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3 Steps for Painting Contractors to Power up your Referral Network using LinkedIn

By on April 11, 2012 in Marketing with 8 Comments

Why don’t more painting contractors use LinkedIn effectively?

I’ve often citied the statistics I’ve gathered over the years from coaching over a hundred painting contractors and tracking their numbers. Those statistics continue to hold up. 65% or more of your business comes from relationships, whether they be repeat customers, referrals from customers, referrals from strategic alliances (general contractors, other specialty contractors, designers, etc.) or referrals from other business contacts in your community.

Social NetworkingWhat does this tell you? Building relationships is important! You want to take advantage of any opportunity that you have to build stronger relationships with the people who have hired you and the people who have (or could) refer you.

I absolutely believe in building relationships offline. You should have a strategic marketing plan and what I call a customer communications plan that involves the ways you are going to reach out to the people you have relationships with on a regular basis.

Today, I want to focus on how you can build and strengthen relationships using LinkedIn. Learning to use LinkedIn effectively may have fallen to the bottom of your list. Perhaps it’s unfamiliarity with the site, or that you just don’t see how it can benefit you. Here’s a quick 3 step overview on how to use LinkedIn effectively that I call Present, Connect, Share.

Present
The first step is to present yourself. Make sure you have a great “calling card”. Your profile should be fully optimized, with a professional photo, good summary about what you offer, a list of specialties and skills. You will also want to set up your company profile on LinkedIn, connected to your professional profile. There’s a lot more to say about this. There are many ways to showcase yourself and your company on LinkedIn. If you connect with me, you’ll stay in the loop when I offer classes and trainings, some of which are free.

Connect

The second step is to connect. First connect with the people you already know who are on LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides tools to help you upload your current contact list from various email systems to help you connect with your contacts who are already on LinkedIn.

Beyond that you’ll want to start connecting with people you meet going forward on an ongoing basis. Every time I attend a networking event and speak with someone enough to have a conversation and exchange business cards, I go home and invite them to connect on LinkedIn, using a custom invite that reminds them of where we met.

The third tier of connecting is to seek out people who could be good referral partners for you on LinkedIn. One of the best strategies for this are to use LinkedIn’s search feature and to ask for introductions to people who would be good referral partners from mutual connections – just like you would do offline. Another way is to join LinkedIn Groups that are likely to have members who are either good potential referral partners or potential customers. This gives you the opportunity to connect or at least show and share your expertise in group discussion threads.

LinkedInOne of my social media consulting clients that I worked with a year ago recently emailed me that he had reached 500 connections. When he started, he had less than 50. He accomplished this over time in a strategic and consistent way. Now he has a much larger audience with whom to share.

Share

The way to continue to build the relationships with the people who can either use your services or refer you is to share. Share your knowledge, share things from other sources that your audience may find of interest, or helpful to them in some way. Sharing articles and tips about home improvement, for example could be a good way for you to help and educate your audience. These types of sharing help keep you in front of people, and help to position you as a helpful and knowledgeable resource. You can also share by showcasing your work or promoting events or specials by linking to pages or blog posts on your own website. Remember to share more and promote less though!

Three ways to share:
Use your Status Update. This is the easiest way to share and often if you are reading an article online that you would like to share, you can share directly from the magazine or blog to LinkedIn.

Use Group Discussions. If you belong to LinkedIn groups, check in and share your thoughts and expertise on topics raised by others or raise your own topics for discussion. Group discussions are not the place to promote.

Use LinkedIn Answers. You may not have the time to use this feature much, but there is a Question and Answer section on LinkedIn where you can share your knowledge and expertise when someone has asked a question on a particular topic. This can help showcase you as an expert, but many business owners don’t have the time to dedicate to this feature. I would first focus on the first two ways to share.

If you follow the three steps outlined above, you will be well on your way to building more effective referral relationships both online and offline.

You can connect with me on LinkedIn I look forward to meeting or reconnecting with you there.

Linnea Blair
I'm Linnea Blair, Business Coach. My company Advisors On Target, provides business coaching and consulting to small business owners who are ready to take action to become effective leaders and run a more profitable and professional business. I developed the On Target Program for Painting Contractors in 2002 and since then have worked one on one with well over 100 Residential and Small Commercial Painting Contractors to help them develop more successful painting businesses. I also provide group coaching, online business intensives, webinars and workshops. Advisors On Target is committed to helping painting contractors to grow their businesses. I have been a PDCA National Associate Member for many years. I am a Partner Supporter of the PDCA Residential Forum and an associate member Painting and Decorating Contractors of California (PDCC)). I’m excited to be involved with Blogging Painters in supporting this industry!
Linnea Blair

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There Are 8 Brilliant Comments

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  1. This is very good advice Linnea, I read this about a month ago and had no idea the potential of Linkedin; especially if your companies works in commercial painting.

    Definitive worthwhile time investment vs. other online distractions or Angry birds.

  2. Darren says:

    The problem with LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter for that matter, is that LinkedIn is a walled garden. Meaning, the interaction going on inside of LinkeIn stays there. It isn’t searchable typically by search engines. Which honestly, has prompted my move away from LinkedIn entirely, and I will only focus on Twitter and Google+ going forward for two reasons:

    Google+ has integrated Local, which is HUGE!
    And topics and conversations on Google+ will pass link juice and appear in search results.

  3. Linnea Blair says:

    I agree with you, Darren, that Google+ is definitely on the rise and is going to be increasingly relevant to painting contractors, especially with Google Local. I also think that LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are still very relevant though too. LinkedIn is particularly good for those who get a lot of referrals (or want to) from professional referral partners. Facebook is also still a great social platform that enables customers to share with their friends. So I think staying active on all 4 is a good plan.

    • Darren says:

      Problem is…you can’t manage 4 social networks properly. You have to make a stand. People don’t trust Facebook to actually buy stuff, Twitter is too random. LinkedIn is where relationships go to die….

      Conversely….

      Google is everywhere!

      • Chris says:

        Good points Darren. I find that i use different platforms for different purposes.I use Linkedin to network in groups such as PDCA, Facebook to share my company projects locally and posts on BP in a different group. G+ is more of a networking thing for now, but I see great potential for local use. I have several Twitter accounts as well. I think it is important to know what your goal and target market is.

  4. Starting to build my LinkedIn network. Have not seen any interest so far but think that it’s getting my name out the with a few potential clients. Social networking in general hasn’t produced any direct fruit except that my name is getting out there which lends to credibility. Has anyone seen any direct business from social networking other than branding?

    • Chris Haught says:

      Linnea makes some goods points about sharing in your local network and building your reputation. If you do a lot of B2B work, it can be a great way to make connections and get referrals, but it is doubtful that you will get leads from Homeowners!
      As far as Social Networking, I have seen a definite impact on my business because when people see my rather prolific online presence they see I have a passion for the industry. I have had customers who read my posts here and commented that it was a deciding factor in hiring my company, even when I was higher! So I don’t think it really matters as much whether you use LI, FB, G+ or Twitter, but what is the content and message you are putting out. I just posted this article on online reputations that you might be interested in, http://bloggingpainters.com/i-read-it-on-the-internet-it-must-be-true/
      Thanks for stopping by!

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