LinkedIn began in 2002—before the dawn of Facebook—and in my opinion has been misunderstood and mischaracterized ever since. Thus, many manufacturers have not taken full advantage of this powerful platform to promote their products, find new customers, discover new vendors and partners, and attract great talent.
LinkedIn’s over 600-million-person database is loaded with people who can help you reach your business goals—and they’re just waiting for you to reach out to them. So, who do you want to find? As of March 2019, on LinkedIn you can peruse the profiles of:
225,000 welders you may want to hire
887,000 purchasing people who might need your products or services
141,000 machine operators who could be a good fit for your company
230,000 application and product engineers who might specify your products or services
681,000 truck drivers and delivery personnel who may want to work for you
LinkedIn’s database includes millions of professionals who hold salaried positions, but the number of people in non-salaried positions is increasing rapidly as word gets out that you’re likely to miss out on your next great career opportunity if you’re not part of this immense database. LinkedIn reports that more than two new members join their site every second, which means your chances of finding your next high-impact customer, competitive supplier, or terrific new hire improves with each passing day.
How to Perform LinkedIn Searches
Searching for people on LinkedIn is easy and—for the most part—free. There are some limitations with a free account, but most people can get impressive results for free once they’ve honed their searching skills.
Get started by clicking your cursor in the search box in the top toolbar, choosing Search for People from the drop-down menu, and then selecting All Filters. You’ll then see thirteen different filters that you can use to build just the right list. These filters include location, title, company, industry, etc.
Once you select the filters you’re interested in, simply click the big blue Apply button, and LinkedIn will provide the profiles of people who meet your search criteria. You’ll be able to see whether a person is a 1st degree connection (you’re already connected to him or her), a 2nd degree connection (a connection of one of your 1st degree connections), or a 3rd degree connection (someone connected to your 1st degree connection’s connection). You can tell this by the number that shows up to the right of a person’s name.
What to Do Once You Find the Right People
Start by reviewing the Summary section of profiles that look interesting to you. This is a general summary of who people are and what they do. Check out where they work or have worked, any mutual connections you have, where they attended school, how they describe their job responsibilities, etc. A person’s LinkedIn profile is like a resume on steroids; so take advantage of all that potentially helpful information.
Once you’ve landed on the profile of an interesting person, reach out to him or her either by traditional methods of contact—phone, email, snail mail, a visit to the person’s office—or use LinkedIn to contact him or her. Send a connection request, and include a note that explains why you’d like to have this person in your LinkedIn network, and mention that you’re interested in having a conversation. For sales leads, indicated how your product or service can help their business. For people you may like to hire, suggest how they can benefit from working at your company. If the person accepts your connection request, follow up with a thank-you note through LinkedIn or email (you can typically see a connection’s email address once you are connected), and propose a meeting, phone call, or some other type of communication. For hiring leads, you could share a link to a specific job posting.
Because LinkedIn enables you to see mutual connections you have with people, you’ll find it helpful to contact mutual connections and see what they know about your target. You might learn the best way to contact him or her or tips about how to convince the person to do business with you or consider a position with your company. If you’re lucky, one of your mutual connections might even contact your target and put in a good word for you.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest and most powerful database of business folks. Now that you know how to search and filter that database to find lucrative new customers, talented employees, and valuable vendors, you’re positioned to make this the best year ever for your manufacturing business.
Wayne Breitbarth is a globally recognized industry leader in LinkedIn training and marketing. He has shared his expertise with more than 100,000 professionals through private business consulting, dynamic presentations to worldwide audiences, and his critically acclaimed book The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-Start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search (now in its fourth edition.) Visit www.powerformula.net to download his free LinkedIn resources and learn how he can help you achieve greater business and career success.