LinkedIn is one of the most effective tools for expanding a professional network, increasing product awareness, building relationships, and finding new customers. Unfortunately, manual LinkedIn outreach is a slow, error-prone, and costly process. It involves sending connection invites, waiting for acceptance, withdrawing the invite when not accepted, sending follow-up messages to recipients who accepted the invite, waiting for a reply, and engaging in a dialog.
The process starts with assigning contacts as recipients to a specific campaign. Each campaign will have multiple recipients, one sender, and one script for each message in a sequence tailored to the market segment. Since campaign performance may depend on the branding of the LinkedIn sender, we configure only one sender per campaign to be able to measure such differences.
Sender then sends connection invites to multiple recipients and waits for invites to be accepted. If the invite is not accepted within a few weeks, the sender should withdraw the connection invite in order not to appear for LinkedIn as a person approaching too many unknown people. The sender will send follow up messages to recipients who accepted the invite, wait for a reply, and follow-up again later as appropriate. The goal is to identify recipients that are interested in setting up a meeting.
Automation can help automate many of these steps. However, it can be still ineffective if not done properly. Poorly targeted outreach with lengthy pitches ends up alienating recipients.
We’ve identified some of the most powerful LinkedIn cold outreach best practices based on data collected from many campaigns across multiple customers. You’ll be able to use these learnings to improve the results of your LinkedIn outreach campaigns and get the deserved attention on the market.
While your LinkedIn outreach campaign is running or is already completed, you can measure the overall campaign success using LinkedIn Outreach Funnel. Each step of the process has its own best practices and performance metrics.
Recipients: Start with a targeted list of contacts with their LinkedIn IDs and assign them as recipients to a specific campaign. You can send automated connection invites with a script carefully tailored to the specific market segment.
You should still have several market segments where you run fully personalized, manual outreach to each recipient. This is still a campaign, yet with manually sent connection requests.
Invited: Requests should be limited to a configured maximum weekly invites quota. You don’t need to buy a LinkedIn Sales Navigator license – the free LinkedIn account is enough. LinkedIn recently changed its policy and having a premium LinkedIn account doesn’t give you a higher quota for sending connection invites.
While the campaign is running, the number of invited recipients will show the overall campaign progress. When the campaign is finished, and the number of invited contacts is less than the number of recipients – it is an indication of data quality in the contacts database.
Connected: Your objective is to get connected with qualified recipients. When your connection invite is accepted, you will be able to send messages to them. Your new connection will also start seeing your LinkedIn posts and potentially like or comment on them.
Your LinkedIn Profile and the text in the connection invite can have a significant impact on the acceptance rate of your invites. C-level execs or established thought leaders as senders tend to get much higher connection invite acceptance rates. You should leverage your most senior leaders on the management team for the outreach.
Messaged: People rarely respond immediately after accepting your connection invite. You can let them see your social media posts for some time to share what you are doing, but you may still send direct messages with important information.
Replied: Some of those you sent a message will reply to you. The number of replies will depend on the recipient’s relevance to your offering and the quality of your messaging.
Interested: It may take more time to hear from new connections regarding potential business opportunities. Hence, it is important to properly manage communication with your connections and don’t miss an opportunity to engage them later at the right time.
It is important to personalize your connection invites by market segment at a minimum, so they are relevant to the recipients. You should send no more than 1,000 connection invites with the same script. This number will take only a few months to complete a campaign and you don’t get stuck for too long with one and the same script. If one market segment has more than 2,000 people, you can split it into multiple subsegments with its own lists of recipients.
You can then assign your own campaign to each subsegment and do A/B testing on your script by running two or three campaigns in parallel. You can also run these campaigns sequentially and update the script for each next campaign (each market subsegment) based on what you have learned from the previous campaign.
You should only contact CXO roles with fully personalized LinkedIn messages to expect any response. Senior people from your target accounts identified for account-based marketing (ABM) can also be part of that outreach. With personalized campaigns, each connection invite and follow-up messages will be personalized for maximum relevance, including work history and interest areas.
From 2021 LinkedIn started enforcing a limit of 100 connection invites per week. If you exceed this number, LinkedIn will likely warn you first and then block your account and notify you about the potential misuse of LinkedIn engagement rules.
When your account is blocked, you may have to contact LinkedIn support to reenable your account. All of this means is that you shouldn’t exceed their connection invites limits. Our current recommendation is to configure 75 automated messages and have still room to do up to 25 manual invites during the week. The automated invites should be scheduled evenly throughout the business week and throughout each day to simulate the manual activity of a sender.
A warmup period is also required for LinkedIn senders. When you add a new sender who was not active on LinkedIn before, you should gradually increase the number of connection invites from 25 to 75 per week over a period of 4 weeks.
Having a LinkedIn Sales Navigator account (or another premium account) previously allowed a higher number of connection invites per week (up to 2,000). This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore; LinkedIn is throttling all types of accounts.
Still, at least one Sales Navigator account per sales team is useful to conduct people search and to scrape people profiles. LinkedIn Sales Navigator uses slightly different LinkedIn IDs for people, but those can be easily translated into a normal LinkedIn ID to be used for outreach and messaging.
Sales Navigator has its own messaging center that can be used for sending follow-up messages yet having two messaging inboxes makes it confusing to track communications. Useful features like editing your invite after sending are not available in the Sales Navigator messaging center and we don’t recommend using it.
You can use multiple senior people from your company to send LinkedIn invites. You can align your most senior people in the company with the most senior prospects. We have not seen LinkedIn systems tracking the total number of invites sent across different senders from a single company, so your individually set volume doesn’t need to change when more people from your company are involved in LinkedIn outreach.
Your LinkedIn profile has information about you that recipients will use to determine whether they want to accept your invite. Hence, your profile should represent you professionally and have the content your recipients should see.
The activity section of your profile will show your previous LinkedIn posts, published on LinkedIn articles and presentations. The background panel of your picture can be customized to carry your company’s branding or a core message. Your headline can be different from your current title and may reflect some of your personal engagements, investment, or advisory activity.
Your connection invite message is typically short, with no more than 300 symbols, but it is the first thing your recipient sees when deciding to accept or decline your invite. If there is no clarity in that message, it becomes more of a disadvantage. The recipient is less likely to accept your invite. Some general messages like “we are in the same industry” also don’t carry much value. Ultimately, people have limited time and want to know what kind of dialog they could have with you. Requesting a meeting in your first follow-up message is a bad practice, especially for CXO level execs.
If you don’t disclose a reason to connect, you are just delaying your own understanding of whether there could be interest in your offering or not. You may get connected but when you disclose your actual reason or ask for a meeting, it may create a negative first impression and result in the recipient ignoring your messages or even removing the connection. Given that senior people are getting a lot of connection invites on LinkedIn, it is important to provide clarity about your intent upfront.
Only a small percentage of prospects reply directly to connection invite messages. Many will look at it before they accept the invite and will treat it as a message for that purpose only. Secondly, your message will appear in the messages center as unread, but your recipient may or may not have time to go there and write something to you. Hence, it is a good practice to reserve a day or two to allow your recipient to respond, but still, you should be sending some appropriate follow-up messages.
Follow-up message tactics have evolved over time. Your goal is to generate initial awareness, and that your offering addresses a specific and relevant problem. People normally want to learn more before they are ready to allocate time for a meeting. Hence your follow-up message should be describing the space you are in and what problems your product solves.
The recipients who accepted your invite will start seeing your LinkedIn posts. It may still be worth sending them your most valuable content such as your whitepaper explaining a problem and your solution personally as a hyperlink to an ungated download on your website. This way, you can implement mechanisms to track whether your specific recipient clicked on the whitepaper hyperlink in your message and to detect how much time this recipient spent on your website. You should give it time before you send your next follow-up message, typically two weeks or longer after your first follow-up message.
You can use LinkedIn automation to send automated messages. The personalization capabilities of these automated messages are yet relatively limited (this will be improved later with AI). Hence, we recommend a manual, personal first message crafted based on the recipient’s background. The follow- up messages can be automated and include relevant content. Follow-up messages can be sent when you have compelling content including video case studies or analyst research reports.
Different prospects will respond within different time sequences, from hours to months. Don’t be too pushy with your follow-up message. Also, do not lose track of your new connections.
Automation can help you set up periodic messages with longer delays, giving your connections an opportunity to learn more about your product and reply when this topic becomes a priority. When your recipient replies to you, the automated messaging sequence should turn off to allow you to review the message and engage in a direct dialogue. Tracking these responses and conversations is a manual, but very important activity. It requires a separate tracker or a CRM integration.
Your LinkedIn connections who have not replied can be part of an automated follow-up sequence. After sending a few messages you may switch to messaging once a month or even less frequently and rely on your posts for product promotion. At this point, it is important to track the likes on your posts and see whether any of your new connects liked your post, indicating they have some level of interest and may be ready to engage in a conversation.