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Email Marketing by Benchmark

Social Media: A Fabricator's Tool for Success

By Paul Max Le Pera

Social media platforms are more numerous today than ever before. A quick search on available options reveals more than 200 sites covering multitudes of value propositions. For the sake of this article, I want to focus on just one: LinkedIn. My goal is to give you a few strategic employment ideas that could be pure gold.

You may have heard recently that Microsoft announced a $26.2 billion deal to acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share. The deal is expected to close by end of this year, pending the SEC’s intense scrutiny. (By the way, if you ever wanted to know how merger arbitrage works, this deal presents the quintessential opportunity — it’s an interesting read.)

An article in the Wall Street Journal recently highlighted comments made by the president and CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, regarding the synergies in this union:
“Mr. Nadella said today’s work is split between tools workers use to get their jobs done, such as Microsoft’s Office programs, and professional networks that connect workers. The deal, he said, aims to weave those two pieces together. It’s really the coming together of the professional cloud and the professional network…For instance, connecting Office directly to LinkedIn could help attendees of meetings learn more about one another directly from invitations in their calendars. Sales representatives using Microsoft’s Dynamics software for managing customer relationships could pick up useful tidbits of background on potential customers from LinkedIn data.”

And therein lies the synergy.

LinkedIn is effectively a professional networking site “linking” together a global community of industry professionals from virtually every trade. Consider it equally an online curriculum vitae and public space to brand your products, your company and yourself, as well as to advertise, educate and share relevant information amongst your peers.

Traditionally, small business has used LinkedIn to advertise and promote — it’s a relatively low cost form of marketing. Yet this is what I refer to as “promotional chumming.” Advertising and promotion of your brand, products, services etc., are important and can yield great return; however, from a sales perspective, the truth remains that essentially you are chumming, throwing out bait, hoping for a bite.
On this note of advertising via photos, I want to suggest that the emphasis be placed on mindfulness of what is being portrayed. A sense of great pride in fabricating and installing an exotic stone from some remote location needs to be consummated by posting a photo because it adds to the appeal of the countertops. Case in point: Make sure the kitchen is cleaned. Common sense? Empirical evidence proves otherwise. Gorgeous countertops with messy floors dilute the impact. Be mindful of the lighting and incidentals in the photo; e.g., a stray beer can in the corner, shadows and low light, etc. all of which are real examples of posts I’ve seen. Look at what you post through the eyes of your target — these eyes are more critical — and if you pass that test, you are good to click, “Post It.” Be mindful that all your efforts optimize the efficacy of your post.

Two Important Questions:
1. How then can a fabricator use LinkedIn to promote business growth other than the traditional routes of posting snapshots of installed countertops or unique applications?
2. Is there a more highly targeted, sales-focused protocol that a fabricator can strategically utilize to increase sales and unlock valuable strategic relationships?

Absolutely. Let’s explore what could be the least expensive, but most fortuitous strategy.

If in three words I could summarize the essence of this strategy, it would be, Targeted Personal Networking (TPN).

TPN is the “magic” to produce gold. Start to think of utilizing LinkedIn as the cold calling of the 21st century. One person can reach/solicit countless targets in one day and in all corners of his or her geographic region or even all around the world! In addition to a significantly higher volume of targets reached in a day, the expense per target is fractions of the traditional cold-calling route.

You can search for the companies you want to solicit; prioritize them via your own criteria; and search the optimal target(s) within this organization to contact. I have used LinkedIn to communicate and eventually secure a meeting with countless professionals, executives, purchasing managers, global CEOs and more. In fact, on more than one occasion, I was able to reach out to a celebrity and secure a meeting, and from there business opportunities ensued.

Even if you do not know whom you need to or should solicit, you can research firms within your specified geography that manufacture or sell XYZ. From there, you can identify optimal targets and send a message of introduction and request a meeting as a starting point.

Specific action items would be to consider securing a “Sales Navigator Account” on LinkedIn. There is a monthly fee, but it’s doubtful it will be costlier than a weekly tank of gas spent making personal calls on people in the traditional way. Here’s another example: Let’s assume for the moment there’s an account you cannot break into or get past the front door. Why not use InMail on LinkedIn and send the most inviting email — albeit short and sweet — directly to the sales and marketing manager, or better yet, directly to the president & chief executive officer? Of course they need to read the email, but if your tag line and opening is sufficiently baiting, it will likely be read, and if there is resonation, a reply is likely! In this technique, you have possibly reached the decision maker and tempted him or her to consider your product, service or value proposition, where traditional cold calling would have, most likely, been futile.

As a salesperson, the top management whom you desperately want to get in front of is typically well insulated. Good luck getting their email or cell phone to actually reach them. But now you can via this function called InMail in LinkedIn. You can send anyone an email, whether you are connected with them or not! I will humbly admit, I have emailed presidents and CEOs from around the world and gotten their attention. My hit rate has historically been 37 percent, and this is vastly more successful than the cold calls via car and I have communicated with some executives who were previously unreachable. And, the cost per successful outreach attempt was significantly less.

In addition to reaching sales targets, you can also search for firms in a region that may have slipped under your radar. With a search criterion such as “design” or “fixtures” and in a search area radius you specify, you can discover numerous companies to solicit either the traditional or virtual way.

The key here is focused cold calling, or what I call TPN. You are targeting your contact and sending a personal message, the result of which is networking. You can solicit more firms and contacts in 30 minutes this way than you can do the traditional way in a full day or even week! Your expected ROI increases greatly. You can use this methodology to set up your appointments for the week, or use it to fill in appointments in “in-between” time.

As an owner, CEO or executive manager, you may want to introduce yourself to a public figure with whom you feel there is strategic alliance potential. Consider for a moment reaching out to a news anchor, a DIY home improvement personality, the executive vice president of business development of a company, etc., all of whom you can introduce your idea for consideration. It is a cold call reaching your perfect target inexpensively, and they will get to know you as more often than not, the target will view your profile after receiving your message.
Therein lies the final piece to this strategy. Your profile must reflect your greatest attributes. It categorically behooves me that one’s profile picture to the world looks like they just sucked on a lemon or worse yet, a mug shot. Really? There are sales in everything, and if you want to have maximum appeal to the business community and desire to have a target invest in you, make them feel comfortable with you as a potential partner for consideration.

TPN can be an enormous asset because the exact target you want will see who you are and choose to respond or not based on your solicitation approach and the timing of their need, etc. In traditional cold calling, how many times do you never get past the receptionist? LinkedIn InMail can assuage barriers and afford you a golden opportunity to reach THE person(s) you want and increase the probability of success.

Many of you might be thinking, “Well, I post this stuff on Facebook; it’s the same thing.” No, not really. Facebook tends to be more of a personal site, although there is much professional solicitation on there. Facebook will be dilutive and the search criteria will pale in comparison.

Many HR personnel will seek out your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to learn more about you. However, the premise and expectation of Facebook is more relaxed and interpersonal — it is not primarily considered a professional networking sight, yet is increasingly becoming so because of the vast number of users.

When it comes to your profile summary, be enticing and portray all your noteworthy personal and professional attributes. How you look, and how and what you say about yourself could mean the difference between your target clicking the delete button or scrolling down for further information. They more they scroll the closer your goal.

This year is seeing increases in economic recovery and many practices are changing. New ways to communicate are plentiful. I will venture to say that not exploiting the networking capabilities of LinkedIn carries an enormous opportunity cost — almost incalculable. Your ROI on sales time can be greatly increased with TPN. We are in an era of change, innovation, trying new things and a chance to gain a strategic advantage using a very tenable and low-cost resource like LinkedIn.

There should be a seamless, uninterrupted transition when Microsoft assumes ownership. LinkedIn’s networking potential, post-acquisition, will likely increase several fold. That said, microeconomic theory will likely ensue, so don’t be surprised if membership increases soon thereafter.

About the Author
Paul Max Le Pera has more than 20 years’ experience in business and marketing strategy for the building materials industry. He can be reached at (908) 358-5252 or [email protected].