How to Tap Into LinkedIn's Marketing Database Gold Mine

By Features PCmag

Last week, we started our discussion of LinkedIn as a marketing tool, with a focus on profiles and company pages. This week we shift our focus to data mining, customer research, and prospecting through LinkedIn.

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As I mentioned last week, it is important to think of LinkedIn not as one tool but rather as two; it's both a research tool and a communications vehicle. As a research tool, LinkedIn can be invaluable. As a communications vehicle, it can either be useful or a huge waste of time and money. Check back next week for our discussion on how to use LinkedIn as an effective communications vehicle. This week, though, we will dive into the LinkedIn database.

Find Your Client's Siblings
In this case, I'm using the term "client" to refer to an individual to which you currently provide products or services. First, make a list of your clients. Next, visit each of their profile pages and look at the "People Also Viewed" list in the right-hand column. Chances are, many of the people listed have similar roles to your current clients. Many may be at the same company as your client and that's okay because it gives you an opportunity to expand your footprint within the company.

You may also find individuals at other companies who have similar roles, and hence, might have similar needs. Visit their profiles pages and also look at their list of "People Also Viewed." Each time I view a new profile, I like to right-click and select "Open in New Tab" so that I can keep the profile of my original client open in a tab (instead of having to click back, back, back).

Find Your Customer's Siblings
Earlier I used the term "client" to refer to an individual. Now I'm using "customer" to refer to a company. Undoubtedly, the companies with which you currently work have characteristics and needs that led them to choose your products or services. There are countless other companies out there that share those same needs, and hence, could benefit from your solutions.

Research your current customers on LinkedIn. Look at their company pages. Review the profile pages of employees in roles or functional areas such as operations, human resources (HR), finance, and so forth. Jot down keywords. Expand your research to your customers' websites, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and the like. Then, return to LinkedIn and use the Advanced Search to search, using keywords for companies and individuals that relate to those keywords. You should be able to identify other companies and employees in those companies who have similar businesses (and needs) to your current customers. Those companies and contacts become target prospects for your marketing efforts.

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Find Your Siblings
Okay, that's enough finding other people's brothers and sisters (figuratively speaking). Now let's find your brother from another mother. When logged in, go to "My Network" and select "People You May Know." Based on your work experience and your current network, LinkedIn is going to apply some automated search algorithms to see if it can help you find other people you might know.

This is beneficial in highlighting people you really do know (perhaps past coworkers with whom you haven't yet connected on LinkedIn). But, more importantly, some of the people LinkedIn thinks you should know will be good prospects for you. In essence, LinkedIn has created a complex search algorithm on your behalf and automatically executes it every time you visit that page.

Find Some Cousins
The "Find Alumni" search under "My Network" is a little less advanced yet still might yield some interesting leads. I say it's less advanced because, essentially, all it's doing is listing people who went to your alma mater (though it does also apply some sorting logic to prioritize the list you see).

Still, it could yield some good prospects. And, of course, since you have something in common with the people you find, you have a ready-made icebreaker.

Be the Boolean Master
As with Boolean logic in social listening platforms, our own advanced searches can also yield great results. Some searches are self-evident. My intent here is not to list every kind of search you could do and why. Instead, I want to focus on a few that you might not have thought of.

Former Employees: Advanced search enables you to search based on a person's employers, current and past. Obviously, searching for current employees at your customers (or prospects) is a great idea but consider searching for former employees. This could yield two things. First, if a person used to work for one of your customers, chances are his or her new role is similar and possibly his or her new company may be similar, too. This approach may enable you to identify even more prospects—individuals and companies you ever knew existed. Second, former employees still know former coworkers at your current customers or prospects. You may be able to get them to introduce you to some of their former coworkers. (If you take that approach, I would consider offering the person an incentive if a referral leads to a sale.)

Groups: First, join groups that relate to your product or service. Then, use the advanced search to find people who are in those groups (note that you can check a box for "Groups" in the advanced search window). Chances are, if individuals are in a group that relates to your product or service, they will have at least warm interest in what you have to offer.

Industry or Function: Note that LinkedIn provides an extensive list of industries. Use this list to identify contacts in industries that can benefit from your products or services. You can do the same thing for job functions if you have a paid subscription.

Proceed With Caution
This next tactic can be abused easily so proceed with caution. Under "Jobs," search job postings for roles that relate to your products or services. If your products or services are relevant for certain roles, then companies that are looking to hire those roles likely have need of what you offer. And, since the hiring managers for open roles usually have similar responsibilities, those hiring managers may be interested in your products and services. But be careful. Obviously those hiring managers are looking for great recruits, not a sales pitch. The more aggressive you are, the greater the likelihood that you will get flagged by LinkedIn, so be conservative in your approach.

Together, these search tactics can help you mine the LinkedIn database. Of course, now that you've found some potential clients and customers, how do you engage them? Check back next week for some InMail dos and don'ts.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.