By Garrett Smith
Looking to generate more commercial opportunities and grow your professional network (and reach)? Look no further than LinkedIn. The “social network for professionals” boasts over 500 million users at all levels across every industry. For snow removal companies, it offers a prime opportunity to connect with facilities and operations managers.
LinkedIn has been responsible for helping our company connect with and sign some of our largest commercial accounts. Here’s a quick look at how we use LinkedIn and how you can get the most out of your social media reach.
Have a compelling profile
Although some professionals on LinkedIn might connect with just about anyone, discerning managers, directors, and owners aren’t likely to do the same. When getting started, the first step is to create a compelling personal profile. Your LinkedIn profile is your opportunity to differentiate yourself and provide a reason for someone to connect with you. If you’re not great at writing (or don’t have the time), plenty of services will create a stellar LinkedIn profile for you at a low cost.
Update your company profile
Once you have addressed your personal profile, set up or get your company profile up to speed. This is a simple, easy process, requiring you to update about a dozen fields to fully complete your profile. With your LinkedIn business page, you can post updates about your business and our industry. LinkedIn users can follow your profile, and see these posts in their newsfeed, helping you drive awareness about what you’re doing (and selling). Start with one post a day, and work your way up to three to five.
Share helpful information
Many professionals who use LinkedIn never share anything. Others use the service to simply connect with targets and pitch them their services. Both of these professionals likely see little to no results. Remember, the purpose of LinkedIn is to share and discuss relevant topics with like-minded professionals. Only after you have started sharing and discussing should you move on to making connections. Begin by sharing interesting articles that you’ve read, and then slowly graduate to posting your own information and insights.
Connect with targeted prospects
Your profiles look great and you are actively contributing information via posts and discussions; now it’s time to consider how you connect with targeted prospects. No one wants to connect with an inactive profile (nor does LinkedIn want to show these profiles), so make sure you look the part to ensure that any time spent connecting is effective.
LinkedIn’s profile searcher makes it easy for you to find the right contacts, but make sure you do your homework first. Identify the companies, geographies and regions you want to target, prior to starting your search. Otherwise you may get too many results that don’t meet your needs.
Make a proper introduction
Everyone is a legend in their own eyes. Enjoy the story, but don’t believe in it too much. Most folks have no clue who you are or why they should bother to pay attention to you. This means it’s important to include a brief statement with every connect request that sells why someone should connect with you. Here’s an example:
“Hi Chuck, Garrett Smith here, President at WNY Snow Removal, and contributor with Snow Business
magazine. I’m reaching out because I thought you would find the information I share valuable, and there may even be a way we can help your organization directly.”
Take it offline
As you continue to connect with more targeted prospects, you will begin to realize that LinkedIn is really just a cocktail party. It’s a great way to get a relationship started, to break the ice; but the real work happens offline. Expect to bring the conversation to email or phone after the first couple of interactions.
One tip that we’ve found helpful is to export the data from your account and use it to contact prospects through other mediums. LinkedIn allows you to export your contact data, opening up the ability to market and sell to these targets through the phone, email and mail.
Stay consistent and keep track
You might find that your first attempts at LinkedIn success don’t come as easily as reading this article. It took me about 18 months before our efforts really got rolling. You can definitely get there faster, but don’t expect your first week to be filled with rabid customers looking to sign on the dotted line.
Success on LinkedIn, like success in sales, takes consistent effort over time. For example, in the first year of our efforts, I connected with 203 out of 271 targets. I had 21 first conversations, sent 10 bids and signed three new customers. This year, we’ve had over 50 first conversations, sent over two dozen bids, and already received 10 new contracts. That’s 13 new commercial customers from one channel in less than two years - not bad.
If you are looking to grow your commercial accounts and you’re not leveraging LinkedIn, you’re missing out. With millions of users, easy-to-use functionality and a rather low barrier for success, consider integrating LinkedIn into your sales and marketing efforts. Otherwise, you’re leaving all the leads for me!
LinkedIn is not the only social network that can generate new opportunities for your business. Following are other ways you can use social networks to sell.
- Facebook. The world’s largest social network continues to improve the discovery of local businesses, including snow and ice management companies, by users. You might have to pay for it (via ads), but there’s no denying the reach Facebook can provide your business. Plenty of customers (especially residential) go to Facebook first for everything. Many customers reach out to businesses through Facebook, rather than via phone or email. This makes monitoring your Facebook page a must, since these messages are easy to miss otherwise.
- Twitter. It’s not all snark and politics; you can actually use Twitter to promote your business and generate opportunities. Doing so requires some creativity and timeliness. Our industry is actually perfect for breaking news (about the weather), and interesting photos and videos (who doesn’t love plow trucks) that are exactly the sort of things that can quickly “go viral” or get enormous exposure. Videos we’ve posted have been picked up by CNN, the Weather Channel and local outlets.
- Instagram. You might not think much about Instagram beyond your personal use but as the fastest-growing social network, millions of people are using it every day. This naturally creates an opportunity for businesses. Like Twitter, the images and videos we capture in this industry are perfect for the platform - especially during a snow event.
Garrett Smith is co-owner of WNY Snow Removal and founder of Pitch + Pivot, LLC. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.