In this article, we’re going to do two things. First, we will explain the wrong way to use LinkedIn for sales lead generation. Then we will lay out the right way to create a LinkedIn lead generation funnel that produces a flow of highly qualified leads for your B2B sales team.
The Wrong Way to Use LinkedIn for Lead Generation
Salespeople use LinkedIn widely as their primary source for B2B sales leads. They search LinkedIn for their ideal prospects then either manually copy-paste the data into a database, or use an integration with Salesforce, HubSpot, etc. to pull contact data automatically into a CRM. These “leads” are then engaged en masse repeatedly until a few customers are shaken out of “the hopper”.
The problem with using LinkedIn this way is it’s rudimentary and costly. LinkedIn is not integrated into a properly-designed demand generation funnel that delivers qualified sales leads. It creates a ton of contact data in your CRM but NOT actual qualified leads.
This “strategy” creates no positive engagement with prospects to judge interest in your product or service before they are surreptitiously dumped into your CRM. Instead, it just creates a pile of unfiltered data downstream for a bunch of “human hamsters” to churn through. You get cold contact data you must enrich with email and telephone numbers, then a call team must engage EVERYBODY to find the few prospects that show interest.
This is hardly a high-impact, efficient way to design a qualified lead generation process. If you’re using LinkedIn this way I strongly suggest you stop now.
The Intelligent Way to Use LinkedIn for Lead Generation
Let’s start with LinkedIn’s strengths:
- Hyper-targeting potential buyers (use Sales Navigator Lead Builder)
- Building a captive network of ideal prospects you can engage repeatedly
- Publishing and sharing credible content tailored to your ideal customer’s specific business challenges (low hanging fruit that few sales and marketing teams actually do)
As a business development professional your job is to increase the the quality and frequency of 1-to-1 engagement with ideal prospects on LinkedIn BEFORE you pull their contact info into your CRM. You must lead with value and engage potential buyers with credible information and helpful content tuned to their needs. This gives prospects an opportunity to self-select (qualify themselves) as legitimate sales leads before they hit your sales pipeline.
The majority of engagement on LinkedIn occurs 1-to-1 between individuals, in the form of Articles, Updates, SlideShares and direct messages.
Compared with 1-to-1 engagement, Company pages and LinkedIn ads don’t create the engagement level needed for generating qualified sales leads. This is especially true for complex B2B offerings.
LinkedIn groups can have good engagement levels if they’re managed properly (most are too large or have devolved into spammy PR channels). But it is very difficult and time-consuming to build your own group, and getting real engagement out of existing groups is a challenge.
How to Combine LinkedIn Components Into a Lead Generation Funnel
If you want to create a LinkedIn demand generation funnel to drive qualified sales leads, here’s a good blueprint:
Articles. Publish with calls to action and links to landing pages. Distribute by messaging, sharing to groups and sponsored ads. You can embed many things in an article (e.g. an offer for free white paper or links to other articles to support your point and prove your expertise). When you publish content, your connections get notified.
SlideShare. There are 80 million professionals on SlideShare, and it’s considered one of the largest and most consumable content sharing platforms out there. SlideShares are particularly attractive to mobile users, which is not the case for long form LinkedIn articles. Using SlideShare allows you to get your message out to more mobile devices and prospects who learn visually. Embed SlideShares into your Articles and add them to your profile. Distribute them by messaging, sharing to groups and sponsored ads.
Profile. Use your personal profile Summary and Accomplishments sections to present your elevator pitch and distribute high quality content. Include your contact info and any special offer.
Updates. Create a series of high-value blog posts with content upgrades (useful opt-in freebies) and post them to your LinkedIn Updates stream.
Sponsored Posts. Traditionally, LinkedIn ads were used to point to an external page, white paper, or webinar signup form. However, you can also sponsor your highest-quality LinkedIn Articles, then use LinkedIn’s specific targeting criteria to reach the best prospects. Once your likes and shares go up, LinkedIn starts to present your Articles broadly in searches and content suggestions, further driving qualified potential buyers and creating some virality. Of course, your Article should have a call to action and one or more links to opt-in offers or webinar signups.
Webinars. Reaching people through webinars is one of the best ways to engage with your market, explain complex value propositions, and develop deep business relationships. Webinars are one of the few lead generation tools where prospects will dedicate time to listen to what you say and ask questions. The key is to keep them educational and high-value, include useful freebies like a calculator or checklist, and position your call to action strategically throughout the webinar. During the webinar sign up you can capture their contact information and follow up personally or via email. Depending on your market, 20-40% of engaged webinar attendees can become qualified sales leads.
Direct Messages. Use to distribute content, invite prospects to webinars and events, ask questions, share valuable info, and initiate discovery calls.
Consistency Is Key for LinkedIn Lead Generation
Doing a few of these things consistently can turn LinkedIn into a qualified lead generation funnel. You want to build your network of ideal target prospects, then share content, run ads in conjunction with your articles and company page, and deliver webinars to your LinkedIn followers.
Make sure that each piece of content delivers value, answers a question, or positions you and your company as a market leader. Include an easy means of contacting you each time you publish and share your content to create an evergreen trail back to you that lives forever on LinkedIn.
By consistently creating and distributing valuable content on LinkedIn, you not only establish strong credibility in your market, but engage prospects repeatedly over time. This bridges long B2B sales cycles and keeps you “front of mind” for your ideal target buyers.
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