Are You Using LinkedIn for Business Development Correctly?

Lately, clearing out my LinkedIn connection requests has become a chore. When I first started using the platform as an MBA student in 2006, I found using the social channel particularly enjoyable. However, as its presence exploded over the last decade, the social channel’s spam content increased as well.

Like many marketers, I use LinkedIn for business development too. Last week, I realized that I accumulated 68 connection requests awaiting review. Out of the 68 requests, only 13 made business sense to connect with. That’s less than 20%, not so good for a social channel that explicitly states that you should, “Build a quality network by connecting only with people you know.”

So, what is wrong with the 80% of LinkedIn connections we receive?

I want to highlight some examples of spammy, irrelevant, or even at times abrasive messages from professionals that I declined from the group of 68 as well as my reasons for declining them. My intention is to shed light on how these connection requests can be improved or if they should be sent at all. If you or someone you know uses a strategy similar to the examples below, please consider revising your messaging.

The Overly Broad Approach (Most Common)

Request Message 1 (RM 1): “I see we may have some synergies and some mutual connections. As an entrepreneur, I’m always looking to grow my network and thought it’d be great to connect. If you’re open to it, let’s connect!” – Joe

RM 2: “Hi there, it’s always great getting to know other successful business leaders. Let’s connect on LinkedIn if you’re open to it.” – Lisa

  • The Issue: There is nothing specific in this content that tells me why I should connect. These messages could be for anyone, and I am left missing why I should connect with him/her specifically. Also, the enthusiastic ‘let’s connect!’ could ring false for some readers.

Tammy Borden writes in an article on the 9 Best Ways to Grow Your Network on LinkedInwhere she highlights personalizing your requests to “add relevancy by letting them know why you’re messaging them”. She provides an example such as letting the person know that you’ve seen their posts, noticed their work and that you appreciate their perspective and are hoping to connect.

The ‘In Your Industry’ Tactic

RM 3: “Hey Eric, I just saw you were an entrepreneur related to Marketing and Advertising and would love to connect! Thanks!” – Max

  • The Issue: There are way too many entrepreneurs in Marketing/Advertising to make that a real reason to connect.

RM 4: “Hello Eric, I have been entrenched in the local Accounting & Finance community for years and make it a point to connect with senior leaders that I have not met yet.” – Jane

  • The Issue: Sounds like I would benefit her, but no benefit to me is presented. Also, the use of the word ‘entrenched’ seems a bit forced. I would suggest using common speech in these intros.

Amy George, owner of George communications calls this “Knowing your connections” in her article You’re Thinking About LinkedIn Connections All Wrong, on a recent article found in INC magazine.

“It starts with knowing your connections, [and] that means having rules regarding which LinkedIn invitations you send out, and which ones you accept.” She continues with, “for me to accept a connection, I have to have met them in person or have worked with them by phone or email.”

The ‘Expanding My Network’ Plan

RM 5: “Hi Eric, I’m expanding my network of marketing leaders and thought I’d reach out. Would you like to connect?” – Will

  • The Issue: Sounds like I would benefit him, but no benefit to me is presented. Seems he tried to pad my ego though by labeling me a ‘Marketing Leader’. That’s nice.

RM 6: “Eric – similar to other CFOs I work with, I noticed you do a lot of business overseas. Curious to get your thoughts on the global market.” – Jim

  • The Issue: He is just shooting in the dark here, there is nothing in my bio that indicates that I do business overseas.

The Fawning Tactic

RM 7: “Hi Eric, Impressive profile! I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn! I look forward to knowing more about you and your business. Let’s connect!” Steve

  • The Issue: OK. What is impressive about my profile? LinkedIn users aren’t naïve – Just copying and pasting a message will be evident to the recipient.

The ‘Its LinkedIn’s Fault I’m Bothering You’ Approach

RM 8: “Hi, LinkedIn suggested we might be a good fit to connect. I’m the Founder of X company. Let’s connect! Regards.” – Ann

  • The Issue: LinkedIn suggests millions of connections so that is not a reason to connect for me. Also, there is no benefit presented for me to connect.

In the article “Having 500+ LinkedIn Contacts Means Nothing, Unless… published recently by a Forbes contributor, it states that “contacts” and “connections” are two completely different things;

“Contacts are one-way: You only reach out when you need something. It’s a numbers game in which you believe your chances are better by having as many as possible.”

However, the author goes on to explain that connections are different. Connections are described as “two-way”, in that,

“You give [connections] as much as you want to receive, and you stay in touch whether or not either of you needs something.”

The article emphasizes that having thousands (or millions) of connections takes away from the benefit of connections in the first place. Pretty soon, they just become contacts.

LinkedIn for business development

Above: “Not another bad LinkedIn bio!”

Bad Bios – A LinkedIn Dilemma

It’s not just the Request Messages that have issues. I’ve noticed bios that can be just as weak. When I review someone’s bio and read something a bit off, I will auto-decline, often without even reading the Request Message. Here are some examples of weak bios that I’ve encountered:

Bio 1: “Helping You Get a Steady Flow of Leads and Customers”

  • The Issue: This sounds like what’s in my spam box each morning. Declined.

Bio 2: “We help Coworking Spaces to grow and attract more Coworkers.”

  • The Issue: Promises too much. Declined.

Bio 3: “I Help You Get More Leads, Clients, Sales, and Profits with Powerful Sales Writing | Conversion Copy and Strategy” 

  • The Issue: Promises too much.

Bio 4: “?Jane Doe?”

  • The issue: Comes off cheesy with the icons.

How You should Connect on LinkedIn

LinkedIn for business development

Here are my recommendations on how to effectively network with people you don’t necessarily know personally. The below examples are all from people that sent me connection requests that I accepted due to the content of their message, even though I had not met them previously.

1. Make a real connection. 

Who do you actually know that is connected with them? Why does it make you relevant to connect with them? This can be wider than you think. Think about conferences/events you are going to or partner companies you have worked with. Reach out to them and connect with speakers there and mention that in your Request Message (RM).

  • RM example: “Eric – So nice chatting with you briefly yesterday. Congratulations again on your win at the Tech Business Awards.” – Jill

2. Mention something they did.

This shows that you have a reason to connect and adds a compliment to make it more likely they will respond and accept.  The below example is good; it provides a ‘Congrats’ and doesn’t ask for anything.

  • RM example: “Congrats on your award Eric – sorry we couldn’t connect yesterday but I enjoyed hearing your story. I hope we can stay in touch!” – Jim

3. Don’t be pushy.

The below example is almost as good but slightly too assertive towards sales at the end after the ‘Congrats’.

  • RM example: “Congratulations on the BIG win at the X Awards! I’d love to connect – I’m NOT trying to sell you anything;-) I’m the Dir of Small Business at X company & we’re also a small business based in AZ. I’m the innovator in the group and I’d love to hear more on your biz!” – Kim

Final Thoughts on LinkedIn Business Development

The onslaught of generic connection requests means fewer requests break-through to acceptance. The tips shared above will better your chances of not being discarded as spam in someone’s LinkedIn inbox. Before sending a request, ask yourself this: do you value contacts or connections? If you value connections, pay attention to how your message will be perceived by your recipient.

Most importantly, remember this when sending Request Messages: be specific, know your connections, and don’t promise too much.