Linkedin gained users at a rate of 2 per second in 2017, and it has pretty much dominated the professional social profile space in most industries. That said, I think it’s quite underutilized for finding early customers to your product. If like most side project owners, you are looking for your first few customers, Linkedin might be a perfect outlet. Here’s how I’ve seen it used for early customer acquisition.

1. Start with your existing connections

Last year I worked on a side project in the recruiting space. This tool would have helped recruiters find potential new clients, so I started by talking to the recruiters I already knew on Linkedin. Most of them have tried to sell me on jobs or new candidates over the years, so while I hadn’t worked with many of them directly, I had accepted their requests to connect just in case. I got lunch with a couple of them, talked to several on the phone, and eventually tested early versions of the side project with some of my connections.

2. Make new connections

It’s probably best if you can get introductions, but even if you have to do cold outreach, you might as well try. Unlike a cold email, you won’t get crammed into a spam folder, and if someone connects with you on Linkedin, you can usually get access to their phone number and email address.

3. Use Linkedin Messenger

I’ve tried both cold emails and Linkedin messenger with varying degrees of success. While both have worked, I got the highest response rate when my contact process was:

  1. Connect on Linkedin
  2. After they accept my connection, send a Linkedin message
  3. If they don’t respond in a week, send a personal email follow-up
  4. If they still don’t respond, try one more email
  5. Unsubscribe

4. Do a little research

You may see this as spammy, but if you can personalize your pitch and you’re doing it in a focused manner, it’s really not too bad. Again, I had the most success when I framed our conversation as a chance for them to help me build something rather than a direct sale. Usually my messages were something like this:

Hey {Name},

I'm a software developer working on a data collection tool that I think might help recruiters in {Industry} make more money and find new leads. Based on your experience doing {something about what they've been doing} for the past {x} years, I wonder if would be willing to give me some time to tell me more about the industry? Your feedback will help me out since I don't know much about recruiting and I'd really like to learn more.

Taking two minutes to look at the person’s Linkedin profile can get you a much higher response rate.

5. Know your audience

I was lucky in that my target audience (recruiters) were on Linkedin sourcing candidates all the time, but your potential customers might be different. Maybe they’re hanging out in Facebook groups, forums, or Quora. Whatever their platform of choice, take the time to get to know them and make your outreach as natural as possible.

Have your own suggestions for customer outreach on Linkedin? Email me to suggest an update to this or any of our other blog posts.