LinkedIn Tagging: Another digital hack!

LinkedInI had the pleasure to be interviewed on a radio show that also featured LinkedIn Jedi Master Viveka vonRosen. She shared a LinkedIn tactic that I had never utilized before, and I wanted to share it with you here.

It involves tagging your connections into groups around categories and keywords. Much like circles with Google Plus, lists with Twitter, or groups on Facebook.

This a way to organize your connections into buckets to help you send targeted messaging and/or specific content to them. Simple concept.

This isn’t necessarily new, but it is not something I’ve experimented with much. Until now.

This isn’t a hard process to do:

1. Go to LinkedIn.
2. Mouse over “Contacts” and then click on “Connections.”
3. In the left column, you will see “Tags.”
4. You can click on “Manage” to add/remove/update your tags. You can have up to 200 of them.
5. In the second column from left, click on the name of a connection, or check the box of many connections, and then click “edit tags” to get your connections tagged with a keyword.
6. Finally, when you are ready to send a message/content, click on the tag in the left column, and then “send message,” which will appear in the third column from the left. This will be another way to stay on their radar.

[let me know if you have any questions!]

How to use this? Well, I don’t have a complete story to tell on this yet, since I myself am new to this strategy. But rest assured, I will be experimenting.

But here is what I have already started to do with this:

1. Organize my connections around certain needs and problems, and send them related content to help them.
2. Organize my connections around interests, and send them my podcasts that will be of interest.
3. Organize my connections into groups of prospects, and send helpful content when appropriate.

One final tip: Don’t spam people with an endless river of content. Send only stuff you know they need, and will get benefit from. And send only when appropriate. Don’t send stuff three times daily, or even daily.

And test. You will soon learn what people want and are looking for, and adjust accordingly.

Good luck, and let me know what works and what doesn’t. And stay tuned, I will report findings down the road…

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B2B Social Media – A River of Manure

I hope you’re not offended or put off by the analogy.  If, however, all the hype about using social media to drive B2B sales is a bit baffling, and you can bear with it for a bit, a light bulb just might pop on for you.  It did for me.

Think of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. as sewer pipes, dumping all manner of yuck into the pond at the front end of a sewage treatment plant.  No B2B sales rep – any business person – should be rushing to take a drink from those pipes or go for a swim in that pond! Yes, lots and lots of clean water gets dumped into those streams with every flush – environmentalists are justly alarmed at that waste – but for the most part, well… it’s sewage. (I don’t care what you had for breakfast, and I for sure don’t care what you had for breakfast yesterday!)

sewagetreatmentplantNow picture the latest and greatest waste-water treatment plant in the world.  It’s got sludge ponds and it’s got filters and it’s got biological reaction chambers and it’s got all manner of technology specifically designed to get rid of all the yuck. ALL OF IT!  The water that comes out is literally and figuratively as pure as the driven snow.

Dive into the pond fed by the pipe coming out of that treatment plant.  Take a drink from the pipe coming out!

And what’s the equivalent of a waste-water treatment plant for the manure-filled social media world? Thankfully there are lots and lots of options.  We’ll walk through just three of them here. (Especially if you secretly think of social media as a river of %&@#, walk through all three yourself.  An epiphany just might happen.)

1) Choose a topic that’s of great interest to you.  Go to a professionally produced Facebook page about it and “Like” it.  If you’re a baseball fan, “like” the Atlanta Braves page.  If you’re a classical music fan, “like” the Georgia Symphony Orchestra page.  If you’re into  fine wine, good food, craft beers and artisanal spirits, “like” The Food Studio page.  You get the idea.  When you go to Facebook, do not go through the main “news feed.”  Instead visit only the pages you’ve “liked.”  Those pages are all on the far side of your personal social media sewage treatment plant.

2) Choose an author, blogger or consultant whose work you respect.  Go to twitter.com to find their Twitter handle.  Download a copy of Hootsuite (or TweetDeck or similar). Set up a stream that follows just that one person.  Check the feed every few days and electronically pick their brain.  (Might I not so humbly suggest @youngbloodtodd?  Or maybe @toddschnick, or Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog?)  Slowly but surely increase the number of folks & streams you monitor.  They’re all on the far side of your personal social media sewage treatment plant.

3) Recruit a small (3-5 people) group of like-minded individuals with similar job responsibilities who agree to “give a LinkedIn group the old college try.”  Ask each other questions; help solve each other’s problems.  (DO share blog posts, etc. you find of interest with this group, but DO NOT fall into the trap of doing nothing but.  Ask & answer within the group!)  Slowly but surely invite others to join.  The group is on the far side of the group’s social media sewage treatment plant.

There are many, many more things that can be done with social media to help sell more B2B biz in less time.  First things first, however.  Build your personal social media sewage treatment plant!

The only article you’ll need to get your boss to let you use LinkedIn to sell

Hugh MacLeodLinkedIn…one of the best business development tools you aren’t using.

Presumably, you have connections in LinkedIn. Whether you have 112 connections, or 1,000+, I don’t care.

Presumably, these are people important to you: customers, prospects, partners, suppliers, referral partners, etc…

You get the idea.

Ask yourself two questions:

1. Why are they there?
2. Why aren’t you communicating with them more often?

Here is Schnick’s best piece of LinkedIn advice:

Assuming you have a smart phone or tablet, download the LinkedIn app. They have just recently launched their new app…

And it frickin’ rocks.

It is one of those apps that’s so beautiful, and so easy to use, that it is actually fun to use.

Well, except you, who isn’t using it.

All you have to do is scroll through the “updates” link of your app, and start “swiping” through them all. Here, the updates of the people you are connected to are listed.

Simple.

But here’s the trick:

Keep an eye out for people you need to (re)connect with…people that you:

A. You want to do business with.
B. Who’s organizations you want to serve.
C. Who are a key contact you want to reestablish contact with.
D. Know are important, and you haven’t connected with in a while…

Once you identify someone to connect with, click through to their profile, and send them a message (the app will either say “Send message” or show en “envelope” icon, depending on the type of update they share)…

And all you have to do is connect, and:

Say hello.
Ask them how they are doing.
Ask them what’s new.
Ask them how the weather is.
Ask them how their gig is going?
Ask them how the family is.
Ask them how their recent business trip went.
Ask them about trends.
Ask them about the kids.
Ask them about their latest product launch, and how it is going.

I don’t care.

But ask them something. Start a conversation.

But for Christ sakes…start a frickin’ dialog.

That’s half the battle.

If they respond, and answer your question, you’ve got something to work with.

The rest is up to you.

If you need help from there…

…then I am not sure there is much I can do for you.

For I believe that half the battle in sales is starting conversation.

Anyways…

“But Todd,” you might ask, “Woe is me, but when do I have time to do this…”

How about:

1. When you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

2. When you are in the check-out line at the supermarket.

3. When you are, ahem, taking care of business.

4. When you are wide awake at night and cannot sleep.

5. When you are on hold with tech support.

6. When you are stuck in traffic (just don’t let the authorities see).

7. When you are in the elevator.

8. While watching the kid’s soccer game.

9. When you are traveling to Florida, and the wife is driving.

10. When you agree to watch a Lifetime movie with the lady, and you are pretending to watch.

11. During a time out of the ballgame you are watching.

12. During commercials, and you can’t reach the remote.

13. When you are waiting for your food at a restaurant, and the family doesn’t mind you “working and earning money whilst on your phone.”

14. During the previews of a movie, even though you promised that you turned off the phone.

15. Whilst your plane is taxiing down the runway, and you are hiding the phone between your legs to hide it from the flight attendant….

You get the idea.

Look, I don’t care. You don’t need to carve out four hours a day to make use of this. You need to find a minute here…find a minute there.

The app makes this simple. Reaching out and saying hello to people is obvious.

Starting a conversation with someone is the hard part.

Now…go to work. Stop wasting time reading me…

P.S. I’ve sold lots of business on LinkedIn. Don’t believe me? Email me, and we’ll get on the phone, and I’ll tell the stories…

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No more excuses. You MUST start using Twitter

Let’s cut to the chase.  Twitter is an extremely powerful sales tool.  Disagreeing with that statement, frankly, is an admission that you haven’t tried it.  It’s also an indicator that your e-Rep is lame at best.  I’ll provide an even more compelling reason to use it toward the end of this post.

Seriously!

Twitter Search alone makes it a must have – make that must use – tool for any self respecting sales professional. Ever heard the term “Trigger Event?”  You may have a different name for it, so here are two simple examples:  Let’s say your primary decision-maker typically has a title that includes the word “Manufacturing.”  When a customer contact of yours has a title change, say from Director of Manufacturing to VP of Manufacturing, that’s a trigger event.  When a customer contact of yours goes from VP of Manufacturing at Company A to VP of Manufacturing at Company B, that’s a trigger event.  Any event that clearly signals a significant change that likely represents a selling opportunity is a trigger event.

If you do nothing else with Twitter, set up a few searches that alter you to trigger events.

Pope Benedict XVI

Get over the fact that you can’t close a deal with Twitter.  You can identify lots of great opportunities with it.  Forget the fact that you don’t care what I had for breakfast.  Don’t include “breakfast” as a key word in your Twitter Search.  Forget the fact that you’re just too old, or sophisticated, or seasoned, or successful, or whatever to use this “new fangled social media tool.”

You’re going to argue with the Pope? 

Here’s proof that 85 year old Pope Benedict sees the value and power of Twitter.  Personally, I think of the source of his inspiration, and I’m off to update my Twitter searches right now! @pontifex

The 19-Step Plan On How Even Non-Believers Can Use Twitter To Grow Their Business!

todd schnickOk, fine. So you don’t see any business value to Twitter.

Fair enough. But you aren’t thinking. You aren’t using your head. So here is a simple 19-step plan to put it to work for you:

1. Meet someone new!

[1.5. And you should do this exercise with existing prospects too...]

2. Think about this new person for a moment… Are they a prospect for your business?

3. If no, stop. And move on with your day.

4. If yes, please continue.

5. Find out if they are on Twitter. How?

5A. Go to their company website. If they (or their company) are on Twitter, it is likely listed there somewhere…probably on the Contact Us page, a sidebar, or the site footer.

5B. Or simply Google the person’s name. If they are on Twitter, a link to their Twitter profile is more than likely on the first page of their Google search results.

6. If you find a company and/or Twitter profile, FOLLOW THEM.

7. Get on Twitter, and tweet them with “Hey! Great to meet you. Look forward to hanging out with you on Twitter!”

8. Go to your Twitter app. Most people use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

9. If you don’t already have this set up, create a “PROSPECTS” column stream.

[9.5. If your Twitter app does not allow you to create specific columns to follow certain people, then switch. Your app stinks.]

10. Add your new contact(s) to this “PROSPECTS” stream.

11. From now on, every Tweet this person sends out will appear in this column.

12. You now have an easy way to quickly monitor what this person and/or company does and says on Twitter.

13. Monitor this “PROSPECTS” column just a few minutes a day. Look for intereting things to comment on.

14. When you find something, comment on it. This can be commenting on and/or sharing their most recent blog post. It might be they talk about the weather, politics, some recent wins… It could be anything. Heck, they may even ask a question, as in “Can anyone recommend a good CRM solution?” ENGAGE WITH THEM.

14.5. But do NOT sell. As you will find, they will reach out to you when the TIME IS RIGHT.

Editor’s Note: To go deeper here, I’d suggest reading this article called 14 Simple Ways To Start Conversations On Twitter.

15. The goal is to extend the conversation, to keep the dialog going, to deepen the relationship with your new prospect.

16. You do not have to comment on everything. But at least one or two items a week.

17. Over time, your relationship will advance. Ultimately, the conversation may advance to a point where they want to meet/talk face-to-face and discuss a deeper business relationship.

18. But it might take time. This strategy is for the LONG GAME.

19. But a few minutes of engagement each day adds up to a lot of meaningful engagement that will result in meaningful business releationships.

So, this simple guide answers the two ever-perplexing questions:

“I just don’t see value in using Twitter as a sales tool.”
“How in the hell do I build a following on Twitter?”

If you now don’t see the value in Twitter, EVEN IF you only use it to monitor and connect with a handful a important prospects THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW, then I fear for the future of mankind.

And yes, you can apply this strategy to other social networks, but in my humble opinion, this is what Twitter was made for.

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Drawing by Hugh.

Are You A Bumbling Idiot On LinkedIn, Part 2

linkedin strategyI published a post a while back that provided 12 ways on how to change your approach to LinkedIn, called Are You A Bumbling Idiot on LinkedIn?

Since then, I’ve come up with SIX more thoughts on how to use, and how NOT to use, LinkedIn:

1. When someone takes the time to connect with you, and provides a personalized message explaining why, don’t just accept the invitation and move on. Take a second to respond and send back a thoughtful message. LinkedIn makes it easy.

2. When you post something to a LinkedIn group, be sure to respond when people ask questions or comment back. If not, you are making it clear you are just trying to game the system and get traffic to your website.

A lady posted a blog post of hers to a LinkedIn group. It generated meaningful discussion, 54 comments as of this writing.

Ask me if the lady who posted the original article has offered even one comment to the dialog?

What a waste…

3. It would be a worthy goal to actually recognize each connection on LinkedIn, and legitimately know what they do… If you don’t, you should disconnect.

Or you should take the time to learn more about your connections…

4. Why in heck would you even bother to spend time on a social network like LinkedIn, and not put your head shot on your profile? Why? Why? Why? That’s like going to a face-to-face networking meeting with a damn bag over your head…

5. I sent a personal message to an old contact of mine, to reconnect and say hello, and find out what she was up to and how she was doing. She responded, TWO MONTHS LATER. And said, “sorry for the late reply, but I rarely check LinkedIn.”

If that’s the case, why are you even here? What’s the damn point?

6. LinkedIn has a cool feature where you can run polls, and then share them on not only LinkedIn, but also on Twitter, Facebook, and/or embedding them in your blog.

Polls are a great way to get the pulse of your network on an idea, concept, or issue, and a great way to get some (un)scientific market research. I am surprised at how few people run polls on LinkedIn.

For example, here is one I ran just the other day (if you are reading this via email, click thru to the actual post to view):

So those are just some recent thoughts and experiences on LinkedIn. I’ll have more. What do you think? What can you add?

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No Wonder You Hate Social Media…

Get it out of your head that social media is a chore.

If that’s how you feel about it, NO WONDER you don’t see any business value in the social web.

You see, I learned long ago to view my time engaging on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn as fun time. Time spent with friends. Time spent peering in the windows of people I care about, and thus learning what they care about.

I don’t just publish “business” articles on these platforms.

I’ve posted pics of my dogs, music I am listening to, movie trailer videos from YouTube, pics of the meals Stephanie and I are making, and other goofy, sometimes edgy stuff. [there are business lessons in popular culture too...]

And trust me, whilst posting links to my business content certainly drives traffic to my websites, people are FAR MORE LIKELY to engage with me on my dog and food pics.

Amongst my most frequent commenters? My clients and prospects. Yes, I see them as friends too.

Don’t be a fool and let your boss tell you this is a waste of time.

In fact, I’d argue it is the most important element to social media. It is how you connect with people, how you deepen relationships, and how you establish bonds and trust…

…that make the business deals more likely to happen.

So stop worrying about the frickin’ ROI of social media. You are missing the point.

This is human interaction. This is just another way we connect with people in the modern world.

And it can be, and should be, fun and enjoyable.

I was giving a presentation just this morning to a client. Before my remarks, I observed the guys and gals sitting in the room. I sat there for 20 minutes.

Guess what they talked about?

Last night’s dinner. Playing billiards. What beers they sampled.

It certainly wasn’t business. And the thing is, this is ok.

This is what human frickin’ beings do. This is what we talk about. We connect. We share. And we certainly don’t always talk business.

Social media is just another way to do it on the internet. Stop looking at the social web as a sales tool and tactic. It is those things, but so much more. Stop worrying about how much time you have to invest.

Spend whatever amount of time you want to.

In the end, it is about connecting with people.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never sold a piece of business to a damn robot or a company logo.

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Drawing by Hugh.

Are You A Bumbling Idiot On LinkedIn?

I am making a conscious effort to clean up my act on LinkedIn. I’ve been a bumbling idiot.

One thing I’ve discovered, when reviewing my presence there, is that I have connected to many people that have no value to me. They aren’t bad people, they just don’t matter to my long-term business goals.

“But Todd, what about the person I only recently met, and don’t know well, they might be a prospect,” you’ll ask, panting.

By all means, connect to people who both matter to you, AND certainly people you’ve JUST gotten to know and are potential business opportunities.

[the key being that you actually know them...]

But DO NOT just blindly accept an invitation from someone you have ZERO connection with… just to inflate your numbers. For goodness sakes, as a man, this envy thing has got to stop.

In all honestly, I mock people who are connected to thousands of people on LinkedIn. That doesn’t impress me one bit. I do believe in the concept of Dunbar’s Number….

I was connected to a guy that was a LION, or some such, and he was connected to 8,700+ people. What the hell? Nice guy, but I bailed on him. We hadn’t communicated since the day we first connected. Clearly, I am just a number to him.

Anyway, here are some random thoughts and ideas on some ways to better leverage your LinkedIn experience:

1. Subscribe your LinkedIn status update feed to your RSS reader of choice. Once your status updates start feeding direct into your reader, I find that it becomes VERY easy to scroll through and look for opportunities to connect. [see where to do this in the image below]

LinkedIn strategy

click image to enlarge

2. But, you can also do this just as simply by going direct to the status updates on LinkedIn.com, or better yet, through the iPad app (which is killer, and in my opinion, making LinkedIn fun again!).

3. I find that, sadly, names come across my status updates that I don’t recognize. Here, click through to their profile to remember who they are. If you find it is someone you just don’t know, or see no value in, disconnect from them. They are just clutter to you. If, however, they are someone that you want to get to know on a deeper level, why not just send them a note to say hello, ask them a question or two, or maybe even invite them to coffee…

Just this morning as I wrote this, someone I reached out to this way sent me a note wanting to learn more about our trade show radio services. You just never know what dust you can stir up here…

4. If you observe someone CLUTTERING up your LinkedIn stream with meaningless drivel, AND they are someone not to important to you, I’d suggest disconnecting from them. Quickly. And with malice.

5. When scrolling through updates, I come across people I haven’t spoken to, or connected with, in a long time. This is a great little opportunity to just send a LinkedIn message to say hello, to see what they are up to. These can sometimes lead, as in my case, to new business…

6. Sometimes it is just a good idea to check out someone’s profile just to see what they are up to. This enables you to forge a deeper relationship with your entire social graph.

7. Another random thought… As you clear away the clutter from your LinkedIn stream, you will more easily see the contacts and people that truly matter…

8. Another [sort of] related LinkedIn tip: When you have the chance to connect with someone, don’t just send the generic “I’d like to connect” message. Make it personal. Make it human.

9. Within the last week, I have removed 50 connections. 80% of these were people I just did not know. And 20% were people who did not have value in my business development efforts.

10. Groups. What can I say about LinkedIn Groups. Other than the fact that most people abuse them. Most people do two things wrong. One, they use groups as a place to just BLAST their latest blog-post one-way hoping to get some traffic. And two, they start or join groups, and then NEVER do anything with it. Never start a conversation, and certainly never engage in one.

Have you ever been to a meeting where 15 people sit around a table, and no one says a flippin’ thing? They just sit there. Silent. Yeah, that’s impactful…

11. And join groups that matter to your business development efforts. If you are a marketing guy, don’t join marketing groups. Instead, join groups where your prospects are. For me, since manufacturers are an important part of my target market, I just joined a manufacturing executives group. I will engage and see what happens…

12. …and if nothing happens and the group you’ve joined is a dud, quit. And go find another group where interaction and the group dynamic work for you.

Trust me, I want as large and robust a LinkedIn network as I can. But I want people connected to me who matter, who are people I know and are business opportunities, and are people who don’t SPAM my status updates with drivel and self-promotional crap.

Evolving your LinkedIn world to this place DOES NOT happen overnight, but only after a daily practice of intentional steps.

Get to work. And I promise these disciplines will lead to business opportunities.

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“Social Media” is a lousy label and it spooks the sales profession

The phrase “Social Media” didn’t start out lousy.  The lousiness creeped in over time, and the spookiness slithered along next to it.  What a shame.

It attacks the biggest issue faced by sales pros, yet is shunned by them.

“Youngblood,” you say, “how can this be?”  Well let’s just call it a big misunderstanding.  Facebook, the big kahuna of social networks, was started by and for college kids to make it easier to find a date.  That image stuck, and sticks to this day.  Twitter, another kahuna-class social network, became famous for letting the world know what you had for breakfast.  That image stuck, and sticks to this day.

Now make no mistake, dating and breakfast are still prominent aspects of social media.   But guess what?  People have actually stumbled upon other extremely powerful, useful, serious applications of the technology.  Tweeting, texting, sharing and posting have materially contributed to the downfall of dictatorships, scientific breakthroughs and organizing rescue efforts after natural disasters.

But we sales types are too un-creatively dumb to leverage the same tools?

Please…  Think a bit.  Making the first contact and establishing the beginningings of a business relationship with decision-makers has always been a huge challenge, right?  So consider the following scenarios…

  • Target decision-maker posts a photo of himself on Facebook holding the fish he caught on his recent Caribbean vacation
  • Target decision-maker changes her LinkedIn profile to reflect her promotion to a higher level job
  • Target decision-maker Tweets a question about good places to eat in Pieoria

…and tell me you’re incapable of coming up with a way to respond.  A way to make the first chink in that exec’s gate-keeping armor.  Are you kidding me?

So get over the lousy name.  Use social media.  Use it aggressively to sell more faster!

Learn how to monitor Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  (Any middle school kid can show you how.)  Monitor the social network activity of your target decision-makers.  Reach out and respond to their activity.  That’s called networking – making initial contact – establishing a toehold – forging a business relationship.  Do it or get your butt kicked by your competitors who are not so hung up on what folks had for breakfast.

You Are Missing The Boat

I know many of you are missing the boat when it comes to the tools now available to you. How do I know this? Because I hear the following statements:

“I don’t understand social media.”
“It doesn’t apply to my industry.”
“Nobody I am targeting spends time on social media.”
“I don’t have the time.”
“It is too hard to generate content.”

These commonly heard comments tell me you are unaware of the opportunities that are before you. They indicate you are missing the chance to harness the power at your fingertips. Finally, those statements say you are afraid to try something new.

So, what are you missing out on?

1. You can reach someone anywhere on the globe. I just watched this commercial that talked about this idea of a global economy, how an action taken in the states, has impacts on Hong Kong, Germany, and South Africa, to name a few.

You already know this, but still, that’s pretty cool. You can publish a blog post, a podcast, and/or a video…and within minutes, people all over the world can view it, learn from it, and take action on it.

2. You can build tribes of followers, fans, and prospects much easier than ever before. And your tribe doesn’t have to live in the same city. They can be a tight knit group, and live anywhere on the globe. And communicate easier too…

3. You can tell your company story faster and easier, than ever before. Before: you had to hand out brochures, and whomever got one, knew the story. Now: the BILLION+ people online can learn about you and your purpose and mission almost instantly.

4. You can make the search engines work for you! The more content you publish, the more people share links to your content on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+….the more Google recognizes you as an authority in your market…and sends inbound traffic to you.

5. Things can happen now in real time. Are you constantly fussin’ about slow, long, painful sales cycles? Well, you can begin to chip away at that when you can both respond to customer inquiries in real time, and educate your market in real time. You can respond to the marketplace FASTER than ever.

Open your eyes my friend… The social webs and technology have changed the ballgame. Get on board soon, before your competitors figure it out and get the industry recognition that should be yours.

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Drawing by Hugh Macleod.