The proliferation of technological devices together with the increased number of Internet users has made the application of social media platforms a core strategy in marketing. LinkedIn is one of such platforms that are being used to reach and engage prospective buyers. According to Wong (2016), LinkedIn’s member base is growing globally developing its marketing potential. LinkedIn offers a platform to meet prospects and build up sales network. Therefore, one can expand their circle of contacts and join businesses, hence enhance profitability. This paper explores the use of LinkedIn to qualify and develop prospects, which requires the following key strategies: maintaining close connections and using recommendations and introductions to secure business opportunities.
One of the core strategies of qualifying prospects is to use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to find relevant clients. One can qualify them according to the industry they work in, their job title, their level of seniority, and many other specific criteria. Thus, one can target only those people who would form the primary market of the future product. It is also possible to target the decision makers in various companies (Chen, 2014). Therefore, LinkedIn makes it easier to narrow down and target specific individuals who may become prospective buyers for connections.
While prospecting for potential clients is relatively straightforward, effectively engaging and converting them into actual buyers or business partners is more demanding. The first strategy is to constantly engage them while demonstrating relevance, value, and expertise. Customer engagement is the most important activity in courting prospects. Sashi (2012) notes, “Customer engagement is turning on customers by building emotional bonds in relational exchanges with them” (p. 260). One should never let the connections become cold. Research studies have determined that only 4% of the prospects have positive impressions of representatives who establish contact (Chen, 2014). Most of the prospects perceive it as a calculated move: the representative contacts them only to persuade to do business. To avoid creating this adverse perception, one should periodically initiate conversations with their prospects to maintain friendly relationships.
Moreover, one can use LinkedIn Newsfeed to be informed on the prospect’s activities, which helps to remain relevant. Coleman, Chandler, and Gu (2013) advise to “find out what is important and of interest to your customers and business prospects … and get closer to them through on-line interactions” (p. 75). It helps to maintain good relationships through constant interactions and facilitates real time adjustment to the prospect’s needs and preferences. The more relevant and tailored a pitch is, the higher the chances are that the prospect will buy into it.
Furthermore, another strategy to develop prospects using LinkedIn is leveraging recommendations to get introductions. In some instances, LinkedIn users who have been satisfied with the procured goods or services give their fellow users recommendations. It is a good opportunity to introduce oneself to a person or company, to which you have been recommended. Research studies indicate that it is easier to develop a prospect through mutual connections. In fact, 76% of prospective buyers prefer to work with a person or company that has been recommended by someone they know and trust (Chen, 2014). Thus, using LinkedIn’s recommendations to reach out to prospective clients is a very convenient tactic for engaging and ultimately developing prospects.
One more strategy of developing prospects is using LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers to generate interest and establish meaningful connections. In LinkedIn Groups, one can find new business by identifying individuals and companies that fit the profile of their typical buyer (Chen, 2014). Targeting these specific prospects increases the chances of converting them into actual clients. One should also use LinkedIn Answers to communicate with prospects. Giving correct and reliable answers to their questions builds one’s reputation and gradually generates interests in business because it demonstrates unmatched expertise.
In conclusion, LinkedIn is an effective platform which helps to reach and engage prospects. However, one has to employ some of the best practices in qualifying and developing prospects on LinkedIn to achieve desired results. One should use Advanced Search to target specific clients to form the primary market. Once the connections are established, they should maintain friendly relationships demonstrating their importance, value, and competence. Finally, LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers are necessary to identify and develop prospects that show interest in solutions offered by a particular individual or business and may become actual buyers.