When I left the bank 18 months ago, I had less than 100 LinkedIn connections. Today, I have 414, and they’re connected to a total of 6 million professionals. More important, I’ve gone from about 80% of my network being co-workers to a signficantly lower percentage. The point is that if you’re not working to expand your network to something somewhat less incestuous (i.e., everyone knows everyone else because all anyone is doing is connecting to co-workers), then the rest of this posting may not help you all that much.
New consultants will spend far more time on prospecting for new clients that they expect. As you grow your network, there are a number of ways you can leverage that group to find new clients and build a portfolio career across a variety of industries and regions. You can ask them to:
- Validate your value proposition (i.e., confirm that your view of your strengths are shared by those who know you well and may be a touch more objective) They may well see the thing(s) that will differentiate you as being something much different than what they may have said in a fomal review.
- Introduce you to other people in their networks, particularly as you begin to target specific companies as prospective clients. This is the so-called “warm introduction,” where a more personal introduction is far more effective than clicking Add XXX to Your Network or doing a third-party request.
- Provide references and testimonials, and perhaps even write a Recommendation that you can post on your LinkedIn profile.
- Be part of a focus group for your business or for a specific study or survey that you plan to write to demonstrate your expertise or to provide as a “freebie” on your website to improve your traffic.
- Provide feedback on your business plan, website, or key start-up decisions (e.g., LLC vs. S corp).
- Be part of your consultancy’s “advisory board.” This can be effective if you’ve cultivated people for your network who are well-known within your industry or target market.
- Help you raise money for your venture or for an expansion.
- Proofread documents or marketing collateral before sending it out to sales prospects. This can avoid huge embarassment if you have an ugly typo or two. You can also click here if you’d like some tips on proofreading if you can’t find anyone to help you.
Your LinkedIn network is not designed to prove you’re popular or provide you with a distraction during slow times. Build your network strategically and use it to figure out answers to difficult questions or connect with someone who can help you grow your business. And don’t forget that to get help you need to offer it too. I’ve always been a big believer in karma as it relates to this kind of thing and the sooner you focus on helping others, someone else will focus on helping you.