on January 7, 2021 (last modified on December 8, 2021) • 19 minute read
Did you know that Pew Research found that 25% of adults on the internet used LinkedIn in 2018? That’s more than Twitter, which 24% of respondents used.
If you don’t already use LinkedIn for business outreach, you’re missing out on a large part of the internet population. Plus, LinkedIn users often have the traits you want in a lead.
LinkedIn’s lead generation page drops two data bombshells: Four out of five LinkedIn members influence business decisions, and LinkedIn users have twice the buying power of the average internet audience.
So, how do you tap into LinkedIn’s potential for lead generation effectively? Plenty of businesses perform LinkedIn outreach as part of their marketing strategy. When we asked marketers how often they use LinkedIn for sales outreach, less than 10% said that they used it infrequently.
But, if you’ve ever used LinkedIn, you’ve probably seen how difficult it can be to craft a successful outreach message. What strategy can you take to perform outreach that brings value to your customer and encourages a response?
As always, we turned to the experts to learn about their experiences with using LinkedIn to reach out to leads. We’ll go over the basics of LinkedIn outreach, then dive into 16 tips provided by 40+ sales pros.
LinkedIn outreach is the process of reaching out to potential leads on LinkedIn. Since direct messages are LinkedIn’s primary one-to-one communication method, the LinkedIn outreach process often revolves around messaging. However, you’ll soon see that other LinkedIn features can boost your chance of successful outreach as you read our experts’ tips.
To perform LinkedIn outreach, you connect with and message potential leads. It works a little differently from email outreach since LinkedIn involves plenty of built-in features you can leverage.
You need to learn how LinkedIn connections and messaging works to understand the process behind LinkedIn outreach. While you can make a page for your organization, you’ll need to use your personal profile to connect to and message possible leads.
Depending on the scope of your outreach strategy, you may need to invest in a LinkedIn Premium account to reach out to some users. With a free account, you can send a message to:
If you want to message anyone else, you’ll have to connect with them first or use LinkedIn Premium to send an InMail, a message that you can send to any user.
Once you figure out how to reach out to leads on LinkedIn, it’s time to establish an outreach strategy. Should you use LinkedIn outreach for sales or marketing? Data suggests that you can go for both.
Most of the experts surveyed use the platform for both sales and marketing. Experts who chose one over the other were more likely to choose marketing over sales. But, as you can see, it’s totally valid to try LinkedIn outreach for both of those stages of the funnel.
How do you reach out to potential leads on LinkedIn in ways that get results? We asked more than 40 marketing experts about their strategies for LinkedIn outreach. Here are the takeaways from their answers.
Personal branding is one thing, an important thing, but so is helping your company grow. You may not have direct control over who follows you, but you can influence them with your posts, comments, and other kinds of engagement. To do that, you need to know who they are and what their interests are. You can align yourself with your LinkedIn company page followers by analyzing:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our LinkedIn experts, who have put together a great Databox template showing all the most important demographics for your LinkedIn company page. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up this LinkedIn dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your LinkedIn account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
The most common tip that our experts gave was to personalize outreach messages. In fact, many of the tips you’ll read in this blog post relate to this concept.
“Personalization is the #1 differentiator when it comes to LinkedIn outreach,” says Will Cannon from Signaturely. “I get hundreds of LinkedIn connection requests and messages each month, and 95%+ are a general ‘Hey there, this is what I do, here are the results I can get you, let’s schedule a call’. They aren’t personal and I don’t respond to any of them.”
So, how do you avoid sending one of those messages? “Take your time and research your prospect, learn what they are actively working on, learn their hobbies/interests. Send less messages but each one with a hyper-personalized intro line, and your response rates will drastically increase,” Cannon advises.
Jack Zmudzinski of Start Nearshoring brings up a point about LinkedIn algorithms when explaining why you should make your messages personal. “When reaching out, don’t go for cliched templates that everybody uses. Besides, if you send the exact same template to everyone, LinkedIn might mark your account as spam.”
“You need to be diverse in your messages. Don’t quit on changing the name and company for each message. Go beyond that – switch up your templates, play with the solutions you offer, tell them what you like about the company. People really do prefer messages that come across as sincere and honest,” Zmudzinski elaborates.
Joe Mills from Element Three also believes that LinkedIn outreach “absolutely has to be personalized.” Mills urges you to think about how it feels on the recipient’s end. “You know when you’ve been copy and pasted a note – and it feels icky. You won’t respond, and if you won’t respond, your prospect won’t respond either. Be authentic and be personal in your outreach.”
Our survey respondents had mixed feelings about automation.
“Don’t use a LinkedIn automation tool to send your LinkedIn outreach for you!” Mindi Rosser from The Conversion Company stresses. “Too many busy business leaders think they’re being clever by using a tool to send LinkedIn connection requests and a series of emails for them.”
Rosser continues, “Problem is that this approach tarnishes your personal brand because it’s easy for a real human to recognize automation. Unless they need what you’re selling right now, they’ll ignore you – or worse, label you as a spammer.”
Meanwhile, Mxt Media’s TJ Kelly thinks it’s okay to use automation—as long as you’re smart about it. “Automate the authentic. Use tools like Octopus CRM to send messages or connection requests at scale, but don’t skip the hard parts.”
How do you keep your automated messages authentic? “Make sure your requests have accurate name and company/job title values, or your messages will instantly look spammy,” Kelly advises.
“And make the message relevant to your connections: ‘Hey XYZ, I saw that you XYZ- I do too! Thought we could connect,’” explains Kelly. “Short and sweet, and keep it conversational.”
Most of the marketing experts who answered our survey send fewer LinkedIn outreach messages than you might think.
More than 70% of our respondents send 50 or fewer LinkedIn outreach messages per month. So, you don’t necessarily need to churn out messages to get results.
In fact, some of our experts stressed the importance of quality over quantity in their responses.
“Outreaching on LinkedIn has proven to be a very effective strategy for B2B when done well. However, I still see too many marketers focusing on quantity vs. quality,” said Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers Marketing. “You don’t want to send the exact same messages to everyone. What you want is to personalize your messages without being salesy.”
RJ Huebert from HBT Digital Consulting taps into the power of statistics to sway potential leads on LinkedIn. “One tip for sending effective outreach on LinkedIn is to include relevant marketing campaign stats to the connection. When you can be more detailed with your information, it comes off as trustworthy, especially if your stats are ‘apples to apples’ within the connection’s industry.”
Related: The 18 Most Important LinkedIn Metrics You Should Be Tracking
Steven J Wilson & Associates’ Steven J Wilson takes off some of the pressure on message recipients by following one practice. “Make it their decision to connect. A simple sentence added to the end of my outreach increased conversions by 11%. Add this to the end of your request – Check out my profile, and if you feel I can be of any value to you, let’s connect.”
Wilson continues, “This is a great way to pre-qualify your prospects to see if they are interested in you or what you have to offer prior to any pitches.”
Plenty of our professionals consider research essential to creating engaging LinkedIn messages.
“As someone who receives 5-10 pitches via LinkedIn today, I can attest that doing background research on the people you reach out to is key,” states Natalie Bidnick Andreas from Zen Media. “Don’t pitch a product that is a competitor or doesn’t serve the person’s industry. Review their LinkedIn profile, read their website and recent blog posts – then include that information to show you’ve done background work. The extra 5 minutes it takes will be worth it!”
According to Russell Morgan from Russell Morgan Consulting, you can tackle this research in a few minutes. “In no more than 5 minutes, Google the company and the person (i.e. contact name, company), and search through the news tab to find relevant recent info to refer to. If none, search through their recent LinkedIn posting history for something. In your outreach you want to show you’ve done your homework.”
Morgan also follows a simple process when there isn’t much information available. “If you cannot find anything, follow the person and set reminders to check in on them until you find something interesting to connect with them about,” they explain.
NET(net)’s Dexter Siglin uses background research to create what they call a “connect hook.” Siglin says, “Research your intended audience for any kind of personal, professional, or common interest ‘hook’, and use that in your outreach. The obvious hooks are highlighted by LinkedIn already and include common jobs, employers, alma maters, and other connections.”
They add, “However, often overlooked are some of the less obvious ways to make a connection. Doing a simple Google search will often yield great insight into what kind of person your subject really is, and open some doors. Some examples are finding and using references to your subject in news articles, quotes, or vendor materials.”
“…There are many more, but the point is any can be used to ‘warm’ an introduction, and it takes only a few minutes. Without that kind of approach – it really is just spam anyway.”
Building on the concept of a “connect hook,” we found that many other professionals in our survey considered finding common ground important.
The 20’s Lee Mash keeps the process simple. Mash says, “I just mention something we have in common. For example, if they post an article on growing their business, I comment, ‘We have that growth mindset! Love it!’”
Chris Wilks from BrandExtract encourages you to ask yourself a few questions when adding a personal touch through common interests or experiences. “Do you know something that they’re curious about? Do you share a common interest? Are you connected? If so, incorporate that into your outreach.”
“But, be authentic,” Wilks warns. “Don’t pretend to know something or someone just to get their attention. People can smell inauthenticity a mile away.”
Nikola Roza from Nikola Roza – SEO for the Poor and Determined believes you’ll have a leg up when you have a mutual connection with your lead. “My one tip is to mention at the start of your message that you and the message recipient have a mutual connection. This will immediately put you in the ‘trusted circle’ because you’re obviously similar in some way to them and that third mutual friend.”
For Thomas Bolt from Big EVAL, sometimes the only common ground you’ll need is the same niche. “Try mentioning that you work in the same niche, and hope to potentially collaborate somewhere down the line. Few people will say ‘no’ to that,” Bolt elaborates.
When we asked marketing pros about their LinkedIn marketing tactics in a previous survey, plenty of them emphasized the importance of building a relationship. Instead of going right for a direct message, many of the respondents “warmed up” their connection first. In the survey on LinkedIn outreach we conducted for this blog post, we found that theme coming up again.
“Start by interacting with the prospect by commenting and sharing their posts instead of sending a private message right away,” Ney Lins from Echoworx recommends. “This way, you can start building and nurturing a relationship that will open doors for a conversation and your outreach won’t look spammy.”
Sparkr Marketing’s Wendy Margolin considers relationship building more important on LinkedIn than on other platforms. “LinkedIn users have zero tolerance for spam, even more so than on other social media channels. The best way to reach more people there, and really on any social media, is to build a relationship. This starts by connecting with people and choosing the option to ‘Send a note,’” Margolin states.
Stephen Fiser from Leadjetty agrees, saying, “The number one thing to remember is that LinkedIn is about relationships. Start by trying to add value. If the person you want to reach is active on LinkedIn, leave insightful comments on their posts, reach out and thank them for sharing, and et cetera. This way, you build rapport before asking them for something.”
Relationship building goes beyond messaging when Tonya Panchula from DVS performs LinkedIn outreach. “I don’t do ‘offers’ upfront or request a sales pitch meeting. Sometimes I tell them I want to connect just to expand my circle or learn more in general. I may not be sending InMail messages every day, but I’m constantly finding connections, researching, sharing valuable information, and learning from others,” Panchula tells us.
Digital Now’s Marcin Nieweglowski approaches LinkedIn relationships from the perspective of a consultant rather than a salesperson. Nieweglowski mentions, “I recently reached out to the managing director of a food company by sending some tips about brand websites. My sincere involvement has worked.”
When performing outreach, it can become all too easy to focus on your side of the bargain rather than your lead’s. Some of our respondents remind you to stress what your prospect will gain when you reach out to them.
This point becomes obvious when Stephen Twomey of Kennected receives a copy and pasted message on LinkedIn. Twomey wants you to consider the difference between these two messages:
“See the difference?” Twomey asks. “He is offering to help me grow my business and provide value to me here, instead of trying to pitch me his product or service. Law of reciprocity says that I have to in turn help him at some point. This is some ninja-level outreach.”
Return on Now’s Tommy Landry thinks that emphasizing the lead’s possible benefits is the most important part of a LinkedIn message. According to Landry, “A good LinkedIn outreach message will include:”
Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging references a classic quote when framing LinkedIn outreach, stating, “Dale Carnegie said when performing outreach, tell the person how you can help them, not how they can help you.”
Some of our respondents go the extra mile for their LinkedIn leads by creating a personalized video message.
The Advisor Coach LLC’s James Pollard has witnessed the effectiveness of this unconventional technique, stating, “The best outreach method we’re seeing right now is a recorded video designed specifically for the recipient.”
To try the video message approach yourself, “you can use a screen recording software (like Loom or Screencastify) and record yourself with your recipient’s LinkedIn profile in the background. The person will see his or her profile and be naturally curious. It also shows that it’s not spammy because it was custom-made,” Pollard explains.
For Vye’s Lori O’Connor, sending a video message is all about heart. “I send heartfelt video messages that include why I want to connect with them. I think they come across as warmer and more authentic,” O’Connor says.
Some experts stress that you should keep to the point when you reach out on LinkedIn. A concise message has a better chance of grabbing their attention than a long-winded one.
For example, 71Three’s Sid Berry shares an example of a short and sweet message that retains personality: “Here is an example message that I would send out to an investor – ‘Hi Dmitry. What ultimately persuaded you to invest in Snapchat? I would love to hear about XYZ. The coffee is on me, let’s chat?’”
As opposed to some of our respondent’s advice to build a relationship first, other survey participants encourage marketers to go straight to the point. Your mileage may vary, so you can consider trying both approaches to see which one works best for your company.
“Being honest can bring a much better response than reaching out with a compliment,” Mailbird’s Andrea Loubier says. “If you’re looking for a collaboration, simply say so when you send the request. If the individual is open to networking, then you’ll stand a good chance of adding to your own network.”
Mike Decker from The Advisor Suite takes a very business-like approach to LinkedIn outreach. “The number one rule in prospecting is to be clear. No one cares about building rapport. All they need to know is what you are offering so they can decide if they want it, or not. It is OK if they do not want it. Move on to the next person,” Decker advises.
Writer and blogger Jeremy Long makes a compelling point in support of the upfront approach: “If your customer is on LinkedIn, you’re mostly dealing with people that work in marketing in some fashion,” Long points out. “Be upfront. Don’t waste their time and you might get more of the response you’re looking for.”
The main differentiator between email and LinkedIn outreach is LinkedIn’s status as a social platform. You can interact with prospects in so many ways beyond messaging, including commenting on posts and participating in groups. Some of our experts found that taking part in the same LinkedIn spaces as their prospects made outreach much easier.
The Trusted Homebuyer’s Martin Boonzaayer uses the following approach: “First, I find the prospect then I look for the articles and posts the prospect has commented on or posted and I start periodically commenting on them. After building an ‘awareness’ of who I am, I then reach out.” Boonzaayer adds, “Trust and consistency is the winning ticket!”
Brooklin Nash from Sales Hacker recommends that you “don’t limit your outreach to InMail or connection requests.” Instead, you should, “Take some time to interact with their content (if they post it). This is social selling, after all.”
One way to warm up a lead on LinkedIn is to start with a question.
Beekeeper’s Alexandra Zamolo explains, “A great way to connect with someone on LinkedIn is to approach them with a professional question. If they have a blog, you can comment on a specific post, or sign up for their newsletter. A genuine interest in a person’s business can come across as much more genuine than a request to connect without any explanation.”
If you want to build a strategy that encourages leads to come to you, consider establishing your thought leadership on LinkedIn. LinkedIn offers features for creating posts and articles that you can leverage to become a thought leader in your industry.
Menachem Ani from JXT Group says, “I found that the best way to use LinkedIn is to connect with the people that you’d like to have as your client and post compelling content daily to highlight your expertise. Over time, you’ll become top of mind in your industry and people will start to reach out to you turning the idea of outreach on its head.”
Spitfire Inbound’s Lauren Espach agrees. Espach stresses that in addition to personalizing your messages, “you need to create and share content that your prospects are interested in and which also demonstrates your knowledge and expertise in helping to solve their problem.”
We’ll leave you with a final, evergreen tip that you should keep in mind as you apply the practices we’ve shared today. As the world of marketing changes, so will the recommended techniques for reaching out on LinkedIn, so you’ll need to brush up on the latest tips as you go.
As Emmett Florence from PitchFunnel puts it, your prospects’ concept of ‘spam’ will change as best practices evolve. “Remember that not sounding ‘spammy’ means constantly staying ahead of the pack. Today’s winning communication tactics will probably become tomorrow’s spam as they become more and more widely adopted,” Florence points out.
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