LinkedIn Lead Generation: The Ultimate Guide

Learn about the top free and paid strategies for LinkedIn lead generation, including direct outreach as well as inbound lead generation methods.

LinkedIn lead generation is the process of using LinkedIn to find quality leads that fit your ideal customer profile. Typically, this is done through free strategies such as social selling or paid strategies such as running ads. Ultimately, LinkedIn is most effective for B2B businesses that want to make personal connections with prospects through direct outreach, but it is also used by companies focusing on inbound B2B lead generation.

Who Should Use LinkedIn Lead Generation​

LinkedIn lead generation is most effective for B2B businesses selling to other business professionals. Within the B2B sphere, there are many different use-cases, but they can be boiled down to two overarching uses—inbound lead generation and direct outreach/social selling—both of which have free and paid strategies.

Let’s take a look at some more specific use-cases:

  • B2B Businesses Needing to Generate Email Sign-ups: LinkedIn ads can help you generate email sign-ups so you can grow your email list. 
  • Those Wanting to Make Personal Connections: Through consistent interaction with individuals on the platform, you can make personal connections and relationships. 
  • Those Who Write Articles About Their Niche: If you write articles about your niche, you can share them on the platform, tapping into its content-hungry audience. 
  • Those Wanting to Build a Reputation in Their Industry: If you want to be seen as an expert in your industry, LinkedIn is great for building your professional brand. 
  • B2B Businesses Wanting to Drive Traffic to Their Website: By running LinkedIn ads and posting articles, you can drive more traffic to your website. 
  • B2B Salespeople Trying to Book Meetings: With InMail, you can send direct messages to prospects and book meetings with them.

On the other hand, LinkedIn is ineffective if you are selling a B2C product or service. For instance, a jewelry store should probably avoid using LinkedIn to generate leads. No one is on there to buy jewelry. If you're looking for inbound B2C lead generation, check out our article on Facebook lead generation.

Regardless, there is a defined set of strategies for LinkedIn lead generation that begins with free methods and ends with paid means that scale your efforts. While it's possible to treat the strategies below like a menu of options, we also recommend that everyone start with the free methods. Then, those wanting to pay for LinkedIn leads can continue to layer on our paid methods for a custom B2B lead generation strategy.

LinkedIn lead generation strategies
Linkedin lead generation strategies mobile

Free LinkedIn Lead Generation Strategies

Free LinkedIn lead generation strategies can be used for outbound sales prospectingonline lead generation, or a combination of both. Whatever your intentions, you should begin by optimizing your profile. From there, you can begin engaging with your audience by posting content and joining industry groups. Meanwhile, you can direct message individuals with whom you want to connect and start relationships.

Follow the free strategies below to not only generate leads, but also expand your influence and grow your reputation in the industry.

1. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

Whether you are using free LinkedIn strategies for inbound lead generation or direct outreach, first optimize your LinkedIn profile. It's the first place your prospects will go if they liked the article you posted or the message you sent. To start, make sure your LinkedIn profile paints you as an informed professional. Then, appeal to your target customer's needs and clearly state the value you provide.

To accomplish this, follow these steps for optimizing your LinkedIn profile:

Think About Your Target Audience

First, look over your ideal customer profile and make sure you understand the type of lead you're trying to attract. Reviewing this information will help you craft messaging on your LinkedIn profile that speaks directly to your target audience.

Study Quality Profiles in Your Niche

To gain inspiration for your LinkedIn profile, study the profiles of other successful sellers in your niche. Note the taglines, summaries, and banners that you like. And don’t be afraid to borrow the underlying principles of their messaging. For instance, if you like the way that one of your peers wrote a customer-centric story in their summary, use that same formula in your own.

Use a Good Profile Picture

How do you want to come across to your audience? Are you selling to young freelance digital nomads or to C-Suite executives from Fortune 500 companies? Take into account the attire and the level of professionalism of your audience and mirror that in your profile picture. And, whether you are wearing a suit or a T-shirt, look presentable.

Here are some different photo styles that work:

Matthew Green linkedin headshot example
Add some personality, like Matt Green.
Lindsay Tjepkema linkedin headshot example
Show yourself in action, like Lindsay Tjempkema.
Zach Ciliotta-Young linkedin headshot example
Look professional, like Zach Ciliotta-Young.

Write a Headline That Hooks Your Target Buyer

Your LinkedIn headline should be short and to the point. It should make it easy for your prospects to quickly understand who you are and who you help. When a potential buyer checks out your profile and finds that they fit the description of the clients you service, they will be more open to having a conversation with you.

That said, follow this formula when writing a LinkedIn tagline:

Tagline = I help [X] accomplish [Y] through [Z].

X = Target customer: could be either the type of company or title of the decision maker

Y = What you do for them: the main benefit you bring

Z = How you accomplish it: usually your product or service

If you were selling software to property managers that helps them do unit inspections more quickly, you might write the following: 

Helping property managers inspect units faster through an inspection app.

Greg Cammarata's tagline follows the formula pretty closely:

Linkedin headline example

However, this isn't the only approach to crafting your LinkedIn headline. For more insights on how to create the perfect headline that generates leads, check out our article on the top LinkedIn headline examples for sales.

Craft a Customer-Focused Summary

The LinkedIn summary was designed as a place to talk about yourself. But, as a sales rep, you should use this space to talk about your customers. Mention problems they experience and how your business helps them overcome those problems. Talk about results your clients have seen. Essentially, your LinkedIn summary should be a customer-centric story that makes your prospect believe your business can help them. 

For instance, if you sold lead generation tech to VPs of sales, you might write:

VPs of sales are often concerned that their sales reps are spending too much time scouring the web for leads and not enough time actually talking to them on the phone. This frustrates them, for they feel they are closing fewer deals than they should be. 

That’s why a lot of VPs of sales, such as those from [Reputable Client A] and [Recognizable Client B], come to us, [Company Name], for help. Using our lead generation software, their reps automatically receive more highly qualified leads so that they can spend more time doing what they do best: selling. 

If you are a solopreneur or selling your own services, start with information about your clients, but end with a summary of your experience, successes, and services offered, like the following:

Linkedin about summary example
Example LinkedIn About page for salespeople

Lastly, whether you are a B2B sales rep, executive, or solopreneur, end the summary with contact information so they can easily reach you.

2. Publish Articles Relevant to Your Niche

Now that your profile is optimized, it’s time to show it off to your potential customers. A great way to start engaging with your target audience is by writing and publishing articles relevant to your niche. These articles could be written on your company’s website or directly on LinkedIn. You can use these articles to drive leads to your website, or you might use them to demonstrate your expertise and add credibility to your direct outreach efforts.  

Here are some other reasons why publishing articles is great for lead generation:

  • Reach People in Your Industry: Your content will be shared with your connections and followers in their news feeds and sometimes in their notifications.
  • Gain Followers and Fans: Users who aren’t already connected to you can follow you from the article. Then, the next time you publish, they will see it in their feed. 
  • Earn Organic Search Traffic: If your profile is visible, your article will be searchable both on and off the platform, meaning you could earn traffic from Google searches.

The best types of articles for lead generation mention a common problem that your clients suffer from and then explain how to overcome it. The answers you provide could be a new tactical approach, a best practice that worked for a client, or your product. For example, if you help B2B tech companies with SEO, you might publish an article about a new interlinking tactic they can use to boost traffic to their blog.

3. Post Updates Your Audience Will Enjoy

Another way to engage with your audience is by posting updates on the LinkedIn page. This will expand your network and build your reputation as an expert in the field, both of which will help you generate more leads. When you post on LinkedIn, your posts show up on the feeds of your followers and connections. Better yet, the LinkedIn algorithm will place your posts on the feeds of people it thinks will enjoy your content.

While new, original content is best, your posts can be any of the following:

  • Your thoughts on an industry article or relevant news
  • A recycled piece of content from your brand
  •  An update about your business or your product
  • Your industry advice and insights

Pro Tip:

One of the best ways to think about this is to make your professional or business's LinkedIn profile a go-to resource for your audience. By providing value through industry-relevant articles and information, you become known as an expert your following will be more inclined to engage with.

4. Participate in Industry Groups

Industry groups are great for finding leads because it's where specific types of people go to discuss industry topics. One group might be filled with digital marketers. Another might contain tech CEOs. Across most groups, people post about trends, best practices, and products in their respective industries. Often, they pose questions, some of which you might be fit to answer. Become an active member in relevant groups, providing value so members might take an interest in connecting with you.

list of linkedin industry groups
Example list of relevant LinkedIn sales groups

To successfully turn LinkedIn group members into leads, follow these steps:

  1. Join Relevant Groups: First, find groups that will house your target buyers. For example, if you sell to property management professionals, join the residential management group. If you sell to salespeople, join the sales best practices group. 
  2. Share Relevant Content: Aside from sharing content on the general LinkedIn feed, you can also share it in the group.
  3. Interact With Group Members: Answer questions, like their comments, and, if it makes sense, mention them—@{their name}—in your comments on posts.

If you follow these steps routinely, you will start to grow on the group members’ awareness. In time they will begin to view you as a helpful member of the group who they would enjoy doing business with.

Pro Tip:

Avoid selling in the LinkedIn groups. Of course, if someone mentions a problem that you solve, it is okay to see if they would like to discuss offline how you can help. But never post ads in the group or write blatant pitches. It will paint you as someone feeding on the group rather than supporting it.

5. Connect & Reach Out to Prospects Directly

Aside from engaging with your LinkedIn network by posting content and interacting with them in groups, you can also directly message them using InMail. These can be people on your prospecting list or people you have found during your LinkedIn activities. Usually, the ultimate goal of these InMail messages is to get the prospect to accept a phone call with you. But it could also be to get them to sign up for something, such as a webinar.

If you are trying to book a sales meeting, treat direct outreach as a long game. Wait to ask for the meeting until your third or fourth message. Use the first few messages to introduce yourself, form a relationship with them, and share value. If you do this, they will be more likely to accept the meeting request when it finally comes knocking.

With Sales Navigator, LinkedIn’s paid option for salespeople, you will be able to message people that are not yet your connections. This makes the direct outreach process more effective. You can do it without Navigator, but your messages to non-connects will be limited to a number of characters.

Here is a LinkedIn InMail approach to use with or without Sales Navigator: 

  1. Ask to Connect: First, send a message with your connection request. Explain why you think it is a good idea to connect. The more specific and personalized, the better.
  2. Thank Them for Connecting: After they connect, send a quick thank-you message.
  3. Share Value With Them: Send them a piece of content that they might find interesting. Be sure to explain why you thought they would like it.
  4. Ask for a Meeting: Finally, ask for a meeting. You can do this in a few ways. You can be direct and say, It seems like my service would be a great fit to help you {value proposition}. Or, you could be more subtle, such as I noticed you spend a lot of time {job responsibility}. I’m curious, what tool do you use for {task A}?

While you are going through this direct messaging process with prospects, you should also be interacting with any content they post on the network. This will increase the rate at which their familiarity with you builds. And more familiarity means more trust in you and your offer.

Paid LinkedIn Lead Generation Strategies

There are three main ways in which you can pay for and automate your lead generation efforts on LinkedIn: sponsored content, sponsored InMail, and LinkedIn lead gen forms. You can use these as standalone LinkedIn lead generation methods, but we recommend using them in tandem with some of the free strategies mentioned above.

6. Sponsored Content

Sponsored content consists of the different native ads on LinkedIn, from video ads to carousel image ads. The main goal of these ads is to direct traffic from LinkedIn to your website, where you will capture their contact information using whatever lead generation strategy you employ. This sponsored ad will show up on the feeds of your target audience, which you will define with LinkedIn’s ad functionality.

example Linkedin native Ad
Example LinkedIn native advertisement

7. Sponsored InMail

Sponsored InMail is a personalized InMail message that is automatically sent to the inboxes of members in your target audience who you are not connected with. Essentially, it automates the process of manual connecting and messaging discussed in the free strategy. The goal of the automated InMail is to get your prospects to take a certain action, whether that’s downloading a white paper or taking a phone call with you.

example of linkedin sponsored inmail
Example sponsored InMail on LinkedIn

You can use sponsored InMail to do the following:

  • Invite them to a webinar or demo. 
  • Share and encourage the download of content they might enjoy, such as e-books. 
  • Promote a product or service. 
  • Spread news about a new feature. 
  • Promote an upcoming conference or event. 
  • Ask if they are available for a call to discuss your solution.

After the messages have been sent, you can also analyze the impact of the messages. For example, you will receive data about which titles or types of companies interacted the most with your messages. This intel allows you to adjust and optimize your messaging for the next round of InMails.

8. LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms

LinkedIn lead gen forms allow you to collect lead contact information directly on the LinkedIn platform with a small time commitment for the visitor. Instead of having to jump to your website to fill out the form, they can do it right on the platform. Lead gen forms also automatically populate themselves with the lead’s information. These forms can be embedded into your sponsored content or sponsored InMail to collect lead information such as email addresses, name, company name, and more.

example Linkedin Lead Gen form
Example LinkedIn lead gen forms

Top LinkedIn Lead Generation Software & Tools

These tools, mostly software or chrome extensions, can help you automate and enhance your LinkedIn lead generation strategies. They can do things like manage your social selling activities or automate the growth of your network. Whether you are focusing on direct outreach or inbound lead generation, there are tools to assist you.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is LinkedIn’s paid version meant to help salespeople more easily find and connect with decision makers. It also helps them manage their LinkedIn prospecting activities. With it, you can use advanced filtering to find leads outside of your network. And you can then message them even if you aren’t connected. You can also manage your sales activity using functionality that allows you to save leads, create custom account lists, and add notes or tags to leads.

Linkedin Sales Navigator pricing
LinkedIn Sales Navigator pricing (03/02/21)


Phantombuster is a growth automation and data extraction tool that helps salespeople automate their LinkedIn activity to grow their network quickly. It can auto-comment and auto-respond on posts and scrape LinkedIn profiles for data such as contact or business information. It can also automatically send connection invitations to a list of LinkedIn users. This is a great tool for those looking to growth-hack their LinkedIn presence.

Phantom Buster Pricing
Phantombuster pricing (03/02/21)

Meet Alfred

Meet Alfred is a diverse LinkedIn automation tool that focuses mainly on helping you create, manage, and track your LinkedIn selling campaigns and outreach using its built-in customer relationship management (CRM) system. It can also automate some of your outreach sequences, allowing you to send bulk InMails or connection requests. It’s best for those looking for a one-stop-shop tool for automating LinkedIn lead generation.

Meet Alfred Pricing
Meet Alfred pricing (03/02/21)

Top LinkedIn Lead Generation Companies

LinkedIn lead generation companies are agencies or consultants that do your LinkedIn lead generation activities for you. These companies will usually create a plan to achieve your desired results, enact the plan, and track its success. Here are two of the best LinkedIn lead gen companies.


Cleverly is a great option if you want to outsource your LinkedIn sales outreach and lead generation, or if you are on a tight budget. The company executes specific lead generation campaigns and provides you with a dashboard where you can see real-time metrics and quickly reply to prospective leads.

According to their website, they have served over 3,000 clients so far. That means they should have a lot of performance data from past campaigns that inform them on the most effective LinkedIn lead generation strategies for different types of businesses. Its pricing is reasonable and increases depending on how many prospects you’d like them to interact with each month.

summary of cleverly services
Summary of Cleverly services

Pearl Lemon Leads

Pearl Lemon Leads is a marketing agency that helps clients generate more leads through LinkedIn. They are known for their customized approach and are therefore a bit pricier than Cleverly. They spend a lot of time learning about their clients in order to craft a specialized strategy that meets the brand’s specific needs. This company is best for those looking for personalized treatment and an ongoing, feedback-driven partnership with their vendor.

summary of Pearl Lemon Leads services
Summary of Pearl Lemon Leads services

Benefits of LinkedIn Lead Generation

LinkedIn is where professionals talk business, read up on industry trends, and look for new products and services that can help them grow their business. These intentions of the members make it a perfect environment to kick off sales conversations. Here are some other benefits of using LinkedIn for lead generation:

  • Engage Professionals With Purchasing Power: On LinkedIn, you can easily find managers, VPs, and other senior-level professionals by using the platform’s advanced search, joining the right industry groups, or running targeted ads. 
  • People Are There to Make Business Connections: On LinkedIn, people are there to have business conversations. So, by consistently delivering valuable content and insights, you demonstrate your expertise in the industry and they will be more open to having a conversation with you. 
  • Multiple Ways to Build Relationships: LinkedIn gives you a ton of free and paid ways to build relationships with your prospects. You can comment on their posts, send them interesting articles, or post educational content into groups that they are members of. Or you could pay for sponsored InMail, which automatically sends them direct messages and kick-starts conversations.
  • Build a Strong Reputation in Your Niche: When you consistently post valuable content, interact with industry peers, and share insights and best practices on LinkedIn, you will grow your reputation as an expert. That means, in time, leads will start coming to you asking for help with problems you and your brand solve.
  • LinkedIn Makes Personalized Outreach Easy: There is a lot of useful information on your prospects’ LinkedIn profiles that you can use to craft personalized messaging.

Bottom Line

LinkedIn lead generation is the ongoing lead generation process of engaging with your ideal customers on the network. The more positive interaction with your audience, the better the results. That’s why, more than anything else, you must stay consistent in your efforts. Each day, dedicate time or money to enacting the above strategies. When you regularly water your audience, leads will begin to sprout.

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