How to network professionally using LinkedIn
Networking in an age of elbow bumps
The coronavirus lockdown is slowly easing and law firms throughout the UK are cracking their office doors open to allow clients to meet them face to face, albeit at a socially distanced one meter. So, some things appear to be returning to normal. But with government guidance still in place to avoid meetings of large groups, especially in an enclosed setting, morning breakfast meetings and regional networking events still seem to be a way off and may not reappear in 2020.
This is against a background of economic fallout from COVID-19. Although the legal sector is more resilient than most in these turbulent times, it has never been more important to grow and foster your network of potential clients and referrers. So, what can you do? Thankfully LinkedIn can still enable you to network in the digital, if not the physical world.
The importance of networking
Networking exists because it works, if done effectively. Making contacts and nurturing business relationships is an age-old method of generating work.
People buy from people, so whilst your law firm may have the world’s best branding it is normally the human element that clinches the deal, especially in professional services where the professional (and their years of expertise and experience) is the product.
It’s no different on LinkedIn – you need to promote your expertise and personality but on a digital platform rather than across a coffee table. Here are our tips on how to do that well.
Looking the part
If you turned up to a high-powered business conference in sweatpants, or to a golf day in a Saville Row suit, you’d stand out for all the wrong reasons. The same goes for LinkedIn.
After advising over 1,000 businesses on their LinkedIn strategy it still astounds me how many people neglect their profile page. This is the digital embodiment of you, your skills, your value-add and your experience.
And if you want it to look even better, invest in a LinkedIn banner – that space filled with blue geometric is an often-overlooked piece of LinkedIn ‘real-estate’ despite it taking up nearly a third of the viewing space when someone first visits your profile. It is also a powerful visual tool. LinkedIn states that profiles with banner graphics have 11 times more chance of getting viewed than those that do not.
Crafting your target personas
If you look back over the last 12-24 months of your practice, who were your ideal clients and/or referrers of work?
LinkedIn provides you with handy search filters so you can identify prospective clients/referrers quickly and easily. I have a client who once said “I had no idea of the potential of LinkedIn – that it was a powerful, free database of every contact I would ever need to meet.” That client is Stephen Ward of Clerksroom who attributes a 400% growth of his barristers chambers to using LinkedIn correctly.
The key is to build your target ‘persona’. So, if you are a commercial solicitor with a track record of helping companies who provide software as a service (SaaS), you might want to target owner-managers of businesses within 20 miles of your office in the software sector. Or if you are a private client solicitor you may want to reach out to independent financial advisers in the region who may have clients who need wills and LPAs putting into place.
Using LinkedIn strategically, you can identify, reach out and establish relationships with target clients in your region and in completely different countries. Unlike that breakfast buffet meeting, you don’t have to just keep your fingers crossed that the right sort of person will be attending, you can actually seek them out.
Your opening line
“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Yawn. Sound familiar? If you start to contact people, it’s so important to attach a personal opening note that is well crafted and allows people to see the benefit of establishing a connection with you. You’ve only got 140 characters to achieve this so it’s worth spending some time perfecting that ideal message and getting that connection.
Building know, like and trust factors
So, you’ve got that connection, what now? Just because you’ve met someone it doesn’t mean you are going to do business with them. Humans have to go through a cycle of getting to know someone, liking them and building trust.
To do this on LinkedIn you need to establish a rapport, interact with your connections and illustrate both your personality and expertise. You need to post regularly, varying the format and content on a weekly basis, and like, share and comment on others’ LinkedIn posts. This also helps build your LinkedIn profile, keeping it fresh, engaging and relevant.
LinkedIn can be the start of something beautiful
There’s a misconception that you only connect with someone on LinkedIn AFTER you’ve met them over a coffee. Believe me, having built two successful businesses mainly through my LinkedIn connections, I can tell you the opposite is also true.
Approaching a target connection with a great value-add message and follow up can often lead to that coffee and business soon afterwards (although for the time being, that latte is probably going to have to be take-out). So, don’t give up with the networking, put down the hand sanitiser, and just take it online.
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
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