Working in the small business arena is tough, especially for a storefront small business owner. According to the Small Business Association, over half of U.S. small businesses fail within the first five years. While the reasons vary, one of the biggest catalysts is not effectively marketing the business.
I always recommend business owners begin by creating a marketing plan. The planning process and the information uncovered during planning is useful through all other areas of the business. The plan will also help identify the marketing channels most effective for the business and the industry. One channel that I believe is universally viable for any business type is LinkedIn, but a common question I hear from my clients is “How can I use LinkedIn for my business?”
For some business owners it’s hard for them to see how to make it fit with their industry. However, I have been able to show a hairstylist, financial planner, restaurant owner, and hot sauce company–to name a few–how they can use LinkedIn for their unique business. As an example of the process, I’ll share about one of my newest client’s who is a hairstylist. Her name is Robyn and she is extraordinary at her job, so our goal will be to communicate this to a target audience throughout her LinkedIn profile using relevant content. Below are some of the tactics we’ve used.
Identify the target audience.
When developing a marketing plan for any industry, the first objective is to clearly define your target audience. What is important to them? What information would be beneficial to them? What kind of people do they connect with professionally? The LinkedIn content will focus on the target audience. We identified Robyn’s target audience as business professionals and we created an in-depth profile defining the audience.
Identify strategic contacts.
With a clear description of the target audience, here are some of the tactics we followed to grow Robyn’s network.
- Connect Robyn with local small and medium size business owners and business professionals. We focused on a 10-mile radius and began connecting with professionals in our geographic location.
- Grow Robyn’s network with contacts based on type of profession. Our focus here was to look at professionals who worked with the public, such as sales, management, hospitality, entertainment. These professionals must maintain a polished public appearance and will be ideal clients for Robyn.
- Connect Robyn with potential strategic partners and referral sources. Here we looked at photographers, wedding and event planners, human resources professionals, and professional groups. The relationships with these groups will be very reciprocal. They are also potential partners for bigger projects.
Create relevant content.
Our content has several goals. We will use it to showcase Robyn’s expertise in the industry, present a polished and professional brand, and establish relationships with our target audience.
- Build a LinkedIn profile that showcases Robyn as a business owner and entrepreneur. This ties her to the LinkedIn audience as not only a service provider but also a fellow business owner and high level professional.
- Highlight Robyn’s extensive training and experience, and years in the industry. For this, pictures speak far louder than words, so we created a slide share showcasing Robyn’s talent using before and after images. We will also seek client recommendations and use the LinkedIn projects field to showcase our work with partners.
- Use LinkedIn Groups to connect with local contacts. We searched for and joined groups geared toward business professionals and within the local geographic area.
- Develop content that focused on business related topics. The content calendar includes sharing information such as the importance of a professional appearance with business, guidance on public speaking, presentation tips, business leadership and networking. Our goal with content is to position Robyn as a knowledgeable and professional business colleague. The information is highly relevant to her target audience but also is indirectly related to her profession. Our focus is the importance of a professional image.
An important rule with content is to remember that in any networking situation, you would never only talk about your field and profession, and this should be applied to your social media channels.
- Share network content. Engagement is key with growing a network, so each week Robyn will review her news feed and group discussions, and begin to comment and engage with those in her network. She will ensure her comments are meaningful and add benefit to the discussion.
We have a lot more up our sleeves, but I believe this will get you started using LinkedIn to strategically grow your small business. Join me in the comments and let’s talk about your ideas!