Fran Canete | The Content Way
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How to Use LinkedIn For Your International Business Development

How to Use LinkedIn For Your International Business Development

When we approach a new market we are going to need basically 2 things in a first early step: information and connections. LinkedIn is a great tool to start working in that two areas without any investment.

On my opinion, LinkedIn is the most interesting social network for business professionals interested in establishing B2B connections. With more than 443 million users in more than 220 countries offer virtually no limit of connections for international business developers seeking for new opportunities.
LinkedIn-internationa-business
Image source: LinkedIn

Build a credible personal brand

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for B2B professionals, if you are using correctly this social network is relatively easy to create a reputation in your industry by creating new connections, sharing relevant content and being a proactive member of discussions and groups.

If you know a few tips about LinkedIn your name will be associated with your industry by your colleagues, clients, collaborators and, of course, potential clients.

Expand your offline network

One of the most interesting things about LinkedIn, when we start with it, is to connect with old friends from school, university and colleagues from previous jobs.

The first reason is because we never know where they are at that point, maybe our old college friend is now working abroad in the market we are interested about. That’s a great opportunity to reconnect, ask about the market, how is going the economy there, particularities about how to do business in the country, etc…

But this is not the main reason in expanding your “offline” network, one of the most amazing things on LinkedIn is the possibility to ask for introductions. Here is a huge potential, we can be introduced to any to their connections by a trustworthy person who know both parties. If we are doing an international market research we can build an international network in the different markets, connect directly, ask key questions, find references and gather a lot of (free) valuable information.

Use “Social Selling” Techniques

Is possible sell on Social Media? This is one of the biggest questions of the moment.

In my opinion, the answer is: not directly, yes indirectly. I am not a big fan of direct sales, and of course, I don’t like somebody approaching me on LinkedIn 3 minutes after to connect with me and asking to sign up or to buy something. That’s even worse than cold call!

However, social networks could be a great tool to learn about our potential clients, what they like, what information they share, which companies or professionals they follow and especially on LinkedIn we can gather a lot on useful information from our targets before approach them with (and only with) valuable information. If you do your homework is very easy to know what kind of information is going to be interesting for any connection.

To me, social selling is like trying to sell something on a networking event, where nobody knows you and you know nothing about theirs needs. What you try to do at the event is identify the key people that you can help by connecting with somebody else or sending some useful information, building a relationship based on value, as a consequence of this you will generate business opportunities, but takes time.

So for me social selling is not a proper sale, is about engaging, nurture, share and connect with a potential target audience before to identify the customised way to reach out any of them.

Use LinkedIn groups (correctly!)

Groups are one of the most powerful tools on LinkedIn, and it’s 100% open for free memberships. We can identify a large number of groups in any industry and niche, most of them with thousands of members and that means there are thousands of people we can get access and share our valuable content.

By identifying groups in the market and industry we want to approach we can gather a lot of valuable information:

  • What they are talking about
  • Who lead the group? Identify people sharing the most relevant content, where they work, position, connections and interest and finally reach out as a potential strategic associate.
  • Post jobs: it’s free to post jobs on groups so if you are looking for a sales agent in Germany go to the right industry groups in Germany and post a job. But please, DO NOT do this on the discussions tab.

Target and reach out potential clients

Advanced search on LinkedIn is a powerful tool to identify a very accurate target, especially if you pay for any of the premium memberships. This is not a cheap option but if you want to run a campaign for a couple of months you don’t need to pay for the whole year, this is the way I use premium memberships on LinkedIn. If you do a good campaign during 2 months probably you will need another 2 months to manage the contacts and information generated.

Using filters and sending customise invitations

On LinkedIn, you only should invite to connect to people you already know, but this rule can be (unofficially) broken for a good reason: connect with somebody that we can add value and build a professional relationship.

Using the advanced search we talk before we can reach out to that kind of contacts using always a customised invitation indicating why we are interested in connecting.

Advice: Never connect with somebody on LinkedIn with the only propose of directly selling something.

Conclusions

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to increase our network internationally in a very specific industry, niche and market.
We can gather market information improving our international market research.
Posting jobs we can recruit sales agents, country managers and other key position we need to find in specific groups in the target market.
Target the decision maker we are interested in talking, learn about what they are interested, what they share and reach out intelligently.

  • Great post Fran. Appreciate the insight and affirmation!

    • Fran

      Thanks for your comment Matt, hope that helps.

  • Pham van Hung

    It’s great to have been contact with you for expanding the business opportunity.

    • Fran

      Thanks Pham, great to be in touch and happy to add some valuable information. Fran