Whether you’re still brainstorming or already generating revenue and looking to scale, the right advisor’s insights could mean the difference between failure and success for your business. If you’re reading this article, you already know the benefits of bringing in an advisory board.
If you don’t have the right advisors in your immediate network, you’ll need to branch out and proactively find them. LinkedIn is a great way to streamline that process.
Why Use LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a social network dedicated to connecting professionals. With over 41 million monthly active users, you have plenty of resources and people with whom to connect. The network is commonly used to find a job, become a subject matter expert, and find clients.
Today, there is yet another reason to use it: to find advisors for your startup. If you’re skeptical, consider this method a supplement to the rest of your efforts. One of the most unique aspects of connecting through LinkedIn is getting guaranteed responses. For more info on this, skip to the “LinkedIn InMail” section below.
Your LinkedIn Profile
Your potential advisors will be curious about what you’re interested in and what you’ve achieved. Make sure to choose a professional profile picture and to fill out the Summary and Experience sections. These are all essential. Having them may not guarantee a response, but not having them almost guarantees you won’t get a response.
Here are some expert insights on how to build and refine your LinkedIn profile:
- LinkedIn Profile Optimization for Search
- Write Your LinkedIn Profile for Your Future by Chris Brogan
- 5 LinkedIn Tips for Effective Personal Branding by Dan Schawbel
- Tools of the Trade: LinkedIn by Keith Ferrazzi
How to Search on LinkedIn
If you don’t have any potential advisors for your startup in mind yet, you can use Google to figure out who has relevant experience and who pulls the strings in your industry of choice. If you can find out more about them through their social media profiles, you will have an idea of what common interests and passions you both share. You can then include these common interests or an accomplishment you genuinely admire about them in your introductory message.
If you’re seeking an advisor with a perspective outside your industry or if your industry is still in its infancy, here are some resources on what to look for in a potential advisor:
- The Best Start-up Advisors are in the Trenches (Inc. Magazine): http://www.inc.com/eileen-p-gunn/the-best-start-up-advisors-are-in-the-trenches.html
- Selecting an Advisory Board (Entrepreneur Magazine): http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/71684
- Don’t be an idiot: Find a great Startup Advisor (HumbledMBA): http://www.humbledmba.com/dont-be-an-idiot-find-a-great-startup-advisor
Once you know what you’re looking for in an advisor, you can use LinkedIn to search according to industry, location, or past companies. If you upgrade to LinkedIn Plus, you can go deeper with your search and sort results according to seniority levels, function, or years of experience.
Using LinkedIn search, you’ll be able to sort through increasingly specific pools of people until you narrow it down to a select few. You may want to consider also doing a Google search and finding out a lot more about someone, including from third parties, especially if you want them to get involved with your business. Their advice could be the difference between boom and bust.
The best way to be introduced on LinkedIn is through a mutual connection. This method allows one of your LinkedIn connections to put you in touch with your potential advisor. Free users are allowed to use this feature five times before upgrading.
Using a “warm intro” is a great way to increase the likelihood of a response. Through LinkedIn, you can write a message to your potential advisor and one to the connection who is introducing you. Your connection will then be able to provide context and talk about how great you are to your potential advisor.
This method may not be feasible for those of you new to LinkedIn but is great for those of you with already bustling networks. If you’re new to getting introduced, make sure you nail it!
If you don’t have a connection to your target advisor, contact him or her directly through a service called InMail. InMail allows you to send direct messages to people, like your potential advisor, through LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is so confident in this service that it guarantees a response within seven days, or it will grant you another InMail credit to send.
Each InMail costs $10 to send, and you can buy up to 10 InMail credits with a Basic Account. I only recommend this option if you plan to buy no more than two InMail credits.
Upgrading your account grants you a monthly amount of InMail credits. If you need around five InMail credits, you can upgrade your account to Job Seeker and get them for $29.95/month. In contrast, you’d only get 3 if you chose not to upgrade your account. By default, the Job Seeker badge is off and should not appear on your profile. If it finds its way there somehow, you can turn it off in your Account Settings.
If you think you’ll need 10 InMail credits, you can sign up for a Sales Navigator account for $49.95/month.
Now to Compose Your InMail…
The composition of your message is not that different from cold e-mailing. Keep it short and simple. Here are some points you may want to touch upon:
- How you are familiar with his/her work (or what makes you curious about his/her work)
- Who you are, and what your idea/company is
- Next steps: what you need advice on, or if you just want to chat
If you’re an article junkie and really want a link to read though, have a look at The Art of the Cold E-mail from Startup Café.
Let’s Get It!
Don’t wait until tomorrow to start. Spend five minutes taking that first step right now.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, create one and start finding people you know. If you do, start finding potential advisors. If you have potential advisors, start drafting your InMail messages and figure out how many you’re going to need. Best of luck on your search!
*** Before you start contacting advisors, make sure you create a LinkedIn profile. ***