Just Answer My Question, Dammit!

If you’ve ever spent two minutes perusing a LinkedIn Discussion Group topic, you’ll already know how quickly the conversation thread can get derailed. And, if I were the one posting the question, I’d conclude that these groups are a waste of time. So how can LinkedIn help improve the value of its app, given it’s really in the hands of its users?

If you’ve ever spent two minutes perusing a LinkedIn Discussion Group topic, you’ll already know how quickly the conversation thread can get derailed. And, if I were the one posting the question, I’d conclude that these groups are a waste of time. So how can LinkedIn help improve the value of its app, given it’s really in the hands of its users?

Here’s one idea: It would be fairly easy for LinkedIn to add a drop down menu of messages that the individual posting could select from to add to their post. These messages would be set up as triggers which would pop-up in front of the individual about to post a reply, for consideration BEFORE they hit the “post” button.

Some suggested message choices might be:

  • WARNING! The original post in this discussion was over X months ago. Your commentary may be irrelevant and you may be viewed by others as “out of touch.”
  • Before posting, please read all the other posts thus far. If you’re not repeating information that’s already been supplied, and your response is relevant to the discussion, then by all means proceed with posting.
  • I am not in the market to purchase any goods or services. I was simply interested in what others think about the topic I’ve posted, so please don’t contact me directly.
  • Are you really an expert on this topic? There’s a “no amateurs” rule in effect on this post.
  • If you really think you can help me with my problem, and it’s within X days of my post, please contact me directly.
  • No smart-ass comments, please.
  • Just answer my original question. No sales pitches, no links to your book/blog/white paper/web page, I really just want to get my question answered.

If LinkedIn were to make my idea a reality, I think the number of participants in the discussion would be reduced (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and experts would be more inclined to come forward and participate in a topic.

My very wise Dad once taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I do try to live by that rule, and now I’ll add to it with, “If you don’t have anything relevant to say…”

How I’m Creating Leads and Sales on LinkedIn

The biggest mistake most of us are making when promoting content within a LinkedIn Group is sharing a link back to what we’ve published. Instead, success depends on your ability to use what you already know works within the walls of LinkedIn Groups and, ultimately, getting prospects off of social media. Yes, I’m serious. I’m living proof. I’ve been using LinkedIn to create leads and actual sales with good success.

The biggest mistake most of us are making when promoting content within a LinkedIn Group is sharing a link back to what we’ve published. Instead, success depends on your ability to use what you already know works within the walls of LinkedIn Groups and, ultimately, getting prospects off of social media. Yes, I’m serious. I’m living proof. I’ve been using LinkedIn to create leads and actual sales with good success.

Most of us believe that setting up an engaging LinkedIn group or attractive profile is the key to success for businesses or job seekers. But it’s just not true. Finding crafty ways to mention your blogs, webinars or new product releases within LinkedIn rarely works—produces appointments, leads or sales.

The key to success is founded in creative thinking about what you already know works and getting your target market off of social media. Here’s proof—in the form of my experience and how you can do the same.

Step 1: Create Content That Provokes
I recently decided to go after a niche: small- to mid-sized kitchen cabinet dealerships who need help using LinkedIn for sales. My goal was to create sales of my book and leads for my social sales training product. My strategy was to get people already engaged in discussions relevant to the pain I can cure to actually leave LinkedIn and register at my site, call me on the phone or buy my book.

First, I created content that I knew would scratch the itch of my market. I baited my hook. I interviewed an industry expert who had something truly different to say about how successful kitchen cabinet dealers are using social media and using LinkedIn for sales leads.

What my expert had to say was contrarian, valuable, provocative and actionable. This part was key. This was the barb in the hook.

Step 2: Locate Qualified Discussions
I then published a handful of stories and audio interviews featuring my guest, Jim, discussing how successful home improvement businesses are using social media to create leads and sales. He didn’t talk about how they should be using Twitter, Facebook, blogs and such. Instead, he spoke on how they are and gave readers/listeners the chance to learn how they can do the same. He told them how to take action.

I then carefully joined related LinkedIn groups, taking care to make sure I was clear about my intent to join. I had something honestly valuable to share—actionable insights on a topic that is of current interest to group members.

I joined and waited. Within a few days I spotted a discussion on a Kitchen Cabinet industry group where I could answer a question in a way that “brought to life” the specific valuable answers my guest expert was offering … but not in the usual way.

Step 3: Tease Prospects Into Action
The biggest mistake most of us are making when promoting content within a LinkedIn group is sharing a link back to what we’ve published. You see, the minute I stopped sharing links and started saying less the more action I got—the more people did what I wanted them to do (visit my site and become a lead).

Ultimately it’s all about getting prospects off of social media (and on a lead-nurturing system). How you go about doing that is critical when using Linkedin. You don’t want to waste time!

Bottom line: The more I’m baiting people—teasing them—the more I’m getting emailed directly through LinkedIn from hungry customers who want to connect, become a lead or buy a product on-the-spot.

Sure, my website is good at selling products and capturing leads—that requirement doesn’t go away. Remember your job is to tease your audience into taking action on something that you already know they want to act on.

I didn’t get paid by “telling a story” or “providing valuable content” or educating my target market. That’s social media guru blather. I ethically bribed my customers into taking action on something that they wanted to take action on to begin with. I then gave them full satisfaction—useful, actionable answers to burning questions they had.

Next up, I’ll explain exactly how I did it in more detail. See you then!

How Much Time You Invest in Social Media Does Not Matter

“How much time do I need to devote to LinkedIn and/or Facebook per day?” Stop. Behind this question is a lie that is preventing your success. Wanting to know the optimal amount of time to invest in social media platforms each day is a natural desire, but having that answer won’t make social strategies produce more leads. That’s why top social sellers are putting down “hour-a-day” books and picking up a new habit: Changing the question entirely.

“How much time do I need to devote to LinkedIn and/or Facebook per day?” Stop. Behind this question is a lie that is preventing your success. Wanting to know the optimal amount of time to invest in social media platforms each day is a natural desire, but having that answer won’t make social strategies produce more leads. That’s why top social sellers are putting down “hour-a-day” books and picking up a new habit: Changing the question entirely.

Lack vs. Abundance
As it turns out, social media is evolutionary, not revolutionary and time is abundant, not lacking. Say to yourself, “I have nothing but time.” Seriously, say it to yourself right now. Try living the life of abundance for just one day and act as if you have time for social media. Play along; you just might just find yourself working differently—more productively.

Social platforms like LinkedIn are a better, faster way to get hired or locate and nurture a sales lead—if you honestly believe them to be. If you don’t, they’ll just be another “marketing channel” to react to in a very uncreative way that doesn’t increase your effectiveness or liberate you. Your thoughts manifest reality.

The harsh reality is that many of us find ourselves reacting to social media rather than getting creative with it because we’re adopting it out of the fear of being left behind by—or losing control of—customers. I know it sounds all woo-woo and kum-ba-yah, but an attitude of abundance goes hand-in-hand with generating more leads and sales; it always has.

Stop Worrying About Time
LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging … these strategies are making a difference to a select few marketers and business owners who see time as being abundant. They see—and experience—LinkedIn, blogging, educational YouTube videos, Facebook, etc., as time-savers, not time-wasters. And you can too.

“How much time do I need to devote to LinkedIn per day?” is a valid question. But when you ask it, you’re investing in lack—what you do not have. Time. But you do have time to invest in saving time, right? That’s what LinkedIn represents, after all. In coming weeks I’ll prove it to you by describing my own lead generation success using LinkedIn.

Change the Question
For now, let’s start by changing your question to: “How can I determine what LinkedIn’s purpose is for me, how I can best use it to achieve that goal in shorter time?”

More widely, you can be asking, “How can I get clear on what social media’s purpose is for my business—and how I can best use it to achieve that specific goal?”

See the difference? By asking these questions—first—deciding how much time to invest occurs naturally, painlessly and obviously as part of everyday life.

What if your purpose was to find a faster way to net a sales lead—rather than seeking out a “silver bullet amount of time?” What if your purpose was to meet the right prospect and pitch them in less time, get hired faster, have your manuscript discovered by a publisher sooner, speed up the conversion to sale process … whatever.

Make Purpose Primary, Time Secondary
Everyone I interviewed in my book said the same thing: If you want to sell with social media, start focusing on creating crystal clear business—not marketing—purpose for it before anything else. Time will work itself out. Trust in it, have faith.

Think about how you feel when you ask “How much time is this going to take?” You’re reacting, defensive. The presumption behind the question is that LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging or whatever is somehow “different.” But what if social media could be a better way to achieve a particular set of goals you have-rather than being “so different” and such a pain? It can be if you so choose.

Social media is not rocket science. The more you think it is the more you’ll believe time investment is what makes the difference. It does not. As Peter Drucker said, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

The One Thing LinkedIn Experts Won’t Tell You That Always Nets Sales and Interviews

Making LinkedIn generate more job interviews (sell your personal brand) or leads for your business is all about how you think about what you already know-not new information about social media. Contrary to what “the experts” say, knowing how to set up an engaging LinkedIn group or rock solid profile isn’t the end game. Nor is pushing content marketing (blogs, webinars, etc.) out onto LinkedIn going to create results. The key to success is actually rooted in creative thinking-something most of us have accidentally shoved aside.

Making LinkedIn generate more job interviews (sell your personal brand) or leads for your business is all about how you think about what you already know-not new information about social media. Contrary to what “the experts” say, knowing how to set up an engaging LinkedIn group or rock solid profile isn’t the end game. Nor is pushing content marketing (blogs, webinars, etc.) out onto LinkedIn going to create results. The key to success is actually rooted in creative thinking-something most of us have accidentally shoved aside.

The Excuse
I know, I know … “Jeff, I don’t have time to get creative with social media. I’m being deluged with information about social media. I can hardly come up for air between getting it done (blogging, posting, updating, monitoring) and keeping up with what’s new … it’s taking up all of my time.”

I hear you. I felt the same way. That is until I met people who think about this challenge differently. People who are successfully generating leads and sales on platforms like LinkedIn using an unusual strategy: Taking a breath and getting creative. This approach even helped me recently recover my stolen wallet!

The Proof

If you read me regularly you know of the success stories-B-to-C and B-to-B companies like Logan Services, AnchorBank and others. I often present their success principles in the form of specific strategies. You’ve heard me say things like, “The best next step to getting the most out of LinkedIn is to surround yourself with what you already know about customers and find ways to leverage what you are already doing (outside of social media) that effectively creates and nurtures leads.” And some of you have written to me saying, in essence, “Great, I’m sold… what’s the next step?”

The Next Step: Simple, Fun & Empowering
Ignore the din of LinkedIn experts and start valuing fundamental marketing principles that you already know work. This is the path toward tapping into your own, personal creativity. Yes, for many this is a leap of faith. Yet faith is the starting point for accumulation of all riches (thank you Napoleon Hill!).

We marketers are too reliant on short-cuts and quick fixes when it comes to strategies like content marketing on LinkedIn. We don’t trust our instincts and end up taking the half-baked advice of experts pitching juvenile ideas like being “more human” or “likeable.”

How I Generated Sales on LinkedIn Last Week
I recently posted a handful of stories and interviews on my website discussing how home improvement businesses are using social media to create leads and sales. I then joined related LinkedIn groups. Within a few days I spotted a discussion on a Kitchen Cabinet industry group where I could answer a question in a way that demonstrated the specific valuable answers I was offering … in a way that tempted Group members to both email me for more details and click onward to my site to acquire the knowledge. The results rolled in: Lots of industry-specific leads and a handful of sales!

I got creative. I created valuable content (answers), then looked for people demonstrating need for it and finally provided answers in ways that created cravings for more of what I had to share (encouraged interaction).

How I Found My Stolen Wallet
I recently had my wallet stolen out of a gym locker-the guy stole my pants while I was in the shower! Gym management didn’t care or help. So I started thinking creatively-like a criminal! I immediately realized that my adversary would unload those jeans first. Hence, my trip to the dumpster alongside the building produced my jeans-sans wallet. But I wasn’t done. I wanted my wallet and was sure the thief was after my cash (only). A trip to the local train stop (my thief’s mode of transportation, I wagered) and a glance in a trash can revealed my wallet. All of its contents with the exception of my cash, which I had already kissed-off anyway, were intact.

What did creative thinking get me? I found my charge cards, debit card, drivers license and even a train pass intact! All because I stopped reacting and started thinking about what I already knew was likely true. This guy didn’t want to get caught with my stuff!

Rise Above the Drones
It’s worth mentioning that my local police department was of little help during this upsetting event. In fact they didn’t think my dumpster-diving ideas were worth pursuing! Again, lack of creative thinking. How has creative thinking spurred success in your business life? How can you start using your ability to think creatively right now to create results in LinkedIn or on other social platforms?

Five Ways to “Get Real” With B-to-B Social Media

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

What you want to do is get out of the hype, get real, and get results. Here’s a simple plan of attack.

First, get busy on LinkedIn. This is the no-brainer of B-to-B social media marketing. You, your company, and all your employees need to take maximum advantage of the exposure. Your LinkedIn to-do list looks like this:

  • Fill out your profile 100 percent. LinkedIn will prompt you on how to make sure every element is captured. Encourage your employees to set up their profiles, including their skills lists. Prospective customers will check out you and your staff as part of their due diligence before doing business with you—so be prepared.
  • Set up a company page, with your logo image, plus a crisp, benefit-laden company description. Invite links from your customers, suppliers and friends. Along with a Google search, this is how you will be found in the marketplace.
  • Join groups, or set up fresh groups, in your field of expertise.
  • Post regular status updates in the micro-blog area LinkedIn provides.

Then, examine your marketing objectives. Each social medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. What you want to do is get the most bang, by applying them to their best use.

Here’s a typical array of business marketing objectives a company may be pursuing. Let’s look at how social media can be applied to support what you’re trying to do.

Understand your market opportunity. In other words, market research. What customers and prospect are talking about on social media gives companies valuable insight into customer needs, issues and trends. You can set up a listening post using tools like Radian6, or simply set up an RSS feed from sources like blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Focus, Quora, YouTube and Wikipedia, so you can keep current with what’s being said in your field.

Stand out in the crowd. Social media can help you differentiate your company from your competition. If you want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, or a trusted advisor to businesses trying to solve problems, then it’s all about content. You’ll be publishing white papers, research reports and case studies, and tweeting about them. Or publish an informative blog and promote it via Twitter and LinkedIn micro posts.

Blogging can be a powerful way to establish thought leadership, but it does represent a risk. Only start a blog if you have valuable content to present, and if you can commit to keeping it up. Editorially, the tone should be informative, not sales-y. If you don’t have good writers in house, there are plenty of freelancers available to help. Another tip: If you hesitate to take on a blog on your own, you might provide guest posts to influential blogs managed by someone else. (As you see, this is the route I took for myself—it’s great!)

Find new customers. There’s a lot of hue and cry out there about whether social media can help you find prospective customers. Of course it can. The trick in B-to-B is to turn your social media messaging into a lead generator, with the addition of three essential elements:

  • A compelling offer, such as an intriguing research report or white paper.
  • A clear call to action, like “Download now.”
  • A dedicated landing page that captures the respondent’s contact information.

We can debate the merits of gating your content for lead generation, versus making it available to all, for thought leadership. A worthy discussion. But if your objective is to launch a business relationship with a prospective buyer, than the lead generation route is the way to go. So add an offer and call to action to your blog posts and tweets.

Expand current customer value. Social media can serve as another useful “touch” in your ongoing effort to penetrate accounts and deepen your relationship with current customers. Encourage customers to follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your blog, or connect with you on LinkedIn. A smart salesperson will link to every possible contact at a current account, and post company and product news in the LinkedIn microblog a couple times a week.

Now, what about Facebook? With 845 million users worldwide, it can’t be ignored. Ask yourself whether your customers are there, and whether they want to interact with you there. According to Globalspec, 66 percent of industrial workers have Facebook accounts, but 67 percent of them say they cannot access Facebook from their office computers. Given its vast reach, at the very least set up a company page on Facebook—for employee recruitment, if nothing else.

And don’t forget YouTube, the world’s second largest search engine. Set up a channel to give exposure to your product demos, training videos and corporate videos.

So, with that, you have a reasonable attack plan for cutting through the hype and putting social media to work for you in a manageable way. Now, what have I forgotten? Do you have any good social media applications you can share with the rest of us business marketers?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Are Your B-to-B Social Media Strategies Socially Appropriate?

There’s lots of talk these days about how to leverage social media for your business. And with few exceptions, I’m a big believer that B-to-B marketers should subscribe to a strict division of “church and state” when it comes to Facebook and business relationships. Business colleagues/associates/clients/brands are part of my LinkedIn life, while my family and my “I’m interested-in-trivial-things-about-you-and-your-kids” peeps are part of my Facebook life. So I fail to understand why any B-to-B brand would even consider having a Facebook page.

There’s lots of talk these days about how to leverage social media for your business. And with few exceptions, I’m a big believer that B-to-B marketers should subscribe to a strict division of “church and state” when it comes to Facebook and business relationships.

Business colleagues/associates/clients/brands are part of my LinkedIn life, while my family and my “I’m interested-in-trivial-things-about-you-and-your-kids” peeps are part of my Facebook life. So I fail to understand why any B-to-B brand would even consider having a Facebook page.

It’s true that Facebook is the most popular social networking site. But it’s also true that it’s a place where I reveal some personal facts (my birthday, for one) and my latest family vacation photos. While I can’t control any of the comments written on my wall, I also don’t worry because I know the only people who can see them are those who are part of my personal tribe.

So how can you leverage social media for your business?

I think it’s time to go back to basics. And, not to be insulting, but if you can get these basics right—which so many B-to-B marketers do not—you can graduate to a more sophisticated use of social media.

Smart B-to-B marketers have already discovered that their websites need to be well organized and segmented by target audience—whether by vertical segments, company size or some other segmentation strategy that’s appropriate for your business/industry. The goal is to help your site visitors navigate your site quickly and easily in order to find information most relevant to them.

Savvy marketers take their websites one step further and create pages directed at each targeted “segment” and include useful content beyond just product/service descriptions or purchase options. Whether it’s a series of case studies that clearly lay out the problem and how their brand/product provided a solution, a topical white paper, or the results of a current research study, the goal is to stimulate engagement such that the visitor thinks, “I can clearly see how these guys understand my business needs and how their products/services can help a company like mine.”

The next step should be to refresh the content on a regular basis. By doing so, it gives you the right to invite your site visitors to register for updates with the promise of emailing them when new content is available.

There are two ways to leverage that email message: You can craft a short, pithy email with a focus on and a link to the content itself, or create an email with a link to the page that contains the content. If you’ve updated your site with lots of new content, I’d choose the latter strategy, but if you’ve only added one or two new items, just provide links to that content directly (the less work you make for your target, the better).

Now that you have an easily navigable site, good core content and regular updates, the next goal should be to drive new prospects to your site so they can begin to engage with your brand. As I mentioned before, I am a firm believer that Facebook is simply not the place to be trolling for B-to-B prospects. So instead, here are a few tried and true strategies for starting socially appropriate relationships online:

  • Guaranteed Lead Program: Using a third-party media provider, place one of your most current white papers in an online media property where you know your target seeks information. It costs nothing to post and you’ll only pay for those leads that download your white paper. Chances are that these information seekers have some sort of problem they’re trying to solve and they’re in the right mood to be gathering intelligence on potential solutions. To make sure your white paper gets noticed, have a professional copywriter craft the headline and word-limited description in order to “sell” the white paper without a big sales pitch about your company. Remember the goal at this stage of the game is to start trying to make a connection with a potential customer; it’s not the time to offer discounts, freebies or other “offers.” Once they’ve downloaded and you’ve acquired their contact information, it’s appropriate to send them follow-up email and invite them to view additional content on your site, or offer an additional white paper or case study related to their particular industry. This is a productive example of how to get social with your prospects.
  • Expand your reach: Contact the editor of your industry trade publication(s) and, using a current white paper topic as a hook, outline an article you can offer as content. It’s important that your white paper NOT be self-serving (i.e. a blatant attempt to simply push your brand or one of your products), but rather an article written from a third-party perspective about the industry or a trend. Your business/product can be mentioned, but so should other products from other companies, otherwise an editor is not prone to accept the article as it’s more of an advertorial and should be part of paid content. This places your company in the right “social” setting and lays the foundation for the credibility of your brand.
  • Seek out speaking engagements: A knowledgeable expert is always a draw at an industry conference. Identify those in your organization who have the ability to speak intelligently about a current trend—perhaps they were quoted in or authored your white paper. If they don’t have great speaking skills, get them enrolled to gain superior presentation skills, and then leverage them across many industry events throughout the year. During and after the conference, there are plenty of ways for your speaker to participate in social events and swapping business cards over a meal is certainly a better way to be building future relationships than pithy notations on Facebook.
  • Leverage the company blog: Reach out to the company blogger and provide a truncated version/extract of the white paper and then link to it from within the blog. Tweet about the blog topic and provide a link, then link that tweet to your LinkedIn update. If your blog allows outsiders to post comments about the topic, that’s a great way to start engaging with a potential customer.
  • Increase LinkedIn connections: Once sales start a dialogue with a prospect, it’s appropriate for them to reach out and invite that prospect to connect on LinkedIn. Don’t use the default copy on LinkedIn to connect! Instead craft an appropriate message that’s meaningful to the target to make it feel like a worthwhile connection. I’m always surprised when someone I don’t know invites me to connect on LinkedIn without identifying a reason within an appropriate context. My first reaction is to reject the invitation because I think it may be spam—and, is a good example of how NOT to be socially appropriate.
  • Video on YouTube: If your company provides products that require instruction manuals, consider developing a series of “how to” videos. Host them on your website, but also on YouTube. These types of videos can help increase the post-purchase engagement factor and, are often one reason I make a purchase in the first place. It’s gratifying to know that if I get “stuck,” there’s an easy-to-view solution at my fingertips vs. the dreaded customer service support line. You’ll also find many viewers will post supportive comments about the video—again, a great way to use this social media to build support from customers and prospects.

How to Convert LinkedIn Contacts into Qualified Leads

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Turning LinkedIn contacts or LinkedIn Group members into leads rarely happens using what I call passive engagement. It takes something more than occupying prospects’ time. You’ve got to convince them to sign up for your webinar or download your whitepaper.

Luckily, converting LinkedIn contacts to leads is easy. Just start by solving your target market’s problems in ways they find irresistible. Then plan engagement—carefully map it out to connect your target customers’ questions to the answers your content marketing devices (webinars, whitepaper) deliver.

The Engagement Myth
If you’re like most B-to-B marketers, you’re struggling to turn LinkedIn contacts and group members into leads. But getting it done is easier than you think. After a year of interviewing B-to-B and business to consumer businesses experiencing remarkable success using social media I found the common success principle: Ditching passive engagement—and giving contacts, friends, followers and such a reason to offer more than a “like” or merely consume content.

Many LinkedIn gurus claim awareness, reach and influence leads to conversion. They say, “regular online participation in LinkedIn Groups and with followers on other social platforms can convert them from followers into leads and on to customers.”

Yes, it can but this belief isn’t much different than the “reach and frequency” promise of advertising. Namely, if we beat the drum loud enough (reach) and often enough (frequency) it will cause people to perform an action—register, attend, download. As Dr. Phil likes to say, “and how’s that working for ya?” This is what I call passive engagement.

But there is a better way: Designing engagement to produce actions by solving customers’ problems in places where questions often get asked—like LinkedIn Groups.

Solve Customers’ Problems
You’ve probably heard that posting a certain number of times, on certain subjects, on certain days inside LinkedIn Groups where your target market congregates is the key that unlocks success with LinkedIn. Or maybe you’ve heard that frequent posting of blogs you’ve written in LinkedIn Groups will generate leads. These ideas don’t work. The key to success is solving customers’ problems in provocative ways.

For instance, use LinkedIn to generate questions among customers that your webinar or whitepaper gives answers to. Creatively bait customers to communicate or complain about problems (in LinkedIn Groups) that your content marketing device provides solutions for. Next, provoke actions—exploit those complaints by enticing, “ethically bribing” prospects to register for a webinar, download or perform an action that helps you qualify them as leads. It’s a snap.

Scratch Customers’ Itches in LinkedIn Groups
For instance, grocery store Harris-Teeter pays customers to ask its dietician health-related questions on Facebook. Why would a grocer—or you—do that? Because helping customers put out a fire or scratch a bothersome itch is powerful. It can be done on any social platform where your target audience is engaging, like LinkedIn.

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Always beware: leads don’t “just happen” passively using LinkedIn. You need to solve problems with a plan in mind. That said, using a question-and-answer technique takes much of the work out of the process. It can even be fun. What do you think about giving this a try?

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: 3 Great Things I Learned at the email evolution conference

I attended the Email Experience Council’s Email Evolution Conference in Miami earlier this week. Besides meeting many of my “virtual” contacts in person, doing some great networking, gathering content for our e-newsletters and acquiring leads for future cover stories, I learned the following the three great things from the show:

I attended the email experience council’s Email Evolution Conference in Miami earlier this week. Besides meeting many of my “virtual” contacts in person, doing some great networking, gathering content for our e-newsletters and acquiring leads for future cover stories, I learned the following three great things from the show:

1. Microsoft will launch its Outlook Social Connector this year. In his presentation, Jay Schwedelson from Worldata mentioned that this new addition to Microsoft Office 2010 will seamlessly bring communications history as well as business and social networking feeds into Outlook users’ inboxes.

LinkedIn will be the first networking site to support the Outlook Social Connector. As a result, LinkedIn/Microsoft Office users will be able to keep up with their LinkedIn connections right from their inboxes, email them directly from Outlook and keep building their LinkedIn networks directly from Outlook.

2. Make it easy for prospects to subscribe to your emails. Sure, you may be thinking, “duh, tell me something I don’t know,” but the message was delivered throughout the conference — especially since email acquisition is expected to increase as the recession wanes. Austin Bliss, president and co-founder of FreshAddress, for example, made the case that marketers should ask for consumers’ email addresses everywhere — on every page of their websites, during every phone call and on every paper form.

Lawrence DiCapua, director of interactive marketing/CRM for Pepsi North America, also discussed the importance of having email sign-up capabilities on your social networking pages, or links to your website’s sign-up pages there.

3. Don’t assume management buy-in. Sure, we all know how wonderful, inexpensive and results-driven email marketing is, but in many cases upper management just want the facts, ma’am. Jeanne Jones and Katrina Kithene, email marketing managers for Alaska Airlines, explained how they showed their executive staff the importance of their email marketing programs to the company’s bottom line. As a result, they were awarded with the resources they needed. They used four techniques to get their message across:

  1. defined the value of a marketable customer;
  2. presented regularly scheduled progress audits;
  3. focused on ROI; and
  4. presented detailed plans for higher conversion.

All in all, it was a great show!