I just turned 500.

My LinkedIn profile now shows that I have joined the select group of folks that have accumulated 500 or more LinkedIn contacts. It seems like the perfect time to reflect on the strategy that got me there and whether it has been worth it.

Coincidently, Hinge just released a newly updated LinkedIn Guide for Professional Services Executives. So what better time to revisit your LinkedIn marketing strategy?

A Slow Start

When I first heard of LinkedIn I was pretty skeptical. I signed up, partially filled out my profile, invited a few friends and clients and waited for something to happen. Nothing happened.

No new clients. No new prospects. No new visibility. Nothing of any use was forthcoming.

Now it is easy to see that with a LinkedIn marketing strategy of benign neglect I was getting exactly what I deserved.

Over time my contact inched up until I finally broke into triple digits. Still nothing.

A Revelation

One day, something changed. One of my colleagues pointed out that my strategy sucked. Well, he didn't put it so bluntly, but the message was clear. With no real strategy and no real goals I was basically wasting precious resources. Ouch.

Of course he was absolutely right. I was expending effort, but not enough to get results.

It is a classic mistake that traps many professionals. There is a new marketing approach that sounds interesting. So they give it a try. But because they did not fully understand what they were doing they failed to invest sufficient effort to make it successful.

Being human, we often give up on the new approach. We may even conclude that our firm (or industry) is different and the approach can’t work for us. That’s a second mistake that compounds the first.

A Strategic Choice

But that is not what happened here. In fact the opposite occurred.

We followed up on my colleague's excellent advice and conducted some research on online marketing techniques. We discovered that a solid LinkedIn marketing strategy can have a significant impact on the growth and profitability of a professional services firm.

That motivated me to take LinkedIn seriously and do what the research suggested would work. And it did.

Here are the top 10 lessons I learned on my journey to 500.

LinkedIn Lessons Learned

  1. It’s important to have a realistic view of what LinkedIn can and cannot do. It is a lot like traditional networking. The benefits can be wide-ranging but unpredictable. LinkedIn can be an important part of an overall marketing strategy, but it's not the whole strategy.
  2. LinkedIn is great for widening your network and getting to know people with common interests. You learn a lot about folks by the way they act online.
  3. Setting small goals and meeting them will eventually have a huge impact. Start with completing your profile. Then tackle building your contacts list or becoming more active in a key group. Just like Mr. Turtle, slow and steady wins the race.
  4. Focus on quality, not quantity. While quantitative goals are important, having a big number of untargeted contacts doesn’t do you much good. A small number of well-chosen contacts will drive most of the really important gains.
  5. Choosing groups to join or be active in is an art form. My experience is that 80% of your gains come from 20% of your groups. It’s OK to try some out for a while to see what is working for you.
  6. As in other networking, the more helpful you are to others the more benefits you get back.
  7. Online interaction builds trust and familiarity. You will develop solid business relationships that pay off in the offline world.
  8. Be very careful with your tone. It is easy to be misunderstood.
  9. Always check out a person’s LinkedIn profile before meeting them. You will often learn more than you imagined.
  10. You'll get out of LinkedIn what you put into it.

There you have it, 500 contacts worth of insight. Develop a solid LinkedIn marketing strategy, and then implement it fully. Do it right or don’t do it. Anything else is a waste of precious resources.

For some help in doing it the right way, check out our newly updated LinkedIn Guide.



Free LinkedIn Guide for Professional Services Executives