LinkedIn, the business related social networking site, has become the place to be for business people who want to link with their local business community. The site allows members to maintain contact details for people with whom they have some business relationship. Once connected, users can see the other connections for that contact, follow news, information, and postings about the contact, and exchange messages.
Printers can use LinkedIn as a tool to find sales leads. It allows one user to see who another user is connected to and ask for an introduction, and can help identify key decision makers. The site also allows individuals to demonstrate their expertise in a subject through posts that might help them attract other connections.
LinkedIn has also become a gathering place for business people with similar interests who join together in Groups to share information. A person can ask a question, respond to a query, or post relevant information about the Group topic. Members can even integrate postings from Twitter and other social media platforms to help create a clearinghouse of information for colleagues.
Printers should join the LinkedIn Group created by Quick Printing, which has more than 1,000 members. The magazine’s editors and writers regularly post information about the industry and printing company owners and employees regularly post questions and comments of interest to others in the industry. Members can search by keywords to find Groups they may be interested in joining. To find the QP Group, just search keywords “Quick Printing.” LinkedIn has an online video that helps explain how to join and use Groups at http://learn.linkedin.com/groups/.
Don’t Miss the Point
I recommend that printers join LinkedIn if they are looking for sales leads, but unless you are going to use it on a regular basis don’t waste your time. I have talked to a number of printers who have many connections on LinkedIn, but they never seem to do anything with them. They don’t share or post relevant information for prospects. They don’t introduce themselves to others and start building relationships. Being on LinkedIn is like being at a chamber of commerce after hours mixer. If you sit in the corner and don’t mingle, it is a waste of your time. If you are just a lurker on Groups, you won’t get the opportunity to build relationships. You need to be proactive.
One mistake I see printers make is concentrating on connecting with other printers. The purpose of LinkedIn is to help get leads and, to be honest, how many other printers are going to buy from you? Of course, it is good to have connections with others in the printing industry, but to really be successful with LinkedIn printers should be concentrating on connecting with local business owners and print buyers. Interacting with real prospects is the key way LinkedIn will be valuable to a print owner.
Printers can also use Groups to learn more about vertical markets they might specialize in and to demonstrate their expertise. Almost every type of business has a variety of Groups focusing on different topics. If you have a particular business niche that you serve, you will want to follow what they are talking about in their Groups. Many of these Groups are open to anyone, so you can quickly learn the concerns of a market niche by following their discussions.
Recently one of the QP group members posted her strategy for using LinkedIn. She noted she has been able to contact several new clients through the different LinkedIn Groups she has joined. She uses the Group as the introduction. “Once we’ve connected, I then send each of them a message of introduction of who I am, what I do, and how I can help them. I have had several respond to my message and either told me that they’ll keep my info on file, that they have a project coming up and can I contact them on a specific date, and I’ve had a couple that have needed my services immediately. I ask them what time is convenient to either stop by or call them.” You can read more by joining the QP group.