In the A-Z of Marketing Experts – D is for Dave Sumner Smith
I’m sitting in an airport in Germany speaking to Dave Sumner Smith, waiting for a flight to take us home from a week’s skiing holiday. Dave and I met on one of these ski trips a few years ago and this time he kindly agreed to be interviewed for my blog. He tells me that he met someone on the trip last year who wouldn’t talk business with him until she’d spoken to ten different people who know him – a very real example of how your personal reputation counts for so much in business today.
When I asked Dave for his take on marketing he told me that selling a service is so much about reputation. It’s about knowing what sort of reputation you want to cultivate, understanding what you are selling and having a clear picture of what you want people to remember you for.
It’s also about knowing which channels you’ll use to market yourself. Dave is a fan of social media networking and says that you need to be really clear which platforms you will use and why. Some people say you should have a consistent name and profile across all the channels – as with all your marketing – and Dave adds that you need to consider whether you use different social media tools for personal use or business messages. The audiences you speak to on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter could all be different, and you need to be aware of this.
LinkedIn for Business Networking
During our conversation, Dave told me that he finds LinkedIn the most effective social media tool for business networking. He’s been using LinkedIn since 2008 and now has over 10,000 contacts. He’s built up this network by sending out about 200 connection requests every week, using very specific criteria, including the level of position with the company and the type and size of company. His target is 20,000 contacts. I know that many people don’t believe that using LinkedIn to build such a large network of contacts is effective, so I asked Dave about his thinking behind this strategy.
“LinkedIn is no longer just about the people you already know. It’s about actual business networking and making new contacts. I use it to promote specific events to specific targets, using LinkedIn Sales Navigator. In this way I can grow my number of targeted contacts and then link these contacts to what they will be interested in.” Dave’s approach is highly targeted, carefully thought out marketing.
Dave’s views on sending LinkedIn messages to business contacts once they are personal Connections on LinkedIn are interesting. He believes that once someone has connected with you, it is acceptable to send them targeted LinkedIn messages and relevant information, even if they haven’t opted into a mailing list. You might disagree, but I’m with Dave on this one. (He does add a cautionary note to say that if you send too many messages you could be reported to LinkedIn; if LinkedIn receives too many reports about your activity, they may freeze your account.)
Dave also told me his secret to connecting with potential clients. If you already have a high number of connections in a particular industry, it’s easier to encourage more people from that industry to accept your invitations. The more mutual connections you have with someone, the more likely they are to connect with you. Dave’s invitation rate has risen from 25% to 60% due to the more targeted requests that he sends.
A great example of Dave’s LinkedIn strategy in action was when Dave contacted just 47 connections who fitted some very specific criteria, to invite them to a business event in Milan. Of those invited, 29 of them turned up at the event!
Dave’s tips on creating a great LinkedIn profile? Make sure that you use a decent, professional, business photo. Don’t do what he’s seen some people do, by using a photo of a tiger! And don’t be the tiny speck of a person standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. No typos, please, says Dave, who has seen them in LinkedIn headlines; and cut out the clichés. Are you really a ‘Thought Leader’ or a ‘Business Guru’? Your LinkedIn profile should not be a list of your business accomplishments. If it reads like the spec of a new car it will be boring! “Tell me a story and make me interested,” pleads Dave. You can read his story here. “And if you’re not good at writing, then pay someone else to do it for you; and update it regularly,” he suggests.
What About Facebook?
Dave believes that Facebook is becoming more important since LinkedIn was bought by Microsoft and has been changed. “LinkedIn groups have been wrecked,” he told me. “Groups are no longer interactive and only a reference point. LinkedIn (or Microsoft) has ignored the fact that many, many hours of work have been put into building groups and developing communities.” Now it’s difficult for group owners to moderate or message their members, except individually. Although sending personal messages is more targeted, it is also time consuming.
Facebook on the other hand is becoming a much more accepted tool with which businesses can network and promote themselves, especially in the US. Facebook effectively took over the role of business communities in 2018 when LinkedIn reduced the functionality of groups. Now the owners of many LinkedIn groups are using the basic (time consuming) 1-2-1 messaging facility to invite their members to transfer to their Facebook groups. This is where it’s easier to moderate, message and manage people within their groups.
A quote from a series of articles Dave published on his WordZone Facebook page says “As one group owner observed: Our Facebook group is one-eighth the size of our LinkedIn group, and it has ten times the activity.”
Dave also told me that Facebook is now beta testing Subscription Communities – groups that charge a membership fee. Group owners are currently able to choose whether to charge $5, $15 or $30 per month – build a community and make money from it, without having to build your own membership site! Facebook does not take any commission on this (but will do later). This option is currently being tested on established Facebook groups that are active. It’s thought that the changes will be rolled out later this year, which gives you time to develop an active group this year and then start to charge a membership fee from it, once it is established.
For his final tip, Dave told me that your Facebook profile needs to show what you’re doing and that is should be more like your LinkedIn profile. Make it interesting by telling your story – don’t bore people at the party! Great advice and thanks Dave for all your valuable insights.
In the A-Z of Marketing Experts, who is E for? If you would like to be interviewed for this blog – for any of the letters – please do get in touch.