Monday, November 28, 2011

Optimize your connections online

Prospecting for clients online
is like blazing a trail.
Photo by Liz Cezat, Zion National Park

If you belong to a professional service group that provides B-to-B services, you know how important it is to build a pipeline of prospective clients.
One of the fastest ways to showcase your talents and get your name known as a professional or head of your firm is through social media. To get the quality prospects that your business deserves, you want to connect with people online who can use your service or otherwise bring you new business.  Act in a manner that shows you’re in it for a great working relationship, not a quick one-time deal.
Many professionals fear making online connections. After all, you don’t really know who you are connecting with, do you? You can see their photo but you aren’t seeing the whole person. You can read their resume on Linked-In or their one-line bio on Twitter, but what aren’t they telling you?
One of the best ways to know who you are dealing with online is to engage with them in various ways:
• Join groups on LinkedIn in your prospect’s industry. If you’re a lawyer and you represent school districts, sign up for the educational groups on Linked In. If you’re lucky, you’ll be one of only a few lawyers seeking prospects in this forum. (Others may not be as savvy as you are.) Then ask questions or answer them. Invite the people who stand out to join your Linked-In associates. Communicate with them when something of shared interest comes up. Let them get to know your personality by talking about your lifestyle interests or joking with them (no emoticons please). If you’re going to be in their town for business, offer to meet them in person.
• If you’re not on Twitter, sign up immediately. You can choose who you want to follow. There will be a wide range of people following you. I follow back only those who post interesting items, are prospects or could become associates. Twitter is a great way to follow news and trends, and learn who’s who in various industries. It also links to many career-building tips, articles and interesting people.
• If you have a Facebook page for business, great. Utilize it to educate your clients and invite their feedback. Track how much new business you gain from this source. If you only have a personal account for family, friends and some associates, use it judiciously for business. A periodic post about your services and achievements is enough to keep your business in the forefront for referrals by your Facebook community. Don’t overuse this or you’ll irk your Facebook friends who often just want to know what’s new with the people they know and like.
• Blog. (That’s both a verb and a noun.) Those who have blogs need to gain visibility for their posts. Announce a new post via Linked-In, Twitter and Facebook (if appropriate). Customize the heading for each venue. Don’t say, “New post. Read all about it.” No one cares unless you give them a reason to care – use an enticing headline they can’t resist clicking on. For Twitter, repost at different times with different headings and see which works best.
Social media can be scary at first but once you get the hang of it and deploy it in your unique style, you will begin to see the benefits of prospecting online. Please share some of your tips here because this list is just the beginning.

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