LinkedIn is a powerful, easy-to-use customer discovery tool that is effective at free, and awesome at premium. At MovingWorlds, we have found over 50% of our potential customers and partners all through LinkedIn by using these tricks.
4 Easy Ways to Find Potential Customers on LinkedIn
(To discover potential customers that we wrote about in our previous post, How We Found Customers to Start Developing, we were interested in finding talent management professionals at Fortune 500 organizations).
The Best Way to Find Groups of People on LinkedIn is to Start with Google
Seriously. Take 60 seconds and do a couple Google searches to see if lists already exist on LinkedIn. When I was looking for potential customers, I wanted to find only find people working at Fortune 500 companies. Since LinkedIn now uses Skills and Experience as a search feature, and this is listed as a category, it made this super easy for Google to take me directly to the most useful page. This is true for people as well.
Use the Advanced Search in LinkedIn
I’m shocked how many people don’t know how to use advanced search in their email clients (read tips), Twitter (read tips), Google (read tips), and on LinkedIn. Take 10 minutes to learn it and save yourself a ton of time in the future.
There are a LOT of ways to used the advanced search filters… take time to play with different options until you find what works for you. Look at all the different categories you can segment by:
Since I was specifically looking for Talent Management professionals at Fortune 500, I wanted to narrow the big list down to people with decision making power. So I used filters to find people who meet these exact criteria:
- anybody with ‘talent management’ in their profile
- and was a Director, VP, or above
- and was at a company of at least 250 employees
- and was at a Fortune 500 company
There are lots of other filters, but this created a nice list for me. NOTE: some filters are for premium members only. I signed up for the ‘Business‘ account and prepaid for one year – it’s more than worth every penny. I’ve found potential investors, partners, reporters, and potential customers.
Participate in LinkedIn Groups to Find People you Should Know About, but Don’t
A lot of people that you should be talking to don’t show up in your results. Usually this is because they have a weird title, or for some reason, you’ve chosen a filter(s) that leave them out. So after finding people using the above methods, I always do another search in LinkedIn to find relevant groups that potential customers are likely to be a part of. Continuing the same example above, I look for people in groups related to talent management, HR, and society of human resources professionals. Once I found these groups, I looked for the most active people in them and tried to message them directly (sometimes you can InMail people for free if you are in the same group).
In addition to messaging top contributors, I’ll join a lot of these groups to get more insight. I look at conversations and respond to polls, provide connections, and comment on entries so that I am a valued group member. I’ll also ask the group if they have suggestions on who to talk to. You will be surprised at how eager people are to help, as long as you add value. As an example, we were travelling down to the Bay Area, so I asked the Bay Area Sustainability for tips on who to contact – we got 4 comments and GREAT leads. In addition to comments, a few members messaged me directly to help us setup additional meetings.
Use InMail, but Don’t Abuse It
Yes, InMails cost money. But they also get results. You get a certain amount with your premium membership, so try them out. Just be respectful of the community and of people. Don’t post garbage in groups, and don’t reach out to people until you have a compelling value proposition. For tips on how we wrote messages, see how we Engaged Potential Customers.
NOTE: Do not just try and ‘connect’ with people as a free way to message them. Use InMail.
If you are blindly reaching out to targets you have identified, do not just click on the “connect” button. It barely ever works, and honestly, it’s abusing the system and ruins it for everybody else. If you don’t know somebody and want to message them, use the InMail option.
If you need help finding potential customers for any stage of your lean start-up process, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool, and is worth a 1-month trial and some experimenting. Like anything else at your startup, if it doesn’t work, then pivot.
In future posts, I’ll share tips on how we found potential customers using Twitter, Blogs, Press, and Google Groups. Subscribe via Email or RSS to get more tips!
Totally agree on the power of LinkedIn.
I’ve found the amount of noise in LinkedIn Groups hard to deal with… most groups I come across end up looking like little more than marketing channels with weak engagement. Any tips on how to rise above and get some responses?
You bring up a really good point. Some groups definitely become noisy and a challenge to actually get value from. All of your activity on LinkedIn should have some purpose… finding new customers, doing customer research, validating customers, etc., If you approach specific groups with specific objectives, I find it easier to first only participate in the most relevant groups which are typically smaller and more targeted. Also, because I am there with a specific focus, it is easier to ask very specific questions, or only respond to the most relevant comments.
As an example, by extending on the example referenced above, if you want to find potential customers to research, contact, and interview about the validity of the product you are considering to build, I would look at all the relevant groups related to talent management, and look for smaller groups with more specific focus (i.e. engagement, development, etc.). Nine times out of ten you will get better responses from the closed group Talent Management & Leadership Development group with 622 members than the HR & Talent Executive Network with 126,522 members.
Hope that helps!
Thanks Mark! Definitely helpful – I’ll use this advice for sure.
I used to live on LinkedIn for my research job.
We’ve found that searching on Google with the exact title and company will land you LinkedIn profiles that you may NOT find by searching directly on LinkedIn’s platform. In a way, this is due to the constraints of your network’s reach.
Besides buying a subscription, a way to increase your reach is to connect with people who have 500+ (hopefully they actually have 2000+) connections. You will cast a wider 2nd degree nest.
Good tip, Ray! Thanks for adding to the convo!