The power of staying connected
David Ogilvie hit the jackpot with a contract on the business social site LinkedIn, writes Nina Hendy.
David Ogilvie knew LinkedIn would help him make new business connections, but he never dreamed it would land him a $4 million contract.
But a LinkedIn connection recently introduced the group business manager of a Sydney construction firm to a family that owns an automotive group hunting for a firm to build its newest Hyundai car dealership. Ogilvie followed up with a call and negotiated the deal for Beach Constructions, worth $4 million.
"The initial introduction came through an architect and we won this contract after negotiations with the client. LinkedIn is well and truly opening doors for us and has certainly created an awareness of our business," Ogilvie says.
While many professionals have a LinkedIn account and invite people they know to join their network, Ogilvie says the site can be better used to actively connect with allied industries.
He spends 20 to 30 minutes a day building connections in areas such as consulting, town planning and engineering firms in a bid to promote the capabilities of Beach Constructions.
You can't expect to win business by just connecting on LinkedIn, you need to use the site to communicate beyond that, he says.
"Connecting yourself to someone else creates an opportunity, but you've got to work at it after that point," he says.
Today, he has 2800 connections and chases up potential leads every day.
Once a new connection has accepted Ogilvie's offer to connect, he sends them a corporate profile. He has a premium membership, which costs about $200 a year.
While he also created a Facebook account for the firm, he believes LinkedIn is a more powerful platform for his sector.
"It depends on what sort of business you have and what platforms your sector uses most. Being able to send a corporate profile through LinkedIn has been a really powerful tool for us."
However, the site does have some limitations, he says. "LinkedIn doesn't allow you to connect with people you don't know, which I believe defeats the purpose of it being a networking site."
About the time that Ogilvie was closing the recent $4 million deal, LinkedIn actually suspended his account because he continued to invite unknown professionals to join his network.
Ogilvie says he contacted LinkedIn for an explanation.
"I hadn't heard from anyone after five or six days, so I used my premium LinkedIn membership to contact the Australian LinkedIn CEO and demanded to be reconnected," he says. "I told him that the site should allow people to network on the site given that it's a networking site. He reconnected me, so I've been able to continue using the site."
The head of communications, LinkedIn Australia, New Zealand and south-east Asia, Tara Commerford, points out that the platform offers "LinkedIn InMails" to get introductions to people outside your network. Professionals use it to network, gain new connections and source everything from partners, vendors, suppliers and new business leads, she says.
The site enables professionals to transition what would traditionally be a cold call into warm leads by leveraging their existing connections to gain introductions and research potential prospects, Commerford says.
"LinkedIn is about growing your professional network and nurturing your connections, so it's important that you choose quality over quantity and identify people that will add value and strengthen your professional network," she says.
"That said, we do suggest that you have at least 50 connections to get the most out of the platform."
Commerford recommends linking up with past colleagues, fellow alumni and professionals you know or would like to know in your industry. Posting regular status updates and contributing to groups in your area of expertise is a great networking tool, she adds.
More than 4 million Australians are part of LinkedIn, with industries such as technology, marketing and finance among early adopters.
However, LinkedIn reports strong engagement across other industries such as mining, retail, healthcare and education.
Ogilvie says he will continue to dedicate about 30 minutes a day to the site.
"I just hope I can do it again," he says.