LinkedIn is the Best Networking Party You’ll Ever Attend

I was recently told by one of my entrepreneurial friends that my engagement on LinkedIn had inspired her to dig even deeper into networking within the platform. I was posting success after success connecting with influencers and potential leads and it led to her reaching out to people she’d never considered reaching out to.

I find that success, quite simply, by looking at LinkedIn as the best networking party I could ever attend … and you can replicate my actions!

Here’s how:

1. Showcase Your Credentials

You can’t be afraid to showcase what you’ve done. I’ve worked for an NFL team, many athletes across a number of sports, and been an entrepreneur for more than three years. It’s important that I say that clearly and directly within my profile.

LinkedIn Networking Party Analogy: How would you introduce yourself to someone at an in-person gathering? What are the most relevant things about your professional background? Make sure those are highlighted within your profile and let me know if you need help.

2. Strike Up A Conversation

Be a real person! Reach out to individuals in your network just to learn more about their businesses. Tell them you think they’re impressive or that you love reading their content on the platform. Send connection requests to individuals you don’t know with a note that compliments them or inquires about their work.

LinkedIn Networking Party Analogy: Don’t be that person at the party who keeps to him or herself or only talks to the one you drove with. Put yourself out there and learn about other people — you never know where you’ll find common ground or who you’ll end up collaborating with. The best leads are often disguised as irrelevant connections!

3. Take An Online World Offline

Let LinkedIn be a conduit to connecting with people over the phone or in person. I love scheduling calls with others in my industry just to talk for 15-20 minutes about who they are, what they do within their business, and their longterm goals. Sometimes that turns into a pitch for services, other times it’s just a conversation that helps me get better acquainted with someone.

LinkedIn Networking Party Analogy: One of the great things about networking parties is they allow you to inform others of what you do and who you target. You may meet someone who knows someone who is looking for someone just like you. That same phenomenon occurs through LinkedIn by connecting offline! Schedule an informational call and you may just hear, “Let me connect you with …”

Noteworthy: The Athlete Advantage

If you’ve played sports in college or within a professional league, I have one piece of advice regarding LinkedIn: exploit the heck out that experience.

I don’t care what sport it was, whether you’re male or female, or whether you won a championship … playing sports at either of those levels is a point of conversation and something people want to be associated with.

As someone who worked in digital media for an NFL team for nearly 10 years, I can attest that this applies beyond those who play on the field or court. I accrued so many LinkedIn connections over that decade that are paying huge dividends now.

Okay, you may be thinking, that sounds great. How do I do that? I don’t want to come across as self-absorbed.

Fantastic question! Here is how you maximize that experience:

  1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile. Make sure your headline references your background in sports and that your experience is complete. There will be plenty of curious eyes on your profile — make it good!
  2. Show your depth. Athletes — especially those who aren’t headliners — are competitive, disciplined, and have plenty of stories to share. Remember that LinkedIn is a networking party — provide anecdotes as they pertain to your business objectives. Life and business lessons are always embedded in sports stories.
  3. Connect with relevant people. This includes other athletes, influencers, business professionals, and media. The key is to connect with them before you need something, but after you are well on your way with profile optimization and sharing content. Form the relationships now so you can ask for what you need later.

The moral of the story? Treat LinkedIn like the online networking party it is and build your business in the process!

4 Reasons Reserve Athletes Make Up the Best in Business

Many athletes struggle with capitalizing on their pro sports career when transitioning into business. They see what they did in the sports world as “no big deal” and that it’s “cheating” to allow it to give them a leg up.

This is primarily true of those who don’t have blockbuster careers. Headliners often have no problem taking advantage of the fame, but what if you only played two or three years? What if you never made it to an active roster?

Honestly, these athletes are often the best for business for a number of reasons.

1. You Fought for What You Received

We all know about the guy who had no problem starting at every level. The player who coasted his way to starting as a freshman before becoming a first-round draft pick. For those players, it always came easy.

Not for you. You had to scratch and claw for every opportunity you received because it didn’t come easy for you. As a kid, you were always elite. You were the best in your hometown and there was no doubt you would move on to stardom.

Once you reached the collegiate level, however, you met players far better than you. Or perhaps you recognized that – while you were great in college – you weren’t physically built to be elite in the pros.

This is a tough pill to swallow and it humbled you, but it also fueled you to work even harder. It resulted in commitment and dedication to achieving your dream of playing at the pro level … and you did it.

2. You Work Hard in the Classroom

Fighting for that final roster spot meant you had to be great in the classroom. You had no choice. Not only did you have to be as easy to work with for the coaches as possible, you had to know how to fill in at more than one position to carry value.

Non-starters have to be flexible, regardless of the sport. In baseball, you’re called a utility player. In football, you have to learn new plays at multiple positions each week. It’s an added burden that requires greater commitment.

You may have also experienced moving between teams during your career or during the same season. Each move requires learning a new playbook, system, or strategy. Often the primary hurdle is picking up new terminology, signals, or signs, but it still requires quick learning or going home.

3. You Possess Discipline

Pro sports is a hierarchy. All players are not treated equal. Though touted as “just a game” by fans, sports is a business that requires winning. For that reason, starters receive preferential treatment, regardless of the sport.

This means you had to work overtime to hone your skills because you didn’t get as many reps as the starters. You had to pull coaches aside for extra work because they put their focus and energy on the starters during practice.

You were responsible for putting in the work required to keep your job … no one was going to do it for you. That shows discipline and integrity because nothing was handed to you.

4. You Are a Team Player

During games you may have acted as a bench coach, encourager, or scout … and you did all of that knowing you were one injury or extra inning away from getting into the game.

I was always in awe of the inactive or reserve players during my time in the NFL. They were often the most charismatic, fun, and supportive guys on the roster and put the betterment of the team ahead of their own personal goals.

A good sense of humor is also common among these players. I remember one guy in particular who was added and then released multiple times each year for many seasons. Each time he came back, we would see and laugh, “You’re back?”

He would smile and say, “Yeah, I’m back,” even though this constant back-and-forth meant moving multiple times throughout the year and staying in shape year-round just to be ready in case he received a call.

Let Pro Sports be Your Brand

Whether you played two seasons or two minutes at the professional level, the fact that you made it there at all is something to build your brand around. Recognize that playing professional sports is a job that requires a number of high-functioning skills to succeed.

Leverage it to build the business you are passionate about. Tell potential employers you played at the highest level of your sport and articulate why it matters. If the people you’re working with don’t recognize it for what it is, maybe they’re not the people you should be working with.

The bottom line? You put in the blood, sweat, and tears … now go ahead and own it.

How to Pitch a Story to the Media

Pitching a story to the media is truly an art form. There are a number of components to consider from the individual writing or reporting your story to the audience that will be reading or watching it.

I have pitched a number of stories in my role as Director of Communications for The ChadTough Foundation as well as in my consulting work with professional athletes. Therefore, I recognize what it takes for a story to be picked up.

Whether you’re looking to promote an event or simply promote yourself or your business, here are questions to ask yourself as you look to media to cover:

Is your story newsworthy?

There are two types of professional athletes: those who generate media attention when they wake up in the morning and those who are asked if they know the athletes who generate media attention when they wake up in the morning.

You know who you are.

I greatly appreciate the players who have a sense of humor when they show up to a kids’ charity event only to be asked if they “know Miguel Cabrera/Lebron James/insert megastar here.”

Point being, if you aren’t generating news simply because you’re breathing, you will have to ask yourself if what you’re doing is newsworthy. Note: stories that seem newsworthy to you may not be newsworthy to the general public.

Did you become the first in your family to graduate college? Live on 10-percent of your salary to set yourself up for after you’re done playing?

These may be worth covering for someone in the local media.

Is your story any good?

Let’s just lay it out there: will anyone care what you have to say? Often times — especially when promoting an event — perspective on whether a story is good or not is lost.

Think about browsing social media or reading ESPN — what catches your attention? What makes a good story?

When you’re trying to promote an event and you’re not Lebron James, the best way to get it out there is to pitch it along with an accompanying story.

For example, let’s say you’re putting on an event to raise money for foster kids. That’s really nice, but it isn’t a news story. Add in the component that you grew up in foster homes and persevered through it and you have a fantastic story.

Is your story mutually beneficial?

This is a big one.

When you’re pitching a story to a member of the media, you must think about whether it is mutually beneficial. If all you do is tell a reporter what you want out of their coverage, you won’t be doing the most critical thing of all: building a relationship.

Once you’ve shown a member of the media that you will help them look good by giving them quality stories, he or she will be more likely to pitch their editors to your events or initiatives.

Note: The mutually beneficial part also comes after the story runs. Push out the coverage via social media or link to it from your website with a thank you to the person who wrote or produced it.

What if your story isn’t picked up?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may consider a different way to get your story to the general public. Blog it yourself, write a press release, or post a video to social media talking about your event or initiative.

Bonus: Sometimes stories aren’t big enough for media to cover it themselves, but they will highlight your coverage. Send what you write or record to your media list and you may get coverage regurgitating what you’ve already done.

Do you have to do all of this yourself?

No, you don’t! When you’re just starting out, however, you may have to do a lot of this yourself.

Once you’re more established, it’s a good idea to hire a public relations professional who already has established relationships with the media, writing skills, and the ability to come up with quality stories to pitch.

When you get to that point of hiring someone, make sure you have a specific goal in place such as growing a business or a foundation. That way, you are putting your money to good use and will eventually get a return!

Happy pitching!

5 Myths About Professional Athletes and How to Leverage Them

There are a number of myths out there regarding professional athletes, most of which fuel bar talk among fans. These myths are irritating to professional athletes and many who work in the industry, myself included.

But, as a professional athlete, it’s important to recognize the advantage that can be had by defying these stereotypes publicly. Notice I said publicly. The majority of athletes defy them privately, but that doesn’t pose much of an advantage.

It’s when these actions are promoted within the media that an athlete can benefit through his or her business or foundation.

Let’s take a look at some of the myths.

The Myths

“All professional athletes are rich.”

This one is frustrating. There’s nothing like being treated like scum due to the perception of making millions. Hell, if I’m going to be treated like crap for making millions, it would be nice to actually be making them.

Considering only the marquee players receive mammoth contracts and the life span of an average pro sports career is between three and six years, money is rarely there and — even when it is — it doesn’t go far.

“Professional athletes have the easiest job in the world.”

I’ve seen players limping out of a locker room the day after a game, covered in ice packs, only to suit up the following Sunday. Sports are grueling, and the ones at a national level are punishing beyond compare.

When there are throngs of fans expecting a player to suit up and contention is on the line, there is little room for choice from the player’s side.

Then — to add insult to injury (literally) — fans call players weak when they sit the bench with a broken bone, bad sprain, or other injury that could provide life-altering setbacks if aggravated.

“All professional athletes are self-centered.”

Let’s be honest: athletes are caricatures to the average person. Pawns in a game of entertainment that is far more than entertainment to most. Many fans hold their quality of life in the hands of sports and don’t care that the men or women playing the game are, in fact, human beings.

I truly believe the idea of all athletes being self-centered is a way to subconsciously justify the horrible things fans say about them, but I digress.

“Professional athletes have no idea what it’s like to be me.”

Could this be the most frustrating of all? Yes, there are the celebrity-status athletes who live life differently than most, but most professional athletes couldn’t be picked out of a crowd when wearing street clothes.

“Most professional athletes are immoral.”

Not even close. There are plenty who give all a bad name, however, primarily because the media pounces on the negative stories. We live in a day and age where sensationalism is the way to be. It’s tough to turn our eyes from a train wreck, let’s be honest.

Making the Myths Work

Why bring all of this up? Because professional athletes can use it to their advantage. As painful as it is to look the other way when a drunken fan is hurling insults their way, actively defying these myths or stereotypes can result in great things.

How do they do this?

Here is a step-by-step guide:

1. Have a plan.

Athletes shouldn’t throw money at products or services without an end result in mind. When building a foundation, have a specific timeline laid out before getting started. Recognize what will be accomplished, how funds will be raised, and a plan for growth.

When building a business, athletes must recognize the products or services being provided, who they will be provided to, and how money will be made.

2. Hire a public relations rep.

Whether an athlete played three years or three days, there is an advantage, and it’s important to hire someone who knows how to work it.

Here are some guidelines:

  • They must know how to frame a story. This is critical to getting it picked up. Hosting a holiday toy drive is nice, but it isn’t a news story. Talking about a father of four, recently laid off, who will be able to provide Christmas to his kids because of your toy drive is absolutely a story.
  • They must have a great network. Between media contacts and people of influence, make sure your PR rep has relationships to leverage.
  • They must have basic communication skills. The last thing you want is a piece of content — press release, flier, etc. — published on your behalf looking like a child put it together. Your PR rep is your rep.

Make sure he or she knows how to speak and write. Design experience is a plus, but good taste (and a willingness to defer to someone with design experience) will do.

3. Work your network.

Whether it’s online or in person, athletes must be visible. They can leverage social media (which doesn’t have to be Facebook and Twitter … it could be LinkedIn!) and take advantage of these myths by being open about how they defy them.

They should allow a PR rep to pitch stories (so they don’t appear to be boasting), promote via social, and then follow suit with the right actions.

Fans will eat it up when presented the right way.

How to Get Responses on Sales Navigator

Have you invested in Sales Navigator but can’t seem to generate any results?

If so, ask yourself this question: Am I just going through the motions?

Sales Navigator is an awesome tool for any business or entrepreneur looking to generate leads, but it’s important to put in the time and effort it takes to produce results.

Here are five steps you can take to start generating results:

1. Articulate Your Purpose

I’d wager many of us skip this step without even realizing it. You have a business with a clear focus and, therefore, can just dive into searching for potential leads … right?

Wrong.

Make sure you get organized before you set up your searches by asking yourself questions to narrow down your target:

  • Am I targeting businesses or individuals?
  • If I am targeting businesses, who are the decision-makers within those businesses relevant to my services?
  • What is my ultimate goal in connecting with my target? (e.g. schedule a demo, schedule a discovery call, sign up for a service)
  • What are the key fields within search that will produce ideal results? Do I work best with businesses of a certain size or within a certain industry?
  • Am I looking for cold traffic (non-connections) or warm traffic (1st- or 2nd-Degree connections)?

2. Fill Your Funnel

Once you’ve narrowed down who you’re looking for, it’s time to conduct searches to fill your funnel. Use Lead Builder to put together one or two searches for your ideal clients. You may be someone who prefers to focus on one core group at a time (e.g. 2nd level connections within your target) or you may enjoy the rapid fire approach of filling your funnel using 3-4 different searches.

Here are two examples of searches for my business, which focuses on working with athletes, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs:

  • My search around athletes is simple: I input the keywords “NFL” (I have a decade’s worth of experience within that industry) and “Athlete.” Then I specify the Health, Wellness, & Fitness industry. Since most professional athletes are on LinkedIn because they have a foundation or business, those filters get me the results I need.
  • My search around entrepreneurs is slightly more complex. My niche is working with passionate entrepreneurs, ideally within the Health, Wellness, & Fitness industry. I have found that leveraging the search term, “Public Speaker” pulls in the type of entrepreneur I’m looking for: someone with a growing business who is also within the public eye. In addition to those two filters, I use the “Entrepreneurship” function and the business size of “1-10.”

Once you have your searches in place, you can start filling your funnel with leads, but beware! This is where it’s easy to veer off course.

3. Study Potential Leads

This is a critical step. It isn’t enough to just hoard potential leads within Sales Navigator and “like” their posts every day. You need to take a look at what these individuals or businesses stand for before adding them and then read what they post. This will give you an idea of who your leads are and whether they will be a good fit to work with you.

Why is this such a big deal? If you take the time to get to know your potential leads and uncover the mutual benefit of working together, it will show when you reach out. Suddenly, you aren’t just looking for business for you … you are looking for a relationship between you and this business or individual.

That genuine approach makes all the difference in the world.

4. Reach Out … Without A Catch

Don’t reach out to a potential lead with an immediate ask for business. Yes, there are certain situations that warrant this (i.e. invitations to an event), but — for the most part — it’s critical to reach out without asking for a purchase or contract.

Let me illustrate why this is important.

I am an entrepreneur with a service-based business. I receive direct reach-outs from business coaches asking me to become a client. This floors me every single time. A business coach/entrepreneur relationship is personal and isn’t something I’m going to dive into after a blind reach out.

I actually have a business coach (shoutout to Natalie Eckdahl) and it’s no coincidence that that relationship formed organically. I was a longtime listener of her Biz Chix podcast and she was offering a price break on her Strategy Sessions. I had just decided to take a step forward with my business strategy and took her up on that offer.

Unbeknownst to her that I was waiting in the wings, she was nurturing me as a lead with her content. The stars then aligned with her offer and I took her up on it. Our relationship has since progressed to me becoming a coaching client and then a part of her ProfitChix Mastermind.

Use this type of engagement within Sales Navigator. Reach out to a lead you know will be a good fit and simply connect to start the ball rolling. If you’ve done your homework and your reach out is genuine, you’ll more than likely receive a response.

5. Nurture Your Leads

How do you nurture your leads? Do what you do best. Post informative content, share relevant articles, like and engage posts. Maybe you send a private message to a potential lead with a link to an article you think is helpful.

The key is to keep plugging away. This can be difficult because you have no idea how you are impacting those you are communicating with, but trust me when I say that you are. If you have a quality service and you know what you’re talking about, you are making a difference with the leads you are speaking to. The illustration to the right is one of my favorites regarding this principle!

To recap, you can generate responses on LinkedIn Sales Navigator by:

  1. Articulating your purpose
  2. Filling your funnel
  3. Studying potential leads
  4. Reaching out … without a catch
  5. Nurturing your leads

Get started and share your results!

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How to Capitalize on Being Well-Known

There are many degrees of “famous.” In fact, fame is relative when broken down. My die-hard sports fan of an uncle may know every player to don a Detroit Tigers uniform while my best friend from college may not know what an inning is.

Because there are so many levels of fame, every business person who is “known” should leverage it. Plenty of start-ups publish blog posts to resounding silence and have to pay for every Facebook like, email sign-up, and Twitter follower they receive.

If you have a network, use it.

Here’s how you can get started:

1. Start with Friends and Family

No, I’m not joking. When you are known just for being you — maybe you’re an athlete, philanthropist, or stage performer — your friends and family are your biggest fans. They love to boast about every single thing you do and will share it to their social media platforms, by word of mouth, and through email.

If you are starting a business and you have a fan base made up of your friends and family, start there. Let them know what you’re up to, have them follow your social media accounts, and pass along any materials they can forward to their friends.

Exceptions to the rule: anyone who is toxic or who would purposefully tarnish the image of you or your business. Skip those people!

2. Nurture Your Raving Fans

Anyone who is well known has a core group of raving fans who want to be a part of everything they’re doing. Maybe these individuals love your foundation’s mission, followed your college sports career, or were first in line at your local concert.

The key is to feed any and all material to this group. Make them feel special by giving them inside information. Start a closed Facebook group just for them where you make a point to spend time each week engaging.

These people are your lifeblood and will grow your business or foundation.

Think of a bulls-eye. Your raving fans are the circle at the center. The more you feed those fans, the bigger that circle will get because they will spread what you’re doing to their networks. That’s how you grow.

3. Keep Relationships with Influencers

If you have reached the point of stardom — even if it’s local — there are influencers who have shared your story. It may be a local news or TV reporter, the principal or superintendent of a school, or a PR director.

Nurture those relationships and make sure they are mutually beneficial. Do favors for those influencers (within reason) by coming out to an event or signing memorabilia for an auction.

Yes, there are those who will try to take advantage of you, but try to find the genuine ones who clearly care about you and what you’re doing. If you have to ask a trusted friend and family member to help you spot the good apples, do it. The key is to find the influencers who have your back.

4. Give Your Network a Reason to Care

It isn’t just enough to maintain these relationships — you have to give these people a reason to care.

Whether you have a for-profit business or a non-profit foundation, share the personal side of why you started that entity and then continue to engage with content. Stay active on social media, post photos of your business or foundation, conduct interviews, and talk about the passion you have for what you’re doing.

Leverage the network you already have to kick-start your marketing efforts and then continue to grow as a person and a professional. These people will cheer you on every step of the way and help you make your dream a reality!

I Have to Have a ‘Why?’ … Why?

As an entrepreneur, it is critical to have a ‘why.’ What does that mean?

Your ‘why’ is the reason you are doing business in the first place. It’s what fuels your fire and gets you up in the morning excited to start your day. Businesses with a ‘why’ do better than those that don’t because it connects the consumer with your product or service.

I saw a great example of this on The Partner, the CNBC reality show starring serial entrepreneur, Marcus Lemonis. In one of the episodes, he gave the contestants the challenge of selling products at a mall kiosk.

If you’ve ever walked by a mall kiosk, I’m assuming you’ve also executed the head-down-if-I-don’t-look-at-them-they-won’t-ask-me-to-try-a-sample method. Point being: these entrepreneurs had their work cut out for them, even if they did have cameras following them to add intrigue.

Marcus told the contestants they could research a number of different products and then choose the products they wanted to sell at their kiosk. The group that generated the highest sales total would win.

The contestants chose products they thought would be most appealing to the consumers that also had the best sales margin: candy, popcorn, designer bags, etc. They overlooked Flex watches, a product that donates 10-percent of sales to charity (each watch represents a different charity). Their mindset was that it would take too long to explain the backstory and, therefore, wouldn’t be worth trying to sell at a mall kiosk.

In the show, Marcus steps in after the groups are mostly unsuccessful and has a mall employee (or extra?) pitch the watches to passing customers. She sells seven (or something like that) in 30 minutes because she catches the attention of passers-by when she tells them that each purchase benefits a charity.

Now, I recognize this is reality TV that must have a plot to hold the attention of viewers (so we can question whether some of this was staged), but the overarching message rings true: people stop and pay attention when there is a purpose behind a sale.

Think about it: we are inundated with countless pitches on a daily basis with an ever-decreasing attention span. What is going to set one business apart from another? Tapping into emotions. Even when we are talking about products — cleaning products, for example — there are internal and philosophical reasons we purchase.

Network marketing is another great example. There are countless consultants selling the exact same products to friends and family. The difference-maker is the ‘why.’ Someone is selling products to start a college fund, pay medical bills, or go on vacation. The more touching the purpose behind the sales, the more sales the individual will receive.

If you are a business coach, it is critical to set yourself apart from others within your space. Having a well-developed ‘why’ — e.g. you want to empower female business owners or help driven start-ups — will connect you with your potential clients.

It’s all about the ‘why.’

So, do you have a ‘why?’ What is it?

GENERATING LINKEDIN LEADS

Generating LinkedIn Leads: Paid Ads vs. Content and Engagement

After optimizing your LinkedIn personal profile for inbound marketing, where do you go from there? Regardless of the option you choose, it’s important to know there will always be an associated cost.

If you choose paid advertising, you’ll be paying LinkedIn directly. If you go the organic route, you’ll either be paying a consultant to engage on your behalf, or you’ll be investing your own time.

The moral of the story: you get out of lead generation what you put into it!

Paid LinkedIn Advertising

While this seems like the easiest — most direct — plan of action, leveraging paid advertising on LinkedIn can result in a great deal of frustration if you aren’t sure what you’re doing.

LinkedIn offers a few paid advertising options, but I’m only going to focus on two: Sponsored Content and Sponsored InMail. Other options — text, dynamic, and display ads — are all located on the right rail and aren’t ideal for service-based businesses to generate engagement, in my opinion.

Sponsored Content:

With this option, you are paying for a spot in the LinkedIn news feed. You can pay to have one of your existing posts sponsored or you can create a post from scratch.

  • PROS: You are gaining exposure to your specific target audience through the news feed. This is especially helpful if you target individuals based on their title, business type, or location.
  • CONS: Compared to Facebook, which provides substantial results as low as $5 per day ($0.30 – $0.50 per click, ideally), LinkedIn clicks tend to run $5 each. To run a CPM ad (cost per impression) means you’re paying for every single view, which can also get pricey if you aren’t generating results.

Sponsored InMail:

With this option, you are gaining access to inboxes of your target audience, creating an email message that LinkedIn distributes.

  • PROS: You can personally invite individuals within your target audience to an online or in-person event, to download promotional content, or to engage in a demo.
  • CONS: You are invading the personal space of people you don’t know. I am an advocate of nurturing online relationships instead of slapping people across the face with an ask, which is why I am not a fan of this type of promotion. There are those who make it work, however!

My advice: if you are going to go the paid advertising route on LinkedIn, go in with a very specific objective, such as promoting a downloadable item in exchange for contact information. If you don’t, you will probably end up with a big bill and a lot of frustration.

Content and Engagement

My method of choice on LinkedIn is content and engagement. Write articles or post videos to showcase expertise and draw attention to your brand. You can also engage with others to increase visibility.

As I mentioned before, the cost associated with this is the consultant you pay or the time you invest. Premium consultants should be able to do all of this with little input from you. Those who charge less will more than likely need a greater investment of your time to ensure what you’re publishing is truly “you.”

A step-by-step process in engagement:

  1. Get your LinkedIn profile ready to be seen. Create a great headline, optimize for keywords, add multimedia, and make sure it’s readable. Dig deeper into this here.
  2. Like, comment, and share content of relevant individuals. The hope is that your headline and profile catches the attention of those individuals and they may reach out to learn more about what you provide.
  3. Strike up conversations. Search for individuals within your target audience and reach out to connect. Add a personal note mentioning why you’d like to talk further. If they accept, thank them, and don’t pitch! Take note of their name to follow up or mark them as a lead in Sales Navigator, a great tool ($79.99 per month).
  4. Generate quality content. Write blogs, post videos, or share relevant articles. You want everything to appeal to your target audience while showcasing that you are a great source of information and that you have great expertise.

No matter the option you choose, you will truly get out of lead generation what you put into it. Conduct research around what will work best for you — paid advertising, hiring a consultant, or engaging on your own — and then focus on it to the best of your ability!

generating leads on social media

Is Your Social Media Audience Ready to Buy From You?

Last week I wrote about not getting discouraged when your social media campaign doesn’t generate leads right away. Today I’m going to dig deeper into the reasons why.

Before we continue, however, please know that the foundation of my business is to help others with a proven product or service generate leads through building credibility and trust. If a business doesn’t have a proven product or service, this process is far more complex with plenty of additional elements. When a business has already established itself as viable, finding success online is just a matter of time (though there are always exceptions).

If a business with a viable product or service comes to me looking to generate leads online, there are specific questions I will ask (in a specific order) to determine where we start the project and how long it will take. With every “yes” answer, the timeline for generating leads gets shorter.

1. Do you have an online audience?

If yes, move on to question two.

If no, you will — without a doubt — be looking at months before you are generating leads online. Building an online audience isn’t a simple process because there are so many factors involved. Here are a few questions highlighting those factors:

  • On which social media platform(s) does your audience spend the most time? Which makes the most sense for you to try and engage them?
  • What are the best ways to attract your audience to your page or profile?
  • Are there specific segments of your target audience we should focus on in the online space? In other words, does only a portion of your overall audience actually spend time on social media?

Some brands can build online audiences at lightning speed. Others build them at a slow crawl. It depends on what is being sold and the personality of the target audience (yes, entire groups of people have a “personality”).

Sometimes the platform to focus on is obvious. Other times, I will select two or three to test and see which moves the fastest. Then we put all of our strategy eggs into that basket.

2. Is your online audience engaged?

If yes, move on to question three.

If no, this may be an extremely difficult hurdle to clear, because it could take your online marketing strategy back to square one. Why? Because a huge online audience — even tens of thousands of followers — is useless if it’s made up of the wrong people.

Even if your audience is made up of the right people, we still have a problem if they aren’t engaged. What does it mean to be engaged? An engaged audience cares about the content you’re putting out. They like, retweet, share, comment and/or click through to what you publish. An engaged audience means you have individuals that care about you and your brand.

This is online lead generation gold.

If you don’t have an engaged audience, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be generating leads right away. Determining the best way to engage an audience — and then making it happen — takes time and testing.

Here’s why:

  • Each social media platform engages its users in a different way. The same person may follow you on Twitter and Facebook, but only engage with your brand on Twitter. This is because each platform is appealing for different reasons – Twitter tends to be a networking tool or news blotter; Facebook is more about developing content your followers can identify with.
  • You may have to overcome platform obstacles to reach your audience. If your audience spends the most time on Facebook, you will have to get through that platform’s lack of organic reach (and probably leverage paid ads). If your audience spends time on Twitter or Instagram, you may have to increase your followers to give yourself more credibility.
  • You must determine how your audience wants your content. Maybe your audience prefers Instagram videos to photos. Maybe they like it when you hold Q&As on Facebook LIVE. This can be one of the more difficult variables to nail down because it can take weeks to determine whether a particular type of content is going to stick.
  • You have to find the right formula. I oversee all communications for a high profile nonprofit that requires a regular switch in the tone of social media content. The nonprofit raises funds and awareness for a type of pediatric brain tumor that has a zero percent survival rate. If we only posted heavy, emotional content, we would burn out our audience. We rotate between research statistics, emotional stories, and lighthearted videos of the family to keep things fresh.

3. Will your engaged audience buy immediately?

If yes, celebrate (yay!) and then move on to question four.

If no, let the content planning begin. I typically work with businesses or professionals that do not have an audience that will buy immediately, primarily because I work with service-based businesses. Typically, there is an interim step in there, such as entering an email address for follow-up or reaching out for a demonstration of your service.

This process of moving an audience from followers to buyers will look different for each business. I caution you not to compare yourself to another business and think, “That’s how I need to be doing it.” It all comes down to who you are and who your audience is. As you’ve learned from the first two questions, audiences are complex!

There are a number of ways your audience may move from follower to buyer:

  • Signing up for an email list. This is the method shouted from the rooftops as the “standard” for lead generation — building an email list. While I recognize the power of an email list, it may not be your primary method of lead generation. I, for one, have a very personal way of generating leads that doesn’t include collecting email addresses. I tend to make personal reach-outs and connect with individuals online to generate interest. This is a skill not everyone has.
  • Requesting a free trial. Some businesses have such great success that they offer a free trial knowing they will convert a certain percentage who opt in. If this is the case, generating online leads tends to be fairly easy … people respond to results.
  • Engaging with your content. If you are an expert in your field, putting out high quality content will build your credibility with your audience. You may include a call to action within that content that includes a free trial or discount toward your services … or you may just have such a high level of expertise that you know individuals will reach out after reading or watching your content.
  • Building a relationship with you. As I said before, I generate leads through engaging with people online. You may have that same ability and, therefore, reach out to potential leads through a service such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator. If this is the case, your content will act as a support in that process.

4. How do you maintain your process?

Congratulations! If you’re answering this question, it means you’re generating leads … now it’s just a matter of maintenance!

This typically includes regular content, social media posts, and emails to your list (if you have one). Depending on your funnel, you may have social media ads in place. The key is to keep everything going so you are always in front of your audience … you don’t want them to forget about you!

I hope this has helped you understand why generating leads on social media is frequently a 3-6 month process. It all depends on where you are in terms of your online audience and then how long it takes to get them to buy.

And always keep in mind … no two businesses are alike!

Don’t Be Discouraged When Your Social Campaign Doesn’t Work Right Away

There is a big misconception out there when it comes to social media marketing: that it works instantly.

True, you can instantly share to your social media channels, but that doesn’t mean you will generate immediate results. It’s what we refer to as a “long-term play.” It can take anywhere from 1-3 months to see a tangible return on your efforts.

There are a number of reasons this is the case:

1. You have to TEST!

Even the very best digital marketers don’t have all the answers right away. I know, it’s shocking!

There are so many variables that exist within a social media campaign that it is extremely difficult to get it right with your first iteration. Simply breaking a campaign down into finding your audience and what to say presents a number of different paths to take that require testing to see what works.

How to reach your target audience. Do we use ads? Organic content? LinkedIn InMail or email? More than likely, the answer consists of a combination of tools that work together to get the job done.

What to say to your target audience. We may be in front of the right people, but what will cause them to act? Minor tweaks in copy, changing the image associated with an ad or content, and a difference in call to action can all impact results.

2. You are still vetting your sales funnel.

If a business already has an established sales funnel, early success of a social media campaign is much more likely. What does that mean?

Let’s say you are a business coach. Your method for generating quality leads is to acquire email sign-ups through your website. You already know your email content is effective in nurturing members of your target audience to becoming clients.

That means that once your social media campaign is reaching the right individuals and adequately leading them to your website, you will produce leads.

If, on the other hand, you don’t have that sales funnel established, we would not only be testing your social media campaign, but also the ways to lead your target audience toward becoming paying clients or customers.

That means your social media campaign could be effective in what it is supposed to be doing — reaching the right people and getting them to act — without generating leads.

3. You aren’t conveying your value.

This is a big one. I’ve seen a number of entrepreneurs who are doing great things, but there is a disconnect between what they are doing well and what they are saying about themselves.

One of the biggest indicators of this is if you have a successful local business with raving clients, but you aren’t pulling in online leads. More than likely, you aren’t properly articulating your “it factor.”

Let’s go back to our business coach example. A business coach may articulate through her social media campaign that she will “assess your business and coach you through necessary changes to increase revenue.”

That statement may be accurate, but it isn’t conveying this coach’s true value. After asking her clients why they work with her, she may find out that her “it factor” is pushing her clients outside their comfort zones.

Changing her social media campaign to articulate that she “will push you outside of your comfort zone to get you to do things you’ve been putting off” will resonate much better with her target audience.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a number of variables in play when beginning a social media campaign. Each is directly associated with your campaign, but is also impacted by other areas of your business and factors outside of your control.

It is impossible to predict how an audience will respond to your efforts, even when you know that audience inside and out! Testing, refining your sales funnel, and properly conveying value are all elements of a social media campaign that require time and multiple iterations.

It’s why I set goals with my clients in month-by-month increments. What we are doing is building layers of a social media campaign and testing them along the way.

My next blog post will focus on that layering process – make sure you follow me on LinkedIn so you’ll be notified when it’s live!