The 3 stages of LinkedIn adoption in professional services

by Kirsten Hodgson

There are a large number of professionals on LinkedIn but surprisingly few who have well-written profiles and who are actively conversing with others on the platform. Why is that?

It seems there's a lack of knowledge about how LinkedIn can help lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals to achieve their marketing and business development goals and support their other efforts. From talking to several lawyers who have won significant business via LinkedIn, it appears there are 3 distinct stages professionals go through:

Stage 1: Reconnecting

Stage 2: Maintaining connections

Stage 3: Building new connections

The first step, assuming your LinkedIn profile positions you in the way you wish to be seen, is to reconnect with clients, former clients, colleagues, peers, referrers, and other contacts. LinkedIn then becomes a living, breathing address book but at this stage, it's little more than that.

Stage 2 is where I, and other professionals I've spoken to, began to see the power of LinkedIn. It's often via activity at this stage that people win their first piece of work via the platform. This stage is about using LinkedIn to converse with your existing contacts. Some things you might do are:

  • share status updates that your contacts will value on a regular basis.
  • comment on, like or share a status update one of your contacts has posted.
  • send a LinkedIn email to one (or more) of your connections, sharing some information they will want to know – such as upcoming legislation, a potential opportunity they may be genuinely interested in, or organising a meet up with other people in your network they may benefit from meeting.
  • send an Introduction (or email) to two of your contacts who would benefit from meeting one-another, letting them know why you are connecting them.
  • send a congratulatory email to a connection who has a new job and then a follow up email in a few weeks/months to find out how their job is going.
  • contact one of your contacts per week to suggest an in-person catch-up.

Once you are comfortable using LinkedIn in this way, you may wish to use the platform to build new connections. This is where the traditional business development model gets turned on its head. Instead of meeting people offline and connecting with them on LinkedIn, you meet them on LinkedIn, connect and then meet offline. 

LinkedIn is a great way to get in front of 'hard to reach' people. Sometimes this is via an introduction from a mutual contact, other times it's via a group or a group discussion, LinkedIn Answers or LinkedIn events. Or it's by contacting people you don't know in a polite way to get an offline meeting. I've seen all three approaches work well for professionals and I expect to see more professionals using LinkedIn in this way in the future. 

The key things are to focus on the other person and to be yourself - let your personality come through. It's unlikely that you'll see results overnight. But if you persevere and are consistent then you will get traction. You'll probably find that many of your traditional business development activities could be done via (or in conjunction with) LinkedIn. 

Has being on LinkedIn helped you to win business? If so, I'd love to hear from you.

What tips would you share with others? 

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Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant
  • Lynette Delane

    When I moved from full time employment into a contracting role, I started being an active LinkedIn user. It was the best move I made, I am contacted by recruiters on a regular basis and even if I’m not available for the role, I am able to share appropriate connections via LinkedIn, making me a valuable contact.

    • Kirsten Hodgson

      Hi Lynette, great to hear that LinkedIn has been really valuable for you and that you’re using it to help others. Hope the contracting continues to go really well for you. Cheers, Kirsten