19 million cannot be wrong

Jan 28, 2008

LinkedIn is a fast-growing on-line network that connects you with other business people you trust to establish professional business contacts, recruit clients or find trustworthy suppliers.

Membership has grown from 8.5 million to 19 million users worldwide in the past 12 months and many top companies, including all 500 of the Fortune 500 companies are represented, 499 of them by director-level and above business leaders.

It took me a while to figure out how to use LinkedIn. You can join LinkedIn free of charge and can build an on-line profile that lists your experience, your interests, your educational background and expertise. Your profile will tell the world something about you, depending on the information you provide.

Each person to whom you connect links you in turn to their connections, who in turn connect you to their connections, and so on. You can invite business people you trust to connect with you or accept other members’ invitations to join their network.

One of the most valuable aspects of LinkedIn is the ability to build your reputation. Other members can recommend you as a trustworthy reliable person or an expert in your field and their recommendations show up on your profile.

This is similar to the very useful book reviews you see on Amazon that tell you whether or not a book is any good, just how good it is and how many people have recommended it. The more recommendations a person receives, the better and more highly regarded their reputation is likely to be.

Imagine opening a Yellow Pages to find a plumber. How do you know which ones are any good? LinkedIn is a bit like a Yellow Pages but for professional services, where you can choose service providers based on recommendations instead of random listings in a directory.

Most people use LinkedIn to “connect with someone” in order to make a sale, find investors, form a partnership, find a job or find specific expertise. Many members are directly connected to dozens or hundreds of people, while some super connectors have thousands of direct connections. It’s a great way to build a global network of business contacts.

You can use LinkedIn to find people: former employers; former employees; old friends; old business associates; someone you met at a social event but can’t find their card. There’s a very good chance that you can find the exact people you need in virtually any industry in a couple of steps through the LinkedIn network.

One example is a recruitment consultant who specialises in the broadcasting and media industries. He wanted to track down a digital business executive who had changed jobs and relocated from the other end of the country. Someone suggested he try LinkedIn, and, sure enough, he was listed there as a member. He sent a message to him which was promptly returned the next morning and he was able to resume a potentially beneficial business relationship.

Only last month I was searching for people who had expertise in Word of Mouth marketing. I found 339 such specialists within my own LinkedIn network in a matter of seconds. The top-ranking person, who was directly linked to two of my first-level contacts, turned out to be the author of a top-selling book on the subject. He is also a university lecturer and a consultant as well as being the former CEO and president of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and the founder, former CEO and president of the Interactive Marketing Association.

If, in this situation, the top-ranking contact couldn’t satisfy my particular requirements, I could fall back on the other 338 contacts who have varying amounts of expertise in this specialist area of marketing. Also, I could see at a glance which experts had been recommended, how many recommendations each had received, could read those recommendations and make a shortlist of the most appropriate people to contact before taking any further action.

LinkedIn is a more intimate way of networking than briefly exchanging business cards with a stranger when networking or at a convention. If you meet someone at a business meeting, you may have a few minutes to talk to them but it’s an isolated communication and quickly forgotten. With LinkedIn you can get rich background information from their profile, plus you can see your mutual connections.

If you want to reach a particular company, you can do a LinkedIn search, which will show you not only who is there but will also tell you the shortest route by which you are connected to them. You can then send a targeted message to the individual you want to meet.

Equally, you can review other people’s connections and select some key people you would like to meet, or invite, or email something to and, again, you can use your intermediate contact to relay the message.

I came across someone who, for personal reasons, decided to move to Brazil. He thought that having a job there might be helpful (since he likes to eat!) but he was unsure how he could do that and also leverage the experience he had built over a long career. Since he knew no one in Brazil nor could speak Portugese, this was quite a challenge.

He made it a priority to build a LinkedIn network in Brazil and South America which could provide the contacts he needed to build a career there. But he knew no one there professionally and had only visited occasionally as a tourist. Although it wasn’t achieved overnight, he soon built some excellent business relationships.

Thus he realised the power of LinkedIn. If he could build ‘real-world’ relationships in a place thousands of miles away with no initial face-to-face contacts, what could he do where he already had a large number of real contacts as a foundation to build upon?

LinkedIn has now become an important part of his business life. He maintains a large number of business contacts on it and has built most of his recent business relationships either directly or indirectly from its use.

LinkedIn is also an invaluable research tool. You can find meaningful connections prior to every meeting that can help you deepen a relationship; check out prospective employers or employees; find out how good vendors are; get the answers you are looking for; find out much more about a company than Googling them or going to their website; track your competitors; find common ground with people you want to reach … and so much more.

What I’ve covered here is only the start.

For more information, visit www.dspconnect.com

Robert Clay has been growing businesses since the age of 19. He started his first business with no capital, reaching no.3 in his field in the UK within seven years. His second business reached no.3 in Europe after three years.

After selling both businesses to one of the largest companies in Europe he was persuaded that his self-taught approach to marketing could be used to grow any business successfully.

He subsequently studied and mastered 116 of the world’s most successful business growth techniques, and since June 2000 he and his team at DSP Solutions have transformed the thinking of hundreds of smart successful business leaders by providing them with world-class knowledge of low-risk/high-return marketing strategies that really work in any business.

His new book and set of CDs, “Learn how to grow your business … in just two hours.” are available now for just £15 each plus £2.25 for post and packing. Order both together for just £25 plus P&P.

Call DSP now on 01908 357657 to order your copy or to arrange a free consultation.”

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