How to leverage LinkedIn

Whenever I speak at financial conferences, I always start by asking the audience a simple question: How many of you are on LinkedIn? Hands shoot up. However, when I ask my next question — How many of you are effectively using this network to grow your businesses? — those hands quickly retract.

Having a profile is one thing, but LinkedIn is more than just a place to hang your resume. It is a powerful search and networking tool that top advisors can tap to strategically prospect and establish themselves as thought leaders. Here are some techniques to help you grow your business and professional network:

1. Finding a needle in a haystack. Don’t become overwhelmed by the number of LinkedIn user profiles. The different search features make it quick and easy to focus your search. Looking for people who attended Ohio State University from 1970 to 1974 who now live in Denver and work in engineering? You can find them! With advanced search filters, you can connect with the precise target market of your choosing.

2. Warm introductions. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Use your existing connections to open the doors to new relationships. LinkedIn has second-degree connections — people who are in your web of professional contacts but not yet linked directly to you. With LinkedIn, it’s not just who you know but also who they know. So, the next time you have an appointment with a client or prospect, look him up on LinkedIn to see his connections. He may know someone who would make an ideal client. After your meeting, mention that person by name and ask for an introduction.

3. Group talk. LinkedIn Groups are one of the most underutilized features on LinkedIn. With tens of thousands of groups, there’s a group for everyone. Heated discussions are taking place all the time, so dive in. “Linked to Denver,” one of my favorite groups, has more than 10,000 members. Want to be more strategic? The “Denver Attorneys” group has more than 600 members who might be referral sources for the enterprising advisor.

4. Get connected. How often do you return from a networking event with a stack of business cards you never follow up on? Or maybe you call your new contact once, and six months later, she has become a distant memory. Once you make a connection, reach out via LinkedIn. Even if they’re not qualified prospects now, those contacts will think of you the next time they need to make decisions about their investments. Make it easy to track your new contacts with LinkedIn’s CardMunch, which will automatically load their information for you.

5. Follow companies. Financial advisors can use LinkedIn to strategically search for companies by location, size, industry or the number of connections in common. When an employee leaves a company, she may need help with a 401(k) rollover or retirement planning. Did you know that if you follow a company, you can be alerted via email anytime an employee leaves, joins or gets promoted? These transitions may signal an opportunity for the right advisor.

LinkedIn’s lead-generation possibilities are endless, but it will do you no good if you have all kinds of meaningless connections. Make sure your contacts are strategic and genuine. Your next big client could be out there waiting for you!

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