How to Generate Great Business Ideas With LinkedIn

How to Generate Business Ideas With LinkedIn

Generating a business idea can be tricky. The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is assume a problem exists and build a business based on this assumption. The advice entrepreneurs are given is to get out of the building. If applied metaphorically, it’s great advice, but if taken literally, it can be a mess. Why would your ideal customer be walking around the streets?

But how does one digitally get out of the building? The answer is LinkedIn. Specifically, for business-to-business (B2B) ideas, you want to focus on LinkedIn.

Why you should reach out to potential customers on LinkedIn

There are several reasons to reach out to prospective users before starting a business. It helps ensure that you’re building something people will use and pay for. It’s easier to build something around a user’s needs rather than pivoting your product post-launch.

So why use LinkedIn to develop your business idea? First, it’s a professional network where people expect work inquiries. If your request is contextual to their industry, work, or other professional factors, there’s a good chance they’ll connect and jump into a conversation with you.

It’s also easier to define and narrow down a specific audience based on location, job title, and industry. This is especially useful if you’re exploring a business idea that caters to other businesses and need to refine your focus.

How to generate business ideas with LinkedIn

The best way to explore business ideas is by reaching out to LinkedIn members directly. You’ll see more engagement, be able to follow up on specific questions, and potentially build relationships with future customers. For this guide, we’ll cover how to develop a strategy to directly message LinkedIn members.

Additionally, as you begin reaching out to LinkedIn members, it may be worth engaging with users on LinkedIn in other ways. Look into industry groups that you can join or start commenting on conversation threads related to the business ideas you’re exploring.

Just keep in mind that this is not your primary outreach method and will not lead to the same type of engagement as direct messaging. Use it as a way to build up your presence on LinkedIn and open up natural avenues for connection. Instead of reaching out cold, you can reference an article a user shared, the comment they had on a post, or that you’re both part of the same industry group.

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1. Explore the market

Before reaching out to LinkedIn users, focus on a specific industry you want to explore. Do some initial market research to inform your idea and the opportunity you’re interested in. Understand if the industry is growing and how regulated it is.

Find a niche that piques your interest or that you already have domain expertise in. Then start looking to see if you have a close friend or family member in the industry. If not, maybe their connections are.

2. Tap into your connections

Start refining your ideas by looking at your current connections and see if any of them are connected to people in the industry you’re interested in. These are 2nd level connections, meaning that someone you know is connected with them but you aren’t directly. You have a few options to start exploring this list of people:

– Visit your connections profile: If you have a connection in mind that you’d like to explore their contacts, visit their profile and click the connections hyperlink to generate a list of their connections. Filter results by unselecting 1st connections and selecting 2nd connections to filter out mutual connections.

– Your own profile: If you don’t have specific connections in mind, visit your own profile, select your connections, and switch over to 2nd level connections to see a full list, including mutual connections.

If you identify 2nd level connections you’d like to speak to, reach out to your mutual connection for an introduction.

3. Refine your search

Work out the types of companies you want to work with to further refine your search based on the exploration you already started. For example, if you’re exploring opportunities in the FinTech market, look into financial services firms, investors, other FinTech companies, corporates outside of financial services, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

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Identify who to target based on the types of businesses you want to reach out to. For larger firms, target roles like CDO, strategy and innovation, or heads of departments or business development. For smaller firms and SMBs, target GMs, CEOs, and operations.

4. Generate a list to reach out to

Once you have an industry, mutual connections, and target roles/businesses in mind, start reaching out. Run a refined LinkedIn search:

Step 1: Go to LinkedIn and type anything into the search bar at the top. Click the "all filters" tab. Input the location, although this isn’t vital initially.

Step 2: Choose company names if you have any in mind. Then choose industries to target and most importantly, the role you’re looking for.

Step 3: Remove the search query you had or add a relevant one.

5. Reach out

Now that you have a list of people you want to reach out to, it’s time to connect. Use the InMessage feature to send messages or hit "connect" and add your message. Keep in mind that they will only connect or respond if your message resonates.

Use the following script as a guide: "I’m writing to hopefully learn from you. I have no product to sell, I’m just hoping to learn about problems you have at work. The aim is to see if I can build a product to solve this kind of problem. Appreciate your help! Cheers, (Your Name)"

6. Follow-up

Remember, not every message will resonate. Instead, you’re looking for volume initially to increase your chances of connecting with users in your field of interest. Look for patterns and trends in the responses you receive. Ask follow-up questions and listen to the problems people are experiencing.

The aim is to understand the person’s problem, why it happens, and what kind of pain it causes. If it’s costing them a lot of money, time, or loss of sales, it’s a good contender for a business idea.

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Example of researching a business idea with LinkedIn

When I used this technique, I had a niche in mind—anti-fraud teams at banks. I started broadly with job roles using the ‘title’ search, using words related to anti-fraud. As my team and I began reaching out, all the feedback and responses pointed in one direction: the need to speak to people in transaction monitoring teams. We discovered problems related to false alerts, time-consuming false positives, and inefficient alert systems.

It pays to never push your conversations down a road you were hoping for. Don’t ask leading questions. Instead, listen to the true problems people are experiencing.

Develop a system for researching business ideas with LinkedIn

This process is a fast way to generate concepts and build a network at the same time. You’re researching and engaging potential customers before building anything, increasing your chance of finding product-market fit and building an initial list of possible users.

The approach is free and gives you access to thousands of people you’d struggle to connect with offline. Your future customers are finding a problem and telling you how much of a pain it is. Look for patterns, ask follow-up questions, and listen. People will tell you when your focus is on doing something for them rather than selling something to them.

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