Bruce Johnston is considered one of the top LinkedIn Influencers in the world. His ability to take what some people find daunting and make it simple is one of his greatest assets. In just a few short lessons he can turn just about anyone into a successful LinkedIn user with thousands of connections. He has helped many PCB Companies generate new contacts and business via LinkedIn. Here is a talk that we had with Bruce recently.
Q. Bruce, tell us a little about yourself and Practical SMM.
Bruce: I have been in high tech sales and marketing since 1985. In 2011 I started investigating LinkedIn and had an “aha” moment. I think the first real LinkedIn search I conducted was looking for people that worked with PCBs in North America. I was stunned when LinkedIn immediately returned search results with 33,000 people. I realized that LinkedIn was a database of every possible customer a company could ever want, along with the tools to search and make sense of that database. It was the type of tool I wish I had had all my sales career - creating a nirvana where you could find all of the prospects for your products and services.
So, I dove into it, figuring out all the nooks and crannies in terms of what you could do with it. Friends started coming to me and asking for help with LinkedIn. Then people started offering to pay me to help them with LinkedIn. And before too long I was a LinkedIn consultant. I have been one for over ten years now.
Q. You are focused on helping companies with their social media, content distribution and most importantly LinkedIn. Can you talk more about that?
Bruce: I work with some other social media - notably Twitter. I used to do work with Facebook, but they closed down the organic distribution of posts there. You have to pay to get your content in front of people on Facebook these days. My two primary focuses are on email newsletters and LinkedIn. While LinkedIn is unparalleled as a search and research tool, it is not as great as I would like for content distribution. For that I work with clients on their email newsletters.
Q. Can you elaborate on your LinkedIn expertise?
Bruce: Sure. If you're in sales and marketing, there are five uses for LinkedIn. First of all, LinkedIn can be used to find prospects, and it can be used to research prospects. In the PCB space it is unmatched, and teaching these takes up a lot of my work day. LinkedIn can also be used to initiate contact with the prospects that you have identified, however it is often not the best means to do so. I also show my clients how to identify who would likely be receptive to outreach messages and how to put together messages that get a high response rate. Finally on the marketing side, LinkedIn can be used to increase reach and credibility, both for individuals and for companies. I work with my clients on any or all of these facets of LinkedIn.
Q. What can LinkedIn do for a company? What can it do for an individual?
Bruce: I am a firm believer that the effective use of LinkedIn results in more prospects discovered, and more conversations started with those prospects. Using LinkedIn allows you to find the right people, and often to arm yourself with information that guides your initial outreach messages and your ensuing conversations. For example, I can use LinkedIn and see who the key executives are, who runs the engineering department, who the PCB designers are and often what their respective specialties are. Then I can find the purchasing people and often figure out which person out of, say, twelve people is the best one to go to.
LinkedIn just makes sales people more effective. Most companies using LinkedIn to their advantage should be able to see a 5-10% increase in sales. Easily. If you can find more prospects, know who is who at the company even before you have contacted them the first time, and have better information to use in speaking to these prospects, how can your sales not go up?
Q. Can LinkedIn really be used for lead generation? How?
Bruce: Two ways. The first is the “Classic” method where you offer something of value to your prospects and send them back to your website for it, where they fill in a form and you get their email address and other information from them.
The second way is just to use LinkedIn to find, research and reach out to them yourself. To my mind this is the best way, in that you can tailor your message to each person. I get people who complain that this is too much work, but the success rate speaks for itself - I get a 60-65% response rate to my outreach messages. Why would I do anything else?
Q. Can LinkedIn be used for connecting people who want to hire people and vice versa?
Bruce: Of course, recruiting is LinkedIn’s bread and butter. For hiring it requires the skill set and the premium LinkedIn subscription to use LinkedIn for this purpose. Large companies of course will have an HR staff to do this. Smaller companies will hire recruiters or specialists like me to do it for them.
As far as using LinkedIn to get hired, that can be done in two ways - LinkedIn has a lot of job ads, or prospective employees can use it for their own research and outreach to companies they are interested in.
Q. What is premium LinkedIn, and should I get it?
Bruce: Good question. There are four categories of premium LinkedIn and each of these has levels within them. There are premium tools for recruiters, for job seekers, for business people and for sales people. The one I recommend to everyone is Sales Navigator Pro. It is the least expensive of the Sales Navigator options, but it has all the tools you need. A lot of people have one of the Business subscriptions, but these are pale imitations of Sales Navigator. If you are in sales or marketing, Sales Navigator is the only option, you should consider.
All that being said, you should only get a premium LinkedIn subscription if you use LinkedIn at least once a week and have run into specific instances where you realize you need more functionality.
Q. How do you help/coach people on LinkedIn?
Bruce: I work with both individuals and companies. I have people come to me to help them with a specific problem and other clients that I work with every week. Often companies come to me with specific ideas of what they want to do - for example, they want to start more conversations with PCB designers working for the medical device manufacturers - but they are unsure of how to use LinkedIn as part of that initiative. I have had an ongoing relationship for years with several of my clients. They see the ongoing value I provide in making their sales teams more effective.
Q. Describe in detail your services?
Bruce: I help individuals and companies to use LinkedIn more effectively. They find more prospects, research those prospects, and send higher probability of success outreach messages to those prospects. On the marketing side I help my clients increase prospects' awareness of them and increase their credibility as a viable alternative among those prospects. A lot of this is done through developing their LinkedIn company pages.
I also do content marketing and all aspects of email newsletters. I currently advise or manage the email newsletters for nine companies.
One aspect of LinkedIn I do love is I will occasionally get challenged by a customer, for example with a really exotic search. I have searched for PCB designers working with niche applications like heavy copper. Obscure laminates. Very high layer counts. RF applications, of course. New Product Introduction Specialists. They’re all on LinkedIn and I can find them.
Another challenge I get rarely, but one I really enjoy is competitive research. It’s amazing what information is available on LinkedIn if you know what to look for.
Q. What do you think are the most useful social media platforms?
Bruce: 1) LinkedIn - built for business. But LinkedIn is not as “social” as most people think it is.
2) YouTube - you can post, subscribe, like, comment and share, so yes, it is a social media platform!
3) Twitter - easy and not too time consuming
All the rest have faults - for example Facebook is moving to a pay-for reach model, Clubhouse is likely transient, etc.
Q. When helping someone how do you help them enhance their profiles?
Bruce: That depends on what their goals are. If you want to get hired, you need to show a track record of increasing responsibilities and accomplishments. If you are in sales or marketing however, you want to focus on the benefits a prospective customer would realize in working with you. The example I like to use is that a salesperson looking for a job might write “Made President’s club for the last five years running”, whereas that same salesperson looking to appeal to prospective customers might write “97% of my customers from five years ago are still with me.” Same successful salesperson, but whose message can be tailored for two very different audiences.
Q. Where do you see social media going in the future?
Bruce: That is an interesting question. Every time you think you have seen it all, something new comes along like TikTok and Clubhouse. Actually, Clubhouse is an interesting story. An audio only app where you can go to “rooms” where a host or hosts speak. Everything is in the moment - nothing is saved. I think Clubhouse is still officially in beta, but they still have over 10 million users. But as soon as they showed real potential for growth, all of the existing players - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter among them - announced they would have their own versions of Clubhouse out very soon. So, I would say with that type of competition, it will be tough for Clubhouse to carve out a niche. What Clubhouse has shown is that the big kids don’t want to share their sandbox.
My guess is that the big guys will fight it out - LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook will all try and make encroachments on each other’s territory over the next year or two. Then we might be ready for a new wave of apps that could possibly challenge the status quo.
Q. Okay let’s put you to the test. I want to find someone on LinkedIn. How do I do that?
Bruce: Easy. Tell me about the person you want to find. Let’s say you want to find a PCB Designer in Detroit. I open LinkedIn and click on the search bar. I open all the filters up and just use the information you have given me as my starting point. I enter “PCB Designer” in the title field and “Detroit” in the geography field. I hit enter and the result - because I just ran this search while answering this question - is a list of 30 people. If I want to narrow or broaden my search results, I just adjust my search parameters. It is often not this easy, and there is a science and art to searching on LinkedIn, but those are the basic ideas.
Q. How do people engage with you?
Bruce: I get a ton of engagement on LinkedIn. All of it is organic earned engagement. What I mean by that is that it is organic in that I didn't have to pay for it - for example my weekly LinkedIn newsletter alone has 18.000 subscribers - but it is earned because I put the time in to write and publish content on LinkedIn, and then to engage with the people that engage with me. This pays off in ways you wouldn’t expect. I often get referrals from LinkedIn connections. Someone asks them if they know someone who can help them, they just happen to see my latest content and they tell the person that actually, they think they do know someone who can help them, and I get a referral.
Q. What kind of packages do you offer?
Bruce: I have loose packages based on single and multiple sessions to accomplish discrete tasks such as learning to effectively use Sales Navigator, and I have others for managing monthly newsletters, managing LinkedIn company pages, advising, and editing content, working with sales people on putting together effective messages, and a lot more. It runs the gamut. It can be something as simple as “Can you teach me to post more effectively on my personal LinkedIn account? “or as complicated as “Can we use LinkedIn and get another million dollars in sales from Contact Manufacturers?” The answer to both is yes.
Q. Okay Bruce, your turn. Is there anything you’d like to add as we conclude our talk?
Bruce: LinkedIn is a really important tool that sales and marketing people should know how to use. I once had a PCB manufacturer complain that they had been to all the potential customers in North America and there wasn’t anyone new to sell to. I responded that using LinkedIn I had identified 17,000 companies in North America that purchase PCBs, and more add their presence to LinkedIn every day. I mentioned earlier that I found 33,000 people who worked with PCBs in North America. That was ten years ago. Today that number is 160,000. And that is just in North America. All searchable by geography, industry, company size, title and a couple dozen more filters. If there is someone you want to find, they are on LinkedIn and you can find them.
To learn more about Bruce go to his LinkedIn Profile.