Regular posting — It is very important for a business owner to regularly post and share helpful and useful information on their LinkedIn profile, both on their personal and business pages. Don’t worry about the number of likes or shares. When you are talking to a potential client, they can learn a lot from the information you have shared and post on your LinkedIn profile, and that shows you are serious about what you do. I posted one of my interviews and achievements on my personal account, and I got an inMail from a business owner who congratulated me. We become friends, and we got a referral from him later that month.
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Use LinkedIn To Dramatically Improve Your Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali Payani, Co-Founder/CEO of LookinLA and Founder/CEO of Fortment,inc. Bachelor of Computer Science in Systems Security and Master of IT Management from the University of Wollongong. Ali has won numerous international awards for his inventions and impressive achievements. His work has been recognized internationally, and he is often invited to speak at conventions and teach workshops about business growth, leadership, digital marketing, computer security, and artificial intelligence. Payani is currently focusing on helping companies improve their business and digital marketing executions using data-driven marketing techniques. He’s also developing an Ai based wearable device which allows ordinary people to measure the air quality with the highest possible accuracy. In addition to his passion for science and technology, Payani has a wide range of interests. He is a pianist, former national basketball player, and a chess champion.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, I was always passionate about becoming an entrepreneur. I like to innovate and find new solutions that can help others. I started my first company at the age of 14 designing and developing websites for small businesses. I moved to Dubai when I was 16 and continued working in the same field as a freelancer. I developed software and tools while studying systems security at the University of Wollongong, and I won several awards for them. But I always wanted to have my own company. Unfortunately, because of the political conflicts between the UAE and Iran, I was not allowed to start my own startup back in Dubai. I tried for two years with no luck. I decided to visit the U.S to discuss my air quality wearable device idea with investors and entrepreneurs, so I attended the Persian Tech Entrepreneurs at the Uber conference in San Francisco. There I was advised to apply for an O-1 visa to pursue entrepreneurship in the States. Again, I was facing a travel ban for Iranians, but I applied anyways and, thankfully, I got the visa. I believed that I could create and innovate amazing solutions, and I was sure that it can happen only in the U.S. I continued to develop the AI based wearable air quality device, and the prototype was ready. Meanwhile, one of my best friends, Mahbod Azadian, came to the U.S and got the same O-1 visa. Together we co-founded LookinLA, a data-driven digital marketing agency. We both are computer scientists. Because of my background in AI and machine learning, I knew that data-driven marketing would help many businesses. Personally, running our business and growing other businesses has been a great way to learn both business and marketing at the same time. Now LookinLA is one of the best digital marketing agencies in Los Angeles, and we are growing very fast. We have an amazing software solution coming up very soon that can help many small businesses.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
As an entrepreneur, I face interesting stories and challenges every day. When we started the LookinLA two years ago in Los Angeles, we walked from Calabasas to Studio City and asked every single store for a marketing project. It was too hard to start with no reputation in the U.S. Finally, after weeks of looking, we got a website design project for a beauty salon, and we delivered a beautiful website in a week. The business owner referred us to her brother who was just starting his startup in the health industry, and we signed our first big deal. We were so excited to get the full-service marketing deal.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first launched LookinLA we didn’t know much about a marketing agency’s pricing and proposal structure. Last month, I was checking our old files, and I found out we quoted a business for just $295 for two services that are valued over $4,000 today.
We learned we should never undervalue the work we perform. We should have researched the pricing first and then proposed a service. However, we did a great job finding this issue very early and updated our proposal and pricing.
There is a huge value in performing any marketing service for a company. If the business owner understands the value you offer, no matter the price, they will sign a deal.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
LinkedIn has the highest conversion rate for B2B industries. As a data-driven digital marketing agency, we get most of our high quality leads from Linkedin. The reason is obvious. Linkedin is a platform designed for professional business owners and established businesses. The cost per lead is higher than other social media platforms, but the quality of those leads are incomparable to other platforms.
We have used the same ad sets on Facebook and LinkedIn. Same video and copy. Our revenue generated from the ads on LinkedIn was much higher, and the companies we closed a deal with are way more professional than those we closed deals with from Facebook or Instagram.
Let’s talk about LinkedIn specifically, now. Can you share 5 ways to leverage LinkedIn to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
1- Updating your company’s profile — I found that it’s very important to have an updated company profile on Linkedin — from taglines, photo cover, to even the location. If you are advertising on LinkedIn or even discussing a deal with your prospects, they will definitely check out your business profile to see if you have a decent profile page.
One of the deals we closed was just because of our photo cover. After our meeting with a client, they told us they liked our photo cover with the tagline we created, and we signed a deal to take care of their social media presence and design new creative for their business.
2- Regular posting — It is very important for a business owner to regularly post and share helpful and useful information on their LinkedIn profile, both on their personal and business pages. Don’t worry about the number of likes or shares. When you are talking to a potential client, they can learn a lot from the information you have shared and post on your LinkedIn profile, and that shows you are serious about what you do. I posted one of my interviews and achievements on my personal account, and I got an inMail from a business owner who congratulated me. We become friends, and we got a referral from him later that month.
3- Sales Navigator — One of the coolest features of LinkedIn is its Sales Navigator tool. It allows business owners to search for potential leads for their businesses and directly contact them. You can easily reach the decision maker of a company or target industries based on their revenue, size and much more.
4- Job Posting — The only platform that we use for our job posting is LinkedIn. We’ve used others too, but the advantage of using LinkedIn job posting is that you will find high-quality employees to join your team. Before using LinkedIn for a job posting, we used two other websites. We got several inquiries, but none of the candidates were aligned with our requirements. We’ve found, interviewed, and hired our employees through LinkedIn in two days of running the job posts.
5- LinkedIn Ads — Well, this is the main feature we use to generate leads for ourselves and our B2B clients. Similar to the job posting, you will pay more to acquire a lead, but you generate high quality and targeted leads for your business. Generating leads from LinkedIn helped us to spend less time qualifying leads and save time on meetings and follow-ups. We close a deal with our LinkedIn leads much faster. It allows you to do content marketing, image or video ads, and inMail ads.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve always wanted to inspire young entrepreneurs and increase awareness among business owners. My main interest is the entrepreneurship mindset and helping those who are working hard to achieve their goal faster by sharing my experiences and whatever I’ve learned up to today. I think the entrepreneurship mindset movement would be a great name. People can feel inspired and motivated. It acts as a networking movement too because I believe that a person that can help us is much closer than we think.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Well, the first name would be Elon Musk. I’d like to discuss the future of innovation with him. Second would be the owners of Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, and Khosla Ventures. In sports, I’m a fan of Michael Jordan. I was a professional basketball player and was always following his game.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!