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As a commercial loan broker, LinkedIn can be a marketing gold mine.  But with any mining, it is easy to invest a whole lot of time without striking it rich.

Here are seven critical steps to make sure that you find gold quickly when using LinkedIn to market yourself as a commercial loan broker:

1) Understand what LinkedIn is (and what it isn’t)

Start off with an accurate understanding of your new playing field. LinkedIn is a huge online network of professionals.  It has over 400 million users and is growing by 2 new members each second.  Nearly all users are business people, many are business owners.  In sum, this network has more potential loan customers than your brokerage could ever handle.

That is the great news.  But on the flip side, these 400 million people are not just sitting there waiting for you to join and offer your services.  They are all busy.  This means that to be successful when marketing your services on LinkedIn – just like in any other networking venue – you are going to need to invest time in adding value and building relationships.

2) Know what target you’re aiming for.

LinkedIn is such a large network that if you’re not focused it is easy to spend your time saying the wrong things to the wrong people.  To avoid spinning your wheels, your first step needs to be defining your goals.

Who do you want to reach?  And what actions do you want to provoke from that audience?  The more specific you are with defining your target, then the more tailored your searches, posts, direct messages, and activity will be.  The more focused you are in reaching your top two or three audiences, the faster you will produce results.

3) Build your brand to appeal to your audience.

Once you know who you are targeting, it is time to match your outfit to their fashion tastes.  Your profile can turbo-charge your results if it is designed to quickly earn trust from your audience.

Start with the visual pieces.  Upload a professional profile picture that has good lighting, a friendly smile, and is cropped to approximately your shoulders and head.  (Having a profile picture like this actually makes you 14 times more likely to be found on LinkedIn.)  Also be sure to upload an inviting, non-controversial cover image.  This is the broad image stretching across the top of your profile.  Pictures of your local city or landscape is always an easy solution for this that appeals to your local connections.

Now fill out all the sections of your profile completely.  In particular, your heading (the large text immediately below your name on your personal page) should be loaded with keywords.  The words used here will be a huge help in boosting your profile when other users search for brokers like you — so be sure to use words like business loans, small business funding, commercial loan broker, and so on.

4) Work the system & connect with people.

Once you have a good profile, it is time to start actively searching for your target audience.  There is a basic search field in the header of LinkedIn, but when you are looking to find your perfect audience you should instead click on the “Advanced” link next to this search field.

From here you can then enter keywords, position titles, geographical area, industry, company, and a myriad of other search parameters.  Your goal here is to build an audience that is a perfect fit for your goals.  Suppose, for example, you specialized in professional practice lending.  Rather than just searching for business owners, you can instead drill down to people (A) in the medical industry (narrowing down to a specific type of professional practice), (B) working in companies with less than 15 employees (eliminating large hospitals that wouldn’t fit your lending profile), (C) who are MDs (making it likely they are owners or partners in the practice), and (D) who are in your city.  In other words, your ideal client.

Once you have drilled down to your perfect target, invite them to connect.  Including a personal note in your invitation (as described below) will be the final key in getting a higher number of people to accept your invitations.  With this, mention how you found them, what you have in common, and why you feel it would be good to connect.

5) Don’t forget your offline friends

You have a large number of people that you know from all of your offline business activities.  People you have partnered with over the years. Past and current clients. Your funding sources. Your staff.  That nice guy wearing a hat that you met at last week’s chamber networking event.

All of these offline connections should be taken online.  This gives you the ability to stay at the top of their mind (more on that below), as well as keeping up to date on their lives.  The simple fact is that you never know who is going to need your services  in the future (or who will know someone else who needs them).  By adding everyone you know to your LinkedIn connections right now, you are building a huge network that you will be able to leverage for years to come.

When sending these connection invitations, be sure to personalize them.  Don’t  just click the “Connect” button from the search results because this will automatically send a generic invite to them.  Instead, click to visit their profile.  Then click on the “Connect” button from their profile.  This will allow you to enter a short note reminding them of how you met each other offline.  Including this personal touch will ensure that nearly all of your invitations are accepted.

6) Use content to stay top of mind.

The simple (and sad) fact is this: Not everyone is shopping for your services today.

There is good news, however.  Some people are shopping for business loans right now.  The even better news is that most business owners will need a commercial loan at sometime in the future.  So where does this leave you?

The beauty of LinkedIn marketing is that it allows you to bank these leads for the future.  Once you are connected to someone online, you have the tools to be there, right in front of them, when the time is right.  But you need to work the system to make sure this happens.

Posting quality content needs to be your most frequent ongoing activity on LinkedIn.  The content that you post will be shown in the news feed of your connections.  This is the home page that everyone sees as soon as they log into LinkedIn, and the place where all of your network’s activity is captured for easy review.

The challenge is that you never know when the next perfect lead needing a business loan is going to log into LinkedIn.  And if they log in three days later, then what you posted today will likely be pushed so far down their news feed by new posts from their other connections that they will never see it.  So how you do address this?

You post regularly.  Your goal is maintaining “top of mind awareness”, or making sure that you are at the top of their mind when they develop a need for a new loan.  To do this through LinkedIn, you want to maintain “top of news feed” positioning, which comes from posting recently before they look at their news feed.

When posting, you want to make sure that you are sharing good content.  This may be industry news or financial tips that will help them in their business (while also branding you as the local expert).  It can also be professional updates on you, your company, or the success of your clients.  You can even share direct promotional content, as long as you make sure this is done infrequently and represents only about 10% of your posts.

Most importantly, have fun with this process.  If you see it as drudgery, you won’t last long.  And as we cover below, this is a marathon.  So schedule a few minutes each day – maybe in the morning with your cup of coffee – to educate yourself on your industry, learn the latest news, and share a few key tidbits with your LinkedIn network.

7) Run a marathon, not a sprint.

Social marketing, just like building a strong friendship, is not a once and done activity.  Rather, social marketing is a process.  Crafting business partnerships takes time.  So if you think of LinkedIn as a sprint — something you can bang out this week and be done with — then you are likely to be disappointed.

The most successful commercial loan brokers are those who see LinkedIn marketing as a marathon.  You invest in it for the long haul.  Yes, defining your goals, creating a rocking profile, inviting folks you know to connect with you, and making a few good posts can all be done this week.  But building an immense, engaged audience will take time.  You will need to continue finding new connections, posting great content, and sending direct messages each week.

The great news is that if you run this marathon for six months, at the end you will have a marketing platform that will generate leads and referrals for years to come.

If you’re interested in more information about our marketing training for commercial loan brokers, just visit CommercialLoanBrokerInstitute.com