A decade ago, social media as we know it today didn’t exist. If you were a Facebook early adopter, you might have “liked” a picture of your best friend on a beach in Lanzarote (this was well before coronavirus) – but generating leads on the platform was less common. And at the outset LinkedIn was seen as a recruitment tool rather than a way to find and win clients.
Today – in most (but not all) industries – it’s unusual if you haven’t found customers via social media. LinkedIn is booming, with more than 20 million users in the UK and half a billion worldwide. Facebook groups can also be a good source of leads and the global nature of the online world has made it much easier to do business with people outside your immediate geographical area.
But what if your business is geographically constrained? How can you use the power of LinkedIn to forge stronger connections in your local business community? As a structural engineer I ideally need to be able to visit the sites I’m working on, although I have managed to find workarounds since we went into lockdown.
Using LinkedIn is an effective way to increase your network locally – and it is becoming an important part of my business development.
I’ll explain how it works, so that you can consider whether this strategy could work for you in the future. Back in January 2019, I became one of the Founding Members of a LinkedIn Local group for my area. Clearly we can’t meet at the moment, but we’ll start up again when we can.
LinkedIn Local started as a grassroots movement, when four LinkedIn users in four different cities decided they wanted to get to know their connections face to face. Now #LinkedInLocal is a huge community, supported by LinkedIn itself.
Since becoming involved with the group locally, we’ve had a number of meetings and I’ve been impressed at what an effective networking approach this is.
These groups mean you can put a real life face to someone that you’ve connected with on LinkedIn and, as we all know, relationships forged in person tend to be stronger. And of, course, there’s always that “you’re taller/shorter than I expected” moment too when it comes to taking online connections offline.
When you meet people at these groups and find you share common ground, the next step is to meet them for coffee and build on your existing relationship.
Then if there’s an affinity there, you may decide to work together. Or you may find that you’re able to refer and recommend each other. I’ve found this a useful way to find clients but also to extend my network.
It’s important to note that when you’re building these kinds of connections, you need a strategy for staying in touch. Whether it’s sharing useful or educational content via email, ensuring you post regularly on social media or making an occasional phone call, I recommend keeping a database (or at the very least a spreadsheet) of the connections you make so that you can keep in touch.
If you also track your leads – i.e. keep a record of where your leads are coming from, and note which ones turn into clients – then you’ll get a good sense for how effective your efforts are.
People don’t always prioritise keeping records, but it’s the best way to be certain as to whether or not a particular activity is worth your time.
Then you can keep doing what’s working, and stop doing what isn’t. Of course, you can’t always be sure exactly which activity is responsible for a prospect turning into a client – but you’ll get a good idea.
If you’re in or near Twickenham and you’d like some information about the LinkedIn Local meetings, let me know and once we’re able to meet again, I’ll email you the details.
In the meantime, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.