The art of the InMail. What a topic.
In this piece we tell you why you need to know about writing better LinkedIn InMails (even if you don’t think you do), and help you brush up your skills with 5 practical tips. Skip to the end if you want a simple example of how to put these tips into action. For free online recruiting software, click here to try Recruiteze!
Your Current LinkedIn InMail Tactics Aren’t Good Enough
Loved by recruiters and HR professionals, InMails are much maligned by approximately everyone else. Why? Because, spam.
It’s common knowledge that LinkedIn makes most of its money from selling specialized profiles for recruiters, so the InMail function makes good sense.
You’re giving recruiters and HR folk a direct line to potentially very senior candidates who might otherwise be inaccessible. That’s the carrot – the reason 51% of recruiters hold a LinkedIn Premium account of some description and are willing to pay through the nose for it (LinkedIn Recruiter comes in at nearly $1000/month, for example).
On the other hand, InMails were easy to take advantage of, in their early days, and plenty of recruiters saw fit to fire out endless identical messages to everyone with a keyword on their profile. Every non-recruiter on LinkedIn found themselves inundated with messages (“my biggest BIGGEST, BIGGEST frustration with LI now is spam. It has almost got out of control”, writes someone on Quora) and they’ve had enough. Getting people to open an InMail is increasingly difficult: they’re simply becoming immune to our charms.
At the same time LinkedIn is trying to combat the spam situation for fear of members storming out in high dudgeon, the recruiters (and their wallets) trailing after them.
To that end, they’ve introduced numerous policies designed to handcuff recruiters. Notably, the 2014 anti-spam policy, demanding Recruiter account users maintain a response rate of 13% of above. Fall below that and your use of the InMail function is severely curtailed, even if you’re paying for it.
And that’s why, friends, none of our existing tactics are good enough. Members are becoming increasingly unresponsive, and LinkedIn is demanding that our response rates go up.
LinkedIn InMails can still be a useful tool – but knowing how to get people to respond to them is more important than ever.
Which LinkedIn InMail Tactics SHOULD You Be Using?
I’m going to say the obvious thing first, to get it out of the way: don’t spam. Think personal, not generic. Don’t be the bad noughties equivalent of a door-to-door salesman.
With that in mind, let’s look at 5 practical tips to help you write better LinkedIn InMails.
The first thing your “prospects” see, it’s fitting to address the subject line first.
Subject lines – whether for InMail or Email – are one of the most important components of a cold email. Copywriters and marketers have spent years perfecting and testing the science of the perfect subject line, so there’s a lot hiring professionals can learn from them.
I could write a whole piece about subject lines (and I probably will, at some point) but I’ll summarize:
- Keep it short: 6 – 10 word subject lines have the highest open rate (21%)
- Focus on the benefit – why should your prospect care?
- Be personal – personalised subject lines get up to 41.8% more opens
- Choose your words wisely – some perform a lot better than others
- Be specific – the reader should know what to expect inside the message
- Ask a question – questions force the reader to engage, pause and consider
If you’re a candidate getting a ‘cold’ InMail from a recruiter or HR professional, it’s easy to immediately write that off as spam, particularly if you’re not actively on the market.
The key is to build trust as quickly as possible, and the best way to build trust is to establish common ground. LinkedIn offer many features that identify points you have in common, so there’s really no excuse not to use them:
- Connections in common – mention your common acquaintances; even ask for introductions where appropriate.
- Groups in common – according to LinkedIn, you’re 21% more likely to get an InMail response from someone you share a Group with.
- Companies in common – a response is 27% more likely from someone within a company you used to work for, according to the same LinkedIn research. That’s a big competitive advantage!
- Education in common – make sure to mention any schools or universities you both attended; an easy conversation starter.
- Company followers – you’re a whopping 81% more likely to get a response from prospects who already follow your company, say LinkedIn
- Other commonalities – Failing all of the above, comb through their profile (or search them on Google or Facebook) for an interest or activity you both share, and leverage that to create a connection.
Getting the conversation started is the hardest part of sending a cold email, and establishing commonality can help you get a foot in the door. It’s a no-brainer.
Focus On The Benefit
A great subject line and a shared interest might get your prospect to read your email… but if you don’t quickly and clearly define what you’re offering and why they should care, you won’t get a response.
Professional copywriters have a lesson to teach us here: focus on the benefits. This will be familiar advice for anyone with sales training, too: features are fine, but benefits sell.
What do I mean by this? I mean, don’t focus on what your offer *is*, but on what that means for the prospect. The key to converting features into benefits is to ask yourself ‘so what?’ For example:
‘An exciting company with a flat management structure…’
‘…which promotes easy communication between senior management…’
‘…so projects move more smoothly, and you have input into decision making ’
‘…so you’ll have more autonomy, be more productive and be more engaged…’
‘…which means you’ll enjoy your job more.’
That’s the benefit, leaving you with something along the lines of:
‘I’d love to have a chat to you about a role I’m hiring for. Our flat management structure has meant we’ve consistently seen higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, and we’d love to tell you more about our team…’
It works for everything – every time you list a feature (innovative, high-growth, reputable, whatever), ask yourself ‘so what?’ and your LinkedIn InMail will be a whole lot more effective.
Don’t Go In For The Kill
One of the biggest mistakes hiring professionals make when using LinkedIn InMails is to go straight in for the kill. InMails are like online dating – most of us would shy away from the creepy guy/gal who pushed for a date in the same sentence as saying Hi, so don’t do the LinkedIn equivalent.
If you begin the candidate journey by asking for an appointment, you’re losing up 90% – 97% of perfectly good prospects, says Sharon Drew Morgan, inventor of the Buyer Facilitation Method.
A successful hire happens when the candidate and the hiring manager decide they’re both right for one another. They both meet one another’s needs. Knowing what those needs are, then, is an absolutely critical part of the hiring process. How likely is it you know your prospect’s need from one cold email?
Instead, says social media sales guru Jeff Molander, “The goal of your ‘first touch’ InMail message is to earn the right to have a discussion. Nothing else.”
Get Your Timing Right
It might not strictly be about writing better InMails, but timing is as important to LinkedIn InMail etiquette as content.
People are more likely to open InMails at certain times, so getting your timing right is an easy way to increase your response rates. It might seem obvious, but avoid sending InMails at the weekend.
You’re actually 16% less likely to get a response on Saturdays, according to LinkedIn, and should avoid Friday afternoons too.
In fact, they recommend sending InMails between 9am and 10am (in your prospect’s time zone) on a Thursday, for the optimum response.
Obviously it’s not practical to exclusively send InMails during this hour slot, but definitely avoid the weekends! Your best bet is to track your own InMail success. Everyone’s market is different, their audience different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all.
Ere Media found that only 0.3% of recruiters tracked which times and days gave them the most InMail success, so this is a real opportunity for you to give yourself a competitive advantage.
A Recruitment LinkedIn InMail Example
Subject Line: Jackie recommended we chat RE: management
Are you interested in stepping into management at any point soon? I work with Account Executives in the Digital Media sphere to help them grow their career.
The company I’m hiring for offer an industry-leading training course, designed to help executives step up to management level quickly.
Is this something you’d be interested to hear more about?
Let me know!
Thanks for considering,
With prospects becoming increasingly wary, and LinkedIn penalizing recruiters for a poor response rate, knowing how to write better LinkedIn InMails is more important than ever. In fact, recruiters and HR professionals could seriously impact their LinkedIn effectiveness by proactively developing their writing skills.
There are endless free online copy-writing courses that hiring professionals could take, some only a few hours long, that would give a significant competitive advantage – not only writing InMails but writing marketing materials and social media posts too. As recruitment becomes more of a multi-skill discipline, writing becomes a skill recruiters and HR folk can’t afford not to have.
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