How to Attract Great Clients With LinkedIn

Summary: For many of us, LinkedIn is little more than a place to keep track of contacts and post our resume online but LinkedIn can be so much more than that. It can be a powerful tool for connecting with your target market, creating strategic partnerships and building your business.

For many of us, LinkedIn is little more than a place to keep track of contacts and post our resume online.

But LinkedIn can be so much more than that.

If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for connecting with your target market, creating strategic partnerships and building your business. But if you’re going to take LinkedIn beyond the resume doldrums, you have to change your approach entirely.

topdog logoMelonie Dodaro, founder of Top Dog Social Media, helps business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals use social media marketing to boost their visibility, attract new customers and increase their revenue. She’s been dubbed “Canada’s #1 LinkedIn expert and social media strategist. She’s also a highly sought after social media speaker and trainer. You can learn more about Melonie at TopDogSocialMedia.com.

What follows is a condensed transcript of my conversation with Melonie. If you prefer to listen to the full audio (33 minutes), you can listen to it (or download it) here:

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Ed Gandia: Melonie, it’s great to have you here.

Melonie Dodaro: Thanks so much, Ed.

Ed Gandia: Today, we’re going to focus on LinkedIn. I’ve been talking about it a lot recently in my blog and podcast. For a long time, LinkedIn seemed like an "uncool" social network, and nobody paid much attention to it. But now, it’s experiencing a resurgence. Why do you place so much emphasis on LinkedIn? Why do you like it so much?

Melonie Dodaro: LinkedIn will never be as popular as Facebook because people use Facebook and LinkedIn for totally different reasons. They use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends. It’s a fun site where people have conversations.

You can build relationships and have conversations on LinkedIn, but they’re usually 100-percent professional. For a lot of people, that isn’t as much fun.

LinkedIn has seen some dramatic growth. It’s been around a long time, over 10 years now, and it grows year after year. A lot of other sites have slowed down or have minimal growth at best.

People are starting to understand LinkedIn more. They’re starting to realize it’s more than just a resumé site or place to look for a job. It’s a phenomenal business-building tool.

I gravitated to LinkedIn because of my background as a business owner and entrepreneur. When I looked at social media for my business, I thought why not use a tool that’s specifically for business?

Ed Gandia: What do you see people doing wrong with LinkedIn?

Melonie Dodaro: People approach it as a resumé site, which is fine if you’re looking for a job. But if you look at it as a business-building tool, then you need a completely different approach.

Remember, people don’t care about you. They only care about what you can do for them. When your profile is all about you and has information that’s not relevant to them, they’ll click away. I teach people to create LinkedIn profiles that speak to and engage their ideal clients.

Ed Gandia: So let’s start there. I think many people in the audience either have a LinkedIn account without a profile, or they set up their profile a year or two ago and then ignored it. What would you recommend they do?

Melonie Dodaro: One of the first things to do is understand who your target market is. Until you understand that, it’s hard to speak to that audience.

You might have a couple of different markets you want to target. Or you might have a couple of different ways you want to utilize LinkedIn. You might not want to use LinkedIn just to attract clients or prospects. You might use it to build strategic alliances.

Let me give an example: Imagine you’re a financial advisor. I don’t think a lot of people search LinkedIn when they need a financial advisor. Those relationships are built on trust, so you need to know them or know somebody who knows them.

A financial advisor can still attract prospects and build relationships on LinkedIn. But another strategy is to build relationships with strategic partners. If you can build relationships with accountants and lawyers and other people that serve the same audience, then you have third party credibility.

Here’s another example: I have a client who owns a dating agency. She’s a matchmaker, and she’s franchising her company to different cities across the country.

She hired me to brand all her social media sites. When I was writing her LinkedIn profile, I had to think about how she would use LinkedIn. And I thought, “People are probably not going to look for a matchmaker on LinkedIn.”

Ed Gandia: Right.

Melonie Dodaro: But instead of excluding her matchmaking services completely, I thought, “She’s an amazing networker. She’s going to come across people who are single. There could be opportunities there.”

I made her franchising opportunity the focus of the profile, but not entirely. I split the focus 80-20. I put 80-percent of the focus on the franchise; 20-percent on the matchmaking. So it all depends on the goal.

Ed Gandia: That’s smart. Because if you’re being strategic, you’re not following a formula. I like the way you start with the target audience. We have many listeners who have different target audiences. And it’s difficult because we tend to try and serve everyone.

I struggle with this a bit. Although I’m a freelance copywriter, the bulk of my time and attention is on coaching and teaching other freelancers. So it becomes a dual personality. I like what you said about mixing it up. Figuring out which is primary and which one makes the most sense for each network.

Melonie Dodaro: You can have some secondary target markets too. You can direct most of your messaging to your primary target market, and then a few to your secondary market.

When I work with clients, I start with, “Let’s understand not only who your ideal client is, but the challenges they face. What problems do they have? What solutions do you offer?”

Ed Gandia: Can you give us some tactical tips people can use when building their profile?

Melonie Dodaro: When I teach how to write LinkedIn profiles, I use a three-step formula. People need to understand that, until you look good on LinkedIn, you shouldn’t spend your budget trying to grow your network.

Ed Gandia: Yeah.

Melonie Dodaro: So step one is get found. Choose the right keywords, and put them in the right places so you show up at the top of search results. Use keywords your ideal clients would use, not ones you just came up with. Sometimes we make up creative keywords and titles, and nobody looks for them.

Step two is to make sure your profile attracts and engages your ideal clients. Does your profile speak to them?

Step three is to make sure you stand out. Social media is noisy, but the good news is that most people don’t do it well. It’s not that difficult to stand out when you do it properly.

The biggest mistake I see is that everyone’s an owner or founder or CEO. But nobody’s looking for an owner or founder. The only people looking for an owner or founder are salespeople.

The key is to understand who people are looking for. So while I’m the owner and founder of Top Dog Social Media, it doesn’t say that anywhere in my profile. It says I’m a social media trainer, social media speaker, LinkedIn trainer and expert and social media consultant. I use those keywords because those are the keywords people look for.

Ed Gandia: It’s not about trying to impress with a fancy title. It’s about swallowing your pride and thinking about search engine optimization.

Melonie Dodaro: Right, they’re not looking for, “Owner of social media marketing company.”

Ed Gandia: Yes. While this is your chance to be creative, don’t get so creative you forget about keywords. I’ve seen some very flowery titles.

Melonie Dodaro: Exactly. I’m going to share something with you, and you tell me if this makes sense because you’re a copywriter extraordinaire. I was at a seminar, and one of the speakers said, “Marketing should never be creative.”

This sounds counterintuitive. We think marketing should be creative. But this speaker made the point that your marketing message should be in the language of your target market.

For example, if you’re teaching people how to make more money, you don’t want to write, “Get abundance and financial freedom and blah, blah, blah.” People don’t use those words. They say, “I want more money. I want to make more money. I want to build my business.” So the marketing message should be, “Do you want to make more money in your business?” Does that make sense?

Ed Gandia: That makes perfect sense.

Melonie Dodaro: Do you agree?

Ed Gandia: I think there’s a balance. You need the basic stuff to get people to your site. But once they’re there, you need to balance the basics with other words and explanations to keep them engaged enough to convert. It’s an art form.

Melonie Dodaro: Exactly, figure out what your keywords are and put them strategically throughout your profile. Then make sure your profile attracts and engages your ideal client. Otherwise, people click off. If it doesn’t grab their attention, they’re not sticking around.

Ed Gandia: Yes.

Melonie Dodaro: One thing you can do to capture people’s attention on LinkedIn is write in the first person. Again, this is counterintuitive because we think of LinkedIn as our resumé, so we think we should write it in the third person. “Melonie is a social media blah, blah, blah.” Instead, I’ll write, “I’m a social media speaker-trainer and author who loves to help businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.” People forget that although LinkedIn is a professional social network, it’s still a social network. You need to be social. So write in first person.

It’s also important to not make it all about you. Tell people your story in a paragraph or two. Tell who you are, why you do what you do, what makes you special and then move right in to talking about them. Who you work with, what problems they have and how you help them.

In the last part of that summary section always include a clear call to action. Tell them what you want them to do next. You might want them to call you. You might want them to email you. You might send them to a landing page to opt in to your email list. It depends on what your goal is.

Ed Gandia: Here’s my two cents, and tell me if you agree. I think the leap from, “Hey, you just found me” to “Call me,” is significant. You’re limiting calls to people who’re either very interested or insane.

Melonie Dodaro: That’s funny!

Ed Gandia: Honestly, I’ve gotten both. My suggestion is to have something in between, a tip sheet, checklist or short report or something.

Melonie Dodaro: That’s a great point. Again, it comes down to the type of industry you’re in. For me, I want them to go to my email newsletter. I want to take them through a process of getting to know me better. Take a look at some of my stuff and learn what I have to offer. Then email me. If you call me, you’ll never reach me. My schedule is packed.

But say you’re a divorce attorney. There’s a woman who’s going through a difficult time. She needs a lawyer, and she’s come across your profile. It speaks to her and engages her. And there’s a phone number. The lawyer should close the deal instantly. Get her on the phone, book the appointment and get her in the office.

Ed Gandia: Yes.

Melonie Dodaro: There are circumstances where it makes sense, and others where it doesn’t. It depends on who you are, what your goals and objectives are, what industry you’re in, who your target market is and what their needs are. You need to know all of these things.

I was on a speaking panel once. A guy in the audience asked one of the other panel members a question about Twitter. The other panel member never asked the guy in the audience a single question. He didn’t ask, “What’s your business?” or “Tell me about your clients.”

He stumbled through an answer. The guy in the audience was getting angry and agitated. He was thinking, “I don’t know any more now than I knew when I walked in the door.” So I said, “Mind if I jump in? What’s your name?” He said, “My name’s Paul,” and I said, “Hi Paul, what do you do for a living?” He said, “I’m an accountant.” I said, “Awesome, so tell me about that. Tell me what types of clients you work with.”

And I was able to answer his question easily. But unless we know all the variables, the answer is always “it depends,” which is a crappy answer.

Ed Gandia: You said one idea was to take people to a landing page where they can sign up for something. Is it ever a good idea to include a URL in your call to action that directs people to your home page?

Melonie Dodaro: Absolutely. But again, it depends. For example, my home page has a clear opt-in, so if they’re interested in learning more, they can opt-in. But they can also learn more about what I have to offer from my blog.

Again, is your website somewhere you want them to go? If your website doesn’t represent who you are and what you offer, then you probably don’t want to send people there.

Ed Gandia: Yeah. In most cases, for someone to hire me, they have to check me out first, unless someone has recommended me.

Melonie Dodaro: Right.

Ed Gandia: The best clients for me are ones who’ve checked me out a couple of times. They’ve seen my stuff, heard about me and maybe signed up for my newsletter. I’ve taken them through a process, as you said earlier.

Therefore, for me as a freelancer, it makes perfect sense to take them to a landing page where they can download a report or checklist or something. I’m showing them, “Look, I know what I’m talking about, I’m credible.” I’m building trust. And when the timing is right, I’ll be the first person they think of. To me, that works best.

However, I can see how someone may prefer to be contacted only by people who’re ready to engage right now. They’ll say, “Call me” or “Email me” or “Contact me regarding your project today.”

Melonie Dodaro: Exactly. Let me talk about step three for a moment, which is standing out on LinkedIn. One of the things you can do to standout on LinkedIn is complete your profile.

So many people only have their title and company name filled in. That’s it. They have no descriptions, no summary and practically nothing in their headline.

Your profile won’t interest anyone. You lose credibility when there’s nothing there.

And make sure you have a professional headshot. I was doing a seminar recently, and one of the guys had a picture of him with a big fish. I’m thinking, “That’s perfect for Facebook but not ideal for LinkedIn.”

The other thing that you can do is add a video to your profile. This feature isn’t available to everybody but will be rolled out soon. It’s a great opportunity for people to get to know you better. They get to see you and hear you.

I have a 21-step checklist for improving your LinkedIn profile. In my first LinkedIn video, I gave viewers a few of these tips. “Here’s tip number one, here’s tip number two,” and so on. And then I said, “For the other 17 tips, go to LinkedInchecklist.com, and download the entire LinkedIn checklist.”

I had so many people send me messages on LinkedIn saying, “I’ve never seen anybody else do that. That was amazing.” Have something that provides value. Give a bit of information about yourself and how you help your target market.

Ed Gandia: I love that idea! Is that checklist available?

Melonie Dodaro: Yes. You can find the checklist at linkedinchecklist.com. It’s a nice little guide that walks you through each LinkedIn section.

Ed Gandia: And it’s free?

Melonie Dodaro: Yes, it’s free.

Ed Gandia: Awesome. I need this. I’ve been ignoring my profile for too long. Melonie, this has been really cool and practical. I haven’t talked to anyone who focuses so much on the LinkedIn profile.

Melonie Dodaro: It drives me crazy when people talk about all the different things you can do with LinkedIn. You have to lay the foundation first.

Ed Gandia: I couldn’t agree more. Where can folks learn more about you?

Melonie Dodaro: My website is topdogsocialmedia.com, and you’re also welcome to connect with me on my social media sites.

Ed Gandia: Thanks a lot, Melonie.

Melonie Dodaro: Thank you, Ed.


  • Puneet

    Thanks! a ton Melonie and Ed - I found the 3 step strategy to be really easy. I was looking up for stuff on linked.in to help a team of recruiters and I found stuff that I can do to improve my linked.in visibility -

  • FrankyFreedom

    Another thing to consider is the thin line between business and personal life. Let's face it, the STRONGEST business relationships are forged through the sharing of personal interests, ideas, beliefs, etc. This is a primary reason why coworkers "put down a few cold ones" at the bar for TGIF, or why "upper crust" professionals play golf, or why they invented the "business lunch". This is also the reason why it is standard to ask about a candidates' hobbies and personal interests on a job application. The bottom line is that when you do business with someone (especially on more creative-type projects) their personal life becomes important in building the relationship.

    The good thing is that you can INTEGRATE different parts of the various social media formats in order to take advantage of the benefits of each for your overall web presence. On the most basic level you can simply put a link to your Facebook profile on your linked in profile so that the more "business" oriented people you attract via the LInkedIn search database can follow through to explore your more personal life in the Facebook realm. Just as you send Facebook friends to your LinkedIn profile where they can learn more about your business/professional pursuits.

    When integrating some of the more personal elements of your web presence into your LinkedIn presence it is probably best to use your LinkedIn information as the BASE with which you add personal elements from your other accounts. For instance, if you are a web consultant with a focus on graphic design, photography, writing, etc. you could add some of the actual Flickr photos you used on one of the projects (or your web design company) you have listed on your profile. This also gives your connection (current or potential) the option of following through to your Flickr account to view your OTHER photographic work.

    This fundamental relationship-building aspect of LinkedIn (and social media in general) is the reason why I think that the LInkedIn group function is one of the MOST valuable features. Through the very act of commenting, sharing ideas, interests, skills, talents, etc. with like-minded people in the groups you are NATURALLY sharing your personal life. As a result, your comments will naturally draw quality people in to view your profile and if you set up your profile properly to paint a vivid and multi-dimensional picture of yourself to these people they will naturally connect in via LInkedIn AND the other social media profiles you provide in your LinkedIn profile.

    The group feature is ESPECIALLY great because it makes it easy to share information and connect with new people AND you don't have to worry about the limits of sending a connection request.

    Another great episode.

    Feel free to reach out :
    http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=164824750&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

    • edgandia

      You've made some great points here, Frank. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lucy Smith

    Oh man, the number of times I've seen LinkedIn profiles with someone's kids or their wedding! I know that nobody ever looks as good as on their wedding day, but LI isn't the place for it 😉

    I recently gave my LI profile a major overhaul, and while it hasn't netted me any new business, at least it's not embarrassing when I see somebody's looked at it!

    • edgandia

      I'm with ya!! Thanks for your comment, Lucy. 😉

  • Tony Wanless

    This is very important marketing information. I've been using Linked In for most of its existence and have always found it useful, especially lately as more people have joined. I've noticed that most freelancers, rarely optimize their LI profile, feeling somehow that it's for "job hunters" or boring executives, but not them. Thanks to Melonie for shattering this delusion, and laying out a path to using this important marketing tool.

  • Sue Shannon

    Thank you Ed and Melonie for this interesting interview that can be used by everyone on LinkedIn. I plan to share this interview.

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Sue! Glad you liked it.