How I use Linkedin for generating new leads for my business as a designer

by | Sep 14, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

Get this: my Linkedin is working beautifully, generating new leads without much effort, no money. How did that happen? 

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but sometime around the pandemic, I decided to ditch Instagram. Instead, I started using Linkedin for my design business. I know, I know, what in the world is a designer doing using Linkedin, instead of Instagram  (or Behance or any other visual + trendy social media?) Well, let me tell you my story…

Things clients have said: 

“You seem to be everywhere, I see you all the time”

“We looked for sustainable cannabis packaging designer and yours was the only profile popping up so we hired you”

“You have such a great social media presence, you must spend a lot of time on it”

My Insta never had an ROI, it felt like a chore, and going on it bummed me out for some reason. But not so on Linkedin.  Linkedin for me is the right place, since it’s all about business and sharing a connection beyond “I’m an influencer, follow me”, the mood on Linkedin is a lot more “office watercooler” and less “mean girls from high school”. This allows me to just show up in a way that feels real, feels like me, and doesn’t take much effort. Because I’m busy, I don’t have the energy for complicated marketing strategies for my business!

Thing is, I’m a bit of an introverted nerd. I don’t like selfies. Or video. What I do like, is sharing articles and knowledge. And that’s what LI is best for. I didn’t even have to have a plan, because I was already constantly sending my friends articles I found interesting. So I just started doing that on Linkedin instead of over email and messenger!

And ta-dah. A “marketing strategy” was born. Because here’s the thing: I don’t really have a plan. I don’t have a posting schedule. I don’t follow any rules or care about the algorithm.

This post should have done better than it did – good picture, custom content – just didn’t. 

My super easy content “plan” for Linkedin

1. Post (somewhat) consistently about interesting things

I don’t post every day, but several times a week. I try to do a mix of topics, for my niches, I post about branding and design, a lot about packaging sustainability, and some about cannabis branding and business topics, or occasionally if there’s some kind of new science. I typically try to make sure it makes some logical sense to my business, and is something that aligns with topics I like to talk about. If I’m sharing an article, I usually snip out a quote from the story, sometimes add a few words saying what I think, nothing too long or involved. Then I add a bunch of hashtags, like 5-10 relevant ones. 

2. Share my work / promo what I do / interviews

Don’t really have a system or process for this, but if I’m interviewed, or have something new to share, I’ll write about that. Maybe every 10 posts or so, once a month, tops, is about me and my business directly. I should share more of design work, one of the things I aim to increase.

3. Share random “day in the life” posts

These ones tend to do really well. It’s when something is funny in my line of work, and I share it. Recent examples include me talking about how I never wanted a job requiring math, and here I am, calculating the surface area of a cylinder using PI, for chrissakes. Or that time I cut up potatoes into cubes to measure if my client’s gummies would fit into the container. That one did great.

4. Share articles / videos

I do less of this, but should do more, sharing blog posts and make little videos about stuff. I just don’t have the time to write too often, and I do not love being on camera. But apparently that would be good content, all of the platforms seem to be going for video!

 

This post was so silly, yet did so great. 

How to get your Linkedin feed to be more interesting and how to find things that interest you 

Pro tip: You can unfollow uninteresting people you’ve connected with. Once you’ve started to comment on stuff, the feed learns and starts getting more interesting. Nowadays I get tagged on a bunch of posts by people I know where they spot others wanting to hear from a cannabis marketer / packaging designer / sustainability maven, so that’s been cool. Haven’t had much success in the Linkedin Groups – the ones I’m in tend to be a lot of people just promoting themselves and not really communicating together. And honestly, I just forget to go into those groups!

Profile building

It’s not rocket science: you should have a nice picture of yourself (no pets or spouses or kids, this ain’t Facebook!). Have a clear “what do you do” statement, you can also add hashtags to that. I have some pinned posts on my profile. Be sure to fill out the SKILLS section. And the About section can have a longer explainer on who and what you are, I’ve put my regular bio on there. I’ve also added some pieces of my design work up there. My employment profile looks a little nuts because I used to list each client as a job, instead of just “Keinaenen Creative LLC”. Don’t really think that matters, people don’t really check that out. Same with the schooling, nobody seems to care, at least in my industry. But it’s all there.

Building your network on Linkedin: connection requests and follows

My tactic? Fearless. Ask anyone you barely know, or feel like you should know, to connect. Most people are happy enough to do it. If they don’t have the “connect” button visible on their profile, you can follow them instead. 

I send connection requests pretty willy nilly, don’t overthink it. They can always say no. Sometimes going through the “Linkedin thinks you should know these people” lists and clicking on anyone who sounds familiar (i.e. people I may have seen in a tradeshow or article sometime) or who I have dozen or so connections in common. Linkedin is a numbers game. I’ve seen people recommend connecting with at least a dozen people a day. That to me seems a little excessive, but I’ve def done that in the past.

Also connect with a lot of people I meet in real life. And connect with interesting people I see commenting on a webinar, for example. And of course with the webinar host.

Likewise, I am generous with my follower acceptances. The only ones I deny are those offshore web and app developers and profiles that don’t seem to have value, like someone who’s still in school in a different country – but pretty much everyone else I accept. I can always disconnect with them later if they turn out to be spammy. Right now, I’m getting tons of CPA’s and crypto folks.

I really thought this would get more traction – eye grabbing picture, the content was fun and frilly, and the timing was right. 

Put the social part into social media – comment and participate

I go on Linkedin every day, look through contact requests and messages and then go and scroll the feed for a bit.

Comment on a few things, support and shout out your friends in your niche, and just be a normal nice human. I don’t bother commenting on someone super famous, but I do participate in some larger/semi-big circles. As an example, there’s a cannabis marketer, Brett Puffenbarger, who always gets posts that go kinda viral because the questions he asks are so good, so I tend to  comment on those. Another example is me participating in the community built by Evelio Mattos, a famous packaging designer – and me participating lead to him asking me to be on his show!

Tips for messages and cold outreach – aka “things you guys do in my Linkedin messages that annoy the shit out of me”

I don’t do a lot of cold outreach via messages, I usually comment on their content first. I do send a quick message to new connections, though. Always try to make it somewhat personalized and to make it sound like a real human.

Annoyance 1: copy pasted form messages

Say hello first, then ask them how they’re doing, and THEN tell them what you do – so it’s not just a spammy message telling them about your services. You wouldn’t yell “buy my shit” into someone’s ear as the first thing if you met them at a bar, so why do people think that works in Linkedin?

Annoyance 2: very long messages

The messenger window: it’s tiny. Don’t paste in a 2000 word essay, please! I find it so annoying, when I get a MOUNTAIN of copypasted sales messages that just blablabla about what they do, as the first connection we make. That’s just not how humans work!

Annoyance 3: being too aggressive

What makes my blood boil is them having the NERVE to send me an email right after connecting, saying the exact same thing as the Linkedin message said, before I’ve had a chance to even message them back. Just violating my email inbox like that… not cool.

Also the ones who don’t take no for an answer. If I say, no thanks, I’m all set with my [insert service here], just say thanks, no prob, appreciate you taking the time, and if you can think of someone who would benefit from [service], please let them know about [your company]. That’s all. You don’t have to keep messaging every week to “check in”. No means no, and if I didn’t want your services last week, I don’t want them this week neither. Take the hint.

Annoyance 4: not even looking at my profile before messaging

When I get a spammy basic sales spiel, I am typically pretty polite and tell them thanks, but not interested. But then if they’re being extra dumb about it, sometimes I get a little snarky. Only when they’ve obviously not even glanced at my profile before sending the message! Like, who does that? Like when they want to sell me logo design services… not whitelabel subcontracting designer to designer, but selling me what I sell. Or also selling me toilet paper or janitorial services for my facility. Or app development…  The weird packaging industry stuff I kinda understand, but also no, I don’t need printing machine gear lube, I’m a packaging designer, not a print shop. All of this would be painfully obvious if you just took a quick look at my profile.

Annoyance 5: asking for a meeting immediately

No, TJ, I do not want to schedule a 45 minute sales call with you about crypto investment opportunities. Jumping straight into “I want you to schedule a phone call” is also just so weird. Again, who does that? Before I’ve made any indication that I’m even vaguely familiar with what you do, nor have shown any interest in what you do – don’t ask me on a date before saying hello!

Annoyance 6: making it weird

Why yes, I have gotten an unsolicited dick pic on Linkedin messages, why yes I have. Also get the occasional “hello beautiful” messages, but it’s just part of any social media, I guess. I can now kinda guess which dudes are only connecting thinking Linkedin is a free Tinder. This is not what Linkedin is for. Just because I’m smiling in my pic, doesn’t mean “please approach me and virtually cat call”

Mindboggling how this post did so well – took me very little effort and zero deep thought!

What do I do on Linkedin that works so well? My process for sales on Linkedin

Don’t have any magical scripts, but I usually ask what they’re working on that they’re excited about, or comment on something I saw them post about that I liked. And then ask if there’s anything you can do to support that.

Another way could be to share a helpful resource. Like, if I saw you asking about plastics recycling, I might share a blog post of mine, or connect you with someone who I know who’s an expert. Selling should be about helping people and being a solution to their problems. It really doesn’t take that much time to not make it weird. 

Cold outreach messages I find appealing? The ones where they’ve made a custom video for me. Never have I ever bought from any of those, but I do appreciate the effort. They can also be creepy AF.

This post is still bringing in leads interested in this product. Could I have linked straight to the vendor? Sure. But this way I get them first. 

Let’s talk numbers

Not honestly sure when and how it happened (unhelpful, I know!), but my posts currently get between 100s to 1000s of views. I mainly post on my personal profile, not on the business profile. I’ve got 3,443 followers (people who just follow me, haven’t connected), and 3000-odd connections.

My posts in the past year have gotten usually at the lowest, 200-something impressions. The best ones, are more like 3000-5000.

There’s not a ton of rhyme or reason on what worked well and what didn’t. Ones that had some feeling in it, where I’m amazed or appalled of something seemed to do better than more neutral “Hey this is interesting”. The initial message also needs to be attention grabbing and interesting. And the quality of the picture seems to matter too. Posts where I shared someone elses Linkedin post seemed to not fare that well. But posting a fresh post about the same thing and tagging them, that works.

I get a lot of profile views. And no, I don’t pay for Linkedin. I’m cheap, so I don’t have super in depth analytics about it.

Clients have found me by searching “sustainable cannabis packaging designer” on Linkedin, and mine is the one that pops up.

My profile views are a mix of people wanting to sell me shit, packaging industry people, cannabis people, and then just people I know (like relatives and friends and people I went to school with).

Me being a real human online, vulnerable and realness works. 

So how do people find you?

My current, pretty half-assed “method” for getting new clients from Linkedin is as follows:

Visibility + thought leadership leading to new business

The content curation and posts I make are reaching an audience beyond my followers. And I’ve become known as the “sustainable cannabis packaging person”, which leads to interview requests and stuff like that.

Network building leading to referrals 

Connecting and engaging with a lot of people leads to finding new referral partners, like cannabis business consultants and packaging print vendors. As a result, I get tagged in stuff, and people send me messages like “hey I have a friend in Maine who’s in cannabis, should I connect you two”. You never know who knows someone!

Search results and keywords 

I’m showing up under a keyword people use on Linkedin to find people. Now if only I could do the same for my Google search, I’d be set! SEO project next.

Literally thought of this post while eating breakfast at a summer cabin on a trip. Snapped a pic, said something about it, and ta-dah. I also made other posts on that trip that were way more thought out, custom content, with more beautiful images and a more deep message. But nope, this one worked better than any of those! 

And how do those Linkedin leads turn into business?

Here’s how it typically works for me: reply on a comment about something I could help with, or someone finds you and messages you. After a bit of a chat back and forth, I send them to my meeting scheduler. In that 30 min Zoom meeting I get to know them, ask about their plans and hopes and dreams, and then, if appropriate, sell them something they need. If they don’t need anything, I usually end up at least giving them some free advice that gets them moving along with their project. A lot of those folks come back to me at their next job, or send someone to me, since “oh that Lilli, she was nice and helped me”. It’s pretty simple, but seems to work for me!

We should connect on Linkedin! 

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