Contributed Column

Marketing 101

by Christine Miller, Miller Consulting LLC

Online Connections

It’s the New Year. Are you LinkedIn? If you are, you aren’t alone. If you’re not, it’s time to join.

More than 135 million people in over 200 countries are part of the world’s largest professional network. Yes, LinkedIn is a great place to look for career opportunities, but it’s also a wonderful place to grow your personal brand and promote your business.

Think of LinkedIn as a giant cocktail party, only better. At this event everyone is wearing name tags, but the tags have more than names. The label displays your employment information, interests, and work partners. Gold stars on the tag designate the number of positive work experiences others have had with you.

Doesn’t it sound easy to see who you should meet at this event? Conversely, wouldn’t it be easy for others to find you, too?

Imagine that this event takes place 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’ve been invited, it’s free, and your competition is there hiring talent, finding investors, and making sales. It’s time for you to show up, too!

The results you can achieve include new business opportunities and new customers, all while becoming part of a rapidly expanding business group. To top it off you can gauge your LinkedIn success.

Metrics can be used to measure the number of invites you receive, connections you’ve made, and new business opportunities as well as comments and inquiries. You can obtain expert status for yourself and create inbound marketing with zero advertising expense.

Why take the time to join? Simple. On LinkedIn you’ll find your customers, your competitors, recruiters, and investors. You’ll want to be there with them. Follow these five easy steps to join the party and create your “name tag.”

1. Fill out your profile. It will take some time to complete, but it’s worth it. Think of your profile as an electronic business card or an online resume with the power of social networking. Make sure you include a picture and a solid headline with keywords relevant to the work you do or the work you want to do. Your profile is your marketing piece. Write it to appeal to the people you’d like to attract.

2. Obtain recommendations. These are your gold stars. A positive recommendation offers proof to your colleagues of your experience and abilities. In order to garner recommendations, you can first write one and hope the gesture is reciprocated. My preference is to directly ask for a recommendation. Be sure to ask people you know well and use the recommendation system within LinkedIn to send the recommendation request.

3. Obtain a unique LinkedIn URL. Instead of a randomly generated URL address for your public profile such as http://www.linkedin.com/pub/56/12H/000, your URL can look like this: www.linkedin.com/in/chrisitinemiller. This is easy to do (directions are on the site), easy to remember, and therefore more likely to successfully direct someone to your profile.

4. Create or join a group on Linked In. When you join or start a group, you have the ability to participate in relevant conversations with others in your professional category. Reach out and engage with potential customers with LinkedIn Groups.

5. Start connecting and leverage those relationships! After you’ve created your profile, it’s time to connect with others. This is the same as greeting someone you know or introducing yourself to someone new. Offer your knowledge and services to help others. Being a resource to your network when you first connect will go a long way to helping your on-line reputation. Ask questions of experts in order to help you and others in your group.

Once you are LinkedIn you can start benefiting from your efforts. Associate yourself with the number one professional brand. It’s a new year. Ditch your social networking anxiety, come to the party, and get LinkedIn. •

Christine Miller is president of Miller Consulting LLC, which helps small businesses identify, qualify, develop, and close targeted sales leads, and helps organizations find more value in existing relationships. She can be reached at chris@millersalesconsulting.com.

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