Learn how to leverage LinkedIn as part of your marketing efforts so you can build relationships and attract your ideal clients. Get tips on how to craft a profile that has impact, strategically network with connections, and more from LinkedIn expert Brynne Tillman.
- Michael Port, Book Yourself Solid
- The LinkedIn Sales Playbook, a Tactical Guide to Social Selling
CEO and LinkedIn Whisperer at Social Sales Link, Brynne Tillman is a successful sales professional, sales trainer and coach spanning over 3 decades who has unlocked the power of LinkedIn for Sales and Business Development Professionals. For more than a decade, Brynne has been teaching Leveraging LinkedIn for Business Development, has authored The LinkedIn Sales Playbook, a Tactical Guide to Social Selling. Brynne helps sales teams, entrepreneurs and business development professionals schedule more phone calls with targeted buyers.
Colleen: Welcome to the podcast, Brynne. It’s great to have you here.
Brynne: Oh, thanks, Colleen. I’m excited to be here.
Colleen: So you are the LinkedIn whisperer. Please tell me how important is the LinkedIn profile to a creative professional.
Brynne: Well, it’s foundational to any professional, but a creative professional can really leverage this in ways that really no other tool can be used. The reason is, when you are Googled, no matter how great your SEO is of your website, LinkedIn is always coming up. When people meet you at events, the first thing they do is they look you up on LinkedIn to connect with you, so you have an opportunity to brand yourself in a way on LinkedIn that allows your visitors to know immediately the value you can bring to them. So taking advantage of that profile—and we can definitely dive down deeper and see what that can look like for sure… But taking advantage of that real estate on LinkedIn is huge.
Think about LinkedIn… Unless it’s changed in the last six months, it’s the fifth most indexed site. Like Google. Yeah. So when you’re getting looked up, it’s a huge opportunity to position your brand the right way that attracts potential buyers or clients or the audience that you’re going after.
Colleen: Let’s start with titles since that I think is the top of the profile. Should our titles be in the headline?
Brynne: That’s a great question. I look at the headline very much like the headline of a newspaper. In fact, I look at that whole top section—the banner, the photo, the image, the headshot and the headline—like I would a traditional newspaper, which is showing my age a little bit.
If you walk into a 7-Eleven today and you look over at the newspapers, the job of the top of the fold is to get someone to pick it up and want to read it. Well, your profile has a top of the fold. When they land on your profile, everything that they see, the top three areas are again, that banner, which as creative professionals should absolutely graphically match your design style, even be your own work.
Your headshot should be clear, making eye contact up close. It’s very important that people connect with you. Then the headline—to your question… While having it be your title might seem like the right thing to do, it’s not what’s going to get your readers excited to continue to learn and absorb the content that you have on your profile. So typically we like to say that the headline should have three elements:
- who you help;
- how you help them; and
- why they should care.
So who is your target? By mentioning who your target audience is, like “I work with,” “I help”, “I guide”—in the creative world, “I style,” whatever that might look like. So the headline, if you are a graphic designer, should really resonate with your potential client. If your target market, let’s say, is WordPress developers, your headline might want to read, “I work closely with website designers and WordPress developers to provide the graphics that tell the story” the website is meant to tell, right? Something like that.
Who do we work with? “We work with website designers.” How do we do that? “We create the graphics.”
Why should they care? “Because it helps them to tell the story.” So that now becomes a much more powerful headline.
And by the way, it’s called a headline. It’s not called “your experience.” If you have just “graphic designer,” it’s not really talking to your audience and they don’t really know how or why they should buy from you. So that headline initially can make a huge impact on whether or not they want to continue reading your profile.
Colleen: It’s like a unique selling proposition.
Brynne: It gets them to either opt into reading more or leave. So it’s kind of a qualifier as well.
Colleen: I like that. And the summary is the next section in the profile. How should we use that section?
Brynne: That’s another great question. Most people start their summaries with “my years of experience,” “my mission,” “my passion,” “the value that I brought…” But I typically think that’s all relevant down in the Experience section and we don’t need to have it twice on a profile. So I’ve rejiggered the summary to be more like a blog post.
Then a summary of your experience—and this has had such a huge impact. So that blog post or that content now in the Summary really resonates with your buyers or your potential clients when they get to your profile. If we start with the challenge that they’re facing… Let’s just stick with the web designer or web developer example: Web developers and WordPress developers are experts at putting together a powerful website that’s search engine optimized, that’s mobile friendly, that really even may be brilliant content, but where they typically don’t have the expertise is matching the graphics that tell the story their clients need to tell. Right? So then that’s their challenge. We’ve said, this is who you are, but your challenge at the end of the day is making it really pop with that visual graphic.
The next area is building out some insights just like you would with a blog post, and the goal of those insights are really vendor agnostic. You’re giving them great content, but you’re not pitching. You’re not saying, “Hey, buy from me” yet, but the content that you give them starts to lead to your solution.
After you’ve got that challenge down and they resonate with that, we move into the insights. It may be, “Here are the three areas that web developers need to focus on in order to ensure the graphics that are going into the new website align with the story the client wants to tell.”
Then we could go through three points.
So point number 1, get a good feeling of the brand that your client is looking for. Are they light and cartoony? Are they icon driven? Do they like illustration? What is their esthetic—that would be point number 1. Point number 2 would be to define your color story and do some research. Understand how color affects your buyer’s buyer, how your client’s buyers will be affected by or emotionally react to colors, right? And so you as graphic designers will know these points. I’m sort of just making them up as they go along, but you can see that you were starting to educate those web developers—that’s your client—on what they should be looking at when it comes to deciding on the graphic designer they’re going to bring into a project. Whatever your points—and each of you will have different point—you want to make sure that each of them is leading back to you as the designer of choice, but they are also stand-alone insights.
What you do here is you provide so much value to the web developer that got to your profile that they’re excited to take your call. They go, “Imagine if I can learn this much in a summary. Imagine how great a call with this graphic designer would be” and that’s where you make a huge impact.
Then the next section, one or two sentences of how you work with your clients and then a call to action. So: “If you are a web developer that struggles with getting the right graphics or that’s exploring better ways to get graphics done for your clients,” that resonates with their brand story. “I invite you to have a conversation whether or not we decide to work together. I’m confident our call will be full of insights that can help you serve your clients better.”
Right? And now we’re inviting them for that phone call. So if you can convert your summary to read like that, it’s going to have a huge impact not only on your buyers but on your buyer’s buyers.
Colleen: Nice. Okay. So what about the Experience section? I think that’s the next one. And it’s recently changed.
Brynne: Yeah. So LinkedIn actually did something really cool. The Experience section… Typically, if you had a job and then you were promoted a couple times in that job it would have three or four jobs listed on your profile. They have threaded those together. So there’s one logo and under that they have your current position and then any past or parallel positions that you currently hold inside of the company. What I love about this is, even if you are an independent graphic designer, you probably have only been in one position in your own company or even if you’re working for a company, there may not be a lot of movement of title throughout that organization.
So how do we use this new feature? Well, instead of listing four or five different positions, list your deliverables or your solutions. So you might have graphics for e-learning courses, graphics for websites, whatever. If you have, let’s say, four or five deliverables or solutions that you provide, instead of naming them titles, you can name them your products and services. At a glance when someone looks through your current position, it really highlights how they can buy from you.
Colleen: So would that be like if you have a picture of a brochure that you’ve designed and an annual report and, let’s say, a website design, you’re saying you would add those images with some kind of a title—or you’re talking about different images?
Brynne: Yes. So what you would do is… let’s say you do brochures. You add a new experience, so there’s a little + sign at the top of your experience and where it says “title,” you would say “corporate brochures” and whatever that might be called.
Then you connect it to your existing company. So it would have your existing company, choose your dates, and I would have the exact same dates as however long you’ve been at this company. Have a little description about brochures and then upload some examples to that section. You can link them if they’re on your website or upload them if they’re a PDF, then save that and then create another position that would say “website graphics.” Do the same thing. You still choose the current company. You choose the same dates. You put a description about how you work with web developers for websites and then you link it to maybe three or four websites that you’ve done.
Colleen: Oh, okay. So you’re doing it less like a résumé and “Hey, here was my title and here’s what I did and when I worked there,” and you’re actually making it more about the service that you’re providing.
Brynne: Yes. You’re highlighting the services. Everyone’s welcome to look at my profile on LinkedIn because I’ve done that. But it also really helps you to build out a portfolio right there on LinkedIn—a visual portfolio under each deliverable or each solution.
Colleen: So putting images there, is that more advantageous than, say, having them up in the summary section?
Brynne: I would do it in anywhere. You can upload content, I would do that. But because we have very specific deliverables it would be great. If I am a web developer, I scroll down, I’m not interested in brochures at all, but I’m interested in the websites and then all the content or the shared links that correlate with that section are completely irrelevant to me. But I would definitely have some media listed in your summary as well.
The one thing I do want to mention, which I didn’t, is that first top part of your job description should be your title and that should be where your mission, your passion, your years in business should live. I actually like when I start experience with your 30-second commercial, so, you know, if you go to any kind of networking event and you stand up and say who you are, that’s a really good way to start your Experience.
Immediately, they go in knowing how you help protect specifically, but then that whole top section is where you can talk about your experience so you can get the credibility that you deserve. So if you worked for an advertising firm for 10 years before you started your own, you want to mention that there because that brings some credibility in. Right?
Whatever that might look like, even if you have a college listed at the bottom, but let’s say you went to Parsons or a really great graphic design school, you can mention that in your experience because it’s impressive. So that first area should be highlighting the real value that you bring and they should understand, generally speaking, how you help them.
Then each section below becomes the breakdown of your product, services or solutions.
Colleen: How important do you think testimonials are in the profile?
Brynne: Huge. I’m a big advocate now on LinkedIn. They’re called Recommendations and I highly recommend that every couple of months you have a new one and keep it fresh. I would do it through the normal process of asking on LinkedIn and getting it on LinkedIn because what happens is your readers can click through and see exactly who that is, but you can grab a piece of those quotes and you can put them…
For example, if you have a recommendation because you built out or you designed an amazing brochure for someone and they have now given you a recommendation: “When we need brochures for a trade show, we got it done in under two weeks. You know, we were under a tight timeframe, printed and perfect. It was amazing. Great service,” right? Where you can grab a piece of that recommendation and stick that under that particular service so you just copy and paste it and use it there. But I would still have it officially done through LinkedIn first.
Colleen: Now when you were talking about the Experience section and putting some work there, presenting some work there and talking about brochures or website design, there’s also the Skills and Endorsements section. So would you then also add those same skills down there—like brochure design, website design—or is it better to put them in the Experience section only?
Brynne: Definitely take advantage of the Skills section. The benefits of the Skills section is it’s very strongly indexed. It was designed for Google. It was designed for recruiters to find people based on skills. So that whole section was developed to be a searchable section.
You want to make sure you’ve got all those keywords there for sure and you want to get endorsed. Absolutely pad it. Have all of your coworkers, friends, family just endorse you for the top five or six skills that you want to make sure you’re showing up for it because the searchability of it does depend on how many endorsements you have for that skill.
There’s not a whole lot of other value in Skills—I take that back. There’s a new feature on LinkedIn that’s based on your skills. When someone comes to your profile, it will have: Of these four people, including you, who is the best one for this skill?
Now, I don’t know what that’s going to do for search engine optimization yet, and I’m not sure how they’re using that data, but they are asking people to vote on these four people in your network—you being one of them because they got to your profile. Who’s the best at this?
So if you want to come up for specific skills then you want to make sure that you’ve got those listed appropriately. Again, it’s brand new and I’m not sure how it’s going to be used in the long run, but it can’t hurt.
Colleen: Okay, great. So now that we have our profile, you know, positioned correctly, how do we actually start using LinkedIn for networking?
Brynne: Well, I love LinkedIn for networking and it’s really powerful. So the first thing is you’ve got to make sure that you’re connecting with everyone you have a conversation with or you meet. I connect with people in the grocery line if I have a good enough conversation with them.
Colleen: Oh, wow. Really?
Brynne: Yeah. I mean you want to build out a strong network. If you’re a local in your community, it’s important if your community is online, even throughout the United States, engaging on content and having a conversation and then connecting with them. You’re building out a meaningful community. It’s not like cold calling, straight up reaching out. You’re starting conversations and you’re connecting.
The next thing is make sure when you connect, you put a little note about why you’re connecting. Not only is it best practice… I can be standing in the grocery store line talking with someone, realized that there’s some kind of connection and in the community, and we should be connected on LinkedIn. We connect, we could do it without a note right there because we’re having a conversation, but when I come back six months from now, I want to remember how I met them.
So by putting a note like “Great meeting you at Giant in the grocery line,” I’ll remember that, right? Those personal messages are really important for your notes later on as well. Once we’ve done this, now what we want to do is nurture our network with content and we’ll get to engage with insights and a little bit engage with content.
But you want to stay in front of them. You want to have conversations, you want to look at what they’re sharing and engage on their content.
You also, when it comes to networking, want to look at who viewed your profile. This is an amazing opportunity that most people miss. I look at it like caller ID. it’s like someone called me and didn’t leave a message. What would I do with that? If I had returned that call, let’s engage.
So they thought of you, they came to your profile first. Even if they didn’t engage, sometimes I’ll send a quick little note that says, “Hey, thanks for visiting my profile. It’s been a while since we connected.” Or maybe I’ll look at my messages. It’s been awhile since we met at the Giant supermarket line, right? Whatever that looks like.
But then, you know, just say, “I’m curious what brought you to my profile today,” and I can start a conversation. You never know. Maybe someone said, “Oh, I hate my graphic designer.” “You know what? I think I met a graphic designer” and now reach out to them and it can become a warm introduction instead of someone just saying, “Hey, I think I know a graphic designer. Let me see who that is.” Right? So you always want to reach out, not to everyone… but if they came up on caller ID, you definitely want to return the call.
The other thing is sending welcome messages to your new connections. If someone accepts your connection request or you accept theirs, have a great welcome message. If you connect with someone on LinkedIn and you don’t start a conversation, it’s like walking up to someone at a networking meeting, shaking their hand, handing them your business card and walking away. So we want to make sure if they reached out to us to connect and it’s the right person, let’s just start a conversation with a welcome message. And I think there’s some real value in that.
Colleen: Does it matter how many connections that you have? Because I read somewhere that was like a magic number of 500 or something. But does it really matter? And should you connect with everyone and anyone that sends you a request?
Brynne: You have to have enough connections. Eighty isn’t really enough to leverage LinkedIn; 500 is this magic number because at that point LinkedIn stops telling you, telling the world how many connections you have. So everyone has that “We’ve got to get over 500 because it shows that we’re really well connected.”
There is a balance between who you know and who you don’t know in your connections that can have an impact on your overall success. I have a lot of connections because I’ll connect with anyone that read my content that reaches out to me, that listens to a podcast, I’ll connect with them.
But I don’t connect with everyone. There may be people that connect with me that, well… For example, I had a connection request this morning from China and they had three connections. How I became their fourth, I have no idea. But that’s someone I don’t necessarily feel like I need to be connected to. However, I did send a quick little note because you can reply to them without accepting them: “Thanks for the connection request. Just curious, how did I become your fourth route?” I haven’t heard back. But I’ll always reply. “Thanks for connecting with me” or “Thanks for your invitation on LinkedIn.”
Typically, I only connect with people I know. “May I ask how you found me?” And so I don’t have to accept them into my network, but I don’t completely ignore them.
Colleen: Okay, because I get so many connection requests and people don’t even say why they want to connect with me and I’m just like, “Who are you? Tell me something about you? Why are you interested in connecting?”
Brynne: Exactly. So you could actually find that because it’s hidden. If you go to the Network tab and then you go to Manage All, you’ll see even people that did not send you a message, you can message without accepting.
Colleen: Oh, that’s great.
Brynne: But I don’t ignore them because you never know. Was that person in China directed by a WordPress guru to go find someone to do graphics for them? You just don’t know. So don’t ignore it, but certainly you don’t need to accept them into your network until you know why.
Colleen: Now, many of us use LinkedIn for getting clients. So what are some strategies that you recommend for that?
Brynne: There are three major strategies that I find to be most effective. The first one is client referrals. I recommend that before you have any conversation or meeting with a client, mine their connections, identify who they know that you want to meet and when you’re with them you could say, “Hey, Mr. Client, I love working with you. I’m not sure if you know this, but I’ve grown my business through warm referrals from my happy clients and noticed you’re connected to eight people on LinkedIn that I’d love to get in front of. Can I run these names by you?”
Then they take those names and they go, “I don’t know, this one, ohh, this would be really good for you. Oh, and she’d be great. Nope, not that one.” And so eight becomes two, maybe three, and at that point you can either say, “You know, would you be open to making an introduction or would it be okay if I reach out to them directly, let them know we had this conversation and that you thought it made sense for me to reach out either way?” We’re now leveraging our client to get connected to our targeted buyer.
The second way to do that is with our networking partners before a networking coffee meeting: “Colleen, I’m really looking forward to having coffee with you next week. Feel free to look through my LinkedIn connections. Pull out a list of eight or 10 people that you might want to meet. We can have a little discussion around them and whittle it down to two or three meaningful introductions at the end.”
Then you do the same thing and then instead of just all the niceties and getting to know each other and spending an hour and a half, where you hope and pray someday they refer you, you can proactively get introductions and referrals and give them as well. That’s number 2.
Number 3 is engaging with people in content. I use hashtags to find specific content. So for me, #socialselling or #salestips typically gets me to the people that I want to be engaging with.
So for you, it could be #Wordpress, it could be whatever. You’ve got to find your own. You can go to hashtagify.me and search keywords and see how often they’re being used. You can search on LinkedIn or Twitter and find those hashtags that are being used now, everyone that’s engaging on that are ultimately potential prospects. Maybe three out of 20 might be, but if they’re engaging on a particular hashtag or topic that you’re interested in, identify those and engage with comments. If they say, “love this article because of A, B and C,” go read that article and now engage with them about their comments and start conversations ultimately targeting the right people, in the right conversations, that convert ultimately to connections and then phone calls. You can actually go to somebody’s profile directly and look at their activity and find a piece that you want to engage on and start a conversation with them around something they’ve shared.
So that’s really the third way to organically start conversations with your targeted market in a way that’s not cold calling.
Colleen: Yeah. I find that commenting on other people’s content gets noticed sometimes a lot more than your own content.
Brynne: Absolutely. And it can have a huge impact. If you can add a little thought leadership in your comments, you’ll be surprised at how many people start engaging with you that you never would have met in any other way. Just make sure you’re doing it on content that leads back to your solution.
Colleen: What are some mistakes that people make on LinkedIn? You must see them all the time and go, “Oh, I can’t believe they did that.”
Brynne: Yeah. So many mistakes. Number 1, sending a connection request without a message. That typically happens from mobile because LinkedIn makes it hard to send a message. But you can. If you’re on your mobile app and you click the More button, you can personalize and invite. Not personalizing that invite is a big mistake.
I already said my favorite mistake, which was connecting and forgetting, not sending that welcome message.
Another mistake is connecting and pitching: “Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn. I am a graphic artist that helps do this and this and this and if you need any graphics for you or your clients, please reach out to me.” They’re just not interested. But if you start with the content, like maybe a video tip… Put together this quick little video tip where maybe you did graphics for a brochure and you pull that brochure up and you talk about why it’s laid out the way it is and the impact that it has. Then, you reach out to maybe a copywriter and you say, “I just wanted to share this little video about the top five tips on putting together a brochure that gets the reader to look at the content exactly in the order in which the owner wants them to see it or whatever that might be.” I don’t know your world well enough, but whatever your strategic tips are around putting that brochure together, why you do it the way you do for whatever impact. Stick that on a quick little one-minute video and share that in a welcome message or when you connect with people. Don’t tell them “These are my services and how you can buy from me.” I think pitching too early is really a problem.
Colleen: I agree. Those are annoying messages when I get one.
Brynne: Yeah. And they don’t work, right? They just don’t work. So you want to provide value and build relationships and build credibility.
And then I typically will say, “Do you have any LinkedIn questions?” But I would say, “If you have any LinkedIn questions specific to your business development needs, I’m always happy to jump on a call, let me know.” Right.
It’s soft and a lot of people say, “I do have a question,” and they’ll ask it back and then I’ll say, “Here’s the link to my calendar. I’m happy to talk through this with you.” And I get a lot of calls. They don’t convert, they’re not all prospects, but I build a huge reputation of being very helpful in the community. And I’m referred. I got a huge client referral because I helped someone for 15 minutes that also sold into this company. They didn’t ever hire me, but they referred me to like, oh my gosh… And all I did was walk her through her profile tips. Then I got a huge sales trading gig because I helped her for 15 minutes.
So be that person that’s putting it out there with everybody. But if they’re in your target community, be that person that’s really providing insights and value with being detached from whether or not they become your client or not.
Colleen: So you’re making it more about them than you are about you. You’re not like, “Hey, here I am and here’s what I can do,” you know?
Brynne: Yeah. Just become the thought leader, the authority to go to and the giver. I’m a big fan of the “go-giver,” if you’ve ever heard of that. But it’s really about just providing as much value as you possibly can.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Michael Port, who wrote Book Yourself Solid…
Brynne: I hope I don’t botch it up, but his quote is, “You give as much value as you possibly can and when you think it’s too much, give a little more.”
I mean, that was a huge moment for me where I’m like, you know what, just keep giving away. You know, they still have to hire you to do that graphic no matter what. Whatever value you bring, they’re still not going to be able to do it on their own. If they could have done it on their own, then they wouldn’t need you anyway. So it doesn’t matter. Right?
Colleen: Just no free work, no free work.
Brynne: Free insights around work. No, no free work. Absolutely.
Colleen: Yeah, I agree.
Brynne: But free insights that lead back to your solution. Absolutely.
Colleen: This has been extremely helpful. So I’m sure that the audience is going to get quite a lot out of this, and you do a lot to help people use LinkedIn to get more clients. What services or products do you offer?
Brynne: Lots of things. The first thing, I have a book on Amazon, The LinkedIn Sales Playbook.
We do LinkedIn profile makeovers, sales training for small to huge teams and I’ve trained as large as Comcast, some huge companies, and I’ve trained as small as three sales trainers, salespeople.
We do a done-with-you service. We develop a playbook and a process and message templates for individuals, and then weekly we guide them to do the right activities, feel specific activities, and that’s usually 90 to 120 days, and then they have all the new skills and knowledge to go off and do it on their own after that.
Colleen: That’s great. And you can be found at socialsaleslink.com.
Brynne: Yeah. And also I’m on LinkedIn. I’m the only Brynne Tillman. That’s the best place to start.
Colleen: Okay, great. Well thanks so much for being on the podcast, Brynne. It’s been great.
Brynne: Oh, this has been a lot of fun. Thank you so much for having me, Colleen.