Cold Outreach on LinkedIn: How to Avoid Scaring off Potential Leads


With more than 675 million monthly users—roughly 64 million of which occupy decision-making positions in companies—LinkedIn is, without a doubt, the world's largest professional network. This huge user base promises a fertile ground for B2B sales and marketing. In fact, you probably won't find a better place to connect with professionals and businesses than this platform. But it’s worth noting there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach cold outreach on LinkedIn, and B2Bs need to avoid the latter.

First things first, let’s talk about what LinkedIn outreach actually is…

What's LinkedIn Outreach?

LinkedIn outreach involves generating leads through cold LinkedIn mailing. But this process isn't as simple as it sounds. You have to fulfill certain requirements before you can qualify to send messages to users outside your connections circle. You need to purchase the Premium plan to send messages to any LinkedIn user. Otherwise, you can send messages with a connection request, but you’re limited to only 300 characters.

Problems Facing Cold Outreach on LinkedIn

Although LinkedIn seems to have the numbers, it may not be the best platform for seeking leads if you don't know how to go about the whole process. Your effort may succeed in scaring off potential leads rather than guiding them down the sales funnel. 

Here are some reasons your attempts at cold outreach on LinkedIn may be pushing potential leads away…

Spamming Professionals

Sending cold messages to people you don't know may not be a problem normally, but when it comes to LinkedIn, you are dealing with professionals. These professionals know exactly why they are on this platform rather than Twitter or Facebook. And they may not take kindly to inbox messages from strangers who are just trying to sell them on a product or service. At best, they may just ignore such messages and move on to more important matters.

There’s also a risk your cold messages may land on the wrong audience. LinkedIn offers the ability to target the right audience for free, which is appealing, but experts liken it to spray-and-pray email marketing. Your message may address a female professor as “Dear Sir” or ask plumbers to purchase a grammar-checking software.

It would amount to spamming professionals and may have unintended results. Instead of your target audience responding as you expected, they may want to stay away from your links and emails. They may even want to ensure they don't receive any more messages from you by blocking you!

Trying to Connect with Those Who Aren’t Looking for Friends

If you’re hoping to tap into the numerous connections LinkedIn users have through LinkedIn outreach, you may be in for a rude awakening. It’s true LinkedIn allows users to have up to 30,000 first-degree connections, but who can claim to know 30,000 people personally?

Of course, you may still connect with those professionals without having to know them personally. But it still won't work if you don't filter the target audience. Unsolicited LinkedIn messages may face the block or be ignored altogether… 

How do you like the title “LinkedIn spammer”?

You can't really create a network out of your connections on LinkedIn since the majority of Americans haven’t made a new friend in 5 years. This means that hoping a connection will pass on your ad to their connections is like picking out a needle from a haystack. Those aren't friends, just mere connections for professional purposes.

7 Ways to Make Cold Outreach on LinkedIn More Effective

Young man working on tasks using his laptop in a library with books in the background.

Before you get too discouraged, keep in mind there is a right approach to cold outreach on LinkedIn. It takes a little more time and finesse than just sending messages to those you think would benefit from your offerings, but it’s well worth it. So, with that in mind, here are some tips you should be applying to your own outreach efforts… 

1) Develop a Strong Organic Presence

First, you should start by optimizing your LinkedIn page and sharing valuable, high-quality content often. Improving your organic presence is especially important during the pandemic period because most B2B professionals are operating from home but looking for more and more content online. Design webinars, videos, guides, articles, and brochures to gain better engagement from your audience.

Keep in mind that you want to deliver true value in advance. You want to be helpful, which means becoming a trusted resource rather than someone who’s just out to get leads. Rest assured this will work in your favor and your audience’s. 

2) Determine Your Objectives

Effective marketing requires clear objectives right at the beginning. These objectives shape your overall marketing strategy, as well as the tactics you apply and the key performance indicators you track. Additionally, objectives provide direction and clarity of purpose for your campaigns. This is especially important for LinkedIn marketing because this social media platform is optimized for objective-based advertising. Without clear objectives, your marketing campaigns may reap nothing substantial and may only work to scare off potential leads.

3) Be Precise with Targeting

You don't necessarily need to hyper-target, as doing so may limit your reach and you may not really capture the full buying circle or future customers. But you need to deliver relevant content to the right audience. Yes, you may want to reach as many people as possible, but you still need to make use of the LinkedIn filters to get to the right audience.

4) Do Your Research

Before tackling cold outreach on LinkedIn, it’s well worth the time and effort to research those you want to connect with. For starters, this gives you a lot more information to work with when the time comes to message them. Additionally, they’ll receive a notification that you’ve viewed their profile, which will make your initial introduction less cold. 

So, study their profiles and get to know them—not just what they do. Consider their interests, the articles they’ve shared, and their background. And try to find some common ground so they have a reason to trust you. 

5) Keep Messages Short

When you message potential leads directly, it’s important to keep it short and sweet. The simple fact is that someone who’s unfamiliar with you or your company won’t spend time reading a long, drawn-out message. You need to capture their attention and get straight to the point. Remember that you want to demonstrate you can help them solve a problem.   

6) Utilize Paid Options

You may also consider using paid ads to make your cold outreach on LinkedIn more effective. For example, you can use message ads, single image ads, and lead generation forms to encourage those in your target audience to sign up for free trials, product demos, or event registrations. LinkedIn may offer a free environment for targeting your audience, but you may end up in the spam folder or get blocked. Without a paid ad, your cold outreach on LinkedIn may be ignored, which means you won't get any quality leads…

7) Measure the Results and Optimize

Finally, you have to find a way to determine if your campaign is actually working. That’s why you need to measure and track the performance of your marketing ventures on LinkedIn. Google Analytics, for example, is one of the most comprehensive and powerful data tools available. The results derived from this tool will show if you are headed in the right direction, or if things are going south, so you can adjust accordingly.

Final Word

You can make your cold outreach on LinkedIn count if you know what to do. Rather than taking a spray-and-pray approach, be sure to…

In doing so, you can increase the likelihood of connecting with prospective customers and avoid scaring off potential leads. 

(Want to get some insight into your social media presence and more? Click HERE for a free 20-point marketing audit!)


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About Thomas von Ahn

With more than 30 years of experience in B2B sales across various industries, Thomas has unique insight into both the offline and online sales sphere. It was during his time in the trenches that Thomas noticed a recurring theme: Though business owners are knowledgeable about their craft or trade, they often struggle to market and sell to their prospects. This realization is what prompted Thomas and his now business partner, Christine, to bring Viral Solutions to life. Since starting the company, Thomas has been able to assist countless business owners in developing a solid marketing plan based upon sound marketing strategy, then assigning the marketing tactics to a team of talented employees, and, finally, watching those actions unfold—his true passion.

Though Viral Solutions is on Thomas’ mind 24/7, he does occasionally take a break to cheer on the Green Bay Packers and enjoy his adopted home of Wisconsin. Much of his family also works at Viral Solutions, and this closeness with family and employees is the cornerstone of the Viral Solutions culture.