Be Fearless: How We Used LinkedIn to Launch Our Startup Part 3
June 30, 2014
In Parts One and Two we cover the beginning of our story, including how we used LinkedIn to land our Chairman of the Board, entire Advisory Board, and first paying enterprise client. This is the conclusion of how we launched our startup using LinkedIn. Breakouts from this series include thoughts from our Chairman of the Board Joe Seibert, with Advice The Former CIO Of The New York Times Has For Startups.
9. Set Up Saved Searches
As is true in many industries, there’s a lot of turnover in eCommerce. People are constantly moving laterally, moving up, moving companies, or moving on. And this trend is only slated to continue: 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. This means they’ll likely hold 15 – 20 different jobs over the course of their careers (Future Workplace, via Forbes).
To ensure you don’t miss anyone moving into your space, set up a saved search on LinkedIn. For example, I have a saved search for anyone at a Director level or above in e-commerce (or “eCommerce” – even the spelling can make a difference). Anytime someone moves into that space, I’m alerted, and I can (and do) reach out to them.
To set up your own, do a normal search for any job. I recommend putting the title itself in quotations – “Director of E-Commerce.” At the top right of the search results, you’ll see “save search,” which is where you can fill in the same title and two additional ones (if you have a premium account, you can add more). You’ll then get an e-mail notification when someone moves into a relevant job in your industry, and you can change your settings to determine the frequency. Personally, I like to get all the notifications once a week, at which point I can choose to reach out.
Use LinkedIn to stay on top of who’s coming into your field. It’ll make you both well informed and well connected.
10. Publish On LinkedIn
As you may already be aware, LinkedIn recently allowed anyone to publish content here – you no longer need to be an Influencer. (Just ask me how excited I am to be publishing!)
This means that now you can publish high-quality articles on your profile, relevant to your industry. This is a particularly smart thing to do because when someone connects with you, it’s one of the first things they’ll see.
Added advantages include the fact that InShares tend to have a piece gain traction over time, rather than lose it. Elsewhere online, the most recent pieces rise to the top, and everything else is forgotten about. Also, anything you publish on LinkedIn can still be shared elsewhere; you can still tweet out the article, or share it through whichever channels you were on before (people don’t need to be members of LinkedIn in order to read it).
If you want to kick it up a notch, consider making LinkedIn your primary publishing platform when it comes to social media. If you’re B2C, it makes sense to have a strong presence on places like Twitter and Facebook. But if you’re B2B, your audience is more targeted and frankly, more discerning. The quality of connections and information distributed on LinkedIn is higher than that on, say, Facebook or Twitter because it’s a site created by professionals, for professionals. For those who market to professionals, it would be wise to make LinkedIn a substantial marketing channel.
11. Play The Numbers Game
Part of the reason I’ve had the success on LinkedIn I have, is because I’ve been pretty relentless about reaching out to a lot of people. For example, while I’ve had a pretty impressive 20-25% response rate to InMails, that also means I’ve had a 75-80% rejection rate. Don’t get discouraged if your first few (or few dozen) InMails aren’t responded to.
The point of the numbers game isn’t counting the no's; it’s cultivating the yes's.
Don’t get attached to any one, specific connection. Connecting professionally is a little like connecting romantically. If you get in touch with someone and they don’t respond, or the two of you aren’t vibing, move on. The point is not to acquire ‘targets’ and then do everything in your power to ‘get’ them. The point is just to reach out and see who responds. It’s not just about who you’re interested in; it’s about who’s interested back.
I told myself I wasn’t going to put any quotes in this series. I fibbed. Thomas Edison said, “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”. Particularly relevant here -- that one last InMail could be the turning point. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this is fiercely resilient, so push forward. Always.
12. Be Fearless (#BeFearless)
My father ingrained in my head that, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (thanks, dad). When we were developing OpiaTalk, I regularly wrote to people I had no business writing to – top leaders in eCommerce. My attitude was less, ‘Why would they want to hear from me?’ and more, ‘Why not?’ If they weren’t into it, I was exactly where I was before. If they were, I had a potential new mentor, advisor, or client. I got uncomfortable. I was fearless.
And if there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that the world of eCommerce is actually quite small. The space is massive, but with all the trade-shows, webinars, and networking events, everyone knows everyone. Having a professional dialogue with a relevant thought-leader presents the perfect opportunity to “connect” with them, and keep the dialogue going. The same is likely true of other industries; they may seem large from the outside, but the number of ‘insiders’ is actually pretty limited.
You can become an insider. All it takes is knowing a few, because they know the rest. And like money, connections compound. The more connections you establish, the wider your network becomes. The bigger your network, the more trusted you become, which makes it even easier to expand your network.
#BeFearless. It makes you both attractive and effective.
I didn’t go to Harvard or Stanford or Wharton. I’m not a serial entrepreneur with several exits under my belt (yet). I’ve just stumbled on things that have worked well for me on this crazy ride. Building a company from the ground up continues to be the most thrilling and challenging thing I’ve ever done.
Part of what I love about LinkedIn is that in a way, it levels the playing field. I don’t have to be a member of the Elk Club to get introduced to the most influential people in my industry; I can send an InMail. I don’t have to know exactly who to talk to beforehand; I can post a job to get well-placed advisors and allies. I get to use it to help me build my dreams, if I can just #befearless.
Try it. You may be hyper-impressed with the results.