A LinkedIn Success Story
How 2 BC Legal Consultants started 73 new business conversations in less than 4 months
NOTE: The project for this LinkedIn case study was unique, combining copywriting and social media networking. Pay attention to the Commentary sections below for broader applications to Content Marketing.
British Columbia, Canada. Marcus Hadley and Lee White are the founders of Capacity First Nations Consulting. They provide negotiation, strategic advice, and legal consulting services. Their goal is helping First Nations leadership build economic capacity for their communities. They also work with BC business and government on Indigenous interests.
Marcus and Lee truly want to help First Nations peoples achieve reconciliation. To them, “Capacity” is about more than economic and social development. It’s about building strength and self-reliance for communities. As Marcus says, “In an ideal world, we’re working to put ourselves out of a job.”
But, as non-Indigenous people, approaching their target market was a challenge. First Nations organizers are often mistrustful of “settlers”. Government help with economic and social issues has been slow or inconsistent. And historical treatment of First Nations is an added barrier. Establishing trust and building relationships are key to business development in this market.
Marcus and Lee had worked with various communities for over a decade. They had many industry connections. But to grow their business, they wanted to increase the visibility of the firm. They had attended conferences, trying to connect with Indigenous leaders and industry representatives. A social media strategy could broaden their reach online.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have a plan and didn’t know where to start. Marcus connected with me through LinkedIn and we began working together.
Revenue is a major goal for most marketing projects, but this one was different. Breaking into a challenging market needed a different focus. We decided to measure success through creation of new business conversations. Marcus and Lee wanted to invest in more visibility and building relationships. Revenue-generating client work would come further down the line.
The Strategy – LinkedIn Networking
LinkedIn was definitely the best place to start. It’s an ideal platform for connecting with executives, business owners, and decision-makers. LinkedIn Networking is also a cost-effective alternative to advertising. (Recognizing the trade-off in time and effort to achieve results.)
The first step was to justify the effort. We had to learn whether enough target prospects were using LinkedIn. So, the first step was to develop a profile of an Ideal Prospect. Then we used LinkedIn’s advanced people search tools to identify an initial audience. We found over 3,800 prospects based on the following criteria in their profiles:
- Keywords: “first nation” OR indigenous OR aboriginal OR “tribal council”
- Geography: British Columbia, Canada
- Seniority Level: “Senior” and up
This was a large enough audience for us to feel comfortable proceeding.
Commentary: Creating an Ideal Prospect Profile is a mandatory first step for any project. (This is sometimes called “creating an avatar”.) You must identify the characteristics of your ideal customer. This creates a target for all your marketing to aim at. It’s still possible to attract prospects who are “near misses” to that target. But if you try to be all things to all people, your marketing is too general to attract anyone.
Commentary: Robust search tools are important to finding ideal prospects. LinkedIn’s premium tools use all the data fields in a user profile. Advanced people search is available through their Sales Navigator account. LinkedIn offers a 30-day free trial of the service.
We put a lot of work into building a platform BEFORE attempting to connect with anyone. This would help achieve greatest success.
We rewrote and optimized Marcus and Lee’s profiles to show the benefits of connecting. Their profiles became an unofficial “sales letter” for them and their business.
We also created 2 LinkedIn Groups. The goal was to build their authority as thought leaders and community organizers. One group had a general focus on issues of First Nations Economic Reconciliation. The second group was for First Nations Executive Directors (commonly known as “Band Managers”). These are significant decision-makers for economic issues.
Commentary: Effective copywriting is for more than blog posts and landing pages. Optimizing your social presence is a crucial element of any networking campaign. Most LinkedIn users treat their profile as an online resume. This is missing out on its huge marketing potential. Creating a Group also helps establish yourself as a knowledgeable advisor.
Connecting with Prospects
With Marcus and Lee’s LinkedIn platform in place, we sent a small batch of connection requests as a test. We included a custom message about mutual benefit of connecting. Recipients accepted around 40% of these requests. This was a good result for cold introductions.
We then sent out several hundred connection requests as an initial “Database Build”.
Results – Initial Prospecting Database Build:
- Total Connections Sent = 562 (388 Marcus + 174 Lee)
- Connections Accepted (during Database Build period) = 271 (194 Marcus + 77 Lee)
- Estimated Connection Percentage = 48.22%
Commentary. When viewing your connection request, users see your Profile Headline. A great headline attracts interest. You should also include a personalized message with your connection request. Avoid the generic messaging created by LinkedIn.
Maintaining Social Presence
With so many new connections, messaging everyone right away would be inefficient. We regularly shared content on Marcus and Lee’s profiles and Groups. This was to keep their presence top-of-mind. Most posts were third-party links to news and resources of interest to the community.
During the project, the Federal and Provincial governments introduced significant new Indigenous initiatives. Marcus and Lee set up a separate blog to share their commentary. We also posted links to this content on their profiles and Groups.
Results – Content Posted over the 3 month campaign period:
- Total Unique Posts = 84
- LI Profile Posts = 100 (50 x 2 profiles)
- Group Posts (General Economic Development Group) = 48
- Group Posts (Band Managers Group) = 47
Commentary: Content doesn’t have to be self-generated — curation can also work well. Framing your content drives consumers toward your marketing goal. Add your own unique commentary and calls-to-action when sharing third-party content.
Commentary: Posting consistently on social media is important. Every time you appear in your prospects’ news feeds, you remind them who you are. The content also establishes your authority. You can source third-party content quickly and easily. Adding occasional first-party content is ideal.
Next, we drafted a 5-message campaign sequence. We made slight variations based on the LinkedIn Group we invited each contact to. The 1st message thanked the prospect for connecting and invited them to join the Group. The 2nd and 3rd messages shared content and resources of interest. They also prompted them to leave comments in the Group and on the new commentary website. These first 3 messages delivered value and built goodwill with prospects.
The 4th message asked for a casual phone call. We asked if they’d like to discuss issues within their community. The 5th message was a follow-up for those who had not yet responded.
We sent messages every 2 weeks to batched groups of prospects. This helped to not overwhelm Marcus and Lee with responses. On each cycle, we added a new batch. At the height of the campaign, 5 batches ran through the message sequence at different stages.
Commentary: Direct messaging to prospects is where you build relationships. A messaging campaign establishes value and authority before you ask for a phone call. This makes it much more likely that prospects will respond than if you asked for a call on your first message. Take time to build a relationship and don’t rush. The batching process creates a consistent flow of appointments over time.
Messaging Campaign Results
Unfortunately, LinkedIn doesn’t keep statistics to count opened and/or read messages. We tracked these manually to get estimates.
Direct Messages Sent and Received:
- Direct Messages Sent (total) = 1699
- Active Replies (i.e. more than LinkedIn quick-reply) (total) = 181
- Active Reply Percentage (total) = 10.65%
Commentary: LinkedIn’s “quick-reply” buttons provide stock responses like “Thanks”, “Not sure”, or a thumbs-up icon. These don’t tell us much. We tracked only “active” replies where the prospect sent a typed message. The total number of responses of all types was much higher.
Message Recipients and Respondents:
- Message Recipients (unique) = 463
- Respondents (unique) = 144
- Response Percentage (unique) = 31.10%
Commentary: Email marketing was an alternative way for Marcus and Lee to contact prospects. Compare this 31.10% response with the average email open rate of 19.54% for the Consulting industry (2017 data released by MailChimp). LinkedIn messaging gets read and encourages response.
- Total Leads = 73
- Lead Percentage = 15.77%
Commentary: We defined a “lead” as someone with an active interest in conversation. Most of these were positive responses to the phone call request. Some leads responded even before we sent the request-for-call.
- Prospects who broke LinkedIn connection, asked for no further contact, or gave a negative response = 17
Commentary: A common concern about this method is that the messaging is unsolicited. We answered complaints quickly and removed those prospects from the campaign. This is why it’s so important to target your marketing to the ideal prospect. The messaging fits their interests and triggers fewer negative responses. The low number of prospects dropped from this campaign was encouraging.
Marcus and Lee were very satisfied with their results. In fact, they were a little overwhelmed with all the new appointments in their calendars. Immediate client work was unlikely. But they understood that hiring in this market is a process.
With bigger social media presence, their visibility among First Nations leadership also increased. The relationships they have formed will be a valuable resource for all work they do in the future.
David made it easy for us to develop and deploy a highly-successful lead generation campaign on LinkedIn. The quality of professional conversations that came from the LinkedIn lead generation campaign was far beyond our expectations. David helped us express the work we do authentically and expand our network dramatically for a fraction of the cost of other approaches, such as attending conferences and events. David himself is knowledgeable, professional and great to work with. We would recommend him to anyone looking to engage potential new clients and expend their professional network.Marcus Hadley
Capacity First Nations Consulting, Victoria BC
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Every campaign operates under different circumstances. These results may not be typical.