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Social4Retail Furniture Rant #4: The Largesse of LinkedIn

Furniture Industry News Update - Furniture World Magazine
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Commentary by Bill Napier, Social4Retail.com



Many think LinkedIn is only for job seekers and recruiters….WRONG….

LinkedIn is the most profound business-to business platform ever created and I’ll bet you are NOT doing it, or doing it wrong. Let me explain.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 175+ million members and growing rapidly. LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals. The key words here are “professional network”.

Now, this social network is NOT to connect with consumers like Twitter, Facebook, etc., It is built to connect professionals and businesses with professionals and businesses involved in the same or similar categories.

For furniture designers and manufacturers this is a gold mine. Think about it:

  1. You can connect with buyers
  2. You can connect with retailers
  3. You can connect with suppliers

So, how do you use this awesome platform to promote your business to people that “want” to connect to you? First I’ll tell you how to get LinkedIn, and then I’ll explain how you can use it.

Create Your Profile - Individual
Create Your Profile - Company
Get Connections
Groups (Join Relevant Groups AND Create Your Specialized Own)

First, let me explain the difference between “Individual Profiles versus Company Profiles.

A company profile is geared more towards the “corporate” entity. It’s a great place to let people discover your brand/company’s vision and mission. As I mentioned, it’s an awesome “social platform” to let your company be discovered.

You can build out your profile; however it is limited to just showcasing your company, not your products and services as an individual profile can. With the company page you can:
  • Create an overview of your company
  • List careers – job openings
  • Communicate your services
  • Have followers recommend you
  • Have your employees connect with you and share insights
As I mentioned, it’s a brand page for people to find you, learn your core business and most importantly, push them to your website, connect with key people and more. It’s “Inbound Marketing”, and as I always lecture, you must be everywhere your customers want to find you, when they find you and how they want to find you

The Individual Profile allows you to connect with likeminded business people, groups, associations and so much more. It is incredible and I’ll explain why.

First, you need to designate a key person to be the “Corporate Spokesperson” for your company. I recommend the Chief marketing person, because that’s their job and this is what they must do:

Build your personal profile around your business. Use Appropriate Keywords and Phrases in Your Heading and Title and Mirror Your Online and Offline Business Networks within LinkedIn.

DO NOT make your contact information private, deterring people from connecting with you. When someone does “request” a connection, you have the opportunity to decline. Why take a chance on NOT meeting someone/businesses that may help you innovate?

Add tools to your page so people can dig deep into your business such as:

  • Slideshare – an application to present PowerPoint or video presentations in your profile
  • Box Files for press releases and articles that are relevant
  • Behance Product Display for new product introductions, photography & more
  • Blog link-Link your blogs and article right on your profile
  • Events – promote specials, promotions and more

Once you’ve built out your Individual profile, connect with people that share your business interests. You can do this several ways:
  • Upload your email database of business contacts 
  • Search for contacts, companies with their search function
  • When you connect with someone, review their connections and request a connection to join you.
Now that you’ve built your profile, search for Industry related “groups” that you can join. These groups can give you valuable free ideas and content and you can post your content on these groups to expand your reach.

Next, start your own group and invite your contacts to join your group. The really cool thing about this is that when you post something on your group, all your members get the content. It’s like having an industry conference call or presentation about your new products, services, specials and more!

For instance, I have over 1,300 connections. The group I started - Internet Strategic Marketing Group for Retail & Manufacturers - currently has 585 members…and growing daily. Collectively the groups I’ve joined have over 20,000 members. So, depending on what I post, I can share it with a few connections, just my group or blow it out to all my connections and groups…and guess what…this costs me a whopping $9.00 per month.

All of this and you can measure it too. LinkedIn ranks 4th for driving traffic to my website: www.social4retail.com. What’s especially interesting is when I post a blog, article or tip and blow it out, my site visits skyrocket.

All people are consumers all of the time. Just because they go to work and perform a job, they don’t stop being a consumer. They purchase business products and services the same way they purchase items for themselves or their home. They do research and become inspired with the same thought and emotional processes as they use in everyday life.

So with that said, here are a few strategies to use:

  1. Get all your sales people on LinkedIn
      
  2. Have them improve their profiles as mentioned above to insure brand awareness and consistency
      
  3. Create a group that is closed to only retailers. You can do this with the tools provided. Invite those connections you want to talk/market to. Have your sales people invite their contacts to this group too.  
      
  4. Use that group to get feedback on new designs, introduce new products, innovations and more
      
  5. Push out promotions to your connections. Specials, discontinued items and more
      
  6. Publish blogs and “backlink” them to your website. 
a) Oh, you need a great website. Remember what I said about these people being consumers? They will NOT tolerate a bad web presence. Plus a bad web presence indicates you’re not invested in your brand. I have several blogs on how to do this on our website: www.social4retail.com

Business is competitive and when you get a new placement that means one of your competitor’s products comes off the floor.

There are not many B2B platforms out there that are relevant and cost effective. LinkedIn has solved this IF you invest the time to make it work for you. Today you need a multi-faceted approach to win in today’s tough economy. The old way of getting your product to market doesn’t work anymore…it’s time to expand your strategies and use the tactics that have been proven to work.

To learn more ways to use LinkedIn and other social marketing tools, visit our website: www.social4retail.com.

About Bill Napier: Bill is a specialist in creating, guiding and deploying successful marketing B2B & B2C solutions integrating traditional marketing strategies with the web and social media. He has worked in the home furnishings industry for over 12 years, as the chief marketing officer for some of the industry's largest manufacturers and creating some of the largest promotions ever launched within the industry. Contact Bill at bill@social4retail.com, (612) 217-1297 or www.social4retail.com.


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