Throwdown: Can LinkedIn Take On Salesforce?

linkedin stock priceAs the dust settles from Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, the rumors have just begun to swirl. The first wave of reactions were all about the product and people were posting almost daily. Questions like what will they do with their new asset? How will LinkedIn’s current offerings and recent acquisitions change?

All of the recruiters who lean on LinkedIn a little too heavily to do their sourcing are still holding their breath as we’ve seen little to no news that actually points to an answer. They’re leaving us in suspense which is probably a great marketing tactic as people are already buzzing about them.

On this blog, we’ve pointed to the potential and made our ponderings about this acquisition, and there have been countless other posts recapping the facts and future. Or at least what they think. It’s all possible – which is why we’re seeing their stock price sky-rocket. Potential is a big dollar item in the investment world.

While I’m not willing to place my bets on where LinkedIn goes next as far as product, I am thinking about the new competitive landscape for LinkedIn. See, they’re in a new league now away from the Facebook’s and Twitter’s. We’re not just going to look at LinkedIn for their own metrics but how they rank in comparison to Microsoft’s countless other business lines. That means they’re in a new competitive sphere and that has started an entirely other conversation. Who will try to compete now?

LinkedIn Vs Everyone

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 1.31.12 PMA while back, I read this article from Vik Singh on TechCrunch with a headline that I couldn’t help but click: “ Two Worlds Colliding: How LinkedIn Could Take On Salesforce.”  My very first reaction to the headline? “Ha.”

Now, I laughed as someone who has gone to Dreamforce conferences and built a Salesforce instance from the ground up. SEeing everything it can do, I’m totally bought into the Salesforce bandwagon. In my humble opinion, they’ve built the smartest business model that exists: here’s my platform, build whatever you want on it. Instead of cornering one category or industry, they cover every category and industry that sells things – even the nonprofits that just sell dreams. It’s a truly collaborative platform.

But my internal Salesforce fan girl still had to take a second to think about the real comparison here because that’s not the question Singh was trying to ask. He’s making us wonder if LinkedIn could be translated to a consumer grade CRM marketers would buy into.

The LinkedIn Advantage

linkedin advantagesHe makes a compelling argument for LinkedIn’s advantage. A system like Salesforce starts as a blank slate. All of the data has to be merged and leads have to be generated. There’s a lot of work to be done before it’s viable. LinkedIn, on the other hand, has the advantage with marketers because they start with a pile of data – about 433 million users worth. Think of every intricacy and detail people share on LinkedIn, then hand that to a marketing team as their database. That’s scary shit. Singh brought up a hypothetical that takes it one step further than the user data you’ve added to the system.


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“What if you included some JavaScript from LinkedIn on your company’s website so that whenever a signed-in LinkedIn user visited your site, you could see who they were in LinkedIn Sales Navigator?” Read more here.

Sounds like a marketer’s dream world to me. We’re in a tough spot, ya know. The sales process is disappearing, as consumers are self-educating before they’re not willing to talk to you. They’re getting farther than ever with their research according to a Google and CEB study.

This study determined that consumers are getting 53% through the sales process before talking a sales representative. That means 47% of the sales process just disappeared and now it’s on marketing to drag them in with whitepapers and webinars. It works, sometimes. But if LinkedIn wants to give me a pile of data about people that have visited my website before I’ve ever gotten them to convert, I’d say that sounds dreamy.

That Won’t Fly, LinkedIn

Yes, I love data. I’m a marketer. But that kind of data won’t convince a huge corporation to rip out their HubSpot or Marketo system that’s already completely integrated into Salesforce. I’m sure the consultants are salivating at the idea but I just don’t think you can convince people to buy into that change.

It’s also a potentially enormous legal liability. I’m no lawyer but I do know that as of today, about two-thirds of states have passed or considered their own privacy laws about the Internet and social media. Most of these laws are modeled after CAL OPPA (California Online Privacy Protection Act). These laws are still evolving as different marketing channels are introduced. For example, in 2012, it was expanded to mobile apps and in January of 2014, it was amended to address do-not-track technology. Sounds pretty messy to me.

Hypothetically Speaking… What This Means For Recruiting

light bulb momentHere comes my big “what if.”

What if using a platform like LinkedIn for everything means that marketing, sales AND HR could finally get along? It’s funny, you go to a marketing conference and they talk about hating the sales team. Go to a sales conference, they’ll tell you how they hate marketing. Go to an HR conference, and they too will chime in about hating marketing. They hate that marketing “always says no” or “doesn’t have time to help.”

LinkedIn is the tie that binds in B2B companies. Everyone knows how to use it – it’s not some legacy system that requires trainings and certifications. And if HR could see how marketers actually market in the same system and replicate it for themselves, or even if they could see the effort marketers are putting towards promoting their jobs, could we all live in harmony?

I guess we’ll see what Microsoft does with LinkedIn first.

Katrina Kibben


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