Whether you’re an agency leader, freelancer, or consultant, more likely than not, your calendar is swamped with client work. Like many of us, you probably haven’t been consistent or dedicated enough time to engage your professional network.
This is the difference between working in a business and on a business.
Unfortunately, many of us are wrapped up in the day-to-day that we forget to look at the big picture. What do you want business to look like in two to five years? How can you get there? To make your vision a reality, you need to devote more time to working on the business.
Most agency leaders are not comfortable reaching out to cold prospects. However, this approach allows you to develop a deeper relationship with prospects you already know.
You have a network of warm leads
It’s a common rule of thumb that to create new business; we need new contacts. But what about those contacts who are already active members of your network? You probably haven’t made the time to maximize the value of these connections, which is costing you millions.
Each person in your network who fits your buyer persona is an untapped warm lead. He/she has already developed a rapport with you over time. This means that there is an increased level of trust, and they’re more likely to engage and explore new business opportunities with you.
Nurturing these connections will cut your sales cycle since they are more likely to buy from someone they know personally.
By not engaging with your network, you’re leaving revenue on the table. So, regardless of whether you love or hate networking, there is no denying that it is an essential business skill that will either make or break your business.
Why network engagement is more critical now than ever before
According to the 4A’s Agency Growth Survey, success in the post-COVID era will come down to focusing on these core areas:
- Top-line revenue growth
- Profit growth
- Winning new clients
Finding new clients in today’s climate is extremely competitive. Many companies are redistributing budgets, consolidating their marketing spend, and/or keeping creative work in-house. Therefore, relying on traditional referrals and lead generation practices will no longer suffice.
To boost profits, revenue, and new business, you need a concrete plan—one that produces predictable results. Rather than passively waiting around for referrals or inbound leads, you need to take control of your agency’s destiny by proactively networking.
The true value of your connections
Building long-term relationships with your connections can pay off dividends over time. One fact that gets overlooked by many is that your network is moving more than you may think. If you’re not keeping tabs on their movement, you will miss out on new opportunities. Changes to monitor include:
1. Junior day-to-day contacts get promoted into decision-making roles
Junior-level employees are promoted at least once every three years, which means a day-to-day client contact may now be a decision-maker within the organization.
2. Agency colleagues go client-side
People change jobs an average of 12 times in their lifetime. This number grows even higher during unprecedented times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Your former agency co-worker may now be working at a brand you want to do business with.
3. Clients move on to new companies
It’s pretty normal for your clients to change companies, as it reflects personal development. When this happens, you are then able to access a new pool of potential connections.
Understanding the power of LinkedIn
But how do you keep tabs on promoted clients, those that move on to new companies, or former co-workers?
Many people don’t realize that your LinkedIn connections serve as a database you’ve been maintaining over time, much like a CRM.
Your contacts on LinkedIn are a culmination of people you’ve connected with from work (either as a colleague or client), conferences, trade shows, and so on. Your friends from college could very well be major decision-makers or influencers at potential client accounts.
But, you probably haven’t dedicated enough time to nurture and convert your prospects on LinkedIn into clients. So, by continuing to do nothing, you’re missing out on substantial business opportunities.
LinkedIn is a fantastic tool where you can connect with colleagues, receive updates on their career movement, and engage with their activity. Here is a snapshot of why LinkedIn is invaluable to your agency:
- LinkedIn has over 660+ million members around the world
- 65+ million decision-makers on LinkedIn
- 4 out of 5 members drive business decisions
- Users average 400 connections, compared with 338 on Facebook
However, despite these impressive numbers, only 1% of users share content with their network every week. So, if you’re like the 99% of people out there, you’re not engaging with your network – and thus losing out on potential new revenue.
How to leverage your LinkedIn network to grow
Once you start to see your network as a source of new business, you can take steps toward systematically identifying, engaging, and converting your connections into clients.
The process of nurturing your network will allow you to move contacts into audience segments. From there, you can personalize your communications for each segmented audience and provide value to generate favorable new business opportunities.
The art of identifying and engaging your network systematically, so it yields predictable results comes down to three actionable phases: strategize, implement, and execute.
Strategizing will set the tone and delivery of your network engagement program. Identifying your ideal company profile and buyer persona will help you set the framework for your messaging and follow-ups.
- Define your ideal company profile and buyer persona. Your ideal company profile is a company that is a perfect fit for your agency. A buyer persona is a representation of a best-fit buyer within a company.
- Figure out what problem you can solve for them by asking yourself, ‘What urgent and important challenge is the company or prospect experiencing that impacts their development or success?’ How can you help them overcome it?
- Determine what value you can provide by asking yourself, ‘What can I offer that is free or low cost to me, yet provides a ton of value to the prospect I am targeting?’
The next step is to implement by filtering your contacts, sourcing contact data, and planning your outreach. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all of your connections will match the criteria for your ideal customer profile or buyer persona. That’s perfectly fine, as the goal here is to identify which connections are real prospects and work your way from there.
- Download your LinkedIn connections.
- Filter by your ideal company profile and buyer persona by reviewing each company and title to make sure they are a fit.
- Source the contact data for your final list (LinkedIn does not export your contacts’ email addresses or phone numbers).
- Design an outreach sequence that includes multiple touches over multiple channels, such as email and phone.
The last but arguably most important step is to execute and engage. Committing to a regular and repeatable schedule of the below activities will set you up for positive outcomes.
- Set aside time weekly and decide on a target number of prospects to work with.
- Write personalized messages and follow up multiple times across multiple channels, including email, phone, and LinkedIn.
- Meet with interested contacts and deliver value upfront (no pitching)—plan for follow-up calls.
- Optimize your process by keeping tabs on your email open and reply rates. Track the number of emails sent and calls made to prospects with whom you’ve connected. How many of your prospects resulted in meetings? How many meetings resulted in opportunities? How many of those opportunities brought you closed-won business? Do more of what’s working and less of what’s not. Experiment.
Ignoring your network is costing you
Underutilizing your network of contacts is a common mistake. Between client work and pitching new business, your connections often become overlooked.
By now, hopefully, you’ve recognized the untapped sales potential lying in front of you, right inside your network. Using LinkedIn as a CRM will allow you to monetize your connections in a mutually beneficial way for you and your clients.
If you learn how to master the art of engaging your network systematically, you will generate new leads and sales for your business. It all comes down to using the right strategy and techniques.
Connect with us to learn more about how you can leverage your network and maximize your revenue potential.