Is InMail Worth It? 3 Reasons It May Not Be.
Is InMail worth it? LinkedIn wants you to think so. But is it a good investment for you, in your specific situation? Sometimes yes, other times no. Here's a quick checklist to make a smart assessment that leads to an educated decision. Think twice if you:
- have a current email response rate less than 40 percent;
- need appointments, calls or demos in the near term;
- are using a one-message approach to clients who are happy with the status quo.
In these cases, InMail may not be the best starting point. Make sure you're asking yourself these questions when deciding to invest in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or buying more InMail messages in general.
What Is InMail?
As of today, InMail comes in two flavors: Sponsored and regular, old-fashioned InMail. For our purposes (as sellers) I will not discuss Sponsored InMail as it's really a marketing (mass) tool.
InMail is LinkedIn's way of allowing sellers to break its rules — by paying them. It is against LinkedIn's Terms and Conditions to request a connection with prospects you don't already know. Beware: You can be restricted or banned by LinkedIn for requesting connections with prospects you don't know.
That's why LinkedIn gives us InMail. This is a "legal" way to reach prospects and attempt to woo them.
What Is Your Current Response Rate?
Do you have an email response rate less than 40 percent? Most reps do. InMail may not be the best starting point for making contact, if so, because InMail is an expensive game.
Don't have confidence in your ability to use email to earn leads? Be careful with InMail.
When using InMail, you cannot be average. You must be exceptional at messaging. Or you'll go broke.
Prospecting is a numbers game. So is InMail. Your ROI will be determined by one factor: Ability to get at least half of your prospects to respond. This allows you to recover the cost of that InMail — and re-invest it.
Currently, with InMail, you:
- receive one InMail credit back for each message receiving a positive or negative response;
- have 90 days to earn that response; (get the credit back)
- are able to re-use the money (credit) invested again ... and again and again
For example, let's say you earn a 50 percent response rate on your first batch of 100 InMails sent. Over time (as you use the InMail credits returned to you) you earn a total of 93 credits. Pretty good. You get nearly all of your investment back for re-use.
Send 100 — Get 50 credits
Send those 50 — Get 25 credits
Send those 25 — Get 12 credits
Send those 12 — Get 6 credits
TOTAL Credits "Earned Back" Over Time: 93
Interestingly, you will gain a credit every time a recipient marks your message "Not Interested." LinkedIn counts that (and all negative responses) as a response. However, you are risk of being banned from using InMail if marked "Not Interested" too often.
Remember: Every time you fail to get a reply your money is wasted — gone. Of course, every time you get a personal "thanks, but not interested" reply from your prospects your money is gone too.
Bottom line: When prospecting, average sellers get declined. Hey, it happens. But prospecting on LinkedIn with InMail demands above average response rates.
Are Near-Term Appointments Priority No. 1?
We all need appointments set right away, of course. But the math outlined above is why cold-calling and standard email may be a better option. InMail may not be smart if you need near-term buyers who are ready to meet with you today.
In other words, think twice about InMail if you need replies that ask for demos or appointments now.
Here's the rub: Generally, the average sales reps sends email messages asking for too much too fast. They expect positive response from prospects who don't yet realize they're buyers. They need time to realize the solution is both needed and a fit.
Thus, beware of using InMail if you:
- typically meet buyers that don't yet realize your solution is needed;
- are average in earning response from prospects; or
- struggle to identify if prospects are, at the moment, searching for your solution.
In these situations, InMail might be too costly for you. However, if you are strong at earning customers' response via email — and are good at identifying near-term buyers using social listening or seasonal buying patters — InMail could work well for you.
Overall, don't over-estimate InMail's ability to make things happen. InMail is very expensive email. The only way to effectively use InMail to find near-term buyers is to have a means to already be able to:
- identify buyers who are most likely ready to buy soon
- earn responses at a 40 percent-plus rate that invite you to discuss an appointment
Are You Using a One-Email Approach to Prospects Who Need Time
Do you send one email in hopes of earning an appointment with customers who are satisfied with the status quo? Do most prospects require time to realize they need what you're selling? InMail may not be a good fit. Unless, of course, you have the ability to consistently provoke response from customers who are satisfied with their current situation — but willing to talk with you.
In many cases, I see reps using a single email approach when courting prospects who need more time to recognize they have a problem worth acting on. This won't work. Be careful. Avoid asking for appointments (at all) in a first touch email. But especially avoid it with this kind of customer.
Instead, use a sequence of "short burst" emails. First, give prospects the chance to engage in a short email conversation about their pain, fear or goal. By using a sequenced approach you will attract prospects to the idea of talking to you. Literally.
This way you can help the prospect come to the realization you want them to have. That eye-opening moment clients have when realizing they actually do need to change — they suddenly consider escaping the status quo.
The best way to provoke replies from buyers who don't think they need what you're selling (but do) is to:
- plant a seed out doubt that irritates them enough to reply
- validate an uncertainty or fear in a way they cannot resist acting on
- prove they may not be doing everything possible to achieve a goal/avoid a risk
InMail Is Not a Short-Cut
Would you like me to tell you what you want to hear — or what you need to know? There are plenty of experts who will tell you InMail is a good investment without giving you all the details. They are happy to tell you what you want to hear.
Pay LinkedIn and get a short-cut to success.
But what you want to hear is only partly true. What you need to know is less palatable but vital to your success.
InMail's strength is rooted in your strength, not your wallet. The better you are at getting replies that lead to more conversations (that result in leads) the more InMail works to your advantage. Period.
Not familiar with the above techniques? It's ok. But think twice about InMail if ...
1. You are prospecting for clients who need time to realize they have a hidden problem or overlooked opportunity that you can help with;
2. Demos and appointments are priority No. 1 and you don't have a way to identify prospects who are most likely to be buying in the short term;
3. Your current response rate is less than 40 percent.
LinkedIn's InMail can be great investment. But be careful. What has your experience been? Please share thoughts in comments. Feel free to disagree with me!
Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded the Google Affiliate Network in 1999, and has been selling for 18 years. Jeff is adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s business school, a social sales trainer and author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You. Most social selling trainers teach the value of engaging customers and providing relevant content. Then they demonstrate the technology. But no one tells you exactly how to produce leads and sales—using a proven, systematic approach to content. Until now.