Best practices for using LinkedIn to grow your startup

Best practices for using LinkedIn to grow your startup
Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design, and desktop publishing. She writes for PrintPlace.com, a company that offers online printing for business cards, catalogs, posters, brochures, and more printed marketing media. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.

Growing your startup using LinkedIn is a “practice makes perfect” recipe. The key ingredient is, and always will be, to be helpful and useful to others first.

Once you present yourself and your product, infuse yourself into the mix of LinkedIn. Study others. Spy their business needs and wants, and blend in with the following ingredients:

Help yourself by helping others

As the old saying goes: “If you want friends, you have to be friendly”. If you are an expert in an area, provide some of your understanding and know-how.

Advertise your ideas. Little tips and tales based on your knowledge will travel and resonate. LinkedIn will link you and your business to others with the need for this knowledge.

If others ask questions that you can answer, answer those questions. Be focused, though. Don’t get caught up in petty politics and other subjects outside the scope of your expertise. The key is to provide answers to questions and people will want to connect to you.

For startups, this can be a critical source of new customers and encouragement. It’s always helpful to find others who appreciate your help and may be able to connect you with someone in their list of connections who can help you in return.

Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours

“Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” is a tried and true concept. It is the bowl that holds all the ingredients.

Toss a chef and a farmer into a mixing bowl: the chef will benefit from the farmer by gaining fresh product. A farmer will benefit from the chef by gaining a reliable customer.

Each relies on the other to make both product and profit. Search for complementary businesses so you can use one another’s ingredients. Also, seek vendors who can use what you provide.

The key here is to understand that you may be able to benefit from other than just your ideal customer.

Are there other firms who could use your services as a broader package? Do you have connections that may benefit these firms? Consider helping them meet your connections to build rapport.

As a startup, you need all the help you can get. Often working as a sub-contractor can open doors to having a contract of your own. Don’t dismiss these smaller opportunities as they often are the gateway to the bigger deals.

Mingle with mentors

Mingle with connections on LinkedIn. Find out where they are hanging online and join them. Mix in with mentors and peers. Mentors have “been there and done that.” Use their wisdom. They can advise you on money savers, timesavers, and save you from possible dumpster diving.

Peers are in the stir of small business with you. As they also encounter the current economy, they will understand small business based on their daily experiences. You can glean much knowledge from them. 

Use LinkedIn as a startup to find these peers locally and build relationships.

While these folks may never lead you to a contract directly, you may find that they give you invaluable insight and ideas that help you go to the next level. There’s always someone who has been there before you. LinkedIn can help you connect and take your startup beyond your current stage of growth.

What’s the best strategy?

To grow your Startup, you must have a recipe. Only then can you truly “invest” in your ingredients/product.

Move past just posting what your ingredients are. Who can your product help? What does your product do? Why can it help? Where can it help? How can it help?

How you connect with your ideal customers on LinkedIn should be tied specifically to your overall strategy. Are you looking to grow in the IT sector? Find C-suite level personnel in these areas and look for ways to connect with them – answer questions, send them a whitepaper, find a mutual connection to introduce you.

Once you have your foot in the door, focus on relationships, not the quick sell.

In the end, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for a startup. The unique phase of getting a business off the ground has its own challenges, but the LinkedIn community is generally very excited to see startups get launched.

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