LinkedIn was founded almost 20 years ago as a platform for professionals looking for a job. Jobseekers created their profiles and companies or headhunters contacted them offering a position.
That is the past. Nowadays, LinkedIn has become one of the best B2B platforms for finding buyers and suppliers. Instead of jobseekers, LinkedIn is now filled with sales and procurement professionals from all over the world.
Now, how should you use this boon in an efficient and effective way to grow your business?
The first answer is, of course, to use LinkedIn Premium. For between 50 and 150 US dollar per month, depending on the type of subscription, you can contact a number of people that are outside of your network. You can send them messages on LinkedIn or by email. It is a fine way to reach more people, but it is time consuming and expensive.
A better way to approach LinkedIn to find new customers is to use groups. There are two ways to do it: free and paid.
How to Use Groups on LinkedIn
First, I suggest you try to approach groups on LinkedIn for free. It is very easy: type what you look for in the search function, and then filter for groups. Only relevant groups will appear. For example, if you are looking to sell machinery in Turkey, you should look for three types of groups:
- Machinery Turkey
- Business Turkey
- Machinery buy and sell
Even if only the first group will probably be the relevant one, you do not want to miss any opportunity: there may be someone looking for business in Turkey who could be interested in your machinery.
At this point, you have to join the group: that should not be an issue, but just in case the admin is a bit picky, send them a short introduction of yourself and why you want to join the group (do not tell them it is just to sell).
At this point, you are essentially in a big marketplace: you can both contact people that posted about their business and post yourself what you are looking for. Try not to be spammy and make sure your posts look nice.
The second way groups can help you occurs if you choose to advertise on LinkedIn. When to get to the audience selection, you have to carefully select all of your target characteristics: demographics, geography, business, etc. Well, groups allow you to make a big shortcut and to be even more precise either.
If you want to advertise to people dealing with machinery in Turkey, just tell LinkedIn to show your ads to the member of the group: Machinery Turkey. This way, anybody interested in buying or selling machinery in Turkey will see your ads. You do not need to get crazy about finding the right target: the group will be more than enough.
Other B2B Platforms You Can Use
LinkedIn is a great tool, but it is not the only choice you have: a good alternative to is to find partners using specific online marketplaces.
There are several import export platforms where businesses can close deals anywhere in the world without the hustle of leaving their country, perhaps even without leaving the office!
Of course, you need to know where to look at. Here are some good platforms focused on different continents.
go4WorldBusiness: this is by far the best platform for finding customers in India. It started more than twenty years ago, grew along with the Indian economy, and has recently expanded also to the Middle East and East Asia.
eWorldTrade: headquartered in Texas, in the USA, eWorldTrade has established a reputation as the platform of choice for the trade between the United States and China. If you want to source a supplier from North America or the Far East, look no further than here.
UpinSales: Based in the United Kingdom, UpinSales boasts a network of 180,000 users mainly from European countries. This platform has taken a completely different approach: rather than connecting companies, it connects companies and sales freelances.
A company posts an opportunity saying that it is looking for agents in a certain country for a certain product. If interested, the agent will contact the company through the platform’s connection process.
Globartis: this young European import export platform is becoming ever more used by businesses within Europe, especially in the Continent’s East-West trade route, and is also expanding to Asia according to the need of European businesses.
As the EU continues to close more trade deals (such as with Japan, Canada, Mercosur, etc), there will be more opportunities for trade between Europe and other parts of the world. Whether you are from Europe and want to find distributors abroad, or the other way around, Globartis is the place for you.
Finding customers abroad may look like a big hustle, but with the right tools it really is not. Go out there and you will be rewarded.