I was reminded recently of the famous Chinese proverb that says, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’
I often see comments on our Facebook User Group and other LinkedIn lead generation forums that ask:
• Where do I start with my connection strategy?
• I’ve sent x number of invites, but my connection rate has been rubbish
• I’ve not been able to build my network very fast, what am I doing wrong?
• Why is LinkedIn asking me for the email address of contacts that I want to connect with?
Whether or not you are using the Dux-Soup LinkedIn automation tool or doing it manually, your lead generation journey on LinkedIn starts with the same single step - your connection message.
The content of this message will go a long way in making or breaking your LinkedIn outreach - and the answer to all of the above questions can be found somewhere in your connection strategy.
Most LinkedIn lead generation experts will tell you never to use the default connection message in LinkedIn which is “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”.
According to social media selling expert Melonie Dodaro the reason we don’t use the default message that LinkedIn offer is quite simple: “You must consciously and actively avoid sending the default invitation as well as take the time to do a little research and write a personalized connection request.
This one best practice will be the difference between someone clicking Accept or Ignore in response to your connection request. If someone clicks Ignore, they will also have the option to select ‘I don’t know this person’.
WARNING: If you receive an excessive number of ‘I don’t know this person’ responses, your LinkedIn account could be restricted and will destroy your ability to connect with prospects and expand your network.”
This is advice well worth heeding. You will want to minimise the number of people who might click ‘I don’t know this person’. A good rule of thumb is to be as targeted as possible with your LinkedIn outreach (campaigns that number in the hundreds rather than the thousands) - however, I do recognise that some people need or want the higher volumes.
The following insight and best practice advice around connection messages builds on Melonie’s wise words above.
Research by another LinkedIn expert, Tyron Giuliani, indicates that a blank connection message will be accepted in around 20-30% of occasions.
This backs up my own experience of sending messages to relevant contacts – for example, people I have met with, or where a future meeting is arranged - that a lot of people will accept a connection request even if the invite is blank or default.
Tyron warns that “a bad connection message, can actually perform worse than the default or blank connection message!” Yes, that’s right. Get your connection message wrong and you’ll do worse than simply hitting connect and using the default message.
Here’s the thing about your connection strategy. You need to find what works for you. That might be short messages. It might be long messages. In fact, the short vs long copy debate is one that has been going on in marketing circles for years.
In general terms, I’ve always lived by the rule that relevance trumps length (just look at how much information is presented on an average Amazon product page).
If your targeting is right and the content is relevant, likely highlighting a business problem that the recipient has – then the length it takes you to explain this and capture the recipient’s attention is the right length.
Whatever you do, measure and track the results from your connection strategy as this is the key to driving continual improvements in your success rate. See whether the shorter or longer messages work better and adjust accordingly as you develop your strategy.
I’m a firm believer that the only objective in the initial connection message is to get the contact to hit ‘Accept’ rather than ‘Ignore’. Any other goals are secondary.
Again, there are many people who want to go one or more steps further and achieve different aims with that first message, for instance:
• Qualify a sales opportunity
• Sell something
• Ask for a call or demo
• Move the conversations off LinkedIn
This is risky in my view and dilutes what should be your single-minded purpose of beginning a relationship.
All the successful strategies I have seen or used take the approach that relationship selling (on what is after all a social selling platform) works best.
Once you have established the relationship then you can start to move towards more specific action, but you have to deliver something of value first to pave the way.
To show you what I mean about the good, the bad and the ugly, I need to look no further than some of the messages from my own LinkedIn Inbox that I have received in recent months.
What better way of showing you what (works and doesn’t work with a LinkedIn connection message, than to work through some examples of what people have used on me.
Here’s the thing. I’ve worked in sales and marketing my whole career. I hate being sold to. I rarely accept connection invites unless I see some relevance to what I do, and even more rarely accept a connection message when I get the feeling that I am about to immediately be sold to on the next message, so bear this in mind with the following analysis.
First off, the good:
This message gets right to the point. He is a coach and trainer that helps agencies to grow sustainably. He stresses no ‘sales message’ but does it in a way that is quite engaging. I like the sound of that! There is an email address (that I can’t show - but was under his name) in case I want to connect outside of LinkedIn. Result: accepted!
This message has been personalised with my name and location. It is simple and polite and asks just one question – would you mind if we connected?
This goes to the heart of the goal of your connection message – getting someone to accept. I can see that we had a few contacts in common and from the profile headline that we are in a related industry. Result – accepted.
I copied and pasted this message as I don’t have the screenshot but this one left me quite underwhelmed. It all feels a bit impersonal. Aren’t we all business professionals on LinkedIn?
This person gives no indication of how they can add value to me – (what does that even mean by the way, I see it on so many messages) nor how we can actually help each other. Result: deleted.
I know that English is not their first language and I’m not fussed about grammar.
The message is actually all about them and what they want. There is no compelling reason to accept – no business value.
One immediate improvement would be to add one line to the end, such as, “and we can improve the efficiency of your lead generation in 30 days’. Now that would grab my attention.
You only have a limited number of characters, so use them wisely.
Result – deleted.
When using Dux-Soup, sensible use of the merge fields can give the impression of personalisation. I picked up the following example from our Facebook User Group.
What I like is the the message has 2 merge fields and gets to the point without a sales message.
You can see the merge fields used in this message are simply my first name and then my company name.
Another example that I picked up from the forums was the following that currently gets a 40-50% acceptance rate.
I was browsing through LinkedIn and saw your profile. Wow very impressive! I’d like to share my extensive network with you and if you need anything from me please don’t hesitate to ask.
Have a great (Monday etc..)
The user added that they also personalise by adding a reference to when it is being sent, “The key I’ve realised is to say the morning or afternoon in both top and bottom greeting. They literally think it’s handwritten. They usually thank me and then I slowly start the messaging funnel.”
I hope the examples from my Inbox show that by using empathy, relevance, doing some research and combining this with sensible use of merge fields, you can increase your chance of success.
Looking at the examples of what works and doesn’t work – where do your messages fall? Are you using the good, the bad or the ugly, and what steps can you take to improve your messages?
Take the first step by reviewing your connection messages and put yourself in your prospect’s shoes – what sort of message would you be likely to respond to?
Look at our blog post on sending personalised connection messages for some ideas that you can put this into practice today.
I know that sharing great connection messages might be like asking you to reveal the ‘secret sauce’ but if you do have any good (or bad) examples to share, I’d love to hear from you.
Using the right connection message is just one part of the early, foundational lead generation process. Also critical to success is setting your filters properly and zeroing in on your ideal target audience.
What happens after your connection message is accepted will be the topic of a future blog.
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Adam Osman is Head of Marketing at Dux-Soup. Adam is passionate about using the latest marketing techniques to help companies and brands grow. With two decades of experience in marketing technology products for international companies and startups alike, Adam leads the effort to spread the word about how Dux-Soup can benefit companies looking to turbo charge their LinkedIn lead generation.
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