Graham Riley (How to Win on LinkedIn)

Graham Riley is the President of Maverrik, a global company that specializes in business-to-business sales through leveraging online platforms such as LinkedIn.

Considered by many to be a LinkedIn guru, Graham enjoys helping clients generate new business on the platform through strategic branding and direct messaging, but in order for Graham to acquire this expertise, it required a willingness to mine the niches of social media, plus an unwavering self-belief, the latter a trait which Graham had developed long before the popularization of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Born in England, Graham remained in Britain throughout his formative years before graduating from the University of Huddersfield, a public research college located roughly an hour east of Manchester.

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and Business Studies, Graham began his professional career working for Dun & Bradstreet, a job that allowed him to work in several countries across Europe.

Graham enjoyed the travel and array of opportunities that his job afforded him, but eventually he sought a new challenge.

“After five years of bouncing around Europe, I started looking to broaden my horizons,” he says.

Graham soon received offers to move to either the United States or Dubai, albeit on the same day, thrusting him into a position that quite literally would send his life in one of two directions.  

“Both wanted me to get on the next plane out,” Graham recalls.

“Talk about being at a junction where your life could go either direction.”

Graham ultimately chose to accept a position in the United States, citing the fact that he had already been to the country on ten previous occasions and thus knew what to expect.

“Any time that you are looking to emigrate somewhere a significant distance away from what you traditionally think of as home, it’s best to stack the odds in your favor and have a familiarity with the language and the layout,” he says.

From there, Graham began his tenure in corporate America, a stint that was ripe with opportunity, but also riddled with extreme amounts of stress.

“Back in 2002, I was running an IT consulting company in the Twin Cities. We had around 450 people and then the dot-com bubble burst, so unfortunately I had to do a reduction in force, and anytime you are in a leadership position and that happens, it’s the worst day you will ever have at work,” Graham shares.

A few years later, as the internet became more prominent in everyone’s lives, Graham began dabbling in entrepreneurship by helping people write their resumes and optimize their profile on a new networking platform called LinkedIn.

His work proved effective as many corporate employees either found jobs or landed new positions with other companies, and by 2012, Graham was ready to forgo steady employment to start his own business, which he named Social Business Strategies.  

“By that point, I had given hundreds of presentations to thousands of people, so I felt prepared,” Graham says.

Operating with a focus on thought leadership, content generation, and conversational marketing, Graham was soon helping countless employees and executives brand themselves on LinkedIn and appeal to their target audience, in turn generating streams of income through sources that didn’t previously exist.  

“High-level employees no longer had to be convinced of the power of social media,” Graham explains.

As a result of his success, new business kept finding Graham and Social Business Strategies, and for nearly a decade Graham continued helping companies not only find new business on LinkedIn, but also create a company-wide presence on social media that was primed to continue generating business for years to come.

Then, in summer 2021, Graham was approached by Maverrik, Europe’s largest LinkedIn training and consulting company.

It then wasn’t long before Graham sold Social Business Strategies to Maverrik, resulting in a merger that has since seen Graham become the President of North American operations for the European entity.

Of course, every company today uses social media to promote new products, acquire clients, and interact with customers, but few were doing this years ago, back when social media was still in its infancy and no one truly knew just how powerful the internet was.

That’s what makes Graham’s accomplishments even more impressive.

He says that back in 2009 he was running a sales and account management team, and one of the biggest complaints he heard from his staff was related to the difficulty they experienced in making contact with decision-makers at other companies.

Due to the global recession that was going on at the time, many assumed businesses lacked the staffing to properly return phone calls or answer emails, but Graham saw things differently, and this perspective would turn out to be potentially the most lucrative insight of his career.  

“What I noticed is that people wouldn’t necessarily respond to an email, but that I could elicit a response on LinkedIn because I didn’t have to get around a gatekeeper or compete for attention with the hundreds, if not thousands of other emails that were landing in people’s inboxes,” Graham says.

These types of exchanges weren’t, and still aren’t happening on more popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, something Graham attributes to the relationship that users have with each platform.

“If you deal in business-to-client interactions, Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook might be your best resource, but for business-to-business, LinkedIn is better,” he says.

“If you can find an influencer or a decision-maker on LinkedIn who can purchase your company’s products or services, then you can begin to talk to them and foster a relationship to the point that they would be open to a phone call with you.”

To get a better understanding of just how crucial LinkedIn is toward cultivating meaningful relationships in business, Graham mentions that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic he consulted with a company in the biomedical field that did lab testing and had been in business for upward of 24 years.

Perhaps surprisingly, as cases of the novel coronavirus continued to crop up around the United States, that same company was receiving zero calls for help with COVID-19 testing.

It wasn’t until Graham and his team at Maverrik intervened in April 2020 did things begin to drastically shift, and by July of that same year, the once-perplexed biomedical company suddenly encountered a different set of problems.

“The issue was no longer that their phone wasn’t ringing, but instead they had to learn how to triage everyone that contacted them and was open to a conversation,” Graham notes.

Business had grown so rapidly for the biomedical company, that by November 2020 their owner was approached by an investment group in the biotech space.

“The owner sold the company in December of that same year [2020],” Graham says.

“To go from not having their phone ring in April, to being able to sell the business and become very wealthy by December shows you the power of the LinkedIn platform.”

Not every company who is active on LinkedIn will experience the same success as the aforementioned biomedical company, but that doesn’t mean that key inroads won’t be made simply by being active on the platform.

“It’s a case of speaking to the right audience at the right time,” Graham says of what it takes to be successful on LinkedIn.

“And it’s hard to do business with someone if they’re unaware of you or if you can’t differentiate yourself above and beyond the competition.”

For many businesses, the problem isn’t that they’re unwilling to market themselves on LinkedIn.

Rather, companies should be having serious conversations regarding whether their online approach is being implemented in the most effective manner, and if their online reputation is commensurate with the way they do business in real life.

“If I was to generalize challenges that companies face with marketing on social media, it’s that organizations will happily share with you that their people are their most important asset, but then their marketing is geared towards what they do as a company and not towards the people,” Graham explains.

“The idea is that if people are your most important asset, then companies should allow them to be the brand champions and the subject matter experts that can bring insights to the customers that they wish to serve, because when people log on to LinkedIn, they do not want to be sold to.”

This is why it is crucial for companies to publish content on LinkedIn in a way where they are not directly selling to their audience, but instead focusing on bringing value to the people who are consuming their content.

“And you do that by starting as a consultant. Many people say they want a long-term relationship with their customers and that they want to be seen as a trusted advisor, but they wait for permission to do that,” Graham says.

To combat content-related apathy, Graham mentions that an effective publishing strategy often is based around addressing real-time problems that executives, employees, or customers are facing, and what the people involved are doing to alleviate those concerns.

“Share your insights regarding the problems your clients are facing, why those problems are important, and then offer some agnostic ways as to how those problems can be solved,” Graham advises.

“If you help someone with the what, the why, and the how, the next question will be who solves it and when do they solve it, and that will put you in a prime position to help them resolve the problems that you are uniquely positioned to fix.”

As for Graham and the future of Maverrik, their goal is to eventually help over one million businesses achieve varying degrees of success on the LinkedIn platform.

To do this, his focus will remain on ensuring businesses are constructing a foundation that will speak to their niched expertise, plus serve as a source of information for anyone who engages with the content, which further reinforces Graham’s philosophy that companies need to be calculated and intentional about the content they’re posting on LinkedIn.  

“Again, you want to make sure that your network is full of influencers and decision-makers who can appreciate the content that you are sharing because if your content is going out to people who connected with you two or three jobs ago, and it’s nothing to do with what you’re doing today, you can have pearls of wisdom in your posts, but the audience won’t be receptive to it,” Graham says, before offering one more piece of advice.

“Make sure your profile speaks to your subject matter expertise so that it makes sense that you’re sharing specific content, because often someone might have a credible message, but the messenger is shot because their audience doesn’t believe that they have the gravitas to support what they’re sharing.” QS

**

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