B2B lead generation effectiveness.

Source: Wpromote.com

Marketers are slowly changing their opinion about LinkedIn.

While it remains in the second place in most surveys for B2B lead generation effectiveness, some studies report LinkedIn being more effective than Facebook.

When we talk about "lead generation" and marketing, it's important to consider who you want to target.

Business development targeting large organizations or senior positions is more likely to work with LinkedIn.

In terms of branding for B2B companies, LinkedIn is confidently leading.

LinkedIn also combines all essential marketing tools into one platform where it connects businesses with their ideal customers.

You're able to post content a variety of formats: video, long-form (articles), short-form (posts), networking (comments), slides and presentations.

LinkedIn creates a perfect environment for B2B branding efforts that will fuel lead generation.

In fact, a study by Hubspot with over 5000 companies found that visitors coming to your website from LinkedIn generated the highest conversion rate (2.74%).

This is almost 3 times (277%) higher than Twitter, which has only 0.69% conversions, or Facebook with 0.77% conversions.

The great thing about sharing content on LinkedIn is that it will get seriously evaluated by prospects and buyers.

52% decision-makers say that LinkedIn is the most influential source of information when making a purchasing decision.

Source: Demandgen Report

The options to leverage LinkedIn are endless.

Each method is powerful with a real possibility to drive leads on its own.

While you weren't the first mover, it's far from late later to start with LinkedIn.

Branding on LinkedIn: How to position your brand to attract more quality leads

As with anything, we need to get the basics right in order to have the result we want - a predictable lead generation system.

Let's will start with branding.

It's one of the key stepping stones that will support all your activity and underpin who you are, and who you present yourself to be.

How you present yourself will communicate to all your profile visitors a certain message.

Your goal is to improve the overall feeling and message of your business in order to improve your lead generation efforts.

What's branding in the first place?

''A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers''

In simple terms, being distinctive and easily recognizable and identifiable (on LinkedIn).

This can include:

  • Your unique message and voice
  • Products and services (unique value proposition)
  • Logo and branding of your Linkedin assets
  • Your overall identity
  • Consistency in your message
  • Communication strategy

Your unique value proposition is going to by far the most effective way to distinguish yourself from the rest.

Branding starts with positioning 

Successful branding that will fuel your lead generation needs to start with the correct positioning.

The reason is simple - your brand message, products or services, the entire identity, need to speak directly to your audience on and off LinkedIn.

What's the definition of positioning?

''Positioning refers to the place that a brand occupies in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of the competitors''.

Customers

Having a well-researched customer avatar is one of the simplest, yet most impactful assets in your business that will drastically improve your LinkedIn lead generation.

A good customer avatar doesn't need to be extremely specific.

Unfortunately, a lot of the customer avatar templates online are unnecessary specific, time-consuming and confusing.

Your avatar needs to have only the information which will play a role in your campaign.

So everything related to how they make a purchase decision.

It needs to include firmographics (information about the business) and demographics (information about people, your target decision-makers).

Firmographics:

  • Industry
  • Annual revenue
  • Company size
  • Location
  • Performance (e.g. growth vs decline)

Example: Top 3 fastest growing companies of 2019 (source: valuewalk.com)

  • Sales cycle stage (are they actively looking for a solution to their problem, or are they not even aware of a problem)
  • The legal status of the organization (e.g. publicly vs privately held organizations)

Demographics:

  • Title
  • Seniority
  • Pain points
  • Goals
  • How they make a decision
  • Information likely to influence them
  • Likely objections


linkedin customer avatar

Where many people make mistake is their source of this information.

Use hard data to populate your customer avatar.

Don't rely on intuition.

There are two main sources of data for this information.

Data source #1 - Interview your customers

The best way to get information about your customers is from your customers.

Identify who would be the perfect, the most ideal customer you would like to work with.

Other aspects to consider are for example:

  • Probability of winning that account
  • Revenue potential
  • Probability of client success

Connect with 8-12 ideal customers and interview them on the infographic and demographic data.

Data source #2 - Business performance data

Look into your sales notes for pain points and goals, break down your customers by industry, analyze your sales calls and identify who was on the call and who made the decision to accept/reject your offer.

You can go even deeper if you can.

If you have an inbound sequence running, analyze the content of your emails that generate most sales call requests, click-throughs, or opens.

Eliminating subjectivity is important in this process.

Having assumptions is useful, but always aim to get your assumptions confirmed or rejected by data.

Your products and services

Another element of your positioning is what you sell - your products and services.

Linkedin positioning

Source: feedough.com

How to design the perfect offer for your audience is probably beyond the scope of this guide.

But, I will assume you sell something validated your audience wants!

Let's talk about how to communicate this.

Your audience will respond to a specific (most important) outcome or a set of outcomes you can deliver in order to get rid of their pain.

For example: If you are selling a productivity SaaS for medium to large teams, you are maybe addressing several pain points.

But you want to lead with the most painful and urgent problem.

This can be:

  • Improving accountability and responsibility, or
  • Easier tracking trace of data, or
  • Simpler and more efficient communication

Once you understand what combination of problem-solution resonates the most, use this throughout your Linkedin assets (profile, business page, posts).

This outcome needs to be also supported by a differentiating factor or a ''hook'' that will entice your audience.

There are different types of hooks you can use.

sales hooks for linkedin lead generation

Don't mix too many of these hooks if you want to keep your positioning specific.

The last element of your positioning needs to be the process through which you deliver the outcome to your audience.

Your unique differentiator

If you're a service agency, add an extra layer of differentiation through coining a specific term that describes your process, in addition to the outcome you can deliver.

This process, however, needs to be unique, and the name should describe the process accurately.

Yantle is not a social media agency, or a cold email agency - we use both channels.

We use automation in addition to manual research - it's a hybrid model.

This lead to the Hybrid Automations™ Lead generation system.

In practice, it looks like this:

Think about specific elements of your service, results you can get, your method, pricing model, or your systems and how they are different from your competition.

Example: Conversion rate optimization agency

Their service involves setting up detailed analytics for their clients. Capturing this specific method can be named The PinPoint Tracking System, as that includes their unique systems and process.

Try to be creative and describe. Give it a serious thought, however, don't overthink this process.

The most important aspect is starting, refining comes after that.

By now you should have:

  • A clear definition of your target audience
  • A specific actionable outcome you can deliver to them
  • Your sales hook
  • The process through which you deliver the outcome

If you are tech/SaaS business, your major differentiator is likely to be your technology - the features you offer.

You probably don't need to be as creative as service businesses.

However, still, make sure that you accurately describe your product with the focus on why you're different and the results you can get.

One way to add everything together can be through a simple positioning statement.

{{business}} + {{audience}} + {{pain relief}} through {{process}}

For example:

''I help CEOs of cleantech startups to understand their finances through our Outsourced CFO service''

''CompanyABC streamlines communication of small teams through one centralized and easy to use platform''

Simply put, you need to be able to communicate effectively to your audience and the above is only one way to do it.

The power of your profile

The first and most obvious place to start is your profile when you start thinking about lead generation.

It represents your personal brand just as your business.

There are several sections, and you should use them all to their full potential.

I see a surprisingly high number of people that simply don't put in the necessary work and time.

All you need is 2-3 hours of committed effort.

Profile picture

Profiles with a profile picture get 21 times more views.

A good profile will make you more visible.

In turn, use the attention to create a great first impression with visitors that matter.

Your profile picture should characterize your personality just as the personality of your business.

For example, if you're selling to enterprise accounts, go with something more professional.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, if you're targeting health coaches, spiritual consultants or some other esoteric industries, a relatable profile picture to their business will be more appropriate.

In either case, don't forget to smile! Not only will you seem more likable, but also more competent.

If you're not sure which picture to pick, ask your colleagues or friends.

Or, use Photofeeler for an unbiased opinion to pick the best picture.

linkedin profile picture selection

I have to admit that I didn't pay a lot of attention to my profile picture for quite some time.

However, these subtle changes make an impact on the overall feel of my profile and how I am perceived.

For one, the number of connection requests I received went up significantly.

Profile banner image

This is the large image behind your profile picture (1584 x 396).

Use this real estate to communicate your unique value proposition, your major differentiators, taglines and/or contact information.

It's large and noticeable. It's most likely the first thing a prospect will see (after your profile picture).

As you see above, I use it to describe our price guarantee and the system we use.

It immediately communicates what we do for our clients and what makes Yantle different.

LinkedIn profile headline

Profile headline is clearly visible right below your picture, and probably the next element people notice.

Your headline should be accurate and descriptive.

However, test just how descriptive it should be.

There are two schools of thought.

First, which you will probably see on the majority of sales blogs, is to include your value proposition.

For instance, to use the positioning statement I mentioned above such as...

I help CEOs to streamline their finances

While this does communicate what you do and can attract your ideal clients, it's an obvious sign that you're selling something.

There is nothing wrong with that - we are all trying to sell something!

But people don't like to be sold to.

And this can prove to be counterproductive with outbound campaigns.

If you have this on your profile you can in some cases experiment decreased connection rates.

People will be very cautious and their anti-pitch defenses will go up.

However, having a descriptive headline with relevant keywords will help your LinkedIn SEO and it will attract people who are in business for your solution!

Look at the example below:


Cam doesn't only include his title, but also mentions what he does. 

Grant on the other hand also includes keywords.

LinkedIn is far less sophisticated than Google, so including keywords throughout your profile will boost your visibility when people search for these terms and overall lead generation performance on LinkedIn.

While there is an advantage for SEO, don't overdo it, keep your profile reader-friendly.

The second school of thought, which I follow, is that you simply make your profile seem ''normal".

Include your keywords through your profile, but in your headline simply state what you do and where.

If you look around LinkedIn, the majority of people (who are not selling anything on it) have it like this.

Not having such an aggressive branding will help to ''fly under the radar''.

Test what works for you!

About section / summary

If you're not sure, the About section is right under your profile picture and has a 2000 word character limit.

Use this section to define yourself, who you are and what you.

You can summarize your biggest achievements, show your personality, and let people connect with you on a personal level.

I really like Gijo's summary a lot:

When creating your summary, use the above for inspiration, or follow this structure:

  • Open with a description of your current position
  • Who do you help and how
  • Major professional achievements
  • Share your ethos, mindset and what's important for you
  • Contact information

It will be easy to read, to the point, and broken down into easy to digest sections.

Your profile picture creates the first visual and surface-level impression, but on the other hand, the about section will summarize who you are and what value you bring to the table.

Don't forget to add your contact information, just as keywords in the summary.

If you include keywords throughout your profile, your prospects searching for your services will find you easier and quicker.

However, stay away from keyword stuffing.

Think about the main keywords your audience is likely to search for, and use these throughout this section (and your profile).

Experience

People will use your LinkedIn profile for due diligence.

They want to find out more about you.

But will they spend 30 minutes reading everything?

Of course not.

But, use the fact that they curious to your advantage.

Keep your professional experience succinct and include only the basics in a short and punchy format. For example:

  • What were your role and responsibility
  • What projects you worked on
  • Any progression in that role
  • What you achieved
  • What was the impact

Skills & Endorsements, Recommendations

Are these sections absolutely crucial for success on LinkedIn?

Probably not.

However, having these sections filled out will add the small element of ''completeness'' into your profile.

Generating endorsements and recommendations is not difficult or complicated.

Start with a very close group of friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances; and then branch out to other contacts.

Having only 2-3 people saying something positive about you will improve how you're perceived.

Case studies, while useful, are not as trusted by prospects like 3rd party social proof.

Use every aspect of your profile to your advantage.

Simply pick someone you trust and know they will be positive, go to their profile, and request a recommendation.

improve linkedin profile


External documents and files

LinkedIn offers even more real estate on your profile with the possibility to add extra external media files.

Click on the pencil within the experience you want to alter.

linkedin extra media files

Scroll on the very bottom of the experience to add media files.

LinkedIn supports a range of files, from photos, PowerPoint, to video files.

Once you upload it, simply hit save.

improve linkedin profile with media files

The document files will be displayed at the bottom of your experience.

If you're struggling with content for these external documents, think about adding:

  • Process overview
  • Product/service factsheet
  • Case studies
  • Testimonials

Optimize your company page

LinkedIn's UI is (in my opinion) not the best.

Some of their features are hidden behind a number of clicks, and creating a company page is one of them.

Listing your business in your profile experience will not create the company page.

To create it, click on "work" on top navigation and scroll down to "create a company page.

After you select what organization you run, add all the important information.

Be especially careful with the tagline. 

The tagline will be the first thing your prospects see.

Make it short and very descriptive.

You can be more detailed in your company description. 

Use this section to explain what your services are, who you serve, and what company values you hold.

Next, make sure your branding elements are aligned with your website just as profile, and that you have configured buttons to point where you want them to point.

In our case, I left the default follow and website redirect. 

Generally, the content you post on your personal profile will be more important than your company page.

The reason is that your personal profile gets much more exposure, and secondly, it's personal and coming from a person.

However, still focus on posting content on your company page by sharing content from your personal profile, curating others' content, or by directly creating page-specific content (although with lesser frequency than on your personal profile).


Content marketing on LinkedIn

Posts and articles

Surprisingly not many people understand how to really use the LinkedIn ecosystem for lead generation.

Our clients often come to us with a need for more leads or LinkedIn lead generation.

Their deliverables include elements of outreach and conversation management.

However, a crucial aspect of LinkedIn is also content marketing.

That is - the information (value) your share with leads and prospects.

There are several advantages of building a following on LinkedIn in comparison to other social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.

There are over 9 billion content impressions on LinkedIn feed weekly, but there are only 3 million users who share content weekly.

This represents an enormous opportunity to start content marketing because there's a disproportionate number of readers in contrast to publishers.

For the time being, LinkedIn has quite a long content life duration in comparison to other platforms

Source: hcpassociates.com

In comparison to Facebook posts that last around 5 hours, your LinkedIn post will be lingering on people's feeds for around a day.

Companies buy from people they know.

 Your content marketing strategy will significantly help any outbound lead generation you will do.

Create useful content that will nurture prospects as soon as they land (become a connection) in your LinkedIn ecosystem.

As soon as someone visits your profile, they will see how active you are in creating content.

And if they are your target audience, this will immediately demonstrate your leadership and authority to help them.

LinkedIn Posts

LinkedIn posts serve the same purpose as Facebook posts.

They deliver value in bite-size pieces of information on a consistent basis.

how to write linkedin posts

You will be able to keep yourself relevant and maintain the attention of your prospects by keeping up a consistent posting schedule.

Due to the longer life duration of LinkedIn posts, approximately 4-5 posts per week are enough.

However, as more people move into LinkedIn content marketing and the battle for attention intensifies, it's possible that we all will need to produce content on a more frequent basis.

How to write LinkedIn posts?

Posts have a 1300 character limit.

That's really not a lot, and as a result, you need to be specific and to the point in your writing.

Remember that LinkedIn is a networking platform, so don't make all your posts very promotional.

Here are some ideas for post content:

  • Demonstrate client wins
  • Demonstrate portions of your product/service
  • Demonstrate your process
  • Demonstrate your business model
  • Position your processes vs "other" providers
  • Demonstrate your controversial stance on some (business) issue
  • Preach (against the status quo)
  • What you observed in the marketplace
  • Insights from your industry (observations or data)
  • Questions to your audience
  • Two-steps (giveaways)
  • Personal story
  • Show vulnerability
  • A thought-provoking insight

Mix up your posts so that you're engaging prospects at each stage of the buying journey.

The buying journey stages are:

Awareness - prospects who may not be even aware that they have a problem (educate them)

Consideration - prospects who know they have a problem, and are considering different options to fix the problem

Decision - prospects who are ready to buy from a vendor to fix their problem, however, they need proof and trust to make the leap


The length of your posts can vary. 

You don't need to always max out the character limit.

Additionally, LinkedIn provides two more features which will allow you to stand out.

1) Hashtags - use relevant hashtags to be easily discovered

linkedin hashtags


2) Media - you can upload images and videos to your posts. This will grab attention and improve CTR.

With video - make sure you upload the file, and don't link out to YouTube for example. 

LinkedIn favors content creators that encourage their readers to stay on LinkedIn.

You can go a step further and create a custom branding for your LinkedIn content.

This can be used on your posts, articles or videos. 

linkedin branded content


The data on the effectiveness of images in posts and the resulting CTR has been around for a while, and some research showing sometimes even 120% improvement on posts with an image.

LinkedIn, like any other social platform, wants to keep their users on their platform and engaged.

That's why the algorithm will favour posts which don't send traffic away.

When you are posting a video for example, use their native feature and upload it rather than link to Youtube.

LinkedIn Articles

Articles are for long-form content and should be used in combination with posts to build leadership in your space.

The main purpose of your articles should be to educate, however, you can also:

1) Establish your product/service as the leader in the industry

2) Send readers to your website or a lead magnets 

3) Introduce specific offers

4) Generate leads with forms, booking links

Just with posts, you should address each stage of the buying journey.

LinkedIn offers a number of branding and customization features.

You can see social media giants like Gary Vee do it. 

linkedin branding

The idea here is that you want to visibly own and claim as much of your own real estate.

I use our brand colors across my LinkedIn, whether profile, posts or articles.

linkedin article branding

You can also use LinkedIn as your own blog environment instead of your blog on your website. 

It offers the same functionality: displaying blog posts in chronological order, elements of branding, comments, sharing and so on.

generate leads on linkedin with articles

However, to get maximal exposure you can repurpose and distribute articles from your company blog on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn articles also rank very well on Google, so if your website is not performing well for specific keywords, Google may favor your "LinkedIn blogs".

The great thing about LinkedIn articles is that you don't need to worry about duplicate content and penalties from Google.

It seems like Google and Linkedin don't mind, and the overall consensus of other marketers, anecdotal and data-based, suggests that reposting on LinkedIn doesn't have negative impact on your SEO.

But to be on the safe side, you may want to first publish your article on your company blog, wait for 3-7 days, and then repurpose it on LinkedIn.

Additionally, to improve user/reader experience and to stay away from totally duplicate content, change the article slightly to make it more domain-specific.

For example, you can change particular sections, or just to call to actions.

Your call to action on your website is likely to be different from the one on LinkedIn.

Generally, we include close to zero call-to-actions for a discovery call on 3rd party platforms such as medium.com. 

On the other hand, our blog posts will include direct call-to-actions.

CTAs on Yantle blog vs Yantle LinkedIn Articles

Google wants to create the best possible user experience, so it will generally not promote search results where one link will lead to your blog article, and a second link to the same article on LinkedIn.

However, you will still benefit from more exposure having one article in both locations.

In terms of what to write, use the same list of ideas mentioned above for posts, but expand significantly in the depth of your content.

Research by Paul Shapiro published on OkDork analyzed ~3,000 of the best performing LinkedIn articles. Here is a summary of the main points and data they collected.

1. Keep the title between 40-49 characters long

2. Add images to your articles. 8 images perform the best 

3. Don't include many (or any) other multimedia assets (YouTube, Slideshare, Getty etc.) - data suggests articles with these elements don't perform well 

4. Focus on "How-to" and list-style headlines

5. Don't ask questions in your LinkedIn article titles

6. Divide your article into 5 headings. This article structure seems to attract the greatest number of views.

7. Longer articles perform better, keep your post between 1900-2000 words

8. Keep the sentiment of your articles neutral. While positive sentiment attracts the greatest number of shares and likes, neutral sentiment results in more comments and views. You can check the sentiment of your content by a number of different free tools.

9. Make your content easy to read - like for an 11-year old. 

There are some free tools that will allow you to easily assess the reading difficulty of your article. Aim to score between 80-89 on the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease test. 

This is a result from one of my articles.

For 13-14 year old, so it shouldn't be too difficult to read, but the aim is to push the score to the region of 80-89 for the best results. 

10. Promote your LinkedIn articles on other social media networks, especially Twitter. Tweets have the highest correlation to LinkedIn success metrics.

11. Publish your article on Thursday. In comparison to other days, articles published on Thursday get the greatest number of views.

Driving engagement with your content

The points above will increase the likelihood of engagement (shares, likes, comments), but how does LinkedIn work in the first place?

Understanding how LinkedIn works under the hood will help you to monitor, analyze and understand why one article worked, and another completely failed to drive engagement and leads.

As any social media platform, LinkedIn is concerned about user experience.

Their main objective is to display high-quality and relevant content.

The engineers at LinkedIn explain in detail how they perform the manual and machine content assessment to keep LinkedIn feeds with relevant, quality content while getting rid of low-quality and spammy posts.

This is how LinkedIn performs its analysis at different stages post-publishing.

1) At creation:

Linkedin automatically classifies content as “spam,” “low-quality,” or “clear” in near real-time every 200ms using Support Vector Machine-based linear text classifiers asynchronously with neural networks.

2) As it gathers audience:

At this stage Linkedin continuously predicts whether a post will go viral.

For this assessment, the following aspects are evaluated:

  • network reach of the original poster
  • members interacting with the content
  • the velocity of likes, shares, and comments
  • computed content quality score

3) Member-reported feedback accumulates:

As the feedback gathers, the following takes place:

  • Negative human-submitted evidence (flagging) is evaluated
  • Suspicious content is reviewed by humans
  • Viral content is reviewed by humans

LinkedIn depicts their spam-fighting strategy in this diagram:

viral growth on linkedin

How to measure content marketing results on LinkedIn

Now you understand what works on LinkedIn and what LinkedIn values.

But what should you value?

Moving beyond vanity metrics that don't matter but look nice is a constant challenge for marketers.

If you're able to achieve 2x, 4x, or even 10x the number of likes on your posts that don't result in any difference to your bottom line, this improvement is close to meaningless. 

Of course, visibility and brand awareness are important, but businesses need to generate revenue from their marketing activity to exist.

Top of mind awareness, improved positioning, easier hiring, are just some of the intangible and hard to measure benefits of "vanity metrics" that don't result in revenue increase.

However, we will focus on revenue-generating activities.

Your job is to define what is important to measure, and continuously monitor, review, and optimize it. 

Some metrics which are most likely to directly impact revenue are for example:

  • Click-through-rates
  • Inbound requests from a post
  • Opt-ins
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQL)
  • MQL to SQL conversion

To understand if a vanity metric is just that, analyze whether, for example, more views or shares impact one of the revenue-generating metrics above.

Don't stop there, break down and analyze your posts and articles to understand which content types produced the greatest impact on what metric.

It can be the case that a specific content piece, topic, or a style of post/article drives the greatest engagement and/or revenue-driving metrics.

Understanding this in detail will save an enormous amount of time and money wasted on producing content that doesn't impact your business.

LinkedIn lead generation: How does it work?

''Only'' creating great content that attracts is valuable to the right people will lead to more leads, and clients.

Producing content is a long-term strategy which needs to be executed continuously to build a solid audience of readers and prospects.

However, in order to really scale lead generation on LinkedIn, there also needs to be an element of outbound prospecting.

You need to grow the audience that visits your profile and sees your content as this will lead to more engagement with your posts and articles, just as direct requests and inquiries to work with you.

In our campaigns, we see inbound (content) and outbound (outreach: connections, messages, emails) as complementary approaches which need to be used in synchrony for maximal effectiveness.

LinkedIn outbound lead generation

Lead audit and targeting

Your lead audit and targeting will be based on your prior research into your audience.

By this stage you should have a very clear idea about who you want to target. 

A successful campaign will be based on two assumptions -

1) Your audience is on LinkedIn

2) They are on LinkedIn in sufficient numbers (Aim for at least 500 people to target, but this will depend on your business, circumstances, price point, etc.).

To perform the lead audit, confirm these two assumptions.

Plug the information from your audience research and avatars into LinkedIn filters.

While the default LinkedIn search is great, as it comes for free, lead generation at scale will require LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

linkeidn sales navigator


The monthly subscription currently stands at $79.99 with a 30-day free trial. 

If you're not sure about the value you're getting for under $80, here is a quick summary of my favorite features and why Sales Navigator is a must for prospecting:

Lead Builder

Wide targeting of your audience based on geography, industry, seniority, headcount, shared experience, when they posted for the last time and many more!

This alone, if used correctly, will make your outreach more personalized than 80% of cold messages I get into my inbox.

You can save your leads

Once you do all the hard work with selecting the right audience, you can simply save it for later.

No commercial limits

You're much more likely to get flagged by LinkedIn if you send too many requests or messages per day. However, as a paid user, these limits are significantly increased. 

Expanded search results

As a free user, you can perform only a specific number of searches per day. With Sales Navigator you can search as many times and as wide as you want.

Close to unlimited access to your perfect prospects under $80?

Sales Navigator is great for confirming your assumptions, and targeting when you start your campaigns.

However, if one of your two assumptions are not supported, you need to expand your target audience.

Once you confirm that your audience is there (by volume), it's time to actually start prospecting.

Depending on your campaign, you can simply save Sales Navigator lists and import them directly into an automation tool.

Alternatively, you can use tools such as snov.io to export them into a CSV and perform further research.

Or, you can use manual outreach.

Writing your sales cadences

If you ever received an enormous wall of text from your new connection, you know this kind of ''sales'' doesn't work.

You will never capture anyone's interest with long copy.

Your connections don't know you, why should they care?

Secondly, long copy signals that someone is trying to sell them something. 

An instant turn off.

Keep your messages very short and to the point. This is true for the connection messages just as your follow-ups.

Write the perfect LinkedIn connection message

Short and to the point connection message will always outperform long connection messages.

Another way to increase the connection success rate is through personalization.

Pick an interesting or common aspect from their profile and include it in the connection request.

Anything from shared interests, common connections, similar experience, or domain expertise can work.

Generally, the more personalized you can make the LinkedIn connection request, the better.

I'd stay away from pitching in the connection message. There are some exceptions (that we will discuss below) but overall, seek to build rapport first.

In terms of gauging your performance, here is what you can expect.

A good profile and very generic connection message will result in ~15-20% connection rate.

Broadly personalized connection message will result in around ~20-30% connection rate.

Highly personalized connection message and an optimized profile can result in anything from 25 - 45% connection rate.

However, here is the caveat.

If you go for the personalized approach, make sure you personalize it well.

There is nothing worse than a generic message which wants to be personalized and totally missed the mark.

Secondly, be careful about scaling personalization or cutting corners. 

Getting it wrong and sending an incorrect piece of information is a major turn-off.

One of our best performing connection messages on campaigns where we don't personalize everything to the extreme is simple, to the point and friendly like the example below.

Your profile, industry, message, audience and about 100 other variables will differ, so test and test again.

Try to test a new connection message for every 50 new connections. 

If you see something working, stick with it for the bulk of your connection.

At the same time however, test a new connection message with another 50 prospects.


Sales cadences

When it comes to writing your cadences, you want to remember these conversion elements:

  • Short is better
  • Personalization wins
  • Context is everything
  • Rapport works

Your prospect has connected and now is time to work them to a sales call, meeting, sign-up, or whatever next step of your funnel is.

Direct vs indirect LinkedIn messages

There are is one key concepts to keep in mind which will influence how ''direct'' you will go in your first messages.

How unique is your product/service?

Many businesses delude themselves by thinking that what they have to offer is unique.

Unfortunately, the differentiation they have is often not that unique, and if it is, their market doesn't care about the difference.

It can be simply too trivial or the impact the differentiation offers too insignificant.

However, if you really do have a unique product or service, lead with this in your pitch.

Software companies are more likely to have a unique piece of technology, rather than someone offering a unique service.

Replicating proprietary technology is significantly harder than replicating a service.

But if you do have something nobody else has to offer, and it can create a meaningful impact on your audience, test your pitch with direct messaging.

Include several key bullet points, but make the first message mostly about them and how your unique solution can help them with their pain (research required to know this accurately).

While this goes again a point from above - I'd argue that if this is your case and you developed a truly unique piece of technology, you can even include this in your connection message.

Achieve 40% Reply Rates on LinkedIn with one simple trick

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However, if your technology or service is not unique, you can't be so direct.

Should ''lean out'' and offer value in your first 2-3 messages.

This will lead to building rapport and building a ''relationship''.

You can even offer some freebies or lead magnets to your connections as you build the relationship.

Of course, this won't be as deep or meaningful as if you had a real shared history, but it works better than a direct pitch.


For example, compare these two examples of first messages:

Bad example:

"Hi NAME,

We offer very affordable SEO services for businesses like COMPANY. We are able to do...

  • Technical SEO
  • Content audits
  • Monthly backlink service
  • Content creation

If you're interested please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Thanks,
NAME''

....

This outreach message is basically spam.

It's extremely generic and doesn't offer any value and it doesn't try to build any rapport.

You'd be hoping that simply at this specific time they're looking for an SEO provider. 

SEO services such as this are in no way unique. 

Instead of going direct like with an undifferentiated solution, try to offer value up front.

Good example:

"Hi NAME,

I noticed you're heading the sales department at COMPANY. That's pretty awesome! I've been in a similar role with MYCOMPANY for around 3 years now.

Really looking forward to learning more about you in the next few weeks and months. If there is anything I can do for you to help you with your role, e.g. connection or introduce you to someone from my network, please let me know - always happy to help!

By the way, are you working on anything exciting at the moment?

Best,

NAME''

...

In contrast to the first message, this message offers value and establishes connection.

We're prompting to start a conversation which will not be salesy in nature. 

From here, you can continue to build rapport and genuinely discuss what your prospect and you go through in your business.

Then you can transition into...

  • A direct observation about their business, or
  • Prompt them to share any problems they have in your area of expertise (such as SEO)

From here you can offer a brief call to discuss if you'd be a good fit to potentially help them.

No big deal - no pressure. Much less "salesy"!

Structuring the conversation this way is perhaps 6-8 messages longer, but it siginificantly increases the chances of converting a conversation to a sales call.

Another way to start the conversation is by providing insight into their current situation, industry trends, or a similar company (ideally a competitor) you were able to help.

If you struggle to make the progression natural from connection message, rapport, to call, you can follow the SPIN selling framework.

spin selling on linkedin

source: klenty.com


Follow-up messages

Keep your follow-ups short and to the point.

It's important to test and mix the content in follow-up messages.

Here you can try different sales angles to find what will perform and hook the prospect the most.

You can mention different features, benefits, use cases, freebies, or include case studies.

The assumption here is that if the preceding message was read, it wasn't convincing enough to generate a reaction.

Therefore, don't do the same thing over and over again expecting a diferent result.

Provide a compelling reason why they should pay attention.

Focus on how you can change their existing situation to their desired situation.

Space out your follow-ups across several days or weeks, where each follow-up message has a greater time delay than the one before. 

Aim for around 4-5 follow-ups in the space of 3-5 weeks.

It's likely that if your prospect doesn't reply after this number of messages they're not interested, and it's time to stop contacting them.


Personalization

Personalization is one of the major leverage points you can have in your outbound messages.

You can personalize your messages in several ways, for example: 

1) Use case - show that you've helped similar companies in the past

2) Personal information - highlight common contacts, interests, past experiences

3) Relevant news and events - for example, recent press release from the organization, or public developments about their depertment, industry news and research

All the above personalization will work, however, we consistently noticed that one type of personalization works the pest - their pain

4) Current pain points - being able to correctly identify and craft a create a message according to each prospect's individual pain point will drastically increase conversions.

It will also outperform the three other personalization strategies.

Specific pain points, beyond industry pain points, will make your sales message truly stand out. 

Personalization in your message from start to finish can look like this:

  • Show concrete evidence that their pain is present
  • Describe how it impacts them now and what are the long-term consequences 
  • Show how you can fix it
  • Demonstrate how you've done it in the past with similar businesses

We've successfully used this exact structure in our campaign with MindBox to secure leads for their omnichannel marketing platform and also with Diligend and on their (FinTech) lead generation project.

Let's consider the Minbox case study.

MindBox is an integrated (one-stop shop) platform and solution to marketing.

Meaning, that they combine several marketing products into one. 

Chat, pop-ups, emails and so on.

Here is how we structured the personalized outreach message for them:

  • Show concrete evidence that their pain is present - we used builtwith.com to show that prospects use a variety of marketing tools instead of one centralized solution. E.g. one tool for chat, one for pop-ups, another tool for email marketing

example techstack breakdown for myprotein.com on builtwith.com


  • Describe how it impacts them now and what are the long-term consequences - we presented research evidence showing that disjoined marketing stacks don't perform as well as integrated solutions
  • Show how you can fix it - with MindBox of course! We presented different case studies, walk-through, dynamically personalized screenshots and feature descriptions to show how we can do this
  • Demonstrate how you've done it in the past with similar businesses - case studies, use cases, testimonials

The extent of your personalization will depend on your price point and your willingness to invest into each potential lead.

Naturally, invest more time and resources into research and personalization with high contract value opportunities.

Investment of resources increases with product/service price point


As always, remember to A/B test everything.

From message, demographics, sales hooks, to call to actions.

Outreach

The debate regarding how to structure your outreach usually boils down to automated vs manual outreach.

Things are never so black and white, and depending on your situation, you will want to adppt one or the other, and sometimes a mixture.

Manual outreach

Manual outreach simply means messaging your prospects by hand.

As you're building your LinkedIn sales machine for the first time, it does make sense to try things by hand at the start.

It will allow you to properly understand how LinkedIn works, just as to train your team if you wish to continue in manual outreach but delegate it.

Manual outreach is ideal for campaigns that require high level of personalization at every stage of the campaign.

LinkedIn automation tools in contrast to cold email tools often don't include advanced personalization features, so manual outreach in this situation is likely needed.

Automated outreach

Automated outreach uses technology to mimic human actions.

This means that a piece of software will be able to:

  • Open a LinkedIn profile to view it
  • Send a connection request
  • Send the first message after connecting
  • Send follow-up messages
  • Send InMails

Using LinkedIn automation tools will allow you to scale your campaign. 

There are several automation tools on the market that you can choose from.

linkedin automation tool

The scalability and option to send hundreds of messages comes at a cost however.

There is a trade-off that you need to accept.

You are sacrificing a good deal of personalization with these LinkedIn automation tools.

Many will allow you to include only basic elements from prospects' profiles such as first name, last name, company name, or their city.

With this approach, segmentation, understanding your audience and great copy will need to compensate for the lack of personalization.

Fully automated outreach is suitable for high-volume approach and relatively low-value products/services (sub $2,000-3,000) where you don't want to invest a lot of time into research.

Mixed approach: automated and manual outreach

This approach uses both automated and manual processes.

There are several ways how you can structure this, the most common case is probably:

Automated connection message + Manual follow-ups with research

Here you're scaling the top of funnel effort - connections. 

Once they connect, you can send them a personalized message or two. If they don't respond, you can plug them back into an automation again!

Get 40% reply rate and generate qualified leads using LinkedIn or cold email with the 20/60/20 rule of copywriting

  • Step-by-step system
  • Fill-in-the-blanks templates
  • The exact method we used to generate millions in traceable revenue for our clients

Analysis & improvements

The key element to improving your outreach campaigns is tracking your metrics. 

Reverse-engineer the number of leads you need in order to hit your revenue goals.

This will tell you how many prospects you need to feed your lead generation machine.

For this, you need to understand the macro metrics of your funnel and the conversions you can expect.

linkedin lead generation dashboard

You also need to closely monitor individual campaigns to understand what works, what doesn't and what needs to be stopped immediately.

Breaking down your campaigns and tracking every step of the way will uncover patterns in messaging and sales cadences that can turn your campaign from OK, to great.

linkedin performance metrics

The majority of LinkedIn automation tools offer some sort of reporting, and with time, we can expect the functionality to increase!

However, if you're building your LinkedIn funnel based on a manual outreach, you can still use a simple Excel or Google Sheets to record how many people you reach out to, how many connect, and which message generates the most replies.

Understanding your numbers is important as great copywriting, research, or personalization.

Conclusion: It's your turn!

We covered the entire ecosystem of lead generation on LinkedIn (excluding PPC).

Combining the power of inbound/content and outbound marketing creates superior campaigns and results.

Now it's your time to test this!

If you'd like to discuss how we can implement elements of this guide in your business, schedule a call with me.

And how do you generate leads on LinkedIn?

What do you think about this guide?

Did I miss something?

Let me know in the comments below!


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