“The first question every Entrepreneur must ask is a question of location: Where are my customers?”
-Michael Masterson, “Ready, Aim, Fire: Zero To $100 in no time flat”
Do you want to know what’s crazy? Wingsuit diving!!!
I saw this video the other day and it blew my mind!
Although this is definitely NOT on my bucket list of things to do, I sincerely respect the athletes who do it.
If you are crazy enough to want to become a wingsuit flyer, it requires a lot of preparation. you must complete at least 200 freefall skydives within the last 18 months and have one-on-one lessons from an experienced wingsuit flyer.
The United States Parachute Association say that this is the minimum requirement for anyone seeking to purchase a wingsuit and do their first independent dive.
Do you want to know what else is crazy? People who spend thousands of dollars, pounds or euros in labour and resources on their online business and EXPECT customers to magically find their website!
But here’s the thing:
People start businesses every day and spend 0% of their time thinking about customer acquisition.
Instead, they spend the majority of their day worrying about perfecting the product before it goes to market or thinking about purchasing marketing material or even worse, searching for the perfect office space.
If you are a small business owner or Entrepreneur then your No.1 objective should be establishing where your audience lives online and planning how to convert that audience into customers.
Until you have a system in place to find and acquire new customers consistently, nothing else matters.
Why am I comparing wingsuit diving and online businesses?
Launching a business and wingsuit diving both require an insane leap of faith to get started, but without a well-thought-out customer acquisition plan, you will be the one crashing face first into the rocks, not the wingsuit divers.
Where are your customers online?
Probably the No.1 question I am asked by B2B business owners is “How do I find my customers online?” OR “How do I find an audience for my blog?”
You would be surprised to know in 2017 how many people look at me in disgust when I suggest that LinkedIn is unequivocally the most effective tool for B2B marketing.
There are 3 considerations when deciding whether to build an audience or spend money on a marketing channel:
- Volume: How many of your ideal target audience exist on that platform and how frequently do they use it?
- Quality: Are they Directors, CEO’s, FD’s, CFO’s, etc?
- Intent: How and why do they use the platform?
Why are LinkedIn users the perfect B2B customer?
As far as volume is concerned, the numbers simply do not lie; LinkedIn has 467 million users.
Author and Vice President of Marketing at Openview Venture, Kyle Lacy, wrote about the quality of the audience using LinkedIn
“45 percent of (LinkedIn) members are in upper management positions (C-Suite, Directors and Management) and the platform generates more leads for companies than Facebook, Twitter, or blogs.” – “The State of B2B Content Marketing”
What about user intention? According to “The Sophisticated Marketers Guide For 2017” a whopping “80% of LinkedIn members want to connect with companies in order to enhance their professional decision-making and networking opportunities.”
Every social media channel has a built-in audience, your job is to find the appropriate channel, harness the existing audience and build your OWN audience by skillfully distributing your content.
How to find your customers on LinkedIn
Step #1: Create cornerstone content.
Cornerstone Content is the foundation of your strategy; its purpose is to deliver content which either informs, entertains or educates your target audience.
Well planned and executed Cornerstone Content will deliver the following results to your business:
- The ability to acquire new customers
- Increase your customer retention rates
- Generate and nurture new leads
- Create credible authority in your industry
- Expand your audience reach
- Build partnerships with relevant media outlets
The format of your content is also very important. The best format of Content to deliver on LinkedIn is a downloadable report or eBook in the form of a PDF.
Here is how to create industry leading Cornerstone Content:
- Figure out what problem your business solves in your customer’s lives. Ask your existing customers “What does my business help you to achieve?” or “What task is now easier for you to carry out because of our products?”
- Execution is more valuable than secrets. Your business is not special because of the secret’s it keeps from its competitors, or worse, your customers- the key to your businesses success is its ability to execute. Be transparent with your customers by helping to answer their questions and achieve their goals.
- It’s not about the journey, it’s about the jobs! The customer journey is an archaic way of describing how and why people find your business and become customers. Instead of thinking about the journey, focus on the “jobs” that your customers need done and create content around that. For more information on Job’s To Be Done, read the fantastic (and free) book by Alan Kemet “When Coffee and Kale Compete”
- Being different makes all the difference. Your content must be clearly differentiated from what currently exists in the market. In order to achieve this, you must first determine it’s structure; is it topical (current affairs), completely new (not currently covered by other content creators ), epic (very long form content) or Spin (taking well-trodden topics and adding a unique spin or unconventional perspective on the subject)
- Consistency Matters. Your Cornerstone Content should be episodic, in other words, it should become a series of quarterly or annual instalments.
- Make it Repurposable. It should be created in a way that allows it to be shareable and broken down into smaller pieces by either yourself or your distribution network; this could include publishers, media outlets and even your customers. Because your Cornerstone is the foundation of your content strategy, it needs to have longevity and be utilised in a variety of ways, such as infographics or short explainer videos.
Step #2: Visit an existing customer’s profile.
Once you have created your Cornerstone Content and assuming that you are connected with some of your customers already on LinkedIn, it’s time to begin customer hunting!
Visit one of your existing customer profiles- make sure that they are somebody who fits your customer avatar.
Step #3: Dig deep into their connections.
There are 3 places on each person’s profile which will help you to find similar prospects to your customers.
- On the right-hand side, there is a column called “People Also Viewed”. This is a list of other professionals who may work in the same industry or in a similar company to your customer.
2 . On the right-hand column, you will see the section “People similar to (your customer’s name)”. This a list of people who will have similar jobs as your customer.
3. Look underneath the skills section. This is the area where your customer’s peers have endorsed his or hers professional skills. You will find that the people who have recommended them, are usually colleagues, not customers.
Click on the number next to the specific skill to bring up a list of the people who have recommended them for each skill. e.g. “17” next to “Project Estimation”.
Take Action: Add all of the relevant professionals to your network.
Step #4: Find the groups that your customers are members of.
LinkedIn Groups are by far the best free prospecting tool on the channel. If your customer is part of a group on LinkedIn which is specific to his or her industry, be sure that you will be able to find many other potential customers inside of that group.
Open Groups vs. Private Groups.
There are two types of groups, Open and Private.
The Open groups typically have a much larger volume of members, but the quality of personnel may not be very high and sometimes may not be from the industry you are seeking prospects from.
The Private groups tend to have fewer people, but the quality and level of professional are significantly higher. However, in order to be accepted into a private group, you need to be approved by administrators. The administrators are usually:
a) A well-recognised influencer within that industry.
b) A board member of a well-known industry association.
c) A senior member of an established company within that industry.
The problem with Private groups is that the administrators have very stringent criteria as to who they accept into the group. They ensure that members are industry specific.
The reason for this is that they want to ensure that the quality of the members remains high. High-quality members provide valuable content and help to grow the numbers in each group.
Fortunately, your Cornerstone Content is your key to unlocking the administrators criteria. I will show you how below.
To find the groups which your customers are part of, scroll to the bottom of your customer’s profile.
IMPORTANT: This strategy is about adding value to the group. Interacting with the group members in a non-salesy way is the key to success. Every engagement is a brick added to the foundation of your own audience-building efforts.
Open Groups: Take a look through the member’s section and take note of the job titles and the personnel. Add connections accordingly.
Private Groups: Requesting access to private groups is not easy. Start by asking to join:
Next, make contact with the administrators by sending them an Inmail message AND a segment of your Cornerstone Content.
Download my top-secret email templates below, which has enabled my clients to get into private groups on LinkedIn
Step #5: Test the waters.
Once you are in (hopefully that email did the trick), you need to assess these two KPI’s for each group:
- Member’s activity in the group- You want to ensure that the group is active.
- Feedback on your content- You want to ensure that the content that you are delivering is considered valuable by that audience.
Start by delivering 1 piece of valuable information from your Cornerstone Content every other day over the course of 2 weeks. Ask the group members for their commentary or feedback.
Monitor the activity from the group and comments on your content. Always reply to every comment on your post. Whether negative or positive ALL comments are good feedback and offer you the opportunity to meaningfully engage with the group members.
Your intention at this point should be to discover what topics are relevant and to build credibility amongst the group’s members. Do not link to your content or publish it yet, just refer to it.
After two weeks, if your due diligence indicates that the group has relevant and engaged members then your next step is to…
Step #5: Become THE subject matter expert in each group.
Add the active group members to your network and make contact with those who have responded to your content via Inmail. Offer them additional premium content which will help to them to achieve a particular outcome.
Always add value to each conversation. Try to become the groups “subject expert” when it comes to your area of specialism.
Each time you create a new blog post or video make sure to share it with the group and always ask for feedback.
Are you ready to use LinkedIn to find your customers and build your own audience?
LinkedIn has become the standard networking and engagement tool for B2B businesses. But there are no shortcuts, the key to success is to always add value to your new connections lives.
Adding value first is the most organic way of developing your business relationships and creating a customer acquisition strategy.
Do you have any other tips on how to use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool? Leave a comment below and let me know how you use LinkedIn to create new customers.
Also published on Medium.