You can’t do business without customers. Regardless of what your product is, you can’t have a business without someone to sell it to. The problem is, some people simply aren’t interested in your product and don’t make great candidates for customers. For any startup, learning how to identify your best customers and advertise directly to them are necessities for sustainable growth.

While excellent service is a mainstay of any successful startup, you need to extend far beyond word of mouth advertising if you expect to generate significant growth. Captivating advertisements are your opportunity to establish a niche and cater to a specific customer base.

When it comes to digital marketing, social media is one of the easiest and least time consuming ways to create a presence for your brand and reach potential customers Paid ads aren’t always the best; organic channels ensure that your customers are genuinely interested in your company and are willing to try out your services or products. While many social networks offer tools for advertisers to reach their audiences, few reach the specificity and convenience of LinkedIn.

Why LinkedIn Is the Best Network for Lead Generation

Although LinkedIn isn’t quite as massive as the social media juggernauts like Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn’s relatively small estimated user base of 450 million users still manages to keep up in terms of advertising power. Here are a few of the reasons why you should put LinkedIn at the forefront of your marketing efforts:

  • LinkedIn is a platform where professionals advertise themselves in order to build up their network. People don’t join LinkedIn to relax; they join in hopes of finding new business opportunities. This makes LinkedIn the perfect place to snatch users attention, as most of them are advertising themselves and actively searching for opportunities on their own.
  • LinkedIn provides detailed metrics on its users like age, location, interests and profession. Most of these details are everything you need to create quality customer profiles and cater specifically to their nuances.
  • LinkedIn accounts for over 80% of leads generated by B2B companies, and 43% of marketers have sourced at least one customer from the platform before. On top of 92% of B2B marketers leveraging LinkedIn over other platforms, 46% of website traffic generated by social media typically comes from LinkedIn.

How to Start Generating Leads on LinkedIn

Now that you know the true value of LinkedIn as a marketing tactic and lead generation platform, let’s focus on how you can use LinkedIn to build extensive customer profiles and efficiently reach out to your leads.

1. Market Through Content

Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your potential customers by providing them with value. This simply means that you need to produce informative content that engages your audience and teaches them something unique at the same time. People crave free information, and if you’re running your own business, you’re likely more than qualified to provide valuable information about your industry.

Content marketing can be done either by making videos, posting photos, or writing blog posts. While videos typically receive a great response, they can be both difficult and expensive to make. On the other hand, focusing your attention towards building a captivating blog only requires knowledge, research, and the ability to write. If you want to publish your blog posts on LinkedIn, try to incorporate a few of the following characteristics to ensure your content is optimized for its audience.

A Conversational Tone

Your primary aim is to identify with your customers and make your brand attractive to them, not to flaunt your vocabulary. Keep the tone nice and simple, and focus on conveying your message in an interesting manner.

Informative Content

As stated above, make sure the content of your posts gives your audience a reason to continue coming back to your blog. By receiving quality information from you, not only will you develop a large following, but one that respects your brand for going through the effort to provide free content. Promotional content is occasionally acceptable as long as it’s done in a tasteful manner and doesn’t overpower the regular content of your blog.

Frequent Updates

Blogs which receive around 3-4 posts a week are likely to produce 4 to 4.5 times the audience compared to blogs updated only once per week. As long as your content is flowing, you’ll constantly be generating new leads.

The average person views 4-5 pieces of content regarding the relative subject matter when they need to buy something. If your product or services are what they seek, you need to mold their opinion through your content and give them a reason to choose your services.

2. Expand Your Network

LinkedIn makes it easy to find people who fit your ideal customer profile. Start connecting with relevant people, and interact with them by engaging with their posts. Make sure they can access the content you’re uploading, and always measure the response you get.

Remember to keep your profile professional and your content authentic; you don’t want to be perceived as spam by your potential leads. Aim for around 1,000 connections. It may sound like a lot, but by spending a few minutes every day, you’ll get there in no time. Try to talk to people about what you’re offering, but don’t push too hard–attracting users based on their own interest is always more favorable and results in finding better quality customers.

3. Create a Group

A little later into the game, you can start your own group through LinkedIn. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn groups are a great way to build a small community for the content you publish. Groups improve engagement by bringing the conversation to your followers. You can interact with users directly on published content, answer questions they post and create a place for people to get questions asked and answered by other experienced members within the group.

As you build a reputation, you’ll notice a significant increase in a number of shares your content receives, and in turn, the size of your network. Having a large network that is highly specialized in whatever niche you cater to is invaluable. Don’t waste your time advertising to people that don’t care about your product; seek out those that are already interested and show them why your solution is the best answer to their problem.

Until fairly recently, marketing didn’t typically top the priority list for most startups. Marketing was not considered the battleground where you could win thousands of customers. A disruptive idea, a killer product, or a substantial investment deal were supposedly how you would conquer the world–not your marketing efforts.

But around 2010, people like Sean Ellis (who coined the term Growth Hacking) were taking note of a new breed of marketer that relies on innovative, unconventional marketing methods to achieve unbelievably high user acquisition. They were applying the hacker mindset to find growth; leveraging the new landscape of social media and extensive user analytics to engineer success.

The successful growth hacker now enjoys a godlike status in the startup community, and to most people, growth hacking overshadows conventional online marketing in terms of prestige. With plenty of success stories like Dropbox’s hack to 4 million users with minimal marketing spend, everyone is looking for innovative ways to increase user growth and expand their market share.

But if you look at the success stories, it’s clear that a myopic emphasis on growth hacking kind of throws the baby out with the bathwater. It’s important to remember why social media is the bread-and-butter of growth hacking, and how this value can be leveraged by traditional marketing.

Most growth hacking success stories revolve around leveraging insight into your target user’s online habits to reach them naturally. Online information dissemination depends on social media; it’s how we make decisions about products, do research, and communicate with our closest friends. Growth hacking is being in the right place, at the right time, with the right message–and captivating content is 90% of this equation.

Content is king–an inevitable truth for both traditional marketing and growth hacking. Many aspects of growth hacking are unpredictable and achieve low ROI, so taking a hybrid approach with an emphasis on creating good content is typically the best option.

What’s the Difference Between Marketing and Growth Hacking?

It’s clear that quality content and social media strategies are key to both growth hacking and traditional marketing, but what about the differences? There are quite a few definitions of the term growth hacking, but they have certain things in common.

Generally, growth hackers are more likely to take a tech-minded approach to marketing. This means they have a greater overview of the industry and put more input into product oriented decisions, are more likely to develop their own tools to achieve growth (programming skills are often required), and typically have a more quantitative mindset when approaching metrics.

Aside from this, growth hackers take a more guerrilla approach than traditional marketers. Hacking platforms and user behavior is the top priority, often with the goal of minimal ad spend. Lowering cost of acquisition throughout the whole funnel is the almost always the aim.

In contrast, the traditional marketers are stereotypically more focused on quality lead generation and conversion rates rather than the metrics themselves.

It’s easy to see how these stereotypes are outdated. It’s not really a question of Mad Man vs Hacker anymore. Like all revolutions, the best practices of growth hacking have been adopted by the mainstream. Things like viral loops, detailed metrics, funnel analysis, and relentless testing are all now part of the traditional marketer’s toolkit.

A Good Hack Doesn’t Automatically Result in Sustainable Growth

When people refer to growth hacking, they’re typically thinking of attempts to hit the viral jackpot. But if you only rely on social media influencers to get your product in front of a niche audience on the cheap, you’re throwing away massive value. Banking on viral strategies for growth is a bad tactic for several reasons.

First of all, hacking is less comprehensive. Paid ads allow you to target in detail and get high-quality data about your target users. Hacks are also harder to visualize and manage. Most ad platforms score high in UX, reducing the time you need to spend in front of a computer and making it easier to measure your results. But most importantly–growth hacks are unpredictable, often leaving you with 100,000 likes from users that simply aren’t interested in your product. A low conversion coefficient can render all those sweet, sweet sign ups or tweets worthless.

Followers Mean Nothing If Your Business Isn’t Ready for Them

Nowadays, growth hacking is more likely to mean prioritization of reach over the quality of leads. This should raise red flags for any marketer, but especially for those working in the environment of an early stage startup.

It’s easy for established companies to scale their content production schedules when their posts start to gain traction with the resulting increase in follower count, but to a newer startup, this can be a major distraction and waste of exposure. If a viral post is not going to result in quality sign ups (or at the very least a new audience you can keep engaged), then you’re not ready for the new followers.

Compared to extremely risky hacking tactics, following a clear plan for your social media growth typically results in higher ROI. If some of your content hits the jackpot that’s well and good, but prioritizing your follower count without the resources to properly maintain can be a fatal mistake for any early stage startup.

Effective Growth Hacking Is Really Just Content Creation

This is good news because it means that hacking growth can be a lot more predictable and deliberate than you might think. Growth hacking is really just good content creation; it’s as simple as that.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t other lessons to be learned from growth hacks. When it comes to new tools, relentless analysis, and detecting product-market fit, looking at the habits of successful growth hackers can teach us a ton.

But the fact is, content will always be king, and in this day and age it should still be your top priority.

Customers don’t care about your product or how many people shared your post, they care about their own interests and solving their own problems.

Good content and an even better product is still the most reliable path to finding more paying users. By all means, learn from the successes of good growth hacks, but don’t get wrapped up in the perceived value of rapid, random exposure. We’ve now come to the point where conventional marketing methods are thought of as the more daring choice. Growth doesn’t have to be complicated; experiment with different distribution channels, and always focus on crafting content that speaks directly towards the problem you solve for each individual customer.

Though most of us hate dealing with it, email still makes up a huge part of the world’s daily communication and information retention. Modern chat based communication tools like Slack make email feel obsolete within the context of a startup, but the good ol’ digital post office isn’t going anywhere just yet. When it comes to reaching consumers and getting their attention, a solid email marketing campaign is pretty hard to beat.

In terms of overall usage, nothing comes close to email’s 2.5 billion users creating an average of 1.8 accounts per person. The fact is, just because millennials like posting selfies on Snapchat and Instagram doesn’t mean they’re going to stop checking their email. Actually, the exact opposite is happening. As average open rates continue to rise, more and more businesses are betting big on sending captivating content directly to their customers.

Reach Everyone Regardless of Their Device

Email is one of the only platforms where you can reach the entire world without worrying about what device they’re on. Unlike most of the social media giants, email extends to all devices, both desktop and mobile, regardless of the user’s operating system or web browser.

Email usage definitely isn’t dying, but it is changing—and that’s a good thing. Essentially, everyone’s favorite digital mailbox is going more mobile than ever. With over 53% of all emails sent being opened from a mobile device, it’s important to make sure your content is optimized for users trying to read on the go.

Exclusive Content Makes People Feel Special

Sending an email is a direct line into many people’s primary communication channel. Reaching someone via inbox is a great way to make your message feel more personalized. Services like MailChimp make it easy and free to send beautiful newsletters to thousands of subscribers. With MailChimp’s Forever Free program, you’re allowed to send up to 12,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers for absolutely no charge.

MailChimp is the perfect place for startups to dip their feet in the world of email marketing. MailChimp’s gorgeous templates do the heavy lifting when it comes to designing your templates, and since it’s cloud-based, you can access your email campaigns from any device.

When it comes to creating captivating newsletters, you need to focus on the readability of your content, and you can’t go wrong by keeping it simple. The Hustle, one of the world’s most popular newsletters for entrepreneurs and hustlers, reads just like an email from a friend. The newsletter comes out every weekday, and while there are typically a few photos, the majority of The Hustle’s content is just extremely well-written copy.

The Hustle is a great example of taste. Not too many photos, not a massive wall of text, but the perfect amount of copy, headlines, and photos to help you learn a little more about the world each morning and laugh while you do it.

After subscribing for a while, you start to feel like some sort of insider. Creating a newsletter people love to read makes your audience feel like they’re a part of something exclusive. Having an organized layout and tracking system also allows you to better measure the response of your audience, making it easier to optimize your content and CTAs for various demographics within your mailing list.

A Few Tips to Get Started

Get People To Sign Up Naturally

Buying email addresses to quickly increase your subscriber count may sound enticing, but it’s important to remember the purpose of a mailing list in the first place. Whether it’s a weekly collection of items on sale or a few daily advertising tips, most people who sign up for a mailing list subscribed because they’re interested in the content of the emails. Randomly selecting your email addresses may rapidly increase the amount of subscribers you have, but there’s no way to determine whether or not they’re even interested in what you have to say.

Keep a Consistent Publishing Schedule

It’s easy to underestimate the power of consistency. Whether you’re sending monthly, weekly, or daily, always make sure you keep to a schedule people can rely on. When you send something at the same time every day, this builds trust and allows people to add your content into their regular schedules. Most modern email services make staying consistent easy by allowing you to create a backlog of content and schedule future sending times.

Regardless of the method you decide on, creating a schedule people can rely on always comes down to building a solid content calendar. Start by deciding how frequently your emails will go out and what the general content is going to be. If you can, try to craft more than just the next email that goes out. Don’t disappoint early subscribers by having an inconsistent sending schedule; avoid the hassle and use a content calendar to make sure you’re always ahead of schedule.

Cater to a Niche

Having a solid design is important, but your newsletter can only go as far as the quality of your content. You may think to keep your topics broad in hopes of capturing the attention of different types of viewers, but ultimately staying too broad will result in you creating valueless content that captures the attention of no one.

In order to build content that offers true value to the people consuming it, you need to hone in on a niche. Don’t waste your time trying to appeal to everyone; try to become the best source for a very specific topic. Whether it’s the latest in tech news or tips on how to start a startup, staying specific both eliminates competition and makes you easily identifiable. People are more likely to share your content with their friends if they extract some unique form of value from it.

Email is still one of the world’s most used communication tools, and learning how to take advantage of it is vital to your startup’s early marketing tactics. Maintaining a mailing list is extremely cheap, and few marketing tactics come close to the directness of an email sent straight to a potential customer’s inbox.

Running a successful advertisement is no different than trying to win an argument against your friends, family, or coworkers. It’s not likely you’ll convince someone see things your way by getting in their face, intimidating them, and being aggressive. You have a much better chance of success when you decide to “use your words;” and while this phrase is likely part of your daily vocabulary if you’re a parent, learning to use your words properly is equally important to the world of digital advertising.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Simply put, technology continues to make it easier for advertisers to reach a ton of users in a short amount of time. In combination with a full team of marketers, strategists, consumer analysts, and creative professionals, this increase in efficiency can spell out a dominant marketing combination if you can afford it.

For the public, this generally means a ton of ads slapping you across the face whenever you visit a page on the internet. Increased advertising efficiency has created a culture of quantity over quality, something that is almost guaranteed to reduce your average CTR.

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

Fortunately, it’s almost impossible for startups to truly over advertise due to their inherent lack of initial resources. With endless capital to spend on advertising, it’s easy to make the mistake of inundating your viewers with valueless banner ads only to find out that all of your potential customers turned into dedicated Adblock users.

Now here’s where using your words starts to come into play. Just like an argument, advertising comes down to efficiently convincing someone to hear you out. Regardless of the medium, your users aren’t going to click through if they aren’t getting some form of perceived value, either through your content or what you’re trying to advertise.

If you’re only using banner ads or popups, the margin for error is thin; you likely only have a few words and seconds to capture the full attention of your viewer. On the other hand, advertising through content gives you time to tell the complete story of your product and how it benefits users, significantly increasing the chances of viewers responding to your CTAs.

Always Craft Content for Individuals

Captivating content always starts at the individual level. Regardless of how massive your audience is, no two viewers will ever be the same. If you expect your content to generate a response, you need to start by putting yourself in the viewer’s shoes.

Customer profiles are great for identifying where you should be advertising, what types of content your customers are consuming, why they’re interested in your product, and how you should go about getting their attention. Think of your customer profiles like the blueprint of a building. Just like how you’d never build a house without first planning every detail, you shouldn’t start advertising without first knowing exactly who you’re trying to reach.

Looking at things like age, gender, spending habits, location, career, hobbies, household size, education level, etc., allow you to design content that resonates at the individual level and speaks directly to the pain points of your viewers.

Emphasize the Story Surrounding Your Product

The features of your product are largely meaningless if you can’t get anyone to look at it in the first place. For that reason, it’s really not about what the features are, it’s about what they do. Content marketing makes it easier to give the features of your product some much needed context.

Content allows you to show your product’s why and how as opposed to its what—and that’s what people care about. The best way to get people interested in your actual product is to paint them a picture of exactly how it’s going to benefit them.

As you expand your reach, it’s important to make sure your content feels authentic. Luckily, the test is pretty simple: if you aren’t interested in the content you’re producing, your audience won’t be either.

Content marketing is all about informing customers about the effects of your product without shoving it in their face. The goal is to get people interested without completely killing their curiosity.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the advertisements within your content should feel indirect. Remember, your product is a solution to someone’s problem. Traditional advertisements reverse the order and put the solution before the problem, which doesn’t make much sense.

Content, however, allows you to paint every detail of the problem, why it’s important, why the current solutions don’t work, and what you propose to fix it. We all know the phrase “content is king,” but the true king is actually context.

Optimize Content for Different Platforms

Every platform has its nuances and requires special attention to ensure your content is properly optimized. Though the numbers make it appealing, Facebook isn’t the best place to post long-form text content as most users are going to scroll right past. On the other hand, your written content is likely going to do quite well on a platform like Medium where you know users are interested in long-form text.

Don’t just copy and paste your advertising efforts across multiple platforms. That’s not to say crossposting will hurt your cause, but don’t waste your time posting content users aren’t going to look at. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Twitter all have different layouts, audiences, and guidelines conducive to making certain types of content more effective than others.

Make the Ad Part Relatable

After finding the best channel and setting the stage for your viewers, it’s time to hone in on the actual advertisement part. Here, the key is subtlety. The purpose of advertising through content is to get potential customers to resonate with the problem at hand before trusting your solution.

For this part, you’ll likely need to go out and talk to your customers. Finding out exactly how people are using your products allows you to create content with a wide range of relatable use cases.

In a world where every site you visit has a banner ad and 30% of desktop users have an Adblocker enabled, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to find new ways to break through all of the noise. Captivating content is the key to reaching your audience without forcing them to deviate from their normal routine.