CRM is dead (sort of).
For those of you not jargon inclined, CRM is short for Customer Relationship Management, and companies often invest tons of money in complex systems, that few people understand, just to stay on top of their CRM.
In a Linkedin world, however, many small businesses, entrepreneurs, and savvy businesses (those with money but who run slim) are in for a treat: Linkedin has just about everything you need to run a successful CRM system FOR FREE.
Linkedin Relationship Management “LRM” is a pretty easy thing if you abide by some simple principles and keep it simple. The framework for LRM runs on three pillars:
This post will go in depth on each of these.
Hoarding: Breaking 500+ Connections Without Breaking a Sweat
Everything we are about to say, regarding hoarding connections, will be attacked below when we talk about sorting.
Don’t let that stop you.
At this point your mission is to get that little 500+ sign next to your connections without thinking about whether you will actually ever use them. Similar to the first draft writing process, you just want to connect; don’t edit yourself.
WARNING: read this whole section before actually implementing this advice to avoid getting your Linkedin account shut down! Remember: we are going for business connections, not spam here.
Read on.[pexyoutube pex_attr_src=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grbSQ6O6kbs&” pex_attr_width=”500″][/pexyoutube]
Connect to Everybody
Unlike Facebook, Linkedin is a professional network. It works best when you can connect to everyone and anyone who may be relevant to your work. The Linkedin network itself gives you some quick and easy means of building your network fast.
4-Quick Ways of Building Your Network on Linkedin
Here are 4-quick tips for building your network on Linkedin:
- Accept all invites you get as long as the person reaching out is not a spammer (someone looking to connect just to sell your stuff)
- Take the time to scroll through the many pages of Suggested Connections. Linkedin has a pretty powerful algorithm for suggesting relevant connections. At first this is based on the information you share about yourself on your profile, such as past and current employment, educational background, and even groups. As you build your network, the suggested connections expand into secondary and third tier connections
- Import you connections from mail services like Gmail and Yahoo or even Facebook to see if they are also on Linkedin. If they are, Linkedin will provide an easy, one-click invite form to connect to these people. If they are not, then you will be prompted to invite them to join you on Linkedin.
- Groups are gold when it comes to hoarding contacts. Linkedin has a pretty strong policy about spamming potential connections and being a “network gremlin” (arbitrarily boosting your network and pissing off members who don’t know you from Gizmo). The beauty of joining a group, besides the promise of content and camaraderie, is that you are provided with an instant “in” with other group members. You have a relevant context with which to reach out to them and add them to your network. Of course it doesn’t hurt if you are also a meaningful group contributor.
There are other means of building connections digitally, such as getting active on Linkedin Q&A and connecting with people who you interact with there or using the Skill search to locate people related to an industry or discipline you are involved with.
Note: using Skills to find connections is more of a blind approach and may be more risky in terms of people rejecting the invite and possibly flagging you.
Old School Networking: How to Use The Rolodex, The Little Black Book, and Business Cards in Social Media
Once you’ve exhausted the digital means of creating a killer network, step back a century and pull out the old Rolodex or stack of business cards you’ve been hoarding in a drawer somewhere. Use search to see if any of these people are on Linkedin. Be sure to take advantage of the option to add a personal message in connecting to business card people you haven’t had a recent connection with, giving them a context to accept you as a new connection and reminding them about where you met them.
HELPFUL HINT: when sending out invites you have the option of inserting a personal message to give someone a context in which to accept your invite (it will also help prevent you from getting flagged as a spammer!). Rather than reinventing the wheel each time a personal note is needed, take the time to create an inventory of templates for different contexts. These can be stored in a Word, Excel, or other file, and should be readily available to you to use when needed.
Here are some templates you can use in your networking:
Group Template – Hi [NAME]: we are both members of the [GROUP NAME]. I wanted to connect to other members who have an interest or expertise in [TOPIC] and thought that we might share this in common. Looking forward to connecting with you, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks! [YOUR NAME]
Business Card Template – Hi [NAME]: I hope you are well. We met at [INSERT PLACE] and you gave me your card. I see that you are on Linkedin, and I’d like to connect with you so we can stay in touch. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
NOTE: This is an easy way to rekindle relationships, convert warm leads, and build your list all at the same time.
GtD for Linkedin (Sorting)
Connections are overrated. (Let me explain).
Linkedin and other networks are designed to encourage connecting between people. We connect and connect and connect, never stopping to consider Dunbar’s number.
According to the Dunbar’s Number, a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships, the human mind is only capable of efficiency in a network of 100 to 230 people, commonly reduced to 150 as the benchmark (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number).
Those of us who break the 500+ barrier are way past the threshold of meaningful relationships, and are really just hoarding connections. This isn’t a bad thing though since in both business and social networking the expectation is that few relationships will be meaningful, while most will be casual. This fits in nicely with the “Lurker Paradigm” inherent in social media, which says that 10% of the people in a community will produce meaningful contributions, while 90% will observe. If we think of our network this way, 10% of the connections will be maintained with an active, meaningful interactions, while 90% will be more inactive.
Tagging Your Linkedin Contacts Creates a Powerful (free) CRM System
Linkedin provides tools for sorting your contacts into different contexts. Some of these are pre-populated from the Linkedin system itself, allowing you to quickly sort by lists. The most powerful one, however, is the tagging tool, which allows you to add a custom tag to any contact in your list.
Tags circumvent Dunbar’s Number in letting you put context to the relationship in a searchable filter that is preserved efficiently on Linkedin. The best part is that you don’t have to update any information in your gorilla CRM system, because regardless of how the person updates their profile you have complete control over the custom tagging and context you put them in.
Let’s take a quick look at the pre-populated sorting tool before going in depth about tags.
Linkedin provides some pre-populated contexts for sorting your contacts. For each of these, the number of connections in that pre-populated listing will show in parenthesis on the right.
- Last Names: a straight forward, alphabetical index of your contacts.
- Companies: for any company that two or more of your connections have in common, a listing for sorting by company will appear.
- Locations: a straight forward, geographical index of your contacts.
- Industry: an index of your contacts by industry
- Recent Activity: see the next paragraph for why this rocks.
Recent Activity is perhaps the most interesting of the pre-populated lists. It will show you two indexes of connections: (1) new connections and (2) connections with new connections.
The benefit to this list is in going beyond the mere invite to cultivating the online relationship. It is a common practice of connection hoarders to stop once the connection is made. This is a huge mistake and a missed opportunity. Right when the connection is made, it is still very ripe and presents a prime time to begin creating new contexts that can open doors for what you are doing now.
One way of keeping connections fresh, both for new and older connections, is sharing “knowledge gifts.” A knowledge gift can be anything that you think the connection would want to know about: a link to an article relevant to their work, a white paper, a legal form or business template, (really anything that helps them do their work better).
This feature allows you to create lists by tagging contacts with fully customizable labels. Using the tags across contacts puts them all on the same, searchable list. Also, Linkedin pre-populates some of the tags based on the relationship information that was entered when the connection was made.
Tags are the top most filter on your connections page. Clicking the little triangle expands the list of pre-populated tags. These are created from the radio button that was selected when the invite to connect was made.
There are six-pre-populated tags.
- Group Members: these are people who connected with you on the basis of being in a common group. While neither the tag nor the list show which group you have in common (the list is compiled from all people you share a group with), you can easily find this out for individuals by clicking on their profile.
- Friends: these are people who connected with you using the friend field, one of the most innocuous on the form for Linkedin. Chances are a percentage of the people who connected with you in this way are not really personal friends. It may be worth taking the time to remove the friend tag from their entry, and adding a tag “I hardly know this guy” to their profile (or whatever other context you want).
- Colleagues: these are people who either worked with you in the past or currently work with you. For internal networking purposes there is value in adding a second tag to these connections indicating other relevant information (example: C-level executives or My Team/Direct Reports).
- Partners: this tag comes from people you connected to that indicated “you’ve done business together.”
- Classmates: obviously people you went to school with. You may want to add an additional tag to indicate which school, especially if your a brainy type with lots of degrees from different institutions.
- Uncategorized: people who you have connected to by picking the “Other” option. These people are ripe for custom tagging, and it is to your benefit to go through the list and sort them.
How Should You Use Linkedin Tags and Why Are They Important?
Besides the obvious reason of sorting your contacts list for filtering and quick reference, their are two key benefits to tagging on Linkedin.
Targeted Bulk Inmail Messaging. If you want to send a message through Linkedin to multiple people, tagging them with a context that lumps them into a list together allows you to send a single mess to up to 50-recipients at a time.
Just go to your list, click Select All (this checks the recipients), and click Send a Message.
Relationship Management. There is an excellent article from FastFedora.com, which details a system for managing relationships on Linkedin.
The author, Trevor Lohrbeer, discusses four pillars for his system. With his tags he aims to:
- Build a few strong relationships
- Maintain a large set of weak relationships
- Remember people
- Help others to connect to people (he’s a true Trust Agent!)
Trevor uses six questions to sort his lists, each with it’s own set of tages to choose from.
- Where did we meet? Met [major city | event | type of event]
- How did we meet? By [In-Person | Phone | E-mail | Web]
- How do I want to manage the relationship? By [In-Person | Phone | E-mail | Web]
- What type of relationship do we have? As [Vendor | Customer | Prospect | Colleague | Biz Friend | Personal Friend | Relative]
- How strong is the relationship? Is [1 Casual Weak | 2 Casual Strong | 3 Established | 4 Long or Deep | 5 Long and Deep]
- What circumstances surrounded the meeting Via [Referral | Incoming]
The power of tags is in combining them together to tell a story. In the Lohrbeer example, we see that you can use all six contexts with his qualifiers (ex/ Met: in Boston, By: In-Person, etc.), and that such a system easily lets your contacts become more relevant.
Exporting Contacts From Linkedin
This is such a key feature of Linkedin, especially as you start to build a big list of contacts. The ability to export the email and other contact information for your connections gives you the option of adding them to your email management program, other CRM databases (although I would argue that CRM databases are becoming more obsolete as Linkedin becomes even better), and to marketing lists (Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, etc.). By exporting your connections, you can also add them to mobile devices (awesome!).
For some reason Linkedin made the export function really hard to find.
If you go to your Contacts page and scroll to the bottom, you should see a link that says “Export Connections” right above the footer bar.
Alternatively, you can click this link to go directly to the tool:
Once on the export interface, you need to choose which format you want the export file.
Linkedin supports: Outlook .csv, Outlook Express .csv, Yahoo Mail .csv, Mac OS X Address Book .vcf, and vCard .vcf.
NOTE: most programs you would want to use can accept both the .csv and .vcf formats.
For example, I use Gmail Contacts and it will accept all of the formats above.
After you choose your export format, it is just a matter of entering the security image phrase (used to prevent spamming and robots), and clicking export.
Once you have the exported file on your computer, you just need to upload it to whatever contacts program you are using. Simple!