Ask yourself this: When was the last time you went and met up with somebody without actually going through their LinkedIn first, even for just a perfunctory glance? Using LinkedIn is an important skill to hone nowadays because so much of your professional reputation sits there in black-and-white, and people can see it, even rely on it, to determine if being in a professional relationship with you will be of value to them. Paul Higgins is an author, lead generator, and CEO of Build Live Give. He shares his love of building relationships using LinkedIn with Ben Baker. Are you going to let yourself stay behind the curve on using LinkedIn? Let Ben and Paul's conversation enlighten you about the best ways to build relationships using this unique form of social media.
I have Paul Higgins coming from Australia, from Build Live Give. Paul, welcome to the show.
It’s great to be here, Ben. Thanks for having me.
It's great to have you on the show. You and I have been talking. We have been in the same circles and seen each other on LinkedIn and Twitter and wherever. It's nice to finally have you on the show because I love what you're doing. You help a lot of people. You've come up with a simple, engaging and valuable program. I want people to know a little bit about it, let's get into that. Tell me a little bit about Build Live Give. What was the impetus that said, "I’ve got to start this program, I’ve got to start this company?" Tell me a little bit about where you are now and then we'll eventually get to where you're going and the people that you serve.
I worked for Coca-Cola for eighteen years. My father worked there and I was told I'd never get a job there. I did uni, etc. I got desperate, they threw me a set of keys and eighteen years later I was still there. I had a brilliant career. It was an amazing company to work for. It’s 128 years old. It's made Warren Buffett, the third wealthiest man in the world. It was an incredible company but I've got an inherited condition. Around 2011, my nephrologist or my kidney specialist said, "You've got two choices. Stay working for one of the best companies in the world or live to see your grandchildren, which one do you want to do?" I'm like, "The latter." In 2011, I left and did some coaching, I did some consultancy and managed my health. Several months ago, I got a brand new kidney from my best mate and things couldn't be better. That's a little bit about my back story.
Before we get into the Build Live Give, I want to get into eighteen years at Coca-Cola. Eighteen years anywhere in this world is almost unheard of. The fact that you started as a young man right out of university and built into the company. I'm sure you probably had a pretty interesting career within the company, what are the things that you felt kept you there over the years? That's important. Starting with a company and working for a company is one thing. Staying with a company for eighteen years, there had to be certain things that enticed you to stay, which made you feel you were wanted and needed. You didn't think you were even going to get a job there. What kept you there and what were the things that you learned along the way?
The great thing with Coca-Cola is that it made lots of profit. It was an incredibly profitable business. What that meant is they could hire the best people in the world to help them. We'd get someone from Stanford and Harvard. You're always having some of the most intelligent people in the world educating you on how to be a bit of a business person. That was enormously beneficial. I'm a curious person by nature. I love to learn and I’m constantly trying to develop. That was brilliant. The other thing that I loved about the Coca-Cola company is that it's end-to-end. One day you'd be with the global CEO talking about a twenty-year strategy for the company. That exact afternoon, you'd be out facing bottles up in a little cafe. It was a brilliant wildest day. They used to say, "Think global, act local." We are a global business, which I loved and I suppose the world has caught up with that. It is one of the first truly global businesses and it was also practical. You could sit, strategize and you'd see the implementation, which was quite a unique blend.
The last thing is they kept giving me roles in particular where I was an entrepreneur. They would say, "Paul, we've got hotels, restaurants and cafes where we need to improve our brand. Our brand has disappeared. Go on a month, tour around the world, pick the best practice, then come back. We'll give you all the money you need to implement it." It was like you're running your business with the support of the giant backing of Coca-Cola. To be honest, it was those opportunities that kept popping up. I completely changed the juice market here in Australia. I had these amazing opportunities. You also learn from some of the best companies in the world because you go and spend time with Walmart or McDonald's. You're always looking at the best companies and their market as well that you're learning from. It was a great experience. I could see the writing on the wall around their results because sugar became a bigger issue. I don't think I would've left as soon as I did if it wasn't for my condition.
I want to reach out on that entrepreneur type philosophy because that's an amazing thing. The fact that not only did they train you and support you, but they also said, "We want our people to learn from other organizations and to go out there and find the best practices and we trust you. We're going to send you on this learning tour. We're going to get you to find the best insights. We're going to get you to extrapolate on what's happening out in the market and be able to build those best practices into the future of this company." Those are amazing qualities that you don't see in a lot of organizations. Many organizations are thinking of the end of the week, month and quarter but that tends to be about it. They're not thinking 5, 10, 20 years out. Did you find that allowed you to be able to move because of your health? What were the lessons that you took out of that? When you went out on your own, it made you a better entrepreneur and be able to start where you are.
The first thing is understanding the consumer, the customer. I was privy to what Nike and other companies did from a customer research point of view, but the Coke company will bring in at it. They always started with what is the pain point that the customers are dealing with and all the consumer they speak. What are they dealing with? We'll then find a product to solve it. Often I see people build it and then hope they will come. Whereas the Coke company is ingraining to you to say, "You've got to do your research. You've got to understand the consumer and then you make the product." That was a perfect thing for running my business.
I'm not saying I always did it, but I at least knew what I did wrong. The other one is the sales training that you had was sensational. They believe in, if you improve the customer's business you were dragged along. Even back in the early 2000s, we were taking all the data of major foodservice companies and mining all their data and working out how they could make more profit as a total business. We knew if they made more profit, we'd sell more and we also knew they wouldn't come and ask for a price discount because they had already met their profit targets. This is the stuff we're talking about now. They were far ahead of the curve on things like that because we had the best experts. For me, sitting on the customers' side and what does my client want to achieve not just from a business perspective but also personally was another great lesson that the Coke company taught me, which held well for bringing my business.
That's such a great lesson that every entrepreneur has got to live. Many people would say, "I've got this great idea. I have this wonderful idea. My mom thinks it's a wonderful job. I'm going to go out and build it. I'm going to spend all this money. I'm going to create whatever solution it is." They go out to the market and realize that what they built isn't what the market needs. It's amazing to me that Coca-Cola’s thought process is, "What does the customer need? What do they want? What are their desires? Where are their pain points? What's frustrating them? Let's go out and solve those problems.” I love that philosophy and that's something that needs to be hammered over and over again into people. The “Let's build it and they will come” mentality is not realistic. You have to look at who's your audience and what do they truly need.
The other thing that backed that up is data. The Coke company effectively for a lot of our business, sold to each outlet and we had all of the sales histories. Having clean data and using that data to make better decisions. Any decision I went to make, I had my gut intuition, but I'd go to my analysts and say, "Come back to me and either prove or disprove this hypothesis on this decision I'm about to make." Using that data around with AI and the use of data is becoming topical now. The Coke company was a real key leader in that space. I see many business people got it as a starting point, but it shouldn't be the endpoint. You need some data to prove or disprove that based on fact. If you don't have the right data points and the right claim data, then that's going to make it hard.Incredibly profitable companies like Coca-Cola get the best people in the world to help them. Click To Tweet
Let's get into that because it's not the data, it's the interpretation of the data. It's asking the right questions to get the right data. That's where it is. There are a lot of people collecting data on everything, but they're not asking the right questions. They're not interpreting the information, therefore, their decisions are confused. What you're saying is if you look at the data and you ask, "What is it telling us?” To be able to interpret that against your gut reaction, against what you're seeing in the marketplace, it allows you to make a far more intelligent decision.
The other thing which I learned at the Coke company too is not to go too far the other way, which you don't trust any of your gut decision and you only based on the data because sometimes the patterns in the data aren't always accurate. It is a blend but I completely agree, using that helps and especially for a lot of mid-market. It used to only be available for people that are at the top of the market like Coca-Cola, now it's available in mid-market right down through. That's a great thing with technology. It's accessible and SaaS, Software as a Service has completely changed the game. Often I find smaller companies are quicker and faster to adopt technology because they don't have the big legacy systems that some of the large guys do.
That's important to be able to be nimble with that data. You don't need a supercomputer to be able to analyze it unless you're the size of a Coca-Cola, a Visa, a Nike or something where you’re looking at millions of data points. The average company, you’re looking at 10,000 to 15,000 data points. You could almost run it on an Excel spreadsheet or Microsoft Access. For most companies out there, the amount of data that you're analyzing is enough to get intelligent information, but it's not big that it's going to cost you millions of dollars to interpret it. It's a brave new world.
A great example of that is LinkedIn. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and helping people with LinkedIn. There's a product called ShieldApp.ai. It's like Google Analytics for your LinkedIn. It gives you all the data so you can go back over the last twelve months and work out which were your best post. Why did you get certain engagements? It's a low-cost item that can be added to a platform like LinkedIn to give you incredible information. There are lots of those tools out there that people can use rather than saying, "I'm not happy with my results and keep repeating that." The Coke company taught me always that you've got to grow. We constantly have to grow our profits and the way that we do that is constantly get better and using that data to make a better decision for us and also for our consumers and customers.
I'm not happy with my results, what can I do differently to change this? A lot of companies need to be able to say, "What's the line in the sand? Where are we versus where do we want to go?" They then build that roadmap. Unless you've got the right data, unless you understand what's holding you back, and what's your Achilles’ heel, it's difficult for you to get a point to move forward. I love that software. I didn't even know about it. It might be the next purchase that I make. Having the ability to take a look and go, "Where were you in the last twelve months? Which were the successful posts?" Be able to look at it and say, "Why were you successful? Why did these posts take off?" I've got one post that I did that was 250,000 views. I've never had that before. I may never have it again, but it was interesting diving into it and trying to figure out, what made this thing go viral?
It was a couple of key people that resonated with and shared it. It was those key people with large communities all over the world that happened to see this. It was the right time of day. It was the right thing that hit people in their inbox at the right time. They shared it and reshared it. This thing snowballed. I don't think it was anything to do with the actual article itself because if I remember it correctly, it was a leadership article. It was not that much different from anything else that I've ever written. It just happened to resonate. Those were one of those things that it was lightning in a bottle. I've had lots of posts that I've had 8,000, 10,000, 15,000 views, but to have 250,000 views was an amazing thing.
We had one of the ladies in our group that had 500,000 views. Before she joined our group, she was lucky to get 1,500 views. It was an outlier but that made a significant difference to her business. It is around that you'll always get the outliers, but how do you get those consistent views? There is a certain way to guarantee that you're going to get that so the bell curve is a lot tighter and you'll always have the outliers. What you'll never have are the large view posts.
Let's get into that because that's your business. With these LinkedIn groups and the different things that you're doing, that's what you're helping people to do. You help them build their business more effectively on LinkedIn. What do you do? How do you do it and what differentiates you from everybody else that's out there proportioning systems on LinkedIn? God knows there's enough of them.
It's like the old saying, "Everyone has a bomb." It's a little bit like that with LinkedIn. Everyone's got a different opinion. In March 2019, I had my kidney transplant. For the first time in ten years, the doctors said to me, "You're okay." Up until that point, in November 2018, I almost passed away. I had a bad experience with operation and going into the transplant, I was nervous. I worked right through the hospital. I'd set up my business to work from the hospital and that was fine, but I hadn't marketed myself. The doctor gave the green light and my first thought was, "What do I do?" I was petrified. It's like, "I can't use my health as an excuse here. I've got to get off my bomb and do something."
I joined a little local group and they helped me a little bit on LinkedIn because I knew that LinkedIn is my thing. I love it. I've always been on it. I'm a relationship guy. I've got okay results but then I said, "I've got to step it up. I've got to remember what I learned at Coke. I was going to get the best people in the world and learn from them." I went and paid a significant amount of money to get the best people in the world tell me what I should do. Three people told me different things. I went to practice and iterate it and all of a sudden, I was getting views for the first time in my business. People were coming to me. I got 640,000 views in ten months, which led to 112 new clients. I could nearly say for my eight years in business that it was about the number of new clients.
It wasn't quite that but it was an extraordinary year. At a time when I had a few challenging years with my health, it was a God-send. It was Remington that used to say, "I enjoyed the shaver that much, I went and bought the company." It was a little bit like that all I wanted was to solve my problem. My core business is still mentoring business owners and they come and say to me, "No one's finding me. I can't be seen on LinkedIn or any social platform. No one's reaching out to me. I can't get any leads." I'm like, "I'm getting a little success over here. Maybe you should try it." The snowball went from there.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” It truly and absolutely is where we find ourselves in a corner somewhere and we go, "This isn't working. What do I do now?" You had that epiphany moment where you said, "I don't have the excuse of the kidney transplant anymore. I got my health back. I have a life to live. I'd probably have another 40 more years of living. I better make some money. I better get some clients to move forward." To be able to sit there and say, "How do I do this? How can I do it in a way that's meaningful to me? How do I do this in a way that is going to build the type of lifestyle that I want and be able to do it?" You build something specifically for yourself, but you realize that it was working for yourself and it started working for others. It's an interesting thing that you need to sit there and say, "How do you move from getting to a point where all of a sudden other people are realizing that they should be paying you to be part of this, to be able to learn what you already were learning from others?"One of the best ways of creating B2B relationships is by doing content on LinkedIn. Click To Tweet
I tried other things during that time. I still to this day don't understand how, but my Facebook account, I hadn't done any ads for three years. We go to set up to do an ad and it got banned. There was no reason for it. You can't talk to anybody. I was all ready to do Facebook ads. I did some LinkedIn outreach, which was good, but I was doing it myself and I was getting no replies. That's when I realized going back to my Coke lessons, which was you've got to give value first. What I said is, "The value I can give is posting great content on LinkedIn and if people like it, then that will lead them to be more engaged with me." Whether it's 37, 40, I don't know how many touchpoints we're up to make someone buy. If only 3% of people are ready to buy at any particular time, how are you giving value and nurturing them through that process? For me, LinkedIn for B2B and doing content on LinkedIn is one of the best ways. Gary Vee was quoted saying, "You have to be on LinkedIn if you're a B2B marketer. It's the place to be."
It's true because all I do is B2B marketing. I am seriously considering dropping my Facebook account. I have a Facebook account. I'm rarely on it anymore. I find that it's not a medium that works for me because that's not where I am and it's not where my customers are. We need to understand who we are, what we're about, what's an important lesson. More importantly, where our customers are. The people that you are looking to influence are on LinkedIn. The question is how did you go from that point of saying, "We're going to start engaging with people. We're going to start building things out like that." All of a sudden you start getting 650,000 views. You start getting a bunch of people that are engaging with you. How did you convert that into a process where you were helping other people do the same thing and be successful with it? How did you take it from a built for your type of solution to a built for other people and helping them achieve their goals?
What I worked at is there are three key things. The first one is you've got to get the views. The second thing is you get people to engage in your posts and most importantly your ideal clients engage in posts. The third thing is the relationship. How do you follow up? How do you build that relationship? On the views, I quickly learned that it wasn't a solo sport. You need the 50, 20, 60 formula. You need 50 likes, 20 comments in the first hour or your post is how are they going to go anyway. It doesn't matter how good of a person you are, to try to coordinate 50 people to like or 20 people to comment on your post in the first hour is pretty difficult. I quickly realized that you need a support group. That's when I went and through a lot of hard work, I convinced 30 people, “Let's get together and help each other.” That was the first point to get the views sorted. Instantly people went from 200 views of posts to 2,500 just by following that formula. We use a little bit of tech to help with the likes. It's not as manual.
The other thing that people started to realize is, “I'm learning a lot from reading these other people's posts as well.” It became a knowledge plus you’re also adding value to others. The other great thing is accountability because it's easy not to do sales or marketing. You have lots of clients that get stuck in delivery that I don't do that. It was a great way to say, "By contributing and turning up every day to help others, I am helping myself because I'm doing what I'm meant to do." That was the first golden moment that happened from me doing well as an individual to making sure that I helped others, but it was also helping me.
It's interesting because, with these circles of people, there are about 30 people in each group. You've got groups in different time zones around the world. If I'm in Canada and you're in Australia, I'm probably going to be part of a group that's going to be on a North American time, not on Australian time. The key thing that you said is within the first hour. Do you have a dedicated time of the day that you find that says, "Everybody posts at this time and everybody has to read each other's articles and deal with everybody else over this time as well?" Is that what it is? "Between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning on this time zone, we're all going to post them, we're all going to comment on each other?”
For the US, Canada time zone, it's 7:00 AM Pacific. At 7:00 AM Pacific, 10:00 AM Eastern time, you post. You want it in the hour, but the software we use, the closer your post to 7:00 AM, the more likes you're going to get. It's a dedicated time and people don't have to post every day of the week. Some people, the minimum is three times. It's not hugely time-intensive. The other thing is not all 30 people are going to post on a particular day. We run 30 to get the minimum. To get the twenty comments, you only need fifteen for the group and then other people will comment in the first hour. Having that discipline around it makes all the difference in how the algorithm works.
Let’s say there are fifteen people, I know that for me it's easy to hit the like button, but to write a meaningful comment and think about it times fifteen is 3 to 5 minutes per article. You need to be able to say, "I'm going to dedicate this hour of a day, 5 or 3 days a week,” or whatever you're going to dedicate yourself with. You need to block off that period to realize, “This is my marketing time on LinkedIn.”
What we say is for most people, it takes 30 minutes to write the content. Some people batch it. Whatever we give a great format on how to do it and we tell you how to create ideas. Also, we make it easy. Let's say it's 30 minutes, remember we're only doing posts, not articles. Our post is only 200 words roughly. What we say is it should take you between 1 and 1.5 minutes to read the post and comment. Therefore, in the worst-case scenario, you might be spending another fifteen minutes. It's 45 minutes and that 45 minutes is probably three times a week, as an example.
You're not getting people that are doing the 1,299 characters and linking to an article that's ten minutes long to read. You're thinking about everybody creating short posts that are insightful that tell a specific story and create a certain amount of value but are easy to read, easy to digest and easy to respond to.
What we've got is in the engagement that's to trigger the views, and then the engagement is getting your ideal clients. We've got seven key steps. What we do is make sure that people are following those seven key steps to get the structure right. That also makes it easy there to comment because we always have a question. Always make sure you have a question because a comment is worth twice a like on LinkedIn. The other thing is if someone comments on your posts, then you can go and thank them so you can comment back, but you can also direct message them and refer to that comment. You're not going in cold anymore. You're going in warm because I've already read your posts. I probably looked at your profile, they already know about you.
That's what the key thing is, it’s the engagement. When people comment on my posts, I look at that as far more valuable than the people who hit the like button. I appreciate the people that hit the like button. It's nice. They looked at the article. They thought it was nice. They hit the like button. In LinkedIn, you have 5 or 6 different choices, which is great, but the people that take the time to write those 10, 15, 20, 30, 50 words that are insightful and have meaning, that start those conversations. That's the key thing. It's the conversations that we're trying to start that build the relationships. That's where the know, like, trust comes out of. That's where you build relationships with people.
Going back to Coke and I'm sure you've heard the old saying many times, “50% of your marketing works, just don’t know which 50.” Coke was a similar thing. They constantly marketed. People say, "You are the biggest well-known brand in the world. Why are you continuing to invest 10% of your revenue into marketing every year?" They're like, "We've got to always stay top of mind." It's a bit like this. You've got to stay top of mind with your existing clients. Your existing clients want to get constant value from you, not just from the one-on-one sessions. Clients that are in your pipeline want to know that you're adding value. Being that authority and being known for something is important and getting good engaging comments behind it certainly helps.Your clients want to get constant value from you, not just from one-on-one sessions. Click To Tweet
Not only that, but you also become a thought leader. You become somebody that's offering ideas, solutions and things for people to think at. Somebody told me that less than 5% of the people on LinkedIn or any social media platform are creating original content. The amount of original content that's being created of the 400 million people or how many ever people are on LinkedIn, only 5% of those people are creating original content. There are a lot more people that are sitting there and grabbing something and sharing it out, but creating something that's personal and on their own, it's a small percentage. When you're doing that, you're setting yourself apart from your competition.
It helps you because you are being clear. The classic example for most of us and I've been through this trying to market to everyone. LinkedIn is powerful. For most people, if I searched your name, your LinkedIn profile will come up on Google before anything else. A website is important, but think the last time you went and met or spoke to somebody that you didn't look at their LinkedIn profile first. It's powerful. I can give you a download at the end on how to improve your profile. If you've got a great profile and you’ve got active posts, it's building that social trust in an area, where unfortunately there's a lot of people out there that are using social media in the way that it was never intended.
Most people on social media just look. They're gazers, they read stuff, they look at stuff, but they don't post, they don't comment, they don't like, they don't do any of that type of thing. They read information. They're gatherers of information. You never know who those people are because there are people that have told me, "Ben, I started reading your stuff years ago." All of a sudden they started calling me and they said, "I've been reading your stuff for years and I'd like you to come in at our office and do some training for our people." I had no idea this person even existed because they didn't engage with me in any way, shape or form. I didn't know they were happening, but they were reading my posts regularly. They were telling other people about it, but they weren't sharing it. They were copying it from LinkedIn and sending somebody an email and saying, "Here, you should look at this." They didn't want to be seen as sharing it within LinkedIn.
Different people have different thought processes of how they're going to use social media. I'm not sure there's a right way. I'm not sure there's a wrong way. There's a right way for you. The key thing we have to look at is, who is our audience? My audience is certainly not the 400 million people there are on LinkedIn. My audience is specific. I'm looking for senior executives in HR operations and sales. The CEOs, the founders, those are the people that I talk to regularly. If we can put our comment that sniper attack the people that we're trying to communicate with and build relationships with, it's going to resonate with them far better.
You've got the views and you've done the engagement. The next one is, how do you build that relationship? You've spoken and articulated that well. For me, how often do you get someone to connect with you and then they send you a sales pitch the next time. I don't know what the percentage is, but it's a high percentage. I've got a VA that will delete those but not everyone's got that. What do we do? We've got scripts that we know work that you can customize. We've been doing it for long and we've got many people, we know what works. The greatest gift I could give anyone is hot potatoes. Does that translate into Canada when I say the hot potato?
You're going to have to explain it.
If you're at a barbecue and you've got a hot potato, you don't want to hang onto it too long. You want to pass it to the next person that they might pass it back to you. You want the same thing on LinkedIn. All you want is someone to reply to you 4 or 5 times because then you know that they are interested, but also you're learning more information. It should be a short question. Often, I'll look at someone's profile and I'll say that they're using all the wrong techniques, etc. I'll go back to them, what's your key focus? They'll say, "Getting more clients." I'll say, "How important is LinkedIn in your overall marketing mix?" and then I'll come back. He is constantly asking open hot potato questions and then there will be an opportunity to say, "Would you be open to a call?" You never give them the link straight away and use the word open. Open is one of the best words ever invented that gives them the choice. It's amazing the difference it makes. They're all the things that we've learned on how you build relationships off the back of people that have already viewed your post. They've already liked and commented and now it's like, "Let's take this further."
There's much more we can get into. You could add much value to many people and the program that you have is reasonable in cost and the value is much there. The best way to get people to get in touch with you is through BuildLiveGive.com. If anybody goes to the website, people are going to see the value there and get in touch with Paul and see what he's doing. He can help you create a pod of people that are like-minded people, that have similar viewpoints that are going to be able to get you out to the same type of people that you're looking to meet and be able to build those relationships. They do amazing things that way. Paul, here's the last question I ask everybody before they walk out the door on my show. When you leave a meeting or you hang up for a call, or you finish up an appointment and you get in your car and you drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?
For me, it's living my brand values. My brand values help someone build their business. Is Paul there to help me build my business? The second is, you build your business to fund your lifestyle. Once again, is Paul understanding what lifestyle I want to live and is he helping me get that? The last one is to give. How do you give back? Once you've built a great business, you've got your right lifestyle, how do you give back to others and how is Paul contributing to that? I want people to think, is Paul living his brand values but also, is he helping me live the same values?
Help me help you. You live that day in and day out. How do I help the people that I work with be better? I love that about you, Paul.
I've got five tips on how to improve your LinkedIn profile. Go to BLGDownload.com and they can get that as well.
Paul, thank you for being such an amazing guest. You have provided more than your shared value. Thank you for everything you have done.
Thanks for having me on. It's been a blast.
Paul Higgins is an Author, Lead generator, Mentor, Podcaster and lover of building relationships on Linkedin.
Paul has 26 years of experience in Sales & Marketing, finishing up an 18-year gig at Coca-Cola driving Marketing strategy for a $700m+ Business Unit.
In 2011 he left to manage his inherited kidney condition and had a successful transplant in February 2019.
With his newfound energy, Paul loves to run his business and spend time with his teenage children and play sport. He is always looking to give first.
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