Using LinkedIn for new business by Keith Smith, Managing Director of new business platform The Advertist.

Have you tried NOT using LinkedIn recently? It’s almost bloody impossible.

How did that happen?

Since Reid Hoffman and his team launched the service in 2003, LinkedIn has attracted 756 million members and generated about $8 billion in revenues (as of January 2022).

Stunning stuff

And it underlines just what a great idea it was, is and how useful its going to be, as we all try to make sense of this remote world we now live in.

I must admit, when it launched, I ignored it. In 2003, I was still driving to meetings, sometimes an entire day for one meeting, or taking the train – same timescales, and generally being so much less efficient than I am now.

I now use LinkedIn all the time. Our businesses use LinkedIn all the time. Some of our folks are power users, but for my own personal LinkedIn account, I just use the basic free version.

I’m constantly being told by business acquaintances that I have a pretty good LinkedIn profile and they admire how much effort I put into it. During the week, I’m plugged into it all day. That little red notification icon is what I live for. It’s my endorphin trigger.

It may sound a bit sad. In fact, there’s no MAY about it; it does sound sad, but I’m not giving it up. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, you’d have to pry that mouse out of my cold, dead hand.

Because I’m a believer! I find LinkedIn the single most useful business platform in my arsenal. It’s where I generate contacts, friends, and business. It takes work, but it’s worth it.

LinkedIn is like a 3D business card, where you can manage your own message. It’s a Godsend.

So why are so many people not making the most of LinkedIn? If I had a pound for every meeting I’ve had where people say something like “ Yeah I know I need to build up my LinkedIn profile, but I just haven’t got round to it,” I wouldn’t need to work for a living.

In this article I’m going to give you some simple quick wins that you can use to take your profile from super loser to super user.

Why me?

I also have the benefit of The Fuel Podcast, where I’ve been able to interview some of the people I view as most effective users of LinkedIn. The experts, the Linkerati.

People like John EspirianNeil Schaffer and Ella Orr. If you want to really get into LinkedIn social media marketing, you need to speak to John or Ella and sign up to their courses – all great value.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my collected wisdom and ideas that you can use to enhance the free version of your LinkedIn profile – to make sure you maximise your time on the service.

So let’s get down to it.

Let’s start with your profile picture.

Avoid party shots, wedding shots, ‘cropped from a group’ shots, or anything where you are holding up a half drunk glass of booze – unless booze is your job. We’ve all got wonderful cameras these days, so use it to take a nice, sensible, work-related profile shot.

If you are creative, then by all means add in animals, animation or digital effects. They can make people smile and as they say a picture can paint a thousand words, so utilize this in your profile pic.

Your name. Here’s where you get to tell people how you’d like to be known. “James (Jim) Spaghetti” You also have the option to indicate your pronouns and other bespoke features of your nomenclature.

Also, if you have an exotic or often mispronounced name (I’m SO jealous!) then – if you download the mobile app, you can record a 10-second audio clip of you pronouncing your own name. Very handy. And this is another branding opportunity, as you’ll hear from my example.

Now we get to your headline. Just below your name

Here’s mine:

New business prepper. Host at Fuel podcast, MD, The Advertist new biz platform. New business as easy as ABC!

You have 120 characters to make an impactful statement. John Espirian advised me to use up all the characters and to break it down into three parts. Your mission, your company and then a memorable pay-off line. I used to have “probably thinking about bacon” but now I’m vegetarian, that doesn’t work, so feel free to borrow that!

You also have the opportunity to let people know what subjects interest you by adding in hashtags and talking points.

To the right of your headline, is your company URL and web site. Do not waste this opportunity to promote your latest web launches. You can change this around to fit whatever your latest campaign might be, so make use of it.

Directly under the headline section is your ‘Providing Services’ section where you can detail all the different skills you bring to the table.

Underneath this is your Featured Content. Your shop window. Use this to let people see your latest posts and points of view.

Beneath that, is a chronological view of your latest posts. Here’s where you need to pay attention to what you post. If you like delivering snarky one-liners or trolling people, then they will show up here. Alternatively, you could use this window to show new visitors how insightful and informative (and witty) you are.

Underneath this is the meat of your profile – ‘About’, Here you have 2000 characters, so go crazy and use them all. It’s a great opportunity to promote all the neat features of your career – accomplishments, a summary of your view points and attitudes and here’s where John Espirian really helped – add a key phrase or ‘secret word’ that people could use to prove they’ve actually read your profile. I think John says something like “mention the word Pineapple to prove you’ve read my profile”. I put “Get my attention – Mention the word “Bauhaus” in your LinkedIn invitation.”

To date, literally no-one has mentioned the word Bauhaus when they speak to me. Ho hum.

Also use the ‘about’ section to detail some interesting, little known facts about you. Some fun elements that give a sense of your personality.

Then we come to your career history.

Fill these sections in with as much detail as you can. You are in control of your past here, so use it to present the best side of your jobs and responsibilities. But please fill it in. Give readers a great opportunity to find out as much about your experience, your careers arc and your ambitions, goals, special projects etc.

The above should give you a shot at optimizing your profile. Obviously, I would strongly urge you to seek the advice of an expert like John Espirian & Ella Orr to cover off all the low-hanging fruit that tells people more about you.

Part 2

Stay on top of your LinkedIn activity because it is simply the easiest way to control your brand online.

However, there is one more – highly important factor to bear in mind with LinkedIn that will really make you stand out, and that’s your engagement.

How you interact with others on LinkedIn is critical to your visibility. From a new business perspective, this is your opportunity to engage with prospects in new areas or companies, with insightful and knowledgeable comments and posts, so don’t just hit ‘Like’ and hope they see it and offer you a pitch. It will never happen.

Here’s a tip that can both work for you and against you. Commenting on a post gives it oxygen. It lets the algorithm know that a post is worthwhile and engaging. So if a prospect has posted up something you want to respond to, then respond with a few sentences of praise, additional info, support, endorsements etc. It will give the original post life and it will be circulated to your contacts and followers. However, if you get dragged, or someone shades you on LinkedIn, don’t respond, because – for the very same reason, you’re literally trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

I guess the biggest thing that I’ve learned is to engage. Like voting, it’s best to to it early and often. Stay on top of your LinkedIn activity because it is simply the easiest way to control your brand online.

There is another facet to LinkedIn that I get asked about a lot and that’s advertising. Specifically “Is LinkedIn advertising worth it?”

That, I’m going to leave for anther day and another podcast because my good friend Ben Salmon has a few choice things to say about that and it’s all good.

LinkedIn has been one of the most significant inventions in the business community in the last 20 years. Don’t squander the chance to promote yourself and your business.

This newsletter is only the briefest of how-to’s and if I get enough feedback, I will do a more in-depth, blow-by-blow instruction, for those who really want to tune up their profile.

Thank you for letting me marvel at the brilliance of LinkedIn. I hope that you too get to maximise your LinkedIn activity because in my humble opinion, it is a key asset in the new business and sales arsenal, and you should ignore it at your peril.

And finally, thank you Reid Hoffman for inventing LinkedIn. I love your work.

To me this is an innovation as momentous as sliced bread. In fact, it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

6 Ways to find new business in 2022 & Who’s looking at you by Keith Smith, Managing Director of new business platform The Advertist.

How many of you put prospecting for new clients at the top of your business New Year’s resolutions?

Given the instability in most sectors right now, I hope that it’s most of you.

New business is your insurance. I like to call it business prepping because you’re insulating your business against the false starts, delays and ghosts that can eat away at company morale and that all important financial cushion.

We all need to put our own company’s survival at the top of the list, and keeping a solid list of new prospects on the books is a vital feature of good business practice.

All growing businesses need to know these three navigation tips:

  • Where they came from
  • How they got here
  • Where they’re going to

New business provides you with one of the critical components of the last part. New prospects help define the future direction of your agency.

So here’s a quick checklist of free advice on how and where you can prospect for new business in 2022 and they all have one thing in common; disruption.

New business thrives wherever there is disruption. Not catastrophic, but bumps and turbulence that your agency can address to make the prospect’s journey smoother.

Area 1: Current Affairs

Check the vertical trade press that cover your agency’s areas of expertise (or where you want your agency to be). Aside from the obvious sources, there are plenty of blogs, Vlogs and news channels run by enthusiasts and specialists. Look for NPD-related stories and breaking news about company activity that doesn’t always make the mainstream media. Armed with some current news and a few talking points related to your agency, you can not only pick up the phone and begin a conversation but you can also seed social media with thought leadership and opinion pieces to encourage conversations with new prospects.

Area 2: General news

Like the first point but a more long-range overview of current affairs. Looking back 2-3 months in any vertical sector, you can identify trends, concerns, issues etc that are talking points among your target prospects and not those that you assume are significant. There’s nothing more deflating than a cleverly constructed opener being met with “But that’s not relevant to us”.

Area 3: Database sales

You bought that subscription to a CRM system, so use it. Freshen up your cold prospecting database, identify ten of the top targets and create a narrative that works as a one-to-many sales piece. I never recommend mass-mailing – especially in a climate where ‘empathy’ is the key watchword but picking the best 10 prospects and working them through to a conclusion allows you to cleanse your list and adapt your horizon.

Area 4: People Moves

There is no excuse for not knowing the career updates of prospects and companies in your target sectors. We have so much information about new appointments available at our fingertips, and reaching out with offers of help is a guaranteed way to win hearts and minds. Everyone wants to shine in their first three months, so what can you do to help?

Area 5: Tenders

Many SME agencies think that tenders are too time-consuming and pointless to pursue, so they become low-hanging fruit for agencies that are set up to deal with them. Agency frameworks, opportunities to tender, and requests for information are circulating all the time and these can be big wins that can provide meat and potato revenue to underpin your agency.

Tenders are also a wonderful sign of disruption and can give new business prospectors a clue as to the future direction of big companies. So even if the tender isn’t relevant, it’s a great talking point with your prospect.

Area 6: Mergers and Acquisitions

The critical cause of disruption occurs when a fresh injection of capital or an MBO, MBI, seed round, acquisition, disposal or spin-out happens. Back in my early days of sales, new company launches were a minefield of time-wasting conversations. But with money looking for 3, 4, 5 and up to 10x returns, companies and innovations that were once to be avoided are attractive multi-million pound or dollar opportunities for growth. Their leaders are forward-thinking, imaginative disruptors who thrive on new ideas and ground-breaking, daring proposals.

Use your time efficiently; do the simple things.

Prospecting for new business #bizdev in this climate means that you cannot rely on historical spending trends. Neither can you rely on the biggest time-waster of sales – intent marketing. Using search engine algorithms analyzing search terms from a company does not provide proof of what a company is looking for. It’s pointless chum in the water, so don’t be distracted.

Instead, rely on your personality, sector knowledge and play to your agency’s strengths.

Here’s a piece of free advice that I love – Clients want to work with agencies that do work they love. In a neck-and-neck race for new business, a client will always pick the agency that has already won their admiration.

So be that agency. Get on the front foot and put your agency out there using any of the six simple rules for new business prospecting I’ve listed above and get 2022 off to a positive start.

Profile Marketing

You may have noticed but I am a massive fan of LinkedIn. It is a wonderful networking sandpit and – in the absence of in-person connections, it’s important to make the best first impression. I’m going to do a newsletter dedicated to this subject next month but I wanted to offer a quick word of advice. LinkedIn is the absolute first place that any new prospect will look you up to check that what you say is so.

With this in mind, it is vital that your personal and your company LinkedIn pages are optimized to the fullest extent. This doesn’t mean you have to splash out for Navigator, it’s perfectly acceptable to use LinkedIn’s free service and there are literally hundreds of ways you can tweak your profile using great photography, clever summaries and poignant posts that will help you demonstrate yours and your agency’s capabilities.

For a full overview of what you can do – for free – to boost your LinkedIn presence, I was fortunate to interview my personal LinkedIn hero John Espirian a few months ago on the Fuel podcast and not only is he a charming man, he’s also spent thousands of hours mining, testing, adapting and refining his LinkedIn activity using nothing more than the basic service. Ignore this advice at your peril because LinkedIn is destined to become the preferred field of play for all your competitors this year.

Check out the podcast here:

I hope that you find these tips useful as a refresher for your new business drive and 2022 is your year for growth.

Happy prospecting!

For those of you who are looking for a business development platform to help fuel your new business pipeline we may be a bit partial but check out TheAdvertist and see how it can help you prospect for new clients!

Surviving, thriving and letting go by Keith Smith, Managing Director of new business platform The Advertist.

Survivor’s Guilt

Have you been successful during the pandemic?

If so, there’s a chance that you’re probably thinking that it’s best not to brag about it when some businesses are suffering.

In business terms this is not healthy.

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, unashamed new business #bizdev person and in our line of work, where there is disruption and upheaval, there are opportunities.

Wars are won on strategy; battles are won by disruption. Using disruption as an opportunity can be a very effective new business tool – as long as it comes with a heavy dose of compassion.

Because today’s winning agencies aren’t the monolithic business empires we grew to admire. Today’s winning businesses embrace behaviors like flexibility, agility, low-friction and flat management.


In the spirit of adaptability, new business is about being able to seamlessly transition from a waltz to a samba, to have options in the tank so that when life – or business – changing events occur, you can switch streams.

Many of the agency heads I have spoken to about this agree that focusing on a core set of skills that can be deployed in multiple directions for a variety of purposes is the winning business model for the next decade.

Think of the old ‘hit and miss’ engine that began the revolution of farming mechanization. It was a low-cost, lean-burning, multi-purpose engine that came with a mass of attachments that allowed it to be used for threshing corn, bailing hay, sawing lumber or washing clothes.

That’s how your business – and by association your new business function – needs to think.

And when you find that you’re playing Simultaneous Exhibition chess like a creative Bobby Fischer, don’t feel guilty.

Feel proud that your ability to stay loose and spot these opportunities has given your team the reassurance that they can place their trust in you.


Another topic that comes up regularly in the new business #businessdevelopment world is ‘letting go.’

Leadership comes with the responsibility to recognize when you need to stop being the main front-of-house new business person and delegate.

It’s a huge struggle to hand over the crown jewels of the new business function but if your agency is to grow, that is exactly what needs to be done.

You simply don’t have the bandwidth to do a great job in a new business role, when you now also need to step back, look at payroll, look at direction, funding and HR issues, taking your agency from six, to seven figure income.

So many agency owners think that by devoting an hour or so a day to new business, that’s going to be enough. But that wasn’t the approach when they started and it certainly won’t do now.

An agency constantly needs a full-time focus on its new business, either through a dedicated person or team, or through an outsourced company of experts.

Both work and there’s no right or wrong, you just need to find the right fit for your business.

And remember, when you do delegate this function, it needs to be oozing the personality of your agency.

It’s not some remote Siberian outpost.

It’s your front-of-house.

Your meeter, greeter and seater.

So, the more immersed they are in the agency’s culture, the better ambassador for your agency they will be.

Just like you were.

The ABCs of sales & confirmation bias by Keith Smith, Managing Director of new business platform The Advertist.

I love being able to discuss and debate new business trends and techniques with the best and brightest in the UK industry and – since starting the Fuel podcast, with some of the best that America has to offer.

Here’s two wonderful examples of sales techniques you can learn from the folks that do the job of new business #newbusiness day in and day out.

Because there is one metric that stands above all others in the I of KPI’s

New business.

ABC (always be closing)

I know it sounds corny but it’s more of a mantra than a piece of literal advice. In order to keep the new business funnel healthy, you need to be looking to stimulate new business all the time.

It’s not always possible, I know. Other jobs always seem to get in the way and sometimes, the last thing you need is extra work.

But projects rarely start immediately and there always need to be some chemistry conversations to discuss the finer points of any deal so it’s worth having one or two of these on the go at any one time.

Also, the economy is not a constant and when the ride gets bumpy, you need to be able to switch gears. When deadlines get punted, people leave, or your client experiences their own turbulence, other options are always your greatest insurance.

It’s how big companies survive downturns – they’ve always got other projects they can work on.

To borrow from the wonderful Lucy Mann of Gunpowder Consulting, her ‘marginal gains’ strategy applies to prospecting too. Use conversations and meetings to advance the ball forwards, sometimes by inches and sometimes by yards but always forward.

Take small wins and use them to parlay up into bigger wins.

Confirmation bias

I read an interesting post on LinkedIn the other day, from Steve Fair, the MD of new business agency Sponge (he’s always good for some straight-talking, no-nonsense advice) I was please to read it because was a perfect form of confirmation bias.

I’ve been putting together some new copy for The Advertist web site, trying to create the distinction between referrals and cold new business. There is a clear difference between new business that comes from referrals and new business that is won from cold outreach.

Steve approached the subject from the perspective of winning referral new business requiring a different skill set than winning cold new business.

Just because you’re good at one, doesn’t mean you’re good at the other.

WARNING: having a diet of referral new business can get you out of shape mentally and unprepared if you find yourself out in the cold, having to prospect for brand new business.

You forget how long it can take to convert a new client from initial contact to winning the work. I’ve had clients that took 2-3 years to get across the line.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it

Here’s three very important benefits for your agency that cold prospecting delivers:

1. Cold prospecting sharpens your skills

You are in control. You get to determine the location and time of your hunt. What sector or what specialism or both? Perhaps you want to target clients that look like your other clients, or maybe you want to target clients of a different stripe, size and shape.

Most cold new business is won because the agency has developed trust with their prospect; proven values and benefits of doing business. It requires an understanding of the needs of the prospect.

It means having conversations, meetings, email exchanges that give you important insight into the mindset of your prospect. Developing your listening and social skills brings so many benefits and it helps in all areas of life – business and personal.

2. Cold prospecting puts you in charge of your agency’s growth and direction

With referral new business, you have no control over when, where and how you grow – you’re always behind the curve, trying to meet demand that’s already a priority.

It’s easier to make bad decisions under pressure and make great decisions when you’re not.

You choose.

In a pressure-free environment, leaders can plot the future direction of their agency, looking at the available skill set, resources and abilities and think about where they’re going to be in 2-3 year’s time. This gives them the freedom to start making in-roads into these new areas, developing collateral, credibility and conversations.

3. Cold prospecting helps you build a quality team.

Making HR decisions under pressure – to meet unanticipated demand – often takes you down a dark path. Leaders find themselves blaming new business people for lack of performance, before the person has had a chance to start running, understand the culture, integrate into the business and learn to speak credibly as one of the team.

Moving into new areas takes time, and building trust with new prospects is rarely an overnight process, so give yourself and your agency time to ease into it.

Cold prospecting – when done correctly, gives the whole agency a clear direction and understanding of the short and long-term mission.

Giving yourself time to acclimate a new business person, or to speak with a professional agency or consultant means that you are both managing expectations.

To conclude….

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating against referrals because that’s where you develop your quality control, relationship-building, project management and delivery skills.

But you need to develop two parallel streams of consciousness with your new business – referrals and cold new business.

Think of it as insurance. Think of it as you prepping your agency, making sure that you have redundancy – and back-ups to that redundancy.

 If it helps you survive an economy like this, it’ll help you thrive in the good times!

For those of you who are looking for a business development platform to help fuel your new business pipeline we may be a bit partial but check out The Advertist and see how it can help you prospect for new clients!