Client acquisition is a top goal for all of our clients and for my firm. I’ll bet it’s one of your top goals too. But if your situation is like many firm leaders today of mid-size service organizations, you don’t just want to acquire clients. You want to acquire the right clients.
I call these ideal clients and they are much better than just any old client. Ideal clients want and need your services. They have budget. They have a presenting issue for which your services are a great fit and a timeline in which they must act. They want a long-term relationship and they’re easy to get along with. They are willing to engage in serious dialogue and even champion a deal for your firm.
If that sounds like someone you’d like to connect with, I have great news. There are probably thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people on LinkedIn today who fit that profile. LinkedIn is the single biggest market-square in the world today for service professionals. If you haven’t tapped the power of LinkedIn yet, you are missing huge opportunities. I’m going to show you how to fix that right now.
THE OPPORTUNITIES COMING OUT OF LINKEDIN ARE A MUCH BETTER FIT TO OUR IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE.
I believe most social media properties are a waste of time. I’m biased that way. I’ll admit it. I don’t have a Facebook account. I spend little time on Twitter and no time on Pinterest, Instagram or other social sites. Like I said, I’m biased.
Actually, I’m an incredibly busy entrepreneur with big goals and way too much on my plate. Sound familiar? I don’t have time to waste and I want to see a return on time for wherever I expend effort. My metric is simple. If it doesn’t work, I’m not doing it. Period.
This attitude has been both a help and a hindrance to me over the years. It has allowed me to remain incredibly focused and grow my firm. But it’s also held me back from trying things I should have tried, areas where I should have been more open to experimentation. LinkedIn is a great example.
When I first joined LinkedIn many years ago, I used it like a professional rolodex. I only connected or would accept connections with people that I knew offline. My offline relationships and online relationships were a near mirror of each other.
But about 7 years ago, I started to hear about how LinkedIn was a great resource for connecting with new clients. I was intrigued, but I didn’t know where to start. So I did what I always do. I bought books from the experts and read them. I took copious notes and made an execution plan and put my shoulder to the wheel.
With my team, we executed the strategy and the results were almost immediately positive. Within fewer than 12 months, our pipeline of prospective ideal clients nearly quadrupled. But that was not the best part.
Even though I was already pretty well known in certain professional services circles and was getting deal-flow from these circles, I began to notice how the opportunities coming primarily of out LinkedIn were unique:
- The prospects were a much better fit to our ideal client profile.
- The prospects leaned in to our firm much faster. They dragged us through the sales funnel instead of me pulling them through the sales funnel.
- The prospects were already implicitly bought-in to the strategies and the approach that we recommended to them.
- The prospects accepted my status as a thought leader and gave credence to my counsel much faster and with less resistance than prospects from other channels.
- Deals closed faster with better profits and greater anticipation of success.
I don’t have time to share with you in this short piece all of the strategies that we used. But I can help you get a head-start right now by focusing on these 7 areas:
- Get clarity on the demographics of your ideal client.
- Get clarity on your promise.
- Build a great content marketing program.
- Update your profile to include the promise.
- Join the right groups.
- Deploy your content strategy.
- Respect the neutral territory line.
Let’s explore these in greater detail.
GET CLARITY ON THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
There are 7 core characteristics of ideal clients and 7 desirable outcomes that result from focusing on ideal clients. In other posts, I’ve identified a seven-step process for building an ideal client profile.
For the sake of our discussion here and for honing-in on what it takes to succeed on LinkedIn, I want to focus on the demographics of the ideal client. This is a crucial step to being able to find them on LinkedIn.
Demographics of an ideal client profile should include at least these descriptors:
- Responsibility, department or function
- Company employee count for where they work
- Years of experience
- Annual revenue
Once you have these factors dialed in, LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to find people who fit those characteristics. If you have a standard LinkedIn account, you can use the search function, which is quite good. But if you have a LinkedIn Sales Navigator account, you can build advanced searches that are very specific.
Bear in mind that you will need to become active on LinkedIn and start to build up your network. Why? Because your search queries will be limited to the size of your network across first, second and third tiers of connections.
GET CLARITY ON YOUR PROMISE
I believe the nature of selling professional services is promise. Because services are intangibles, clients are buying a promise that you can produce outcomes that matter to them. This is a result – meaningful outcomes – that you should promise someone after they become your client.
But what about before they become your client? Is there a promise that you should be making? Can this promise shape the behavior of great prospects and cause them to lean in to you? I believe the answer is absolutely yes.
So this raises an important question. What promise are you making on LinkedIn? Why should someone connect with you, follow you, like your posts or anything else? What’s in it for them?
I look at the LinkedIn profiles of probably 150 professional service leaders per week. That’s pretty average for me. Most services leaders make no promise whatsoever in their profile. They list their credentials, work history, education, publications, major achievements and other items. But there is no promise.
This is a huge missed opportunity. Let me show you a better way. Here is what my LinkedIn profile says and one major reason that my network has grown by one thousand percent in the last few years.
“If you are the leader of a mid-size professional service firm and you want to acquire great new clients, double your revenues and grow EBITDA substantially, I have a lot of insights for you. You’ll find some of those ideas right here on my profile and in my Posts. But the very best ideas are on our website. If you prefer video content, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Spend time with my ideas and you’ll be ready to clearly define your ideal client, pull great prospects into dialogue with your consultants, differentiate from competitors and build a pipeline of demand for your services that allows you to pick only the choicest deals.
If these are your goals, you will find the insights I share well worth your time. In fact, I’ll make you a promise. Spend one hour with my ideas and you’ll get at least 5 great nuggets of wisdom to help you grow your professional service firm.”
My promise is that one hour of your time will yield 5 nuggets of wisdom to grow your firm. That’s a great return on time. So now I want to ask you. What is your promise for your ideal client?
BUILD A GREAT CONTENT MARKETING PROGRAM
To get great prospects leaning in to you, you’ll need to give them insights. Your insights should address the major goals they are trying to achieve. Your advice should be concrete, thorough and on-target for your ideal clients. The best advice is sequenced into a series of steps, just like I’m giving you here.
Most mid-size service firms struggle to build effective content marketing programs. We have numerous resources on our website that can help you do this. This is where the psychographics of the ideal client profile really help.
A great ideal client profile clearly identifies the goals, opportunities and challenges that are top of mind for prospects. A great content marketing program tells prospective ideal clients how to achieve their goals, how to overcome their challenges and how to realize their opportunities.
If your content marketing program today does not address these items – goals, opportunities and challenges of ideal clients – then nothing I’m about to share with you will actually work. This is a crucial step that you have to get right. So if you are unsure about how to do this, please avail yourself of the free resources on our website.
UPDATE YOUR PROFILE TO INCLUDE THE PROMISE
Once you’ve identified the promise you want to make on your LinkedIn profile, it’s time to share it. I recommend that you share it in several places. The first and most important place to share this is on what LinkedIn calls the Intro of your personal profile.
The intro is the very top of your profile. It includes a photo, which I strongly recommend you use. It also includes these options:
- Current position
- Locations and industry
Of these sections, the most important one is Summary. This is where I recommend that you make your promise. Most people put either a work history statement or a personal mission statement or some other commentary in this section. They make their profile about them.
Don’t make this mistake. Make your Summary statement about your ideal client. List the goals of your ideal client and what they are trying to achieve. Then make your promise about how you help clients achieve those goals.
My recommendation is that your promise is similar to mine. Promise to share insights that will accelerate your ideal client toward their goals. Make the proof of that promise the content marketing materials that are on your LinkedIn profile and in other places, like your company blog site, ebooks, webinars and other materials.
JOIN THE RIGHT GROUPS
I believe the power of LinkedIn is groups. Groups are the single best way to make connections with organic prospects you don’t already know. But the problem with LinkedIn is that there are thousands of groups and more being created all the time. Also, not all groups are of the same value and impact to achieving your goals.
This is where a thorough ideal client profile will pay real dividends. But there is another strategy I recommend, which is segmenting and evaluating the groups that you are in after being active in them for a defined period of time, say a year.
After a year of executing our LinkedIn campaign, I took a critical step. I segmented my LinkedIn groups based on a rationalized process. I created a taxonomy for ranking groups and defining which were effective for my goals and which were ineffective or producing false positives – people leaning in who were not a great fit.
Here are the criteria I used in my taxonomy:
- Fit To Ideal Client
- Ability to stand apart
- Noise level
Let me explain how these criteria work. Members had to do with the total number of people within the group. This has a huge bearing on all of the other criteria. If there were not enough people in the group, the likelihood was very low that I would see a conversion over time because of the 95-5 Rule. This rule holds that at any given time, 95% of the people you’re marketing to are not in a buying cycle and there’s little you can do to change this. So you just have to accept that.
Fit to ideal client has to do with how many people within the group fit my ideal client profile demographics. My taxonomy called for this metric to be ranked on percentages from 10% to 100%. If only a low percentage of people fit my profile, I gave the group a score of 10%. If a group had a high percentage of people who fit the ideal client profile, I gave it a high score, say 80%. Bear in mind that this was a judgment call on my part.
Moderated had to do with whether or not posts were automatically published to the group or had to be approved by a moderator. I was not opposed to being moderated, but I wanted to know the group’s rules. Since we were promoting content to multiple groups, I had to know which groups might be slow in releasing our posts.
Engagement had to do with how the group had responded to me and my posts after a year. I used a three-way ranking system that included low, medium and high engagement. If no one liked, shared or commented on any of my posts after a year, engagement was low. If group members liked, shared and commented, I scored their engagement as high.
Ability to stand apart had to do with the number of competitors I saw in the groups and the level of activity from those competitors. The last thing I wanted was to put a lot of work into a post called 5 Key Growth Strategies only to have a competitor post essentially the same article the same day.
Noise level had to do with the number of posts I was seeing in the group versus the engagement of the group. I was not opposed to groups with a lot of posts as long as the group was engaging with the posts. But I did not want to be in groups where posts were essentially ignored. If this was a common practice in the group, I considered the noise threshold to be too high and not worth my time.
After having gone through this process, here is my recommendation to you. Use your best judgement about groups to join and be active in those groups for some period of time. But then apply a taxonomy to all of your groups and focus on those where you can realize the greatest return on time.
GROUPS ARE THE TRUE POWER OF LINKEDIN IF YOU CAN MAKE MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS WITH IDEAL PROSPECTS.
DEPLOY YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY
Once you have an updated LinkedIn profile, great groups and insightful content you want to share, you’re ready to move full-steam-ahead. Remember that digital marketing is an ecosystem of interconnected pages and technologies. The goal is to create an echo-chamber, much the way a tuning fork creates reverberations through the air.
This means you will be posting your content in several different sizes in numerous places, some short posts and some longer posts. We practice a philosophy called create once and share many. In other words, put a lot of work into creating really insightful pieces of content and then share that content across many different channels.
As it relates to LinkedIn channels, my recommendations are that you add articles to your personal profile. These needs to be articles that you’ve written and that demonstrate your thought leadership and unique insights.
I also recommend that you create posts about your articles and share those to groups. Write a brief description of your article in your group post and then include the link over to the article on your LinkedIn profile, not your website.
If you publish on third-party media, such as I do on Forbes, I also recommend that you use the share features on those site to add posts to your LinkedIn profile. This simple technique has driven thousands of views of my articles over the last year or so.
RESPECT THE NEUTRAL TERRITORY LINE
I want to leave you with this final important concept. Respect is crucial in the social media space, especially among professionals. It’s very easy to unintentionally send the wrong message and turn people off. This is why I want to introduce a simple concept that I think will help you.
LinkedIn is safe neutral territory and most people would prefer to consume your ideas on LinkedIn rather than on your website. This is why I recommended a moment ago that you make your group posts link to your LinkedIn profile, not your website.
People who make group posts link to their website run the risk of sending the wrong message. The risk is that ideal prospects may come to see your group posts as click-bait designed to drive traffic to your website rather than thought leadership designed to help them achieve their goals. That is not how you want to look.
If you believe in the value of your ideas, if you believe in the articles you’ve written, put them on your profile and stand behind them one hundred percent. This is one key factor that differentiates thought leaders from everyone else. Thought leaders do not practice click-bait.
There’s nothing wrong with having links in your profile articles over to your website. That is perfectly legitimate as long as your LinkedIn article includes a complete and well-articulated idea. This is a strategy I use all the time and it’s very effective. I don’t make people visit my website before giving them meaningful content that addresses their goals. I respect the neutral territory line and I recommend that you do too.
The ideas I’ve presented in this article are just a sample of what you’ll encounter in a new ebook I’m writing called TEN STRATEGIES FOR MID-SIZE SERVICE FIRMS TO ACQUIRE NEW IDEAL CLIENTS ON LINKEDIN. You can pre-register today for this ebook. If you like the ideas on this article, you’ll love the ebook.