In all the LinkedIn training sessions I run, whether they are sales, marketing or recruitment focused, we always spend a good amount of time looking at different ways to identify potential prospects or introducers on the site, as well as the differing ways to introduce yourself to them.
However, before tapping into the opportunities on offer from LinkedIn’s Advanced search, I always encourage people to first consider developing their networks further than they have already, in order to facilitate the process. As a first step, logically we start by checking who in our “real life” networks are currently on LinkedIn and also identifying what it really is that they are looking for from their network. This helps to give clarity to where our focus should be.
One area that I encourage then to look at are what I tend to call Centres of Influence – these are people who have networks which are highly focused around their area of expertise, an area which, most critically, coincides with your target audience.
I have seen this type of connection described elsewhere in differing ways, but the one that I like best is the analogy of air travel nodes where you have certain airports which are hubs for a lot of air traffic. Planes fly in there because here are a lot of relevant connections that they can interact with.
The same is true with the type of hubs that I am also referring to. People who essentially have networks which are full of the type of people that you want to talk to because of what they do … they are perhaps experts in certain disciplines or influential in geographic regions and so by nature of that attract a lot of specific people around them.
By connecting to them, essentially what we are looking to do is raise our profile – make ourselves more visible and associate ourselves with the groups of people that we are interested in talking to or the circles that we wish to engage with.
4 potential types of hub to consider
There will be a number of different groups that you might like to consider and they will differ according to your industry. However, here are some types of people that you might consider in this vein:
1. Professional Bodies
There are a wide range of professional organisations out there, covering all sorts of industries and skills, and which attract extensive memberships. If they cover an audience which are of value to you, then look to get in contact with the people who run the organisation – and particularly those who are in contact with the membership on a regular basis – because they highly likely to also be well connected with people that you wish to talk to.
For examples, RICS is the UK body representing Chartered Surveyors – if you are looking to target surveyors in general then this would be an ideal hub to tap into because of the connections the team there is likely to have. Equally, when people you are asking to connect with look you up and find that you are a 2nd degree connection via someone at their professional body, then I would doubt that that would hurt either.
2. Conference / Exhibition organisers
I’m thinking here of the people who arrange and run conferences and exhibitions which are aimed at your target audience – by necessity, the organisers make it their business to connect with the companies who exhibit there and also people who attend, that’s part of their own development strategy. Both of these groups are likely to be interesting to you and even if these are events that you do not attend yourself, you should find that these could be good contacts to have as potential introducers.
3. Sector specific publications and magazines
We all love a good read and it is a great way of communicating with your audiences, so make sure that you track down the magazines that are most likely to be read by them – look at the more generally read ones but particularly the very specialised ones. The more specific the better in general. Then have a look at the people writing the articles, especially the key features, and see whether they will connect with you. In general, most will and this can offer new avenues via people who, by their own marketing efforts, are likely to be connected with people of interest to you. Don’t forget the editor as well as an opportunity.
By way of introduction, mention one of their articles in your connection request message – it allows you to show a degree of understanding and awareness of what they are doing, and potentially may allow you to develop a closer relationship, again which isn’t going to hurt.
4. Group Owners
While it doesn’t have to just be on LinkedIn, that would seem to be a good place to start. In most cases, if people have taken the time and effort to set up a Group on LinkedIn, there’s a fairly good reason for it – usually, you will find that they are well known within their area or specialism and, in turn, they are likely to gather around them people interested in that same area. If that’s yours then these group owners act as an excellent focal point as well.
While these are just examples, they are ones that should provide a good start point. To take this further, essentially think of people who might be information sources or experts for your direct target markets and you will be looking in the right areas. You might also like to have a look at the same categories above but this time in areas that are frequented by your introducers, and then use the same connection strategy there as well.
A coherent mixture of depth and breadth of network is a difficult one to achieve, but if your goal is new business development then the likelihood is that you will need to go beyond the exclusive group that you have around you and that you have done business with and indeed extend that into the next set of people who might be able to help develop your business further.
Essentially what we are looking to do here is raise our profile – make ourselves more visible and associate ourselves with the groups of people that we are interested in talking to or the circles that we wish to engage with.