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You need to rethink the way you use LinkedIn. Without some of us even noticing, LinkedIn grew into a useful publishing platform and lead generation tool for marketers and salespeople looking to build relationships with prospects.

But if you’re looking for an easy lead source, you won’t find it here. After using LinkedIn to build my own discussion groups, I’ve discovered that using LinkedIn as a lead generator can be a pretty simple process  — if you’re willing to invest a little time-sharing your expertise and thought leadership.

Here are some ways to make the most of LinkedIn for lead generation:
 
1. Important to make a polished and personally branded profile on LinkedIn.
If you haven’t already, spend some time perfecting your profile to make sure it is clear what you do and what your strengths are. Focus on your headline and summary. It should be captivating.

Your headline will automatically be displayed as the last job you’ve had, unless you do it manually. My friend Jill Konrath put together a great video on four steps to writing your LinkedIn headline and summary. I’m starting to apply her lessons to my own profile.

Dan Schawbel of Mashable, the social media guide, suggests that you brand yourself for the job you want, not the job you have. For instance, if you are Marketing Specialist for Toyota, reword it to say “Internet Marketing Expert for Fortune 500 Companies.” Schawbel also suggests that your profile include keywords that recruiters or any individual who uses LinkedIn as a talent search engine will be looking for. Ask for recommendations from clients and colleagues. Also, try to leave your email address either at the end of the summary area or in the contact field labeled public. Don’t be afraid to update your status as often as you need to.
 
2. Always Connect and reconnect.
Start connecting with your current and past contacts, especially by focusing on the relationships where trust has been established. It’s easy to conduct a search on LinkedIn to find individuals you’ve lost touch with. These people usually want to help you, as you want to help them.

Accept invitations that make sense to you. When you get a new business card, look the individual up via LinkedIn and invite them to connect with you. If you’re a beginner with LinkedIn user, you can simply import your contacts from Window Live, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL. Always include your distinct URL in your email signature, on your traditional resume, blog, website and your business card, so that others can easily connect with you.
 
3. It’s okay to reach out to old clients.
You can track what your former clients have been doing since you last saw them — with no awkwardness. When contacting a former client, instead of sending an open-ended message, make a positive comment about their accomplishments and ask questions about their new ventures.
 
4. Join LinkedIn groups with lots of your clients/customers.
Groups can be powerful for your brand. Use Advanced Search to locate practitioners within your firm and the industry at-large. Through these groups, you can learn a lot about your industry by tuning into the conversations. You may discover new industry-wide pain points and learn about options to solve those pain points. Learning more about your business field by watching from afar will give you real, everyday insight into ways you can help and connect.
 
5. Try to post related content on groups and answer-targeted questions.
Start building your credibility in groups by sharing relevant content. This includes relevant blog posts, links to articles you have written, articles that quote you and event notices for webinars.

Stay sensitive to the dynamics of your group and never try to govern the conversation. Your materials should be a resource, not a sales push for you or your prospects.
Answer targeted questions. Many group members use LinkedIn as a discussion board, and you’ll find many questions posted on any given day. Every day take time to answer a few questions or to post a few questions yourself. Answer questions that are relevant to your expertise or something you’re passionate about.

If you find a question you can answer well from someone who’s relatively senior in a company and you would like to do business with, take the time to write a detailed, high-value response. You never know who’s reading the information. Many members gain a foot in the door because of the expertise they lend to a discussion.
Written By: Brian Carroll 

About the Author:
brian carrollBrian Carroll is Chief Evangelist at MECLABS Institute, Founder/CEO @InTouch, and wrote best­selling book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw­Hill). He built intentional friendships with difference makers in the sales/marketing community and those who are changing the way people think about marketing. 
Some of the people he works with include: thought leaders, academics, bloggers, authors, speakers, consultants, agencies, technology providers, marketers and business leaders. Brian’s specialties: relationship building, partnerships, marketing, lead generation, lead management/nurturing, leadership, strategy, complex sales and 
demand generation.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.


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