LinkedIn can be an important part of your business, whether you’re in a B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer) operation. Here are three ways you can use the professional network in your own business:
Connect with People in Your Industry
B2B: As a B2B businessperson, you can make connections to possible clients, connections to possible referral sources, and allied and competitors. Since LinkedIn is a professional network (like Facebook but without poking), this is a chance for you to make connections (friends), and see who your second- and third-degree connections are (friends of friends).
B2C: While you won’t find much B2C business here (if you’re trying for it, you’re in the wrong place; Facebook is the better place for you), this is still a good place to make those professional connections. If you own or manage a store or restaurant, connect with other store/restaurant owners and managers. You can still share and learn professionally by connecting with other people who do the same job as you.
Join Industry, Niche, and Local Groups
B2B: There are very few general B2B businesses, but there are plenty of specialized industry groups, associations, and even niches, all found on LinkedIn. If you sell foundry products, there are groups dedicated strictly to people who work in the foundry business. More specifically, there is a group dedicated to purchasing agents who work in the foundry business. If you sell raw materials to foundries, that’s the group to be in. If you work in payroll, insurance, accounting, and other general B2B services, try joining local/community groups for all professionals within that city or state.B2C: B2C companies can benefit from groups as well. There are industry and niche groups for people in the retail and consumer markets, as well as your company’s primary focus, so they’re worth joining so you can learn and get new information from the veterans of your industry. (And if you’re a seasoned pro, you should join so you can share information with the newbies.) Plus, if there is a local group on LinkedIn, you should be a part of that group too. While you won’t advertise your services there, if you get to know some of the people in the group, they may stop by your place just to say hello and meet you face to face.
Ask and Answer Questions for Others
B2B: This is a chance for you to share your expertise, and demonstrate your knowledge to your connections. This is how you will be seen as an expert in your industry, and someone that potential clients and referral partners can turn to for solutions. That they pay for. Answer questions you’re able to answer, and you can build up a strong network of fellow professionals.
B2C: Again, LinkedIn won’t be an advertising channel for you, but by following some of the same principles as your B2B colleagues, you may end up winning some customers. Answer questions in local groups, make referrals and connections between local professionals. You’ll become a trusted resource, and people may just come to your place to do business because they like you.
About the author: Duncan Alney is the president and founder of Firebelly Marketing. He is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and photographer, and he’s working on his first social media marketing book, which will be out in late 2012. Duncan has lived on 3 continents and in 5 countries, but is proud to call Indianapolis home.