By Katie Felten, Co-Founder and Marketing Strategist, Strategy House

Value of LinkedInLinkedIn is widely considered the top professional social network. However, there are still many businesses, especially in manufacturing, that struggle to use it to its full potential.

LinkedIn is a powerful business development tool that acts as a living, breathing professional rolodex. When used properly, it can help companies meet marketing and sales goals, including generating qualified leads, positioning your brand as a thought leader and reinforcing industry expertise.

The key to leveraging LinkedIn as an organization is to create consistent value for your customers and prospects. Here’s how to start leveraging it as a sales tool rather than treating it as just another social platform for your marketing team to post to...

Set A LinkedIn Content Strategy

Using LinkedIn as a business development tool requires some planning. As with any marketing and sales strategy, before taking action, you must set goals that align with what your company wants to accomplish on LinkedIn. Four common goals include:

  • Generating more qualified leads
  • Establishing thought leadership
  • Promoting brand awareness
  • Reinforcing industry expertise

Brand consistency is also an essential part of a LinkedIn marketing strategy. Your company and employees should have a cohesive, branded presence on LinkedIn. Reinforce your brand by clearly linking people and content to your company.

Some ways to create a branded team presence include:

  • Securing professional headshots for each team member
  • Creating consistent branded content for your company page and employee pages
  • Crafting consistent LinkedIn headlines and company information on each employee’s page

Again, prospects should be able to tell what your company does, how you do it, and who you help once they come across a team member’s profile, no matter if it’s the CEO or a sales manager.

Understand Your Target Audience

The best way to create branded content is to first understand your target audience. You’ll need to know what information they need from you and the key factors that make them a good prospect.

This information makes connecting with ideal prospects much easier. With a simple search, it’s easy to get in touch with industry connections or introduce yourself to new prospects who may be in need of your services.

LinkedIn allows you to search for people by role, industry and location to find prospects that fit your ideal audience. You can even save searches and receive alerts about industry and prospect related news straight to your inbox.

Once you begin connecting with potential prospects, browsing their recent LinkedIn activity is another great way to learn more about what they’re interested in and what they’re searching. The more you know about them, the more valuable your content will be to those reading it — and the more qualified leads you’ll generate.

Generate Consistent Content 

Once you have established clear goals for the platform and know who you are trying to reach, the next step is to create consistent, weekly social posts that will put your team in front of the right people, at the right time.

Create posts that speak directly to your target audience. Demonstrate your industry expertise and show problems you’ve solved for businesses like theirs. A few ways to do this include:

1. Reinforcing industry expertise

Share testimonials and customer stories. Industry expertise posts start to establish your sales team as experts in the industry. These posts often reinforce the company's ability deliver, and we recommend they include social proof, such as testimonials or customer stories.

2. Establishing thought leadership

Showcase speaking opportunities or innovative new product launches. Thought leadership posts are typically something innovative or unique to the company or business. For example, if someone at the industry is speaking or presenting, or is publicly recognized as a leader in the industry, share a link to the event where they are presenting.

 3. Promoting brand awareness

Share updates about public news stories about your company, company culture, or community involvement. Brand awareness posts clearly state who the company is and what they do. These often focus on sharing very high level information about the business. This is also where culture comes into play. We share posts about the company's involvement with the community, their core value, their team, etc.

 4. Generating leads

Clearly state who you work with and how you help them and don’t forget to ask for business with a call to action at the end of the post. Lead generation posts very clearly ask for business, but effective lead generation posts should be targeted to a specific person and clearly identify how you help them solve a pressing problem.

It’s important to remain strategic and only share content relevant to your industry. Posts should be short and concise and tell prospects in a conversational way what your company does and, who you serve, as well as provide examples of your expertise.

Train Your Team To Prospect Effectively

For a LinkedIn marketing strategy to work, it needs to be a team effort. This means getting your sales team up to speed on how to use LinkedIn as a business development tool and teaching them how to prospect effectively.

Here are a few ways to start using LinkedIn for business development:

  • Host a LinkedIn training event for your sales team
  • Join relevant LinkedIn groups
  • Connect with targeted prospects

With a strategy in place, an understanding of your target audience, consistent content, and a prospecting plan, LinkedIn can help you create a solid brand presence and generate new business for your manufacturing company.

Katie Felten is the co-founder of Strategy House, a Milwaukee-based organization that serves to help manufacturers stay relevant in the digital age with content that resonates with the right people, at the right time, in a way that sounds authentic, genuine, and true to their brand.

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