Jan
31

Linkedin

We love Linkedin

Back in Geometry, one of the statements we’d use was “necessary but not sufficient”.  It was a condition required for a statement to be true, but it was not the only condition required.  For example, saying a polygon has four sides (i.e. it is a quadrilateral) is a necessary condition for it to be a square, rectangle, rhomboid, trapezium, kite, or parallelogram.  You knew that if the shape did not have four sides, it wasn’t one of the sub-categories of quadrilaterals.  Thus, being a quadrilateral was a necessary but not sufficient condition for a polygon to be a square, rectangle, etc.

Linkedin
A quick refresher on Quadrilaterals (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I would make a similar statement about LinkedIn and social selling success.  LinkedIn is a necessary but not sufficient solution for social selling success.

It happens to be a wonderful tool.  For nearly a decade, I’ve been saying that every sales rep should be using LinkedIn.  Not using LinkedIn is B2B sales malpractice.  I use LinkedIn every day as part of my job as an independent consultant, and it is invaluable to me for sales, marketing, and research.  No other service comes close in coverage, quality, or depth concerning the 467 million self-maintained global executive profiles found in LinkedIn.  Likewise, nobody else provides a professional social networking tool that compares to LinkedIn.  The value that LinkedIn creates for its member base is so high that Microsoft just paid $26.2 billion to acquire the company.

But LinkedIn’s success is also the reason for several of its weaknesses.  LinkedIn places a high value on its users’ privacy and understands that if it began to heavily monetize their profiles, it would cause members to delete or heavily redact their profiles.  This would seriously degrade the value of the network and trust enjoyed by users.  LinkedIn’s dedication to their members’ privacy is to be applauded; however, LinkedIn has placed several necessary restrictions on member data out of concern for member privacy:

  1. Users cannot download prospect lists to Excel.
  2. Users cannot upload prospect lists to CRMs; they cannot even upload single company or contact records to CRMs.
  3. Emails and phone numbers are only displayed for first degree connections and those which are displayed are generally personal emails versus work emails. This can be frustrating when trying to reach out to a non-responsive executive.  Generally, a multi-channel approach (social, email, phone) works much better than simply relying on a single channel.

 

Nevertheless, even while respecting member privacy, they still have trouble attracting top-level executives to their platform.  A DiscoverOrg study of C-level executives found that 25% of your target CxOs are not available within LinkedIn.  This membership gap is probably due less to a concern about privacy and more to a desire amongst top execs to avoid having sales reps reach out to them through the social channel.  Conversely, sales intelligence vendors have deep coverage of these executives including bios, Directors & Shareholders reports, emails, and social media links.

LinkedIn has operated as a bit of a walled garden, making it difficult for sales intelligence products and social networks to display LinkedIn intelligence within their offerings.  Thus, users see LinkedIn information about an executive but lack colour from other social media.  Furthermore, while social links are included in LinkedIn profiles, they are subject to accessibility and data entry issues.

While LinkedIn executive intelligence is market leading, their company information tends towards rehashed corporate website and Facebook profile information.  LinkedIn company profiles are generally maintained by marketing departments so carry little unique content and are intended to put a positive spin on the company.  Furthermore, they do not display much of the company information found in sales intelligence services.  These gaps include:

  1. Key firmographics: LinkedIn lacks revenue, standardized industry codes (e.g. UK SIC, NACE), and year founded. Size data is limited to an employee range.  Conversely, the sales intelligence companies leverage the filed information provided by nearly three million UK active registered companies which submit annual information to Companies House.
  2. Linkage information: While LinkedIn has a few subsidiary or international locations, it tends to treat companies as a single entity. This makes it more difficult to understand the size and scope of companies.
  3. Current Awareness: LinkedIn offers basic news messaging and alerts, but fails to provide the depth of coverage and current awareness alerting found in sales intelligence tools. While sales reps can loosely monitor accounts and prospects, they cannot perform deeper company research around M&A, product introductions, joint ventures, new facilities, etc.  The one area where they provide robust alerting is with respect to executive changes.
  4. Marketing Tools: LinkedIn does not support marketing enrichment, prospect list building, or prospect list segmentation.
  5. Integration: Because LinkedIn holds tightly to its data, they lack interfaces with marketing automation platforms. This means that no information is delivered to Marketo or Eloqua to assist with lead enrichment, targeting, scoring, nurturing, or routing.  While they offer CRM connectors as part of a premium service, their Salesforce and MS Dynamics integrations are view only.  They display LinkedIn profiles within these platforms but do not upload any executive intelligence to them.
  6. CRM Data into LinkedIn: LinkedIn offers a premium service which allows sales reps to download proprietary CRM data to LinkedIn as accounts and leads. This means that when a sales rep leaves, they can simply assume ownership of the premium account and walk out with their full list of leads and accounts.

 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love LinkedIn.  I’ve been telling sales reps for nearly a decade that they should be using it for both networking and promoting their personal and corporate brands.  It is invaluable for executive research.  Conversely, LinkedIn fails to share its content beyond its walls, has limited company intelligence, lacks emails and direct dial phones, and falls short on sales triggers.  As such, LinkedIn is a necessary component for social selling success but is not sufficient to ensure success.

 

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Michael Levy
About the Author
Michael R. Levy, former Manager of Strategy and Competitive Intelligence of Infogroup, is the principal of GZ Consulting, a US market research and competitive intelligence consulting firm. He focuses on information services including sales intelligence, CRM, data hygiene, and marketing automation. Michael is also the author of "2015 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors".