I met a charming gentleman at a recent networking event who indicated he was not very active on that great love of mine, LinkedIn.
I thought he might be missing a few tricks. I asked him which search engine he would use if he was seeking to engage with a bookkeeper for his business. He replied he would simply go to Google. However, one of the key activities he engages in to market his business is networking; he spends time every month connecting with people at networking events and then LinkingIn when he gets back to the office. I asked him why he would not conduct a search through the LinkedIn search engine to produce a list of bookkeepers he had already met whilst on the networking circuit.
This gentleman’s method was a bit like sourcing the ingredients for a cake and then not eating it..! LinkedIn would be my first port of call. Let’s conduct a little search engines experiment to illustrate the merits of both resources.
LinkedIn Search Engine
…To me, LinkedIn is like a trusty database of people with a range of skills and services. After a swift search engine interrogation, I find I have 9 first line (direct) and 858 second line (through my first line) connections with bookkeepers through my LinkedIn network. I have either met all nine of my first line connections or I have had some kind of online engagement with them through eg. my blog posts or group activity. There is already a relationship.
The nine first line connections are listed alphabetically. I have met the lady from “Business A” who appears at the top of the list several times. I have a connection with her… I have also heard people speak highly of her bookkeeping service and, looking at her LinkedIn profile, there are a number of recommendations to substantiate my already positive view. What’s more, a number of people who I also know and trust have endorsed her bookkeeping skills at the bottom of her profile. A quick gander around her website to find out more about her range of services and pricing, and now I have the confidence to make a genuine business enquiry about her bookkeeping service.
Google Search Engine
Now, let’s Google it!
When I put “bookkeepers” into the Google search engine, I am presented with a list of sponsored responses, a Wikipedia definition, two vacancies in a nearby town and then a link to an independent bookkeeper (Business B). I do not know anything about this bookkeeper or her business. When I click through to her website, I can learn more. I refer to her testimonials, her ‘About me’ page, and I can check out her services and look at her profile picture. This is all very informative but there is still no business relationship or the confidence I would like in order to make an initial business enquiry.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of Google; I recently wrote about how I would not have been able to plan a school reunion without it! The difference is that, for the reunion project, I was seeking to obtain information about people from outside my current network with very little related knowledge as to their whereabouts or activities. By Googling to seek a bookkeeper to engage with in business I am, in fact, going back to square one. It’s a cold start; there’s no warmth and no relationship. I do not know the lady at Business B and – it appears at first sight – no one in my trusty network does either.
What I can do though, is put the business owner’s name into LinkedIn. Voila! It turns out this lady is a second line connection – one of the 858 – and we share 26 connections. It gets better! One of the LinkedIn recommendations about her bookkeeping services is from one of my connections and, crucially, from someone whose opinion I would value highly. I am now in a much more comfortable position. I can also see from the profile’s endorsements that she has also been endorsed by people I know. I now have both trust and positive information on my side, as well as a testimonial from someone I know. Excellent!
I have spent a lot of time sourcing the LinkedIn ingredients through my networking activities, and it’s now time to eat the cake! So what shall I do? Which is the way forward?
My immediate line of enquiry would be to Business A and maybe to one or two others from my first line connections before contacting Business B who I would not otherwise have been aware of but for this Google experiment or without searching my second line connections.
The difference is in the relationships; it would be a warm start to reach out to Business A and my other first line connections. I know them and they already know about me and – more than that – they have a knowledge and understanding of my proofreading, editing, copywriting and blogging services. No need for any introductions or explanations!
What’s your strategy for seeking to engage with different professions for your business? Where would you conduct your first line of enquiry and how do you establish the confidence to make that initial enquiry? Would you use Google like my networking friend or would you interrogate your trusty LinkedIn database?
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