10 ways LinkedIn can help develop local business

No matter what size of organisation we work for, a local market is going to be important to us. Our individual versions of “local” will vary of course – it may be a town, a county or even a whole country, but it is one of those key markets for many and one that needs to be considered.

For many smaller organisations or individuals, it can often be their only market or, at the very least, the mainstay of their business and hence a key area to nurture and develop.

With LinkedIn, in spite of being global in nature, we have the chance to tap directly into our local marketplace, so it’s important to know how to use the tools at our disposal to do just that.

Making ourselves visible and easy to refer is one half of the equation, the other is to use the facilities on LinkedIn to proactively identify, approach and market to this key group of people.

Here are 10 ways in which we can use LinkedIn to do just that:

1. Find new prospects and clients

If you are looking to identify new opportunities or clients in your local area, and let’s face it who isn’t, then LinkedIn’s search facility is a perfect way to achieve that. Using the “All Filters” element of the People search, you can focus in on the geographic area you are interested in and then drill down to find individuals working for a specific company or in a certain type of role or within a certain industry.

Having identified them, then it’s up to you how you wish to make contact and start to talk to them – don’t try to pitch at them straight away, apply the time honoured ‘Know – Like – Trust’ concept that will give you the credibility using a more gradual “getting to know” approach, something that LinkedIn can help so perfectly with.

2. See who’s talking about what locally

We often use the search function to find people on LinkedIn but you can look for a whole lot more than that. Searching for Content gives you the ability to tap into what people are talking about within your local area, giving you an insight into both the personalities and subjects. By using an initial search and key words relevant to what is local in your mind, you can focus specifically on the topics that are of most interest to you, giving a very clear idea of who might be interested in the products, skills or services that you can offer.

In addition, don’t forget that you can follow certain hashtags, so make sure that relevant ones are available in your “sidebar dashboard” on the homepage so that you can quickly pop into check them out – in additional it will encourage the algorithm to feed you posts containing that hashtag going forward as well. [Additional hashtag information here]

3. Use your Personal Profile effectively

More and more people are turning to LinkedIn, particularly in the current environment, when they are looking for local suppliers – this “Social Search” is the next natural step in the ever changing ‘business search’ habits which previously has seen Yellow pages type paper directories give way to online search through Google and the like over the course of many years.

If this is something to focus in on, then make sure that your Personal Profile includes local elements, in other words mention things such as the towns and cities that you cover, so you can be found by people searching for local suppliers using these words rather than using the ‘location’ facility. It’s important to pander to all of the potential search options and in any case, these will be terms that people will spot as they scan your profile.

4. Get yourself in front of the local marketplace

Using your profile, you need to make sure you appear prominently in the search results for your local market when people have selected a geographic area. The Geographic / Location field is something that we can all search with using the ‘All Filters’ option but LinkedIn also builds this into the ordering of the results as one of the many factors it uses over and above teh job title or keywords you are searching for.

Therefore, make sure that the postcode (or zip code) you add is in the heart of your target market’s location as this will help ensure that if people are looking for suppliers or specialists such as yourself who are local to them then you will be up there on the 1st page of results. It also displays a relevant field at the top of your profile, so it’s best not to display something too obscure unless you feel this would help you.

5. Approach local businesses through Groups

There are still over a 1.2m groups LinkedIn and while they perhaps do not have the interaction and discussion that they used to, there will still certainly be a number which represent the local marketplace you want to get into, whether that’s a town or a region. Use the Groups Search function to find them and join the ones that look most relevant and active.

Once in there, check who the main contributors are and then start to participate in the discussions to get your name seen and known – try to avoid selling yourself too strongly though, particularly at the start. Instead, use the messaging facility that is available to contact people directly as well as connecting with them and take a more softly softly approach – this has just been extended again by LinkedIn allowing unlimited messaging (although time will tell if this remain long term).

6. Find key local networkers

Find and connect with people who are potential ‘hubs’ within the local area/community you are looking to deal with. The more closely connected you are to the people looking for you and your services / products, the better placed in the results and the more easily referable you will be. Equally, when you publish your own content and information, if they choose to distribute it by ‘liking’ or ‘commenting’ then that in turn is pushed out to their highly relevant network.

You can also find these by checking the local hashtags as mentioned in point 2 and then engaging with the people who are systematically using them.

How to find these local ‘hubs’? Well do a search and specify the area (using postal towns) relevant to you – you will then have to look at the common connections you have which may be an initial indicator but then it’s a case of looking at their connection numbers on their profile page. You need to check in the ‘Activity’ box as all should display 500+ at the top of the profile so that will give you a better insight.

7. Putting out updates for local marketplace

Posting posts that go out to your direct 1st level connections is a very powerful way of getting your message in front of the right people. The key element is the news that you share – make it appropriate and it will also encourage others to share it in turn, thus ”spreading the word”. Equally, if you have built up a network of local people around you, then that starts to create a cumulative effect which again increases the likelihood of your content being seen.

While links in posts are not ideal from a LinkedIn algorithm point of view, highlighting a good news item from your local area, or one that supports other local businesses will also do good and allow a bit of branding and a link back to your own site into the bargain!

8. Events going on locally

The Events option on LinkedIn is going to be a growing resource as people start to use it to promote local, national and international events – no easy way to search at the moment but this will undoubtedly come so, whether it is you who is arranging the local event or not, make sure that it also appears in the events section and, using the Events application, have them appear on your profile as well.

9. LinkedIn Adverts

You can place adverts on LinkedIn which can be very targeted towards people from a certain geographic area. While it’s true that not all areas are currently covered in the system, you have the ability to focus in on most postal areas and, beyond that, you can segment further according to company size, job title and industry to make sure that your specific message appears in front of the right people.

10. Get your Company Pages working

For most people, the logical next step after finding you via your personal profile page is to then check out your Company Pages, and perhaps your Products and Services section in particular. They are also searchable in their own right, both on LinkedIn and on the internet in general, so getting them set up properly is a real boost all round. And remember to get recommendations for the products from the local market that you are looking to appeal to – social proof at its best!

So, with those elements in place, you will be well placed to use LinkedIn to help further develop your key local market.

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