543: Optimizing your LinkedIn Profile | James Watson

Podcast Cover Image: Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile Featuring James Watson
Podcast Cover Image: Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile Featuring James Watson

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Get ready for an all-new episode of the Conquer Local Podcast! This week, George Leith chats with James Watson, a LinkedIn, and digital marketing expert who has personally consulted over 1000 business owners 1:1 and trained several thousand more via live workshops and online training courses.

From 2010-2014 James helped generate over $3.3m via three 7-figure online digital information product launches. And in 2014, he started a 7-figure nutritional supplement e-commerce brand which he sold three years later.

Today James is known as the @linkedIn_king on Twitter where he shares his favourite LinkedIn outreach and agency growth strategies.

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Optimizing your LinkedIn Profile


George: This is the “Conquer Local Podcast,” a show about billion-dollar sales leaders, marketers leading local economic growth, and entrepreneurs that have created their dream organizations. They wanna share their secrets, giving you the distilled version of their extraordinary feats. Our hope is with the tangible takeaways from each episode, you can rewire, rework and reimagine your business. I’m George Leith, and on this episode, we welcome James Watson, a LinkedIn, and digital marketing expert who’s personally consulted thousands of business owners one to one, and trained several thousand more via live workshops and online training courses. From 2010 to 2014, James helped generate over $3.3 million via three seven-figure, online, digital information product launches. And in 2014, he started a seven-figure nutritional supplement e-commerce brand, which he sold three years later. Today, James is known as the LinkedIn King on Twitter, where he shares his favorite LinkedIn outreach and agency growth strategies. Get ready, Conquerors, for James Watson. Coming up next on this week’s episode of the “Conquer Local Podcast.” 

George: James Watson joining us this week on the “Conquer Local Podcast.” Hey, James, how are you doing?

James: I am doing very well, George. Thanks very much for inviting me on the podcast.

George: In the intro a few moments ago before the commercial break, we talked about your Twitter handle, LinkedIn_King. How did you get… That’s amazing!

James: Well, to be honest, in Twitter, there’s an area of Twitter called Money Twitter, which is why a lot of people that run agencies and grow businesses and they invest in crypto and et cetera, they go and they talk about wealth building. So it’s a very positive, small part of Twitter, and there are people on there that call themselves kings and wizards. And it’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek, right? So it’s not completely serious. So I decided to take the handle of LinkedIn_King completely as a joke and it just stuck. People liked it and it’s just stuck since then. So there are worse things to be called, George, right?

George: Well, no, absolutely. And I’m a big fan of LinkedIn, and how important it is for business-to-business sellers and creating that network, and definitely have had a lot of success in building out a LinkedIn brand. So I’d love to hear from the LinkedIn king, what are some of your top tips on building out that LinkedIn brand?

James: Well, I mean, first of all, it is fair to say that… I mean, I’ve actually been teaching people strategies to use LinkedIn for over a decade. But I think what’s really made the difference is that I’ve been through various businesses, and after selling an e-commerce business I had around about the middle of the last decade, and a big training business that went alongside it, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. And I ended up starting an agency, more like a private client consultancy, helping people with LinkedIn outreach specifically. And there were two reasons why I got into it. One was a friend of mine that was doing it, and he said, “James, listen, this is working really well. You should do it too.” And the second reason was LinkedIn automation was really starting to take off, around about 2018. And it was Wild West back then and it still is in many ways even today, although LinkedIn tries to clamp down on things occasionally, but used appropriately, sensibly, and with quality targeting and quality messaging, automation is your best friend on LinkedIn, it really is. It has a bad rap because there are many people that are very quick to automate poor messaging with poor targeting. Well, obviously that’s bad, that’s no good, but that’s not the only way to do it. And I’m a firm believer in good quality messaging relevant to the people you’re reaching out with that adds value to their lives. And there’s nothing wrong with using automation to help disseminate that message appropriately through the LinkedIn network.

George: I’d love to interrogate this concept of automation, and you mentioned that it gets a bad rap and I’m sitting here as a 30 some odd… Okay, let’s be honest, 35-plus years seller, where I remember the days where I would have to deliver eight and a half by 11 pieces of paper with value on it to multiple prospects, and get in my car and drive across town to be able to do that. And I’m sitting here going automation all day long. So why do you think that it gets a bad rap when I see it as one of the greatest things to happen to sales?

James: But we think about most people’s experience of automation is poor messaging, poor, low-quality messaging, no value, just trying to sell, sell, sell. And oftentimes, it’s a highly irrelevant message because if you have… You could pitch the worst sales pitch in the world, but if the offer’s great and it’s the right person, then you’ve gotta match so, so often, yeah… It’s very easy for anybody in the world to fire up an automation tool, fire ups, and searches, and start sending messages. And that’s what a lot of people do with very little regard to quality. And so that’s where it gets a bad rap, but it doesn’t have to be that way. And I’d like to consider myself as leading the charge, frankly, to use automation and not only automation, but automation is leverage in the modern world. That you have to do. In the modern sales environment, you need to be automating low-value activities. Relatively low-value activities as a salesperson. You need to be focusing your time on higher value activities as a salesperson, which predominantly is speaking with your prospects, right? On a regular basis. But LinkedIn, you certainly can reach out to people, you can enrich their lives, you can make them smile, and sell to them at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

George: I appreciate that you’ve taken on this mantle of fixing this problem where it’s all about the message that you’re delivering. And I love that concept of let’s automate the touches so that when we get to the point where we can have a 30-minute conversation with somebody, we can focus our efforts on that time. I mentioned in the intro another thing, that you specialize in organic outreach. How do you help business-to-business sales in crafting those messages that you were speaking about? Because you’re right. It’s all in the message that you’re delivering.

James: 100%, yes. So what’s great about a platform like LinkedIn is that it allows you to still be professional, yet far less formal than you are used to being. Most of us are used to being in the workplace environment. Formality really is the death of sales prospecting, right? It really is. It’s a great way to kill a relationship before it’s even started. So we’re not in Jane Austin Times here anymore, right? I’m British, so I allow myself a Jane Austin reference. So we need to be more informal with our messaging. And people struggle with that because nobody teaches you how to communicate professionally yet informally. It doesn’t exist. There’s a big void out there in the world for information in how to do this. Now, copywriters that are good know how you craft messages in a way that makes people feel as if you’re talking to them one-on-one, maybe at a barbecue, or at a holiday weekend. And that’s the kind of tone that you are using. So when I’m working with clients, I’m constantly having to educate them, show them how to communicate what they wish to communicate, but do it in a way without jumping into formal language that we’re more used to on email, and even worse in written presentations.

George: Yeah, I gotta apologize to anybody that I’m sending emails to because if I have a relationship with somebody, you’re getting the text message email from me and I’ll probably just put a G at the end of it as my signature. Although I think Gmail just puts my signature in there. But I think that’s what you’re saying, is that we don’t need to send out the novel. Nobody’s gonna read it anyways. That’s why too long didn’t read is a thing and getting that copyright… When you mention that, I remember a book that I read a few years back that I think was really important for my development and that was Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made To Stick.” And it’s all about the messaging, the way you deliver the messaging, the way you tell the story. But I can’t agree with you more that that formality that we may be told by our English professor or English teacher that we needed to follow years ago isn’t the way to communicate in this busy and high… There’s a lot of noise out there that we have to cut through. You have a 60-minute master class on YouTube about LinkedIn profile optimation. And in that class, you covered 10 areas and 50 tips. So let’s not… We’ll get people to go take the class afterward, but let’s just give them the top line. If there were some things outta that class here, like, okay, if you take nothing else outta this, do these three things, what would those be?

James: Yeah, great question. So that’s been a very popular video. I think over 12,000 views, and over 1200 hours watched already. So people got a lot of value from it. And frankly, it’s really needed because most people’s LinkedIn profiles are not optimized. They’re not as good anywhere near as good as yours, George. let’s put it that way. So the classic mistakes people make on LinkedIn profiles is treating them as a resume, talking about themselves in the third person. Now let’s put a stop to that right now, okay? It’s not a resume. Trust me, who really gives much weight to resumes anymore anyway in the modern world, but talking about yourself in the third person, you come across as pompous, kind of arrogant. And again, it’s formal. It’s the formality, which is the enemy. So you wanna use lots of I’s. In the, I do this, I help people. Now you may well be in an organization where you have a team, and so people say to me all the time, but James, it’s not just me, it’s the team. So I should be saying… Then they start saying, we, well, no, it’s I, because you are your personal profile on LinkedIn and you are representing your organization, just one of you. So use the first person singular in your description to convey what you do to people so that it feels a lot more personal as if you were talking to them one-on-one, just like we are doing right now.

George: So James, but… I’m going to articulate something that’s been said to me. it’ll sound like I’m bragging. How do you answer that?

James: Well, here’s the thing if you want to convey… Again, good copywriting is the art of conveying information without sounding as if you are just unnecessarily boasting. You certainly can use language to soften tones. We’re not designed to talk about… We’re not trying to appear in that way, but at the same time, if you have got results in your business, in your life for your clients, you need to convey those results to people in a way that they can clearly understand and understand the value that you’ve added to them. Now, the number one way to get around that, I don’t wanna seem like I’m boasting, is to use what other people say about you on your profile. So here’s another top tip. Recommendations on LinkedIn. You want to get them, and people need to really work hard to get recommendations. They’re very valuable. But the problem with the recommendations, they’re buried right at the foot of your profile. You gotta look really hard, scroll down and find them. And it’s not easy. So what I do is I’ll take just short excerpts from my best recommendations, quotes other people are saying about me, my clients, and I’m putting them directly into my About summary section on my LinkedIn profile. So now I’m not bragging George, it’s what my clients are saying about me.

George: No, it’s brilliant. That’s brilliant advice. When I was asked that question, just to give you some context around the question, was, after delivering a presentation to a bunch of local businesses, I had someone come up and say, “If I take my positive reviews and put them on my social profiles as a social post, it’ll look like bragging.” And my answer was, “That’s marketing.” So you gave us some really good tips there. I’ve got the LinkedIn King, so I’m gonna ask some other questions cause I wanna learn here as well. One thing that I’ve been noticing is in the featured section of LinkedIn, it gives you the ability to bring articles or recent posts that are always there when someone scrolls through the profile. In your opinion, how often should we be changing that content?

James: Gosh, well, first of all, you’re right to point that out. It’s one of the most important sections on the LinkedIn profile because it’s close to the top. It’s very hard to ignore. You can put all kinds of media in there, so videos, PDF reports, white papers, and as well as links to posts that were popular that you want to promote that you’ve already posted on LinkedIn so you can show the social proof. How often you need to be updating it? I would say that really depends a little bit on the message that you are reaching out to and the campaigns that you’re doing. So certainly if you’re running a current campaign for a promotion or an event or a marketing sequence of some kind, then you certainly wanna have content in that feature sequence that reflects the current thing that you are looking to promote. So it really depends on how often you change what you are promoting as to how often you need to update the featured. But it’s a very valuable place and most people critically under-use it. It’s a very important part of your profile optimization.

George: No, I appreciate you giving us that advice because it’s something that I’ve been utilizing over the last year and I’ve saw a lot more uptake in the number of views and the frequency of views. So that’s great advice. Now the other thing we’ve all seen the meme, Darth Vader, the Emperor’s assistant, right? That’s what Darth Vader really is. And then over here, the way that it’s represented on LinkedIn where you’ve got these real built-out titles, the things that you do, where do you stand on that? Like when I look at my LinkedIn profile and you’ve got the… I like to call it the reason to believe or maybe the reason to dig deeper and learn more about me, how far do you want to go on that in listing out the things that you’re doing or that you’re responsible for?

James: Well, people often ask me that. I work with a lot of business owners and some of those business owners have multiple businesses or they’re involved in multiple areas and they say, Well, shall I create a second profile for this separate interest? It’s a little bit more complicated if you do work for an employer and you have a business on the side, and I appreciate that, but generally speaking, it doesn’t matter. You can have unlimited experiences on your profile, just create a different experience for your different business interests. Heck, you can have an experience for the podcast. Like I’m sure you do for this one. You can have an experience for a book if you are a published author. So it doesn’t have to be for a business that you worked at, but people don’t mind. People understand in the modern world that in the modern world it’s complicated, right? People do lots of different things. That’s not a problem. Just properly explain which of the things and obviously prioritize them. Because if something you did five years ago is no longer relevant for what you’re doing now, then don’t necessarily include it. And I think I’ll say one other thing. If you’re in sales, because there might be a lot of people in sales listening to this podcast, the last thing you really want to do is to talk about how you’re an expert salesman in your job title, and in your positioning. Unless you’re looking for a new position, looking for a new position, 100%. But if you are not, none of your prospects want to hear that you won Salesman Of The Year award three years running. ‘Cause they know they get on a call with you, they’re not winning at all. They’re gonna be walked all over and they’ll be afraid to get on a call with you. So think very carefully about what you do share. Don’t be afraid to share lots of things as long as you properly use experiences to separate them, but really only put stuff which is actually enhancing your expert positioning for what you want to promote right now.

George: Yeah, and I think that LinkedIn has done a good job of giving us, some cards that you can put that information and the fact that the Honors and Awards card is way below the fold like I was just scrolling through to find it to make sure that I hadn’t broken your rule that you just gave us. It comes after recommendations, it comes after education, it comes after licenses, and certification. But you can put it there, but I hear what you’re saying, don’t put it up in that descriptor at the top.

James: It matters most of all what other people say about you more than what you say about yourself. That’s rule number one for being an expert. And by the way, anybody can be an expert. Even a sales rep in an organization can be an expert. I’m working with a client right now and I’m helping them for their sales rep team to do outreach on LinkedIn, but also position them as an expert through posting content on topic for the organization they represent, the services they provide. There’s lots of ways you can position yourselves as an expert. LinkedIn gives us all the tools, we’ve just got to use them, George. It’s as simple as that.

George: No, and that’s one of our missions here at the “Conquer Local Podcast” is to get experts like you, to help us understand how to navigate this space. So the last thing that I wanted to learn from you is how do you keep on top of all of the things that LinkedIn is doing? Because now with the Microsoft ownership, they’re investing a lot of money into this platform and it seems like it changes pretty much every day. So how do you stay on top of that, James?

James: Yeah, interesting. I would say LinkedIn doesn’t move as fast as many of the other social platforms. I think that’s true to say so it’s not as hard as keeping up with many of the other platforms that you could care to name. With that said, listen, you just gotta be in there. If you’re in there doing things, and following other experts, thought leaders, and you can follow the product managers from LinkedIn and they will give you glimpses into what’s coming down the line. Like, so it’s not too hard by following a good couple of influences, it’s pretty, pretty easy to stay up to speed with things that are coming down the line. My main issue, to be honest, is that things don’t come out quick enough. Like, for example, LinkedIn they promised, as of September, I think it was either September this year, it might have been 2022, the time of recording this, or even it might have been 2021. They were promising a platform for third-party freelancers, experts, and service providers to be able to offer their services directly to users, and users could choose to engage and hire them on the platform, essentially competing with Fivver, with Upwork, stock tanked at the news that this was coming out. Now the reality, there’s been crickets. There have been crickets, it is moving at a snail’s pace, but it is coming. So eventually there will be a time when on LinkedIn, you can offer your services and people can hire you directly from LinkedIn. This is what Microsoft wants because of course Microsoft now is gonna get involved in the e-commerce. It’ll take its percentage of the transaction and that’s how it’s gonna make its next big revenue growth. So believe me, it is coming. I just wish it was coming sooner, frankly, George, than the pace I’ve seen it coming right now.

George: Well, it’s interesting hearing from the LinkedIn King that things don’t happen fast enough where the vast majority of users are like, Oh, there’s a new thing that I need to figure out. But that’s why we like having experts like you on the show. James, thank you very much for joining us as managing director, of More Results Marketing Limited, joining us all the way from England. Thanks for coming on the show. I do love to give the guests a chance to talk about how people could get more James Watson if they’d like to learn more about you and your organization.

James: Well, so thanks, George, I appreciate that. So probably the first place to follow me would be on Twitter, where you can find me @LinkedIn_King where I have about 10,000 thousand followers on there. So again, I post a lot of information there. Obviously, I’m on LinkedIn as well. You can look me up and find me. And the final thing is I would highly recommend going to YouTube and searching for LinkedIn profile optimization. And you will find the thumbnail with my picture on it, on the top page of results. And I do recommend you take that masterclass. It is free. I was gonna charge for it, but I decided to give it away for free on YouTube and I got a lot of positive feedback from it. So if you’re at all interested in optimizing your LinkedIn profile and making the most of the great opportunities LinkedIn gives us, I’d recommend starting with that masterclass on YouTube.

George: Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it from the LinkedIn King, James Watson, joining us today on the “Conquer Local Podcast.” Thanks for your time, James.

James: Thank you, George. Cheers, and all the best.


George: James gave us a lot of things to take away, but first I need to make sure that I am using I and the first person on my LinkedIn profile. So note to self, fix profile. Also automation. It gets a bit of a bad rap in LinkedIn. We all know what James was talking about. You get the message, “Hey, I’d like to add you to my professional network.” 24 hours later, 48 hours later, you get a message, Wanna buy my shit? That is not the way to properly use automations to have numerous touches and deliver value to somebody that you want to enter your network and then start to learn more about them and to see if there’s a fit with your organization. So automation can be your friend, but you need to utilize it properly. There’s this constant theme that I’ve been hearing over the last 24 to 30 months about great sales professionals are great copywriters. And what is a copywriter? It’s someone who knows to craft messages in a way that the audience can understand what you’re trying to articulate. And what James talked a lot about is it’s not the formal letter that is sent out to the prospect that cuts through the clutter and gets you the meeting. It’s writing content in a way that it can be consumed quickly. It gets to the point, it delivers the value proposition and then causes the audience to want to learn more. That is the messaging that’s working. LinkedIn is professional, but you don’t have to be overly formal to use it. Stop using it as a resume. Now I probably have been guilty of this as well over time. It’s more about what’s in it for the audience. Let’s make sure that we remember that when we’re crafting our LinkedIn profiles and our messaging and our posts. Some great takeaways from this episode with James Watson on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile. Let’s continue the conversation. We’ve got a couple of other great episodes for you to check out. Episode 362, Rocking your LinkedIn profile with Morgan Hammer from LinkedIn. And don’t forget about episodes 417 and 418, “Becoming a LinkedIn Expert” with Viveka von Rosen. Please subscribe and leave us a review. And thanks for joining us this week on the “Conquer Local Podcast.” My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.