Lead generation is the foundation on which businesses grow their market presence and customer base. Finding compelling ways to warm up prospects and qualify them to make a purchase is critical for any marketing funnel. To this end, it’s no wonder that LinkedIn has become the go-to platform for B2B marketers seeking to enhance their lead generation efforts.
And the numbers speak for themselves — LinkedIn hosts more than 700 million professionals and four out of five members drive business decisions.
With this in mind, B2B marketers are not holding back: 89% use LinkedIn to fine-tune their lead generation efforts, and 62% claim that their results have doubled compared to the next-highest social channel.
In this environment, cultivating trust and building long-term relationships is essential. But considering the fast-paced business world, LinkedIn lead generation has essentially become cumbersome, manual, and time-consuming.
LinkedIn Automation Tools — An Alternative?
With an audience that is growing by the hour, reaching out and maintaining relationships on LinkedIn can take considerable time. The process is slow and prospects might drop out of the conversation along the way. At this rate, how can businesses create an empathetic relationship with prospects and showcase their brand’s promise?
One way to address this concern would be to rely on black hat automation tools to streamline the LinkedIn lead generation process. They allow you to simplify your LinkedIn lead generation by sending out automated invitations or messages to prospects who meet your target criteria. This LinkedIn connection strategy can help reach a larger target audience by increasing your following and connections.
As good as this may sound, automation is currently off-limits for businesses seeking long-term results. For one, using automated methods on LinkedIn is against its terms and services. Why? Building relationships is the lifeblood of LinkedIn. Could automation really deliver on that promise?
In short, no. Making a LinkedIn connection and sending out a well-crafted pitch message within the following five minutes is exactly the kind of behavior LinkedIn is trying to prevent. It’s not authentic and it defeats the purpose of building relationships.
As a result, LinkedIn is ramping up efforts to shut down all users that they suspect of using automation tools. And the consequences are dire: you risk getting your account banned. LinkedIn can identify automation based on any mix of:
Currently, there are two ways you can utilize automation — but with significant risk. You can opt for a do-it-yourself strategy using any of the low-priced, black hat LinkedIn automation Chrome extensions or you can outsource this process altogether and have someone else manage the automated LinkedIn lead generation process on your behalf.
As much as we currently rely on digital tools to spruce up our marketing strategies, using automation for LinkedIn lead generation can do more harm than good. Not only do you risk losing prospects, but you risk your online presence altogether. Ultimately, technology is supposed to create value for your business. Is a LinkedIn ban where that value resides?
All You Need to Know About Outsourced LinkedIn Lead Generation
Realizing the potential of LinkedIn lead generation means bringing people, processes, and technology together in order to build a strong community around your business. One way to do this is by partnering with specialized firms that can design and deliver custom processes tailored to your needs. In other words, outsourcing the LinkedIn lead generation process to another human being altogether.
Outsourcing requires sharing your login details with a third-party, which again is against LinkedIn’s Terms of Service. However, this is common practice among executives and senior decision-makers since most already share their credentials with their assistants in order to advance recruiting efforts or build a stronger online presence with frequent LinkedIn posts.
There are usually no negative repercussions from LinkedIn unless this practice generates other bad activity or is extremely evident with IP logins in very different parts of the world. LinkedIn could shut down accounts if they notice that they are being accessed from different IPs. However, this could lead to fewer senior executives being active on the platform or less activity on their behalf. Both scenarios are undesirable for LinkedIn, that’s why the implementation of this rule is lax in this respect.
So, why exactly should you outsource the LinkedIn lead generation process? You focus on quality over quantity and build valuable connections — all activities are handled by a human assistant which allows for discretion, organic network growth, and tailored messages.
Outsourcing could also include automation. Essentially, you’re simply hiring another human to turn on the automation software for you. In this case, you lose the biggest benefit of outsourcing to a human being — discretion and customization. In any case, this outsourced and automated mix should be treated with caution because it violates not one, but two of LinkedIn’s terms of service.
Opting for an automation-free service would be your best bet, since it will not generate unnecessary suspicions from the platform and you can scale with ease. After all, bringing together internal teams and outside partners will ultimately align the brand with the experience. An outsourced partner will curate interactions and messaging in order to drive meaningful engagements for your brand.
What Can’t or Shouldn’t Be Automated or Outsourced
In business, as in walks of life, first impressions count. If you miss the mark, you inadvertently push prospects on your competitors’ steps. To nail that first impression, you have to know what works and, most importantly, what does not work as far as automation and outsourcing go.
The number one thing that should never be automated is selecting the people who will be sent invitations to connect or LinkedIn messages. LinkedIn’s search capabilities are far from perfect.
Just because a prospect turned up on the results page, that does not mean that they meet your target market criteria.
However, you can outsource this task by properly training the outsourced person to review the profiles and confirm their appropriateness before sending out the messages. If a message lands in the wrong inbox and the prospect flags it as inappropriate, LinkedIn might restrict your account permanently, requiring you to have the email addresses of the people you want to invite to connect.
Once a conversation starts as a reply to any of your messages, that’s where you or your sales team steps in and begins managing the prospect. They are the ones that should cultivate and build relationships with your prospects — such aspects can never be automated or outsourced because neither approaches actually deliver on the promise of your business: to cultivate great relationships and respond to the prospects’ exact needs.
Technically, as long as a real human being selects the people to invite to connect or to whom to send a message, then it could be appropriate to automate those tasks. However, as long as LinkedIn forbids automation use, it is not worth the risk to implement it. It doesn’t matter how successful you were at creating thousands of connections if LinkedIn closes your account and bans you from the platform. And they are highly focused on doing just that.
What Could Go Wrong When Automating or Outsourcing Your LinkedIn Lead Generation Strategy?
Indeed, automating or outsourcing your LinkedIn lead generation strategy can make or break a business. Yet there’s a slippery slope between a well-crafted strategy and a LinkedIn fiasco. Here’s how to make sure you’re doing it right:
Craft your message — nothing will push prospects away faster than a generic or salesy message. You have to deliver authentic and appropriate messages every time you get in front of your audience. And you should have their needs in mind when you start the conversation, not your own bottom line
Wait it out — no need to solicit a prospect as soon as they accepted your LinkedIn connection request. There is no way you could have crafted your message in an instant. Prospects are not going to buy it and you might lose credibility in front of them.
Tell, don’t sell — it’s the secret to building customer lifetime value. After all, people use LinkedIn to build relationships. If you’re going to jump straight to the selling part, prospects are going to opt out of the conversation — or worse yet — disconnect from you, which could put your account under review if it happens too frequently.
Follow up with caution — never send a templated follow-up message if the prospect already replied to your invite or message. It’s an awkward response and they can tell that you’re not paying attention and just sending out messages in a robotic fashion. Once they reply, it’s time for you or your sales team to take over the conversation and become 100% personal and custom.
The future is evolving fast in business and marketers and sales professionals need to adapt. Yet seizing the advantages of automation might not be the best course forward. Outsourcing to streamline the LinkedIn lead generation process, on the other hand, could put your business on the map and foster organic relationships with your prospects. If implemented correctly, this approach is likely to save you significant time, improve conversion processes, and increase sales funnel conversion rates.
Businesses that understand this could be leaders in paving the way forward by exploring the potential of intelligent businesses — one that brings together internal teams and external partners for the best possible