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Probably a hunter.

There are two broad methods of finding and contacting prospective customers on LinkedIn, particularly if you are self employed, and don’t have a marketing department to lean on. 

The traditional way for most sales or self employed people to find new customers is via Hunting. Hunting is using LinkedIn in the traditional sales sense of using it to find a prospect, research them and contact them (or at least try to contact them). 

There is only one real problem with Hunting, and that’s that just about everybody hates it. Rejection city. Abuse. Being labeled a spammer, or worse. You need to develop a pretty tough shell to be a hunter and most people don’t keep at it long enough to develop that shell.

So they turn to Farming on LinkedIn. 

Farming is using LinkedIn as a place to publish content and / or interact with other people’s content under the plan that some of these seeds you plant will germinate into relationships. This results in the person spending  a lot of time on LinkedIn being “social” and a lot of time writing and posting on LinkedIn. 

The problem with Farming is that it is…messy. It is hard to quantify. How many posts do you need to comment on to generate a real sales lead? How many posts do you have to publish to generate a real lead?  

Hunting gets black and white results: you contacted twenty people, and two were interested in talking with you. Farming? Not so much.

Now, before we get into things here, let me say that Farming has been one of the pillars of my LinkedIn consulting practice. It works. So if you want to Farm, great, but like myself, you have to have a system and the metrics in place so you know if it is working or not. I have used Farming to great advantage over the past ten years, but aside from good content I put together a system. 

The first thing I found when I started my Farming on LinkedIn was that I never really counted on commenting on other people’s posts – while it can work, I found it a little too hit and miss. I would find the occasional prospect, but the time required per prospect just didn’t work. I remember that at one point I figured I needed to be on LinkedIn for two hundred hours a week to make commenting work for me. So that was out as a strategy. 

I also found sharing content on LinkedIn to be a waste of time as most of the time someone discovering my shared content was more interested in the author than the messenger (me).

So I focused on writing my own content. It was a good fit for me as I enjoy writing, I am hopelessly analytical, and really stubborn. The system part of Farming on LinkedIn comes down to counting how much engagement results from your posting and the quality of those reactions. There are several parts as follows: 

  • I started counting what I call the Big Five ways of engaging on LinkedIn: how many Likes, Comments and Reshares I was getting, along with how many Profile Views and New Followers/Connection requests I received. 
  • I would review the lists of these people every day – I would look for my new followers, profile viewers and people that engaged with my posts or articles on LinkedIn. 
  • I would contact the ones that looked like a good fit with my ideal customer profile. I invested in a Sales Navigator subscription in order to be able to reach out to these people. 
  • When I contacted them it was to thank them for their engagement and I used the article they were interested in as the jumping off point in my approach. No sales pitch, just an open ended conversation about their interest in the topic I had covered. This resulted in a very good acceptance rate – I average 60% – in my outreach messages and InMails. 
  • Despite my hilarious ineptitude with spreadsheets, I started one up that tracked my progress. I started to find patterns – for example, commenters and followers were much more responsive than shares or likes. Profile views fell in between. 

Over time as I started to acquire customers, I was able to go back to my spreadsheet and find out important information that was crucial to my business:

  • I could see on average how long it took from someone first identifying themselves via engaging with my content until they became a customer
  • I saw which types of engagement generated more customers (surprise: comments, then followers)
  • And finally, which topics were the ones that generated the most comments and followers.

Was this a lot of work? Yes, and no. It sounds like a lot, but once I was up and running, my weekly commitment to Linkedin was to write an article, publish it, and be available to respond to comments for the next three hours (though I could do other things while I was monitoring my post). Every morning I took up to fifteen minutes to look for new engagees (is that a word?) and send messages to interesting people I found; and every afternoon I took five or ten minutes to look for replies to my messages. Total time requried every week: around four hours, plus the time it took to write my weekly article.

And here’s the important part: I spent zero time wandering around LinkedIn. And that’s a habit I still have today. These days I check every morning for the people who have engaged with my content, any connection requests, new messages and my notifications (I usually have around twenty). I do the same towards the end of my day. Every week I review the people who looked at my profile and my new followers. I usually put a chunk of Friday afternoon into reading the fifty LinkedIn newsletters that I subscribe to.

So Hunting works on LinkedIn, and Farming does too. But if you are going to Farm, you need a plan, you need some patience and you need to stick to it.



At Practical SMM, we pride ourselves on delivering highly effective LinkedIn strategies.