Being online is not an option, it’s a must, and there’s a simple way to succeed if you’re willing to persevere. LinkedIn consultant and strategist Sarah Santacroce is going to show us how. Sarah is a self- proclaimed introvert and is nothing but determined to be extroverted with clients in helping them with their LinkedIn presence. Back in 2006 when social media was just beginning, Sarah found a way to create buzz around her own company and thought that if she can do that for herself without a budget, she can definitely help other business owners and entrepreneurs do the same thing. She shares that having a can-do attitude will help you become successful in business.
Boosting Your LinkedIn Presence with Sarah Santacroce
Our business expert is visiting with me all the way from Switzerland. A self-proclaimed introvert and is nothing but determined to be extroverted with her clients, helping them with their online presence. Nowadays, being online is not an option. It’s a must and there’s a simple way to succeed if you’re willing to persevere, and she is going to show us how. Welcome, Sarah Santacroce, to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Mitch.
Sarah, I want to know more about you. We can skip over your favorite high school friends and all that stuff and get right to how you decided to start and then begin in your own business.
It’s quite an interesting story, at least for Americans, because what is this Swiss girl doing, running her business and speaking English as if she was a native speaker? Let me tell you about how all of this started. I was born and raised in Switzerland and my husband is Canadian, so that’s one of the reasons why I speak English. One fine rainy summer Swiss day, he comes home and he says, “Let’s move to California. I got a job offer in California.” I had just given birth to my second son probably six months before, and I’m like, “Sounds like fun. Let’s pack our things,” and off we went. We moved house and two kids, one was three, the other one was six months old, and we moved to California just an hour south of Los Angeles in Orange County. I had to quit my day job here. The first year I spent in getting used to the new surroundings, getting the kids set up with daycare and school and all that.
Then I always knew that I was not meant to be the stay-at-home mom, so I started looking into options on what I could do. That’s how the idea of running my own business came about because at the time, we weren’t sure whether we’re going to stay over there in California or if we’re going to move back to Switzerland. My husband had also talked about Singapore. I’m like, “I need something. I need my own business and I need a location-independent business.” I started out with the idea of becoming a virtual assistant. That’s what I looked into and I got training. That was in 2006, and at the beginning it was still in social media. When I found out how I could create buzz around my own company I was thinking, “If I can do that for me without a budget, I can definitely help other business owners, entrepreneurs do the same thing.” That’s when my business was born. That’s where it developed after that one fine rainy summer day in Switzerland.
You’re now back in Switzerland. Did you go to Hong Kong?
No, we never ended up going to Singapore. We came back four years later to Switzerland. I had a big culture shock moving back, which people sometimes don’t understand. It was a big culture shock coming back because over there in the States, in California, social media was the big thing. I came back here and Switzerland already has this traditional approach to everything. We’re always a bit behind but it was like they were not even on Facebook yet. I had this idea of delivering strategy for businesses to be on social media. Instead, I had to shift my whole business model around and had to go into training about social media because business owners were like, “I don’t even know what that is and how to use it,” so never mind strategies. That was the first big learning curve and I had to pivot my business around.
What I’m not hearing is I had a passion for being on the web and for creating a presence and I knew intuitively exactly what to do, so my first thing out of the gate was to build my own, to prove that it can be done. The reason I’m saying that, which is wonderful, is because it shows that you don’t need that. From what I’m hearing, I’m sure that you would agree, that if you simply are determined to do something like you were to build this international or virtual business, no matter what country you lived in, that it’s not only possible, but that there’s a formula to do it. You followed that formula and for you it worked.
Yeah, definitely the formula but also what helped is being in the US and being in California especially where there is this entrepreneurial spirit that other countries such as Switzerland is definitely missing, so just the can-do attitude and you’re totally right about that.
It’s been some years, you’re a successful business person and you have clients. What was it like when you first started? Were there crickets hanging around?
It was in the early years and so all we did was blogging. I was writing at least two to three blog posts a week. Looking back, I definitely think that’s what built my reputation and that’s what helped me position myself as an expert. While I was doing it I was often thinking, “What am I doing? Nobody’s even reading what I’m putting out there,” and it’s hours and hours so there was definitely crickets.
You’re not alone there. There’s so many of us. I wrote 50 plus blog posts and looked at my website traffic and said, “This is doing nothing for me.” After a year or so, I stopped the pace. I was writing for two different blogs at the same time. I was writing for my business blog, MitchRusso.com and I was writing for my photography blog, which is MitchRussoTravels.com. In both cases, I enjoyed the writing part, but I had no clue as to how to drive traffic and it took me years to figure that out. As you started to get your blogs going and then you’re building readership through blogs, what was the next step? What did you do next to start trying to increase traffic?
What shifted also is that I started to focus in on the one platform that I’m working on now, which is LinkedIn, rather than doing social media in general and trying to be an expert at everything. I said, “I’m going to focus only on LinkedIn,” so that was one thing. That already helped me positioning myself as the LinkedIn specialist or expert or however you want to call it. The other thing I did was two things. I started a LinkedIn challenge and that this big great word for what it was. It was like a telesummit, so I brought a bunch of experts together, all other LinkedIn experts from all over the world, colleagues of mine. Some of them I knew, some of them I didn’t, some of them were big names, some of them were small names, and I said, “I’m going to be leading this team and we’re going to have people sign up for LinkedIn challenge.”
As I first started out, it was twenty days of LinkedIn tips, so people would sign up. Every day they get a tip on how to improve their LinkedIn presence on. That worked well for me because I had all these people signing up, but it also put my name out there next to other experts’ name. I already knew that I was not going to run this once. This was going to be my signature event. I’m now in the eleventh or twelfth edition of this LinkedIn challenge. I have been running this ever since. It’s now an annual event and always happens in November. What I like about it is that it’s a very affordable event where people get to learn more about how to use LinkedIn to generate business, but I also like the collaboration with other experts, and so it’s a team effort. I liked that about this LinkedIn challenge.
The other thing I did was I started out doing webinars on a regular basis. I truly think those two things helped me build my business and got me to the thousand clients. Because of webinars, they’re something that helps you build the know, like and trust factor. It’s more than a blog post because a blog post is still writing on a piece of paper or on a piece of webpage, where at a webinar people, get to see you, they get to hear you, they get to hear your style. I’m an introvert. The first webinar was scary but after awhile, I got used to having hundreds of people on the webinar. What’s nice about the webinar compared to speaking on stage is that I’m at home in my comfortable home office, and so I got used to this idea and people liked it.
Webinars now are the way that all of us communicate with our fan base and bring new people into our fold. It’s such a great way to share what you know and invite people to come along and participate. Let’s go back to the LinkedIn challenge you brought up. It was pretty clever of you to do that. You did a lot of right things. As you said, you associated yourself with some very smart people, thrusting your name out there into the forefront, which was great. How did you keep people accountable? Once people signed up for the challenge, I assume you’re giving assignments every day, was there any accountability built in or was it pretty much if you wanted to do it, you could, and if you didn’t, then you dropped out?
There was a LinkedIn group, so every day I would post the challenge also in the LinkedIn group and would ask questions. People would come in and ask or share what they did for the day, so that was part of the accountability. Then we also had two webinars, one at the beginning of the challenge and one at the end, and so hopefully people would make it through the whole challenge and also join us for the last call. You’re right, let’s say things like they are and not everybody was able to implement everything everyday, which is also part of the reason why I shortened the number of days to be only ten days. I noticed after the first week, people started dropping out and I was too much.
That is typical behavior. You and I are going to have a little conversation about accountability. I love the idea of what you’re doing and it’s a great strategy. Do you think it’s worn out? Do you think it’s too late for someone to start that strategy from scratch?
I have to admit that I now get invited to quite a few of these virtual summits. There’s some that I accept to be part of and the ones that make the cut are the ones that look good in terms of the website. If you’re putting this thing together and it’s like this self-made WordPress website, it depends on how you do it, Mitch. I don’t think it’s too late, but you have to make this look very professional because otherwise, A) You’re not going to find the right people to participate, and B) You’re not to get participants to sign up.
Audience, you got to step up your game here. These homemade little websites, you’ve got to basically get some help and get it done professionally. I have a webmaster out of the Philippines and he is unbelievable, super fast and his rates are beyond reasonable. It’s possible. Go out and build some beautiful stuff and invite people in. Aesthetics are more important today than almost any other time. If you don’t have a well-known name, the aesthetics of your site is what is going to attract people and keep them there and get them to stay even beyond anything else. That’s my belief and I focus a lot on that when I can. Thanks for sharing that. I’m going to put you on the hot seat and I’m going make you show off exactly what you do. If you like, you can use my page or you could use an example or you could speak in generalities, whatever you like, but I want the audience to be able to take action, go back to their page, go back to their website and start fixing stuff because you’re the expert. Tell us what to do.
I want to share my three steps to position yourself as an expert on LinkedIn and get clients with ease. There are three steps involved. First of all, you mentioned the LinkedIn profile, that’s where you start. I want to make sure that people understand the importance of your LinkedIn profile. If you think about your Facebook profile or page, you’re like, “Who cares? Nobody’s going to ever come back to that?” On LinkedIn, it’s completely different. You accept a contact on LinkedIn, first thing they’re going to do is take a look at your LinkedIn profile. That’s one thing. The other thing is if you start sharing content on LinkedIn, the traffic is also going back to your LinkedIn profile. Not even just within LinkedIn, but do a Google search of your name, and guess what comes up in the first page of search results? Your LinkedIn profile. It is an important player in your personal brand and needs to be turned into a client magnet. I’ll give you some tips about how to do that.
The next step is blogging and all that traffic to your website. You can have the greatest LinkedIn profile on earth, but if you’re not active on LinkedIn, if you’re not doing something proactively being visible, that LinkedIn profile was not going to help you. That’s the line I always get from people, “I’ve been on LinkedIn for ages. It has not done anything for me at all.” It’s like a website. If you’re not creating traffic to it, then it’s useless. You need to position yourself as an expert within your LinkedIn network. I’m going to give you tips on how to do that.
Finally you need to come up with a system to continuously add more contacts to your LinkedIn network, to position yourself within that LinkedIn network as an expert and you do that by putting in a place a system where you say you first analyze your target audience because you need to know who you have to have in your LinkedIn network. If you’re a business owner and all you have in your LinkedIn network is contacts from your past corporate job, that’s not going to do anything for you. These are the three steps.
Back to the LinkedIn profile. The most important real estate on your LinkedIn profile is your LinkedIn headline. That’s the line, one or two lines underneath your first and last name. That LinkedIn headline is key and is what shows up first always in search results and not just that, but it’s also the first thing people see on your profile. It stands out and it needs to be very clear and specific about what you do and who you help. People usually use a functional title there. A functional title would be like “owner at” or “founder of” and that means nothing. Everybody’s a founder and the owner of something, but tell me more about who it is you are and who you’re working with, who you’re helping.
The three questions you need to answer in that headline are following, who you are and that’s usually a title. For me, it would be LinkedIn consultant and strategist, that’s the title. That’s what I want people to search for and I want to show up in those search results. That’s the first question, who you are. The second question is “Who do you help?” Very specifically you want to tell people on your LinkedIn headline who it is you’re working with. Because this way when they come to your profile and they see that you’re working with persons like them, they’re like, “I need this person. I need to work with them.” Then the final question, “How do you help them?”What’s the outcome? What’s the result? You have 120 characters in this headline, so I want you to think about these three questions and then answer them in those 120 characters.
Can you give us an example? What does yours say?
Mine says, “LinkedIn consultant and strategist. I help entrepreneurs and coaches get more clients.” Then I have a little line, “Social-serving divider, video courses.” Those are two more keywords that I added because social serving is how I differentiate myself from the social-selling people and I added video courses because that’s another thing that I’m offering.
I’m going to feed you back to my headline because again I want the audience to understand what I did wrong and how we can fix it. I want to make it clear, audience, LinkedIn is not your resume, so get your resume off of LinkedIn unless you are sincerely looking for a job, but you’re not. You are an audience because you are in business or you’re headed in that direction. In my opinion, your LinkedIn page is a sales page, and if you treat it like you would a sales page, you’ll get much closer to what I believe Sarah is trying to teach us. Mine says, “Want a completely new sales channel? Generate multiple streams of recurring revenue. Dominate your market. Message me.”
It’s a very different. I like it. It’s a clear call to action. I would have to read it again, but I’m not sure that you would show up in search results if somebody is looking, for example, for a sales coach.
I’m not a sales coach. The other thing that I did is I had a custom art done for the banner of my profile, so anyone who comes would see that I am a certification specialist. It says “Generate multiple six-figure recurring revenue streams using certification,” so that’s right up there. Then it lists on the left “Used by Infusionsoft, Microsoft, Salesforce, Intuit, perfect for these companies, software training, coaching, consulting.” The idea is I’m trying to attract people in the general sense that want a sales channel and who are interested in multiple streams of recurring revenue, and then when they get there, very quickly they figure out what it is I do. How can I improve this? How could this be better? I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but I figured it would be useful for everyone to hear how you would diagnose the problem. See audience, this is how I get free consulting on my show. It’s pretty cool.
“Want a completely new sales channel? Generate multiple streams of recurring revenue. Dominate your market. Message me.” To me, the “Want a completely new sales channel? Generate multiple streams of recurring revenue,” aren’t they somehow similar? Don’t they mean the same thing?
Technically no, but I could see why you’d say that.
I’m saying that because you could combine the two and then you would have the space to add some title that you would feel comfortable with. On LinkedIn, people like to put you in a box and say, “This is my passive revenue expert,” or something like that. They like to have a title that they can go with. I’m not saying that for search results but also because it helps people go, “I understand what he’s doing.” Does that make sense?
It not only makes sense, it’s a great suggestion. You see, audience, I put her on the spot and boom, homerun, I love it. There’s something very important about what we’re doing here. This is important for the audience. When you get home and you start looking at your own LinkedIn profile, try and follow that formula, try and follow the who you are, who do you help, and how do you help them formula, and build your headline and experiment with it and see where that fits. I believe that what Sarah is explaining, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, is that it’s not that we’re looking to attract people to dive deeper into your profile. It’s to basically prime the search engines to bring you the type of visitors that you are looking for.
That’s the line that everybody sees when you send out a new connection request. The first thing they see, and the human brain, like I said, they put you in boxes. You said, “I’m not a sales coach,” and I hear this like, “I’m not this,” a lot. For example, I was working with a career coach and he didn’t want to be put into the career coach box, but if you looked at it from an outside view, to me, he was clearly a career coach. It is just that he called himself differently and he was more fancy career coach. If you want to show up in search results for people who are searching for a career coach or somebody like him, then he had to use that keyword in his headline.
Let’s get to the harder part of this. We can get the headline right or close enough, but here’s the hard part. It’s step three of your three steps. It is continue to add more contacts, and you used the word system. Can you elaborate further?
System means that it needs to be a system that works for you, something that you are going to do on a regular basis. This can be weekly or it can be daily. It needs to be something where there is accountability, so you need to be accountable, hold yourself accountable for it, and do it on a regular basis. When I work with my clients, it’s usually an Excel spreadsheet and then we agree on a number of contacts per day or per week of new contacts that they want to add. That’s the system. First of all, you use the LinkedIn database to find your ideal clients and you do that by using the search bar. If you have a premium account, you do that by using some more filters in order to find clients that respond to your criteria for ideal clients. Then you start reaching out to people that you don’t know because as we all know, we do business with people most of the time we don’t know yet.
That sounds hard for an introvert.
It does, but it’s much less hard and going out there networking and presenting myself. Everything that’s online is much easier for an introvert.
I’m going to tell you how I do it and I’m going to tell you, I do cheat a bit. I end up with about 700 new connections a month. I do that by using a technology partner. I work with an individual who I pay a fee every month and what he does is he sets up his systems to go out there and find my ideal clients. I’m a premium user and we then take those clients or those connection requests and we send them a very carefully designed message to invite them to connect with me, and 700 a month say yes, then that same system sends them a very simple message and the simplicity of the message is what most people are shocked when they see. If I connect with Mr. Kenneth Shockman say, as soon as I connect, a message is going to go out and say, “Hi, Kenneth. Thanks for connecting. Quick question, what’s your target market?” and that’s it. When that goes out, I am flooded with responses. I get a couple of people who say, “No, thank you,” and that’s fine. I get a few more people who type in a few words. Then the surprise is when I end up with about, I would say up to twenty a month, write me back with a full description, a detailed analysis of their target market, have read my page and ask if we can speak. That’s the power of LinkedIn and that’s how it works for me.
I see that working for you. It’s not what I teach my clients, let’s say. I am for a little bit less aggressive sales technique. I appreciate your simple message and it’s not like you’re sending out a pitch, so you’re just asking a question and then if they want, they respond, so I like that. Why I call it social serving is what I base my proactive messaging on is content that will help them. My messages will always include a piece of content that will be of use for my ideal clients or for the clients of my clients.
All that makes sense and that’s a great approach too. I do that. I’m fairly active in posting and writing on LinkedIn, so I write articles. Probably once or twice a month, I have a new article and they’re fairly massive. They are sometimes as much as 4,000 to 5,000 words and they’re very in depth and their very carefully structured. I try to put some of my best work on LinkedIn and it gets up to 500 to 600 visits, so I know people are seeing it. Of course, the whole idea of sending that content is wonderful and I agree with you.
The problem I have, and I don’t know if the audience might think they have this problem too, is number one, I am naturally a lazy person. Even though I work sometimes fourteen hours a day, I’m truly a very lazy person and I have a very short attention span. For me to sit on LinkedIn for hours trying to build these contact requests would drive me out of my mind. If I had to do it manually, I would have given up long ago. The automation for me is a very big benefit. For the audience, if you’d like to know the person I use, send me a quick message at Mitch@MitchRusso.com. I’m happy to share the name of the person. I just don’t want to do it on the show.
Here’s the thing, Sarah. It’s not a matter of how we do it. Clearly we’re both active and that’s what’s important. For me, I’m getting results and it sounds like you are too. How long does it take? When someone starts getting their profile in place, getting their system of connections going, getting their content ready, getting their headline right, how long does it take, do you think, before you start seeing results on LinkedIn?
The program that I have is twelve weeks and so that’s how long it takes for someone who’s completely new to LinkedIn. Working on the profile is usually a month. If they are starting out with already a great profile, then it’s shorter. Then building up the network is another month. It’s more like knowing how to do it right and whether you use some automation or not, you’re still going to have to learn how to do it, how to send the messages and all of that. Altogether, I would say probably twelve weeks and you’re going to start seeing traction on LinkedIn.
It turns out that it was exactly three months for me, so three months, twelve weeks. When I started doing this it felt like I was basically screaming into the wind until finally at around twelve weeks, three months later, that’s when it started happening, so that’s good guidance. This has been very valuable. I enjoyed this part of the conversation and I hope, audience, that you’ve taken some notes. Sarah, you did say that you had something that you would offer as a giveaway for the audience. What would that be?
I have a free training webinar where I basically go through those three steps and teach people how to optimize their profile and then go into the more details about positioning yourself and the whole lead generation. People can get that at SarahSantacroce.com/webinar.
Sarah, I have a couple of questions for you and these is my favorite part of the interview. I always love these questions. It helps the audience get a feel for who you are because it shows not so much what you do, but how you think. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch, or an intense conversation with?
I would like to hang out with Jonathan Fields, who is based in New York and who’s running a business or project called Good Life Project. He also has a podcast. He’s a fellow introvert. I find him fascinating. He is not Da Vinci or another famous person, past or present but I like to hang out with him once.
A lot of our listeners hear the same names come up when my guests tell us who they are. This is a new one for me. I’m wondering how hard do you think it would be to find a way to hang out with him. Do you think he would agree to meet with you if you were flying down to New York on business?
I’m working on getting him on my podcast.
Here’s the grand finale question, the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
This is a tough one for a humble Swiss citizen. We’re always trained to be very humble and not over exaggerate things. When I read this question, I’m like, “Who am I to claim to be changing the world?”I’m happy that I can make an impact on my clients, the people I work with, maybe the audience of my podcast. I want to make an impact on the small level and hopefully that will eventually change the world. I’m also playing with an idea about writing a book about running a business as an empathic introvert. The world needs more kindness in the business world, and so that’s an idea I’m playing with. That’s what we’re missing nowadays, more kindness in business.
You’re right, it is something we’re missing. I want to remind you of some famous guy’s quote. He said, “The meek will inherit the earth.” Basically introverts can change the world, too. It sounds like you’re doing it one beautiful conversation at a time. Sarah Santacroce, thank you so much for appearing on my show. I can’t wait till we get a chance to talk again soon.
Thank you so much for having me.
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