LinkedIn – A Powerful Client Research Tool

[by Jim Cavanaugh]

LinkedIn has become my most important tool for identifying new clients. While not as popular or user friendly as facebook, LinkedIn has a different culture and is much more about business.

Every time I have a new person “link in” with me in LinkedIn, I will add their e-mail address to my Constant Contact mail list. I will also add the person and their company information to my database. I look up and bookmark their company website and review it to learn more about their company and how they use photography to tell their story. All of this information is available on their profile page.

I will also send them a brief introductory letter thanking them for adding me to their LinkedIn network and telling them a little about my company.  Along with the letter, I include a mini portfolio of five (5) 6”x9” promo cards. This is followed up a few days later with a phone call to introduce myself and learn more about them. The end goal is a portfolio presentation.

But the real power of LinkedIn is that as you add each new person into your network, you can also research each of their contacts. Unless they have a privacy setting enabled to prevent this, you can view each of the people in their network.  (I find this privacy setting is rarely used.)

On average, I have about twenty-five to thirty-five new contacts link in with me each week. One evening a week I review all of their contacts. This can be well over a thousand names. I will generally invite about a hundred new people to link in with me each week from these lists. These people are in companies I want to work with and in positions to be a decision maker about hiring a photographer. I am selective as to who I invite.

LinkedIn also suggests people you may want to add to your network based upon “shared connections”. This can also be an effective tool for expanding your network.

Your contacts are also adding people to their network on a regular basis. The update feed on your home page will list all of you contacts new connections in real time. I check this every day so I don’t have to revisit current contact’s full lists.

This powerful social networking tool has allowed me to add close to 500 new contacts in the last three months!

Jim Cavanaugh is an architectural and aerial photographer based in Buffalo, NY. He is 1st Vice President of ASMP.

By Jim Cavanaugh | Posted: March 16th, 2011 | 10 comments


10 Responses to 'LinkedIn – A Powerful Client Research Tool'

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  1. Useful info that can be put to good use by folks learning to use social media. Thanks Jim. See you soon.

    By Patrick Y Wong | Mar 16, 2011


  2. It is good to read something positive about linkedIn
    Intuitvely I knew this could be a great place to meet potential clients but could not find any commercial photographer praising linkedin in fact most of what I read was allot of ragging on what a waste of time it cam be. Thanks Jim for sharing this information with us!

    By Julie nightingale | Mar 16, 2011


  3. Thats Great Jim!

    The one additional thing I would suggest to the readership is to invite people to subscribe to your list through a templated introductory e-mail that has a subscription link built in. This is a little less invasive and creates an opportunity for them to opt-in, instead of forcing them to opt-out.

    Here is a blog entry on compliance with CAN SPAM 2003

    Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing your techniques with the community!

    By Clark Dever | Mar 16, 2011


  4. Good article and advise.

    Two caveats though:

    Keep in mind that Constant Contact (and any similar e-mail service) are consent based systems to comply with anti-Spam legislation. You should not add e-mail addresses you harvested at scale to your Constant Contact campaigns. Strictly speaking the person you add should have consented to being added to your list, though it’s reasonable to add e-mail addresses you got from business cards at networking meetings, people that initiated contact with you, etc. Watch your unsubscribe rate and stay within guidance.

    Similarly, establishing a connection with someone on LinkedIn (i.e. ask them join your network) should be held to a higher bar than FB and/or Twitter. Strictly speaking you should only add people to your network who you know personally (online or offline) and who you would feel comfortable recommending someone too. Otherwise we collectively risk compromising the value of LinkedIn network. With that in mind though, LinkedIn can be a tremendous research tool as you pointed out, and you can find new people you should connect with. But instead of simply adding them to your network, go to their website, send them an e-mail, meet them at an event, or use a LinkedIn InMail which is intended for cold contacts. Once you’ve connected with them and want to stay in touch, adding them to your network is very appropriate.

    Both of those caveats are spelled out in the terms of use of these platforms.

    By Jan | Mar 17, 2011


  5. Jan,

    They receive a mini portfolio with a personal letter before they receive an e-mail. The letter tells them that they have been added to the list and will receive a newsletter once a month.

    I believe that adding someone to a linked in network is no different than exchanging business cards in person. A personal connection has been made.

    My opt out rate has been 6 people for 650 added. .009%! And one of the 6 sent me an e-mail and asked to be added back!

    By Jim Cavanaugh | Mar 18, 2011


  6. Jim,

    The mini portfolio is a nice extra touch, and those are very good opt rates.

    When we write advise like this we just have to be extra cautious and explicit about those aspects, otherwise someone less diligent then you reads this and then goes on to create a mess out there that hurts everyone.

    I still recall a story in the PPA magazine that gave advise in direct contradiction to Facebook policy.


    By Jan | Mar 21, 2011


  7. Jim,
    With polite respect to you, I agree with Jan that this method is against the TOS for Constant Contact and can result in a scortched earth policy for other professionals. CC is very specifically a consent based tool. Consent is given by contacts, they should not be required to opt out. Yes the opt out stats may be low but we all know most people just send unwanted items to a spam folder which does not show as an opt out or a bounce in most cases.

    This leaves others with CC accounts, and sign up links on their Web page, FB LinkedIn account, dealing with people who are now reluctant to sign up.

    CC is a valuable tool to many photographers marketing but we should respect their TOS.


    By Will | Mar 24, 2011


  8. Will,

    Thanks for your comments. I think you are missing the process I use. It is consent based. I request people I know, or people in companies I have done business with or people in companies in my niche market. They are invited to join my network. Only AFTER they accept the invitation and join my network do I send them a letter and a mini portfolio and THEN add them to my e-mail list.

    I do not just grab people and add them to my list. In fact, unless they are in your network, their e-mail is not visible in LinkedIn. And if they do not respond, I never add them.

    If you are only connecting on LinkedIn with people you already do business with, what is the point. The point of LinkedIn is to grow your network.

    I receive over 200 e-mails a day. I am very sensitive to spamming. And unless we are negotiating/working on a project, I NEVER send out more than one e-mail a month to clients or prospective clients.

    Compare that to photographers who buy thousands of names from commercial list companies to use in their promotional direct mail and/or e-mail.

    By Jim Cavanaugh | Mar 24, 2011


  9. Will & Jim,

    We may be stretching the purpose of a comment thread here. So I will just two brief points:

    There are two good reasons why it works even if you only connect with people on LinkedIn who you personally know (met, have done business with, etc.) – one is to stay in touch even if they change jobs, and you’re not keeping up otherwise with their contact info; another one is that you can be in a position to act as a referral conduit for people in your network, because you reduce the degrees of separation of your network. That is core premise of LinkedIn, it’s supposed to be a tighter, and referral based network, not a simple many-to-many graph with maximum connectivity.

    On the e-mail opt-in – you remain in a grey space even with your clarification. Accepting a connection on LinkedIn does not directly qualify as consent to be e-mailed promo materials. That is different than commercial lists by AdBase or AgencyAccess where people specifically agreed to be receiving e-mail (and are increasingly opting out – in one of my sample lists 88% of people indicated that they disliked receiving e-mail promos). It’s not an unreasonable grey space to be in, if used with careful consideration.

    With polite respect – I’m splitting these hairs only because I think a forum like this warrants a very high bar in terms of clarity of advice. I certainly appreciate very much that you wrote about the topic and help the ASMP membership understand how these tools can be leveraged professionally.

    By Jan | Mar 25, 2011


  10. Truly great advice … the virtual version of “Go where your clients are”. When you join a group, people see your profile come up on the “People you may know” because you are now linked to them as a group member.

    I’ve started using this as a tool to find companies I want to work for and who to contact to show my work. Just from joining a group I made a contact with a person who has hired me to do a story on Cancer survivors surrounding their 5K race.

    It’s a great and powerful tool and great advice from Jim.

    By Brian Schneider | Apr 13, 2011



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