Few founders have found success with LinkedIn outreach quite like Stefan Smulders. He’s the founder and CEO of Expandi, a cloud based LinkedIn automation tool which will allows you to set up outreach campaigns in minutes.
As many founders struggle to use LinkedIn outreach to it’s full potential, Stefan has it down to a science. He’s bootstrapped Expandi to over $7m in revenue using the strategies he describes below.
Whether you’re aiming to broaden your network, secure new business opportunities, or simply engage more meaningfully with your peers, effective LinkedIn outreach can be transformative. Stefan delves deep into proven strategies to amplify your outreach efforts, ensuring you not only stand out but also forge genuine, impactful connections on LinkedIn.
The below is a lightly edited transcript of Stefan’s keynote speech at SaaSOpen 2023.
How did you reach more than 70% acceptance rate and 55% reply rate with your LinkedIn Outreach?
It’s all about out of the box strategies and ways on how to search and find your audiences on LinkedIn.
I’m not talking about Sales Navigator searches, I’m talking about search strikes divided in, for example, LinkedIn groups, inbound leads and some strategies which I leverage for the past couple of years and which get me each and every time up to more than 70% acceptance rate.
And as a bonus, some hacks, some email hacks, and how you can get a 55% reply rate after finding the right audience and how to reach these people on LinkedIn.
How long did it take you to reach $7 million in revenue?
I’m the founder of Expandi, world leading software for LinkedIn automation, and I bootstrap my size within two and a half years up to $7 million in revenue. We mainly did that through LinkedIn outreach and the best place out there we created playbooks out of it and heavily distributed them to the audience.
I shared this story at Founder 500 last edition in Austin, for the ones who want to watch that back, I think it’s on YouTube. But let’s start with some search tricks.
I think for the ones who are quite active on LinkedIn and some people already raised their hands, it became a bit of a more challenging one and a half year ago when LinkedIn put unfortunately in all these limits.
How can quality searches and Sniper Targeting be beneficial for LinkedIn outreach?
I will share a bit about that and why it’s important to do quality searches and Sniper Targeting. And because if you have fewer people to outreach, it will become way more important to find the right people as we have fewer shots left to approach all these people, especially on LinkedIn.
Some spotlight filters and I see people thinking LinkedIn Groups, there are many LinkedIn Groups, but I will tell some tricks about that and how you can leverage it yourself.
For the ones who are using LinkedIn to build out authority, to build out personal brands, you cannot attract a lot of inbound leads. With some tricks, it’s quite easy to import all these people into a CSV and follow up on them on LinkedIn or through other channels.
What is the 100 weekly limit about?
The 100 weekly limit – LinkedIn is fighting spam. It’s the number one problem, especially if a platform is growing superfast. It means that they want to stop people approaching each other, at least people you do not know.
Therefore, I think it becomes way more important to only outreach people you know or at least that’s what LinkedIn is aiming for and of course it’s not possible. We have a lot of workarounds, we can bypass these limits, but that’s not what we’re gonna talk about today.
I especially want to focus on Sniper Targeting. Only tactics on how you can find people, but out of the box strategies on LinkedIn to build your audience.
How to reach more than 100 connections per week?
LinkedIn Groups. I just talked about it. Who’s leveraging LinkedIn Groups? We have some people here who are already in LinkedIn Groups or use it? Did you know, for example, that if you’re a part from a LinkedIn Group for more than four days, you can message these people without making connection requests?
That’s how LinkedIn limited the amount of connection requests up to 100 a week, which is sort of 20 a day. And if you’re part of a group, you can message these people without making a connection request, and it’s quite an easy conversation starter.
If you go to your basic search bar on LinkedIn, you search by hashtag on a specific topic, and you select the tech groups it will pop up all the relevant groups related to that specific keyword. You can make quite an easy introduction if you’re not using it as a connection request.
You can send a message as I just mentioned, and this is an example of how you can make and kind of “Hey, we are part of the same group. Let’s exchange IDs, and if you are in for a coffee, just let me know.” I will share all these things afterwards as well.
How to attract almost 8,000 profile visitors in 90 days with LinkedIn Outreach?
Who viewed your profile? If you have a paid subscription on LinkedIn, for example, Sales Navigator, it’s possible to see who has viewed your profile.
I, for example, leverage LinkedIn by producing content consistent each and every day. And I attract, I think in the last 90 days, almost 8,000 profile visitors. With a tool like Expandi, we can easily import all these profile visitors, and you can use that as a lead source or as a starting point to engage with these people.
You can do that on LinkedIn. We can export them in a CSV. Re-capturing all the email addresses will make it quite easy to retarget these people to follow up on them per email.
I think it’s quite interesting because these people already showed interest in you, in your profile. it’s quite easy to engage with them afterwards and refer to that profile visit. This is an example of how you can do that. It’s not that special, quite easy, and you can personalize it even more if you want that of course.
How to raise the acceptance rate above 70%?
Sniper Targeting. These are my three favorite strategies. LinkedIn, it’s full of content. I just mentioned it. We see our timelines, everybody’s posting. But how cool would it be if we can scrape each and every post on LinkedIn?
I’m not talking only about your post, but let’s say your competitors’ posts and company posts or any posts on LinkedIn. We can import, within a split second, all the people will like and comment on that specific post.
We can capture all the email addresses and within two minutes we can provide you with a CSV file you can use for retargeting, you can use for email outreach, do a cool tool instantly, for example, if you can leverage and to expand you to follow up on all these people on LinkedIn.
It’s quite easy to make an introduction as you can refer to us in a specific post. I never, ever achieved, and I did it many times over for the past couple of years, a lower acceptance rate by using or leveraging this strategy than a 70%.
How can you leverage a tool like Expandi to engage with LinkedIn Outreach?
You go to the specific post, you copy the URL, you go to into a tool like Expandi, you import the URL, and within a couple of minutes, it’ll pull over all the people who are engaged with that specific post.
After that, you can decide what to do and leverage such a tool to follow up on these people per LinkedIn. It’s not needed.
An example of how you can break through the noise with your messaging as everybody is approaching each other, some boring outdated messages and bring some fun in it, they’ll always help me a lot to get people engaged.
This is an example of how you can do that, how you can do that through connection request to open InMail, for example, but also through group messaging or event messaging. That’s also for SaaS events. If you’re part of an event, it’s possible to engage with these people without making a connection request if you’re part of that specific event.
How can you utilize poll voters on LinkedIn to increase engagement and approach them later?
Sniper targeting poll voters. We see still a lot of people who are asking questions on LinkedIn and ask people to vote on that. If it’s your own poll, it’s possible to scrape all the people who vote for your poll.
To get engagement you can use, for example, an engagement part which will give you a bit more traction and more people will see your post. To expand, you can input all the people based on answers and funnel them based on answers to funnel them further to approach them afterwards.
This is how it works. And an example again of a funny connection request, which you can leverage in relation to someone who voted on your poll.
How can you use LinkedIn events to find and engage with relevant people?
Events. LinkedIn is also full of events. If you go to your basic search bar, and you search for a specific keyword on LinkedIn and you enter the tap events afterwards that pull out all the relevant events in relation to your keywords, which means that if you decide to attend that event, then you’re able to scrape all the people who also decided to join that event.
All these people decided to spend their valuable time to join that upcoming event. We can pull over and expand the other people who do that, and we can provide you with all the email addresses and additional information you can use it for, again, retargeting.
You can use it for email outreach, or you can use it for approaching them on LinkedIn as well. And it works for each and every event. The only requirement is that before you do it, you need to decide to join that event or service.
The reason this works well is that you actually have a lot in common and these people already decided based on the topic to join that specific event.
If you provide something which is a bit similar or related, it’s actually quite cool to engage with these people, and you will achieve a very high acceptance rate if you decide to send out a connection request.
How to do 100 campaigns without texting a lot?
GIF animations, I think, is by far one of the most interesting approaches I will share today as most of us are struggling on LinkedIn, especially if we use LinkedIn for outreach to break through the noise.
I did at least 100 active campaigns without actually, just with messaging and the rest of them with GIF animations. And each and every time I doubled reply rates as everybody is sending the same messages, outdated, boring, finding them on Google.
Instead of sending that, I’ll show in a bit some examples. For the ones who have a paid LinkedIn subscription, let’s say Sales Navigator, it’s possible to send InMails. But it’s always a challenge with these credits.
You have a couple of credits and at the point you want to use it, they’re gone. I can learn you a trick, how you can send more than 800 free InMails to open profiles without using any credits.
On top of that, I will share all the playbooks, all the strategies, a breakdown of the strategies we will talk today.
How can you identify LinkedIn profiles with an open status and send them free InMails?
If you are familiar on LinkedIn, you see there on top of my profile that I have kind of a golden icon and that golden icon, it means that your profile has a status open and if the profile has a status open, it means that you’re able to send a free InMail without using any kind of credits, lengthiness, requesting.
Of course, it’s undoable to walk through all these profiles one by one because it’s causing a lot of time.
What we can do is if you retrieve and search, it doesn’t matter if it’s in post-engagement search as I just explained, if it’s a Sales Navigator search or an event search, you can pull over all these people into expanding and within a split second.
You can set and filter, and we can see and provide you with information if it’s an open profile, then you can start and campaign only to people with an open profile. It’s actually kind of an InMail with a subject line and some messaging you can use in there.
How to use GIFs to reach 70% engagement with LinkedIn Outreach?
Instead of only using content, it really helps to use personalized GIF animations. An example here, you see a colleague of mine, Amy, who is leveraging GIF animations. And if we send it to one, 10, 50, or 100 people, at each and every time, we’ll personalize the GIF animation based on the personalizations we put in.
It can be a first name, a company name, or it can be an image, but it also can be the profile image, as you see right there. You will actually receive super cool reactions from a lot of people, as it’s different in terms of what they receive on average each and every day.
From all the at least 100 times I experimented for different purposes with leveraging this, at each and every time uplift engagement up to 50, sometimes up to 70%, in comparison to maybe on average to 25%, 30% if you’re not using it.
It’s definitely worth considering and especially if you’ve not done it, yet it’s quite an interesting approach to break through the noise on LinkedIn.
What are some examples of content that can be used for different purposes in LinkedIn connection requests?
Here you see some statistics and examples from campaigns we executed on with our own team. You can use it, for example, these are just some random examples. I can provide you with more if you want after the connection request.
Not to push, not to send a link. On the left side, you see our colleague Amy. And they call it an icebreaker image, where you just actually thank people for the connection, if you want to use it for that purpose.
In the middle, you’re seeing a call to action from our colleague Sharon. It’s also with a dynamic content. It will really help to get kind of a positive reply from people, kind of a different vibe.
If you want to send or use it as a reminder, for example, if you invite people for your webinar, as you see on the right side from our colleague Ivan, you can also use it, and you can personalize it, in this case, with a first name.
No matter if you send it to one, 10, 50, or even 1,000 people, it will each and every time use the right personalizations to execute on that.
For the ones who are familiar with Sales Navigator, you have a filter in Sales Navigator that you can select people based on changing job roles.
For example, in the last 90 days. How cool would it be if you can send them a connection request or a congrats with a bottle of champagne based.
Is the software putting the name into the video or picture?
Yes, we do that in combination with Hyperise. It’s a personalization toolkit which you can also leverage outside of LinkedIn for personalized landing pages, for email outreach, and in our case, also for LinkedIn outreach.
You can also use it, for example, as inbounds. Let’s say, I think we all use Calendly or sort of similar tool. If people book in an appointment, you can just add an extra step or actually ask an additional question that they need to fill in before they confirm or submit their LinkedIn profile.
If they fill in their LinkedIn profile, we can pull over by a reverse webhook, automatically in connection request, and push such kind of a cool GIF animation out there.
You can use it if you do a post on LinkedIn. I did myself a lot of posts where I ask people to leave a comment and in return I will provide them with a guide. This is an example of how you can send them such kind of a guide after they leave a comment, and it’s fully automated.
How can most wanted posters be used in a unique and effective way for recruitment on LinkedIn?
For the ones who are leveraging LinkedIn for recruitment, I think we all see that the kind of outdated approaches, “I saw your profile. It’s super, super cool. I really want you to engage with me.” It’s not working perfectly fine anymore.
I experimented a lot with most wanted posters. Let’s say I pull over a most wanted poster and I put in there, “I’m on the lookout for a new rock star, aka your first name”. You really get such cool replies from people as they never received it before.
If you want to leverage LinkedIn for recruitment, it could be a really interesting idea to do it that way. I have playbooks about how you can do that, and you can find them on our expanding blog as well.