So, you’ve found the person you’d like to connect with on LinkedIn. Now what?
This is the part of networking (virtual or otherwise) many people fret about—putting yourself out there. Concerns over rejection or making the wrong impression often give folks cold feet. And many times, when we finally muster the courage to act, it’s a simple approach: send the invitation to connect (or step forward with your hand extended) and hope for the best.
But there are ways we can improve this approach, helping us to better connect with others.
1. The Approach
For a start, if you’re connecting with people while representing your company, it’s equally important to keep your individual brand and company’s brand values in mind. Yes, you are your own brand. It’s who you are as a person, your image, your reputation, your skills, what you can offer others.
Integrating your company’s brand and values into your communications allows others to better connect with your company while they connect with you. It can oftentimes evoke a sense of passion, which tells others you’re part of something bigger than yourself, which leads to a more genuine impression. It’s one way of putting your best foot forward.
In terms of a company’s brand, the folks at Fineline have it easy. Fineline is a minority-certified printing company that has been in business for thirty-four years. Richard Miller, President and Owner of Fineline, came to the U.S. from Argentina when he was a teenager. As a brilliant young sales professional, he learned as much as he could at Nabisco Brands, then launched Fineline Printing with a small SBA loan and strong business aptitude in 1981. It all took off from there.
If you ever find yourself touring the Fineline facility, you’ll notice a few plaques up on the walls, which read, “Ancora Imparo,” Latin for, “I am always learning”. These plaques are reminders of the humble approach we take here at Fineline. We are always learning, and in turn, are always adapting to our customers’ needs and expectations. It’s part of Richard’s heritage. It’s part of who we are as a company.
The next way to improve your approach goes without saying: be yourself. Share your interests, your humor, your observations. These are what make us individuals. They differentiate us from machines and connect us all on a human level.
Virtual networking, in-person networking, it makes no difference. Keeping these in mind will allow you to better connect with others.
2. The Invite
Now, when inviting someone to connect on LinkedIn, you’re presented with a section asking how you know that person. This is a great opportunity to offer context. If you or your company has done business with the connection’s company, select “We’ve Done Business Together.” If you have no relationship with the connection, feel free to choose “Friend.” As far as I’m concerned, we’re all friends in this world (or we should try our best to be).
It’s important to warm up the invite with a message. Be honest. Be personal. Introduce yourself and add any context you might have. If you have no context, lay that out there. I’ve had success merely stating that I’m looking to connect with folks in the company. I’ve found that most people are receptive to connecting with others on LinkedIn, particularly when you’re transparent.
Basically the format should be short and to the point and outlined to look like this:
Call to action (i.e. invitation to connect)
3. The Follow Up
Once connected, you can follow up with a message thanking them for connecting. Then, you can initiate conversation, and more importantly, a relationship.
My biggest rule of thumb: connect with everyone you can (within reason). What’s great about connecting with folks is that it broadens your network. When you broaden your network on LinkedIn, you are closing the degrees between you and other potential contacts. This is another way to warm up your invites. People are much more likely to connect with you if they see that you have a few connections in common.
Perhaps more important than anything else, by engaging in this process, you have an opportunity to start building relationships with others. Never forget that a person exists behind that profile picture. Be genuine. Connect on a human level.
4. Staying Connected
Now, with all this talk of networking and always learning, it’s important to know what tools you have to better connect with others. Staying true to Ancora Imparo, Fineline is getting ready to release Finelink 2.0, upgraded to meet the evolution of our customers’ needs.
For those who don’t know, Finelink is Fineline’s online document management and print-on-demand solution. Finelink 2.0 takes it to another level—it’s a customer-focused, solutions-driven tool that can be fully customized to our customers’ needs. It is, as we like to say, “The expertise of a Fineline Rep, and the simplicity of an online platform.” Download our Finelink 2.0 brochure to learn more about the solution.
One feature we’re especially excited about is Finelink 2.0’s social media integration. In time, Finelink 2.0 can be customized as a digital hub where you can manage all you print, promo and social media marketing assets. It has the functionality to plug into many of the software, services and apps you already use, including social media. It then allows you to use your stored assets across all those platforms.
Want to push messages through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook? You can. Want to send an email burst to customers? Do it. Need to share snapshots of new promo items you’re producing? No problem.
Finelink 2.0 does all that and more.
The options are limitless. So what does this mean for you and your business? It can help simplify and centralize your marketing. Better yet, it can help you connect with others. Those networking suggestions we explored earlier? Those all apply to your marketing, too. Keep your company brand and values as well as your individual brand and values in mind. Be authentic. Be genuine.
Just as you are always learning, you are always connecting with others. Whether it’s being purposeful about who or how you reach out to someone or levering useful online media, staying connected is a big part of growing business, and that’s yet another reason why it’s important to make the best impression you can.