5 steps to finding clients using LinkedIn

If you're a securely employed creative (that's perhaps about 12 of you), then you can be lazy and skip this article. But if you do freelance work or own your own shop, then getting new clients is a concern you live with on an all-too-frequent basis.

How one goes about finding new clients will depend on what you do, and who your clients are. If you do creative freelance for the advertising or publishing worlds, then obtaining lists of art directors and art buyers in these fields is doable, if potentially costly.

But what if your primary customer is the end-user, a business or manufacturer? How do you find and connect with such a wide range of potential clients? Depending on buckshot promotions and marketing can drive your small shop under financial water. So better targeting is certainly needed.

And this is where the business-to-business website LinkedIn can come into play. Unlike other social media networks, LI is geared for adults who do business. You won't fine much on Kim Kardashian here, it's all business. But because it's still a social network, there is generally a nice friendliness and openness to be found among its members.

Warm sales call

This openness leads to what is often referred to as the 'warm sales call'. In contrast to the classic cold call, the warm call is when the recipient – the target of a sale – has spoken with you before. Or perhaps there has been an introduction made by a mutual third party.

This same effect happens on LinkedIn for two reasons. The first is that merely being on the same social network breeds some level of camaraderie. And if the target is so moved to pre-qualify you first, they can easily bring up your profile and see who they are talking to. They can even see who you may both have in common, ie, your connections.

And connections is what LinkedIn is all about. Using them for introductions is the lifeblood of the platform. Once your number of connections has reached a critical mass – often said to be over 500 – you will be amazed at how many people in the LinkedIn world are just one or two connections away from you.

Even in the New York tri-state metropolitan area, which has an estimated 23 million people, and even with fewer than 500 connections, I'm a hop or two away from many people that I want to connect with. (Even President Obama, though I question the validity of that one!)

With all of this in mind, here are five things that successful LinkedIn gurus suggest you do in order to connect with your most desirable potential clients:

01. Make your profile shine

LinkedIn has targeted business from day one

LinkedIn has targeted business from day one

LinkedIn guru Brynn Tillman emphasizes that your profile is your best marketing tool for potential clients. She stresses that we need to see our own profile the way the potential client does:

"Pretend you're on a desert Island looking at your prospect in a boat. You're screaming 'HELP, BOAT!' But your prospect has a very different viewpoint. They're in the boat screaming 'LAND!'."

Tillman says: "Get in the boat, and see your profile the way they do." To this end, Brynn makes these suggestions:

  • Sub-heads count: Most people put their job title under the name. More interesting thought is what you can do for potential clients. What's your value? "Marketing Director and Creator of Advertising that Sells." That works!
  • Value throughout: Articulate the value your work brings to clients. And do this throughout the profile. "Drill down on your value proposition in your summary. Tell them why they should work with you. Give tips on how to achieve some common goals, use case studies, recommendations and include any press coverage.

02. Be the expert. Publish on LinkedIn

Veteran international publisher Jim S Hill has been a successful member of LinkedIn for many years. "I'm always looking for ways to push the envelope. This year LinkedIn gave me the perfect tool, the ability to publish articles."

Hill has published a series of articles on one of his areas of expertise, outsourced publishing. "Choose a topic you're an expert in, one you want to be known for. Break it down into smaller topics and publish a series of articles. It's not unlike doing a blog, though the tone should stay professional."

The results have been better than imagined. "I expected the articles would make me higher profile, but have to say I was extremely pleased with the way they were received. And with the number of connections they have opened."

03. Engage in topic discussions

LinkedIn Groups offer a route to discussion on any topic you choose

LinkedIn Groups offer a route to discussion on any topic you choose

LinkedIn offers many ways to interact with other members. Join the groups that you might expect your target client to be a member of. For example, if you're an illustrator you'll likely wish to join a group of your peers.

But also join groups with art buyers and art directors. You may even become a star in those groups because you can share valuable insights to working successfully with artists.

04. LinkedIn connections reinforce real-world connections

We know it takes about seven exposures for a customer to recognize a new brand. So after you meet someone, reinforce your brand by connecting with them on LinkedIn, in addition to any traditional connections, like an email.

Not only does this reduce the seven-exposures to six, but it opens the door to put you in front of your target with profile updates, published articles, and other value-added communications.

05. Good communications

Melonie Dodaro is considered one of Canada's leading LinkedIn gurus. She cautions us not to ever think becoming connected is the end-game. "It's not enough to just grow your network. You need to actually build a relationship with your new connections. Send a sequence of value-based messages to your prospects.

"Always take the time to personalize each message appropriately before sending it. Use your connection’s first name and add any details that will improve the message and make it feel more personal. The more individualized your messages, the better the results."

Words: Lance Evans

Lance Evans is creative director of Graphlink Media.

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