Ask anyone to recommend some reliable B2B lead generation ideas, and sooner or later they’ll point you towards LinkedIn – but likely with no real clue of what to do when you get there. So, you fumble around, stalk a few good-on-paper profiles, maybe make a few connections but get no further.

So is Linkedin really the fast track to ‘swipe right’ of lead generation ideas?

It makes sense to see why LinkedIn is billed as the social network for business, but why does it seem so hard to make a connection? I don’t know about you, but at times it kinda feels like a bar at the end of the night, with everyone talking past each other, desperate to find The One before it’s too late.

Because it’s so easy to reach people in the right role and the right industry it makes sense that it features highly in the list of lead generation ideas. But because of this ease, LinkedIn has become a bit of a meat market for sales prospecting, as I’m sure you’ve experienced yourself. And obviously this sort of behavior has left people feeling just a little allergic to any overtures from someone they don’t know well.

More importantly, your The One is not necessarily out there drink in hand, swaying to Taylor Swift and looking hard for you too.

To make sure that this strategy is worth investing your time in, you first need to understand the reasons LinkedIn users visit the social media platform; to reconnect with past colleagues, update their profile, participate in groups and research – in effect, they come goal oriented.

I’m sure you know how hard it can be hard to capture the attention of someone focused on something else, and this can make marketing irritating or just plain invisible.

So like at the beginning of any good long-term relationship, it pays to take it slow. LinkedIn, like any social media is a long term game when it comes to effective relationship building (in fact, you’ll find that many B2B lead generation ideas tend to require a long term focus).

Think of it like this. You wouldn’t barrel into a room and ask for someone you’ve only just met to buy from you or give you personal info, and while it’s virtual, social media is exactly the same. You need to find ways to solve their problems or enhance their lives and not come in fast with the hard sell.

Filling your little black book

When you do first reach out, you’re likely to get a better response if you spend the time crafting very personal and targeted messages that show you know about, and are interested in them or their business. To put it bluntly, there’s nothing memorable about getting that standard ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’, and while they may accept your invitation, it’s a guarantee that who you are will quickly be forgotten.

Instead, find something genuine to say that they can respond to (compliment their approach on another social network if you follow them, comment on an aspect of their background or identify a shared interest) otherwise the next move will always be yours to make.

Going steady

It’s a fact that we respond well to people who like us, and by being a regular in their news feed you can begin the cycle of ‘know, trust, buy’, important in all sales relationships. Take the time to stop in regularly and interact with your contacts’ status updates by commenting, liking or sharing their content, and celebrating their successes.

Be irresistibly interesting

Curate external articles, research or reports that might be of interest to your target market, by setting up Google Alerts, or using a tool like Medium, Flipbook or Feedly. Focus on topics that are tangential to your service or product and see if you can use them to create discussion – you’ll find this idea helpful for other forms of social media lead generation too.

Be impossible to ignore

Draw greater attention to your own content by ‘blogging’ on LinkedIn rather than posting links to a blog in a status update (to do this, click the pencil icon in the ‘share an update box and you’re away). This is particularly potent because your connections get an alert that you’ve posted new content.  As soon as we at The Revery started doing this we noticed a huge increase in comments, likes and sharing from our connections.

Getting out of the friends zone

If you’re thinking about sending them an InMail, provide them something of use before you ‘go in for the kill’ of asking for a coffee meeting. As an example, I got a great response once from a connection when I came across an article with an interesting take on his industry. I sent it across to him with a humorous comment, asking nothing in return. This opened the barriers to a light-hearted conversation, and he later came back to me asking me to present a proposal.

Ah, true love.

Image via Flickr CC/Evan