Updated: March 13, 2023

Since purchasing LinkedIn in 2016, Microsoft has made numerous changes to the business platform. What used to be a cluttered, hard-to-navigate interface is now slimmed down and easier to use.

The platform has over 690 million users in over 200 countries and territories; over 30 million companies have profiles. And, it generates serious revenue: In 2021, the platform brought in $10 billion in revenue for Microsoft.

One big change LinkedIn made, which considerably helped its revenue model, was discontinuing its API. This meant that CRM applications could no longer pull in subscribers’ personal LinkedIn information – nor their contacts’ feeds or information.

To recreate the same social selling experience, you have to subscribe to LinkedIn’s Premium Sales Navigator tool, which costs $80 a month for a single user.

What follows are the various parts of the LinkedIn ecosystem and how you can use them to build your company’s exposure – as well as generate leads.

Basic account – free

The Basic account is the personal profile where you list your job and education experience and connect with people you know.

Whether or not you use LinkedIn, we recommend you create a professional looking profile complete with a high quality headshot.

Profile Tip
The profile headline is the information directly below your name that describes who you are. It’s also what others see when you post new content, comment on posts, etc. Instead of listing your job title, make your headline unique. I especially like Margaret Moore’s headline: “Helping great scientists become great leaders.”

margaret moore linkedin
Margaret Moore’s LinkedIn profile headline

Company page – free

Setting up a company page is easy: upload a header photo and logo, add a tag line and include information on the About tab. You can also add videos, open jobs (fee-based), and live events. (Look under “Admin Tools”).

When employees list your company on their profiles, they also show up on the People tab of your page.

The company page includes analytics: how many followers your page has, the number of visitors per time period, and content metrics.

Huff Industrial Marketing LinkedIn page
The Huff Industrial Marketing LinkedIn page

Sales Navigator – Monthly fee $80 single / $134 team

To get the most from LinkedIn, you can pay for a Premium subscription. LinkedIn offers four of these plans, but the plan most relevant to manufacturers is Sales Navigator.

I used Sales Navigator for over a year and found it quite useful. However, LinkedIn changed the functionality, making it more difficult to find the right people. (The platform is really focused on catering to big enterprise companies versus small ones.) In addition, I found that smaller manufacturers don’t use LinkedIn much — they’re too busy running their businesses! For these reasons, and others, I ended my subscription.

LinkedIn for Small Business – Free

This tool helps small businesses establish their brand. I’ve looked through it but haven’t explored it fully. Learn More

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions – Fee-based

Similar to Google, Facebook, etc., LinkedIn offers a way to promote your business through advertising, including boosting posts on your Company page. Boosting is something we’re currently testing.

LinkedIn Talent Solutions – Fee-based

The platform’s recruiting tool. You can post open jobs which also get listed in Google’s Job Search box.

Manufacturers share their stories

LinkedIn offers a robust combination of free and for-fee features and tools. What we like about them is their business focus – and how they tie back to Microsoft’s goal of helping you connect with others while building your brand and business.

Be sure to see our posts on the Keep It Made USA blog about smaller manufacturers using LinkedIn to grow sales. It takes some effort and being consistent, but the ROI is pretty good.

Siebert Inc.: Looking to Have Fun, Build Audience with LinkedIn Memes — My colleague Rob Kluge shares how he built his LinkedIn audience for his company’s specialized consumables used in the printing industry. Great story! Fun memes!

American Heavy Plates Attributes 33% of 2020 Sales to LinkedIn — Fantastic story of how American Heavy Plates, a new steel mill, navigated the COVID lockdowns by using LinkedIn as its primary sales tool.