Last week, Vik Singh published an article on TechCrunch with a headline that definitely caught my attention: “ Two Worlds Colliding: How LinkedIn Could Take On Salesforce.”
His position is completely hypothetical and frankly, really smart. But I’m not kidding you when I say that my very first reaction to the headline was “Ha.”
This is so laughable because, in all fairness, I’ve bought into the Salesforce bandwagon. I actually believe Salesforce can do anything and that the world would be a complete shit show if Salesforce shut down.
Why? Because, 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 is trying to ask. He’s making us wonder if LinkedIn could be translated to a consumer grade CRM marketers would buy.
The LinkedIn Advantage
He makes a compelling argument for LinkedIn’s advantage. A system like Salesforce starts as an empty system with no data then the marketers have to do the work to both get the users basic contact information but also to engage them in trackable ways. While I’m confident Salesforce has the data of far more people, their data is the only asset they can’t let marketing and sales professionals access because it’s all by user.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, has a big advantage with marketers because they start with a pile of data – about 300 million users worth. Think of every intricacy and detail of your life they likely have on file and could hand over to sales teams everywhere.
And you thought the Halloween scare fest was over, huh?
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 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 57% 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 this year was amended to address do-not-track technology. Sounds pretty messy to me.
My advice to LinkedIn? Stay out of CRM land. It’s crowded and you have a good thing with HR.
Here 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.”
But 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 market in a system and build 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 who buys LinkedIn and implements it first, if it ever happens.