6 Ways to Use LinkedIn as a Tool for Your Consulting Business (Without Becoming Its Tool)
Are you struggling to engage your network to get business? Are you unsure of how to connect with people outside of your network? If you are, I bet the pandemic makes it even more difficult, right?
The thing is that doing these things is critical to start, build, and grow your consulting business. The good news is that LinkedIn can help you and at a greater scale than was possible with individual networking or networking events. Not that you should abandon those approaches, even if they are virtual now. But LinkedIn can do things for you that those can’t.
So if you aren’t using LinkedIn yet or maximizing its use, now is the time to do it.
Do you have to?
Wait. What? It's true. I built a profitable consulting business without using LinkedIn at all. I had a profile and connected with people I liked, sure. But otherwise, I didn’t care about it nor did I use it as a tool for my consulting business.
But…the world has changed a lot since I started consulting. If I were starting today, I would consider it an essential part of my toolkit for growing my business. Why? Because for most professionals, LinkedIn is where your market is. Especially now, when most people are not showing up in person for anything.
How to Use LinkedIn Right and Well
While I am not a LinkedIn expert, I’ve got 6 basic tips for using LinkedIn to support your business goals.
1. Be Genuine. Seriously.
If you do nothing else, I am begging you to please be genuine. I understand the temptation to focus on trying to game LinkedIn’s algorithm to get greater exposure. But your business goals are not the same as LinkedIn’s business goals. LinkedIn may reward you for inauthentic engagement, but building a robust, sustainable consulting business is based on creating and fostering real, trusting relationships. So that’s how you want to show up on LinkedIn in everything you do. And it’s worth doing it, even if LinkedIn’s algorithm doesn’t like it because people can tell the difference. I certainly can tell when someone is being genuine with me versus playing the LinkedIn amplify-me-and-my-posts game. And the latter makes me less willing to engage with them.
Part of being genuine is also placing your desire to help others at the forefront of what you do on LinkedIn. If you do that, it will shine through everything you do and attract people who value that. And people who value that make the best clients and partners!
2. Know what LinkedIn Rewards and Penalizes
Being genuine does not mean ignoring what and why LinkedIn will and won’t amplify some posts and not others. For example, LinkedIn wants you to stay on its platform for as long as possible to support its business model. If you post something that sends people off their site, they don’t like it. So it’s useful to know the right way to post your external links so you don’t cause LinkedIn to bury or hide your post.
That said, being genuine still applies!
3. Strategize and Plan Before Action
As is true with any kind of marketing and outreach effort, action without a deliberate strategy and plan won’t serve your business goals. You may get lucky. You might get some other benefits out of it, such as reconnecting with a long-lost co-worker. But if it is aimless, it won’t get you where you want to go.
So you to have an overarching business development strategy and plan that includes but is not limited to having a LinkedIn strategy. For example, your plan should include how you are going to increase awareness of yourself and your brand among your ideal clients, generate interest in what you can do for them, enhance their desire to connect with you and potentially hire you, and convert potential clients into actual clients. The plan would then specify how you will generate awareness, interest, desire, and conversion through LinkedIn and actions you take on LinkedIn should flow from that.
4. Post Valuable Content Consistently
A key part of implementing your strategy and plan will be to post content but not just any ‘ole content. You want to post content that is valuable to who you are trying to get business from. It seems simple enough, right? Post things that help the people you want to help. Unfortunately, what happens too often is that consultants are prioritizing frequency over value and posting content that is not relevant or helpful to their ideal clients. Sure, that may give you exposure but to no business end.
You also want to post content that has the specific impact you want it to have for potential clients who are at different stages in discovering you to hiring you. The mistake consultants often make is just to post promotional content that says, “Buy my services!” without properly getting folks ready and willing to buy.
So your content has to be targeted to those potential-to-actual client stages (sometimes called a marketing funnel). In the simplest of terms, if the intent is to make people aware of you, then you must post content that shows what you know about your market or niche, such as creating or sharing articles. If you want people to be interested in you, then your content shifts to educational content that shows your knowledge and skills.
This could be written or video tips, webinars, articles with guidance that is helpful to your ideal clients. If the goal is to generate desire to find out more or hire you, then the content should show the results that you can help clients achieve, such as case studies and testimonials. If you want to convert the now desirous potential clients into clients, now is when you can post promotional content that gives them a clear call to action to become your client. And since you have potential clients at all stages at all times, you want to ensure you are posting content for each stage continually.
By the way, valuable content also shows who you are as a person. Some of my most popular posts have been of non-work parts of my life, such as my beautiful garden or cute rescue kittens. While I don’t post those as much, I do it because it says something about who I am as a person. Why does that matter? Because people hire people. They don’t just hire suits and businesses. So don’t be afraid to show other parts of your life!
Once you have the value part nailed down, you can work on the consistency part. Consistency is important because you want to stay front of mind in your market and especially among your ideal clients. It will make connecting with them easier and more fruitful. And you won’t fall into the trap of just popping up on their feed when you need business.
5. Connect and Engage
Posting is just part of what you need to do on LinkedIn. You also need to connect with people so that you are always growing your network. At minimum, that means searching for people in your industry or niche and sending them invitations to connect. If there are people who you really want to connect with, send them a personal message asking them to connect with you and tell them why you want to do that. Personally, I prefer to get a non-personalized connection request than a generic email that is trying to sound personalized, but I can tell it isn’t. If someone sends me a personalized connection, I want it to be real!
You also want to engage with people regularly. I mean every single day. My rule here is to do what I would do if I were face to face. That means, celebrating people and their accomplishments. Acknowledging people’s contributions, value, and struggles. Thanking them for helping you learn something or look at things differently. Sometimes I even deliberately post comments on other people’s posts for the purpose of getting LinkedIn to amplify their voices because I am a huge fan or value what they are doing in the world. The goal is to engage in ways that create appropriate human and humanizing exchanges.
You can also send direct messages to people on LinkedIn. The same principles apply with this tactic: be genuine and focus on value for them not business for you. I reply to anyone who messages me as long as it adheres to those principles. If it’s spammy, I never reply!
6. Experiment and Have Fun
There isn’t one way to show up on LinkedIn. You can experiment and find out what works best for you. If you love to write, write. If you love to do videos or have live events, do it! If you have a podcast or you were featured on one, create audiograms so people can hear a short clip of what wonderful things you said. Mix it up and have fun. And look for new features like LinkedIn Stories so you can be at the forefront of trying out new ways to deliver valuable content.
A couple of helpful resources:
Mark Flores is my go-to source for how to do video marketing. He has the best whiteboard videos on how to do it well and do it in a deliberate way to meet your business goals.
Veronica Sagastume is fantastic at overall content marketing for consultants, including how to plan it to and, again, ensure it meets your business goals. She recently introduced me to the ability to leave people voice messages through LinkedIn. How cool is that?
Need more help with your strategy, plan, and action?
I have several ways I help consultants succeed faster. Schedule a time to chat with me here and let’s see how I can help you succeed at consulting faster.