Could LinkedIn Steal Salesforce.com’s CRM Share?

CRMLILinkedIn has plans to make marketing leads “more quantifiable, and attributable” across the Web and through a company’s own sales channels, and in a year’s time will enable a much deeper view of conversions.

“If you have a tool that can import all of your prospects to a LinkedIn tool, why wouldn’t you want to market to individuals and prospects rather than rely on proxies?” said Penry Price, VP of global sales and marketing solutions at LinkedIn, speaking Tuesday at GroupM’s What’s Next conference in New York City.

Following LinkedIn's launch last quarter of an all-new SaaS platform Sales Navigator for enterprise (previously, sales prospecting was more of a feature-function) and acquisition of B2B marketing platform Bizo, it started to look like LinkedIn could usurp the dominant claim Salesforce.com has over the contact record and SFA.

Although LinkedIn integrates with the ubiquitous CRM system, Salesforce.com, could LinkedIn itself become a CRM database of record? After all, the company has access to a business user audience of 300 million-plus. In an interview with AdExchanger, Price acknowledged LinkedIn wants to do a “better job of lead generation than anywhere else online.”

And at the GroupM conference, he referenced  messaging tools coming down the pike designed to do just that by enabling marketers to “sequentially deliver relevant creative as someone moves through the funnel, and understand [the nature of a] conversion through CRM matches.”

LinkedIn divides its business into three parts: advertising, recruiting and sales. But all signs point to LinkedIn’s sales business – which focuses on helping enterprises convert leads – syncing more with the ads portion.

Price emphasized LinkedIn’s unique datasets, which are powerful, he claimed, because they represent individuals’ professional identities and therefore are extremely accurate. In partnering with BlueKai to further flesh out audience segments, LinkedIn could pack a data punch.

“The context is very different for travel when I’m at work or I’m with my family and LinkedIn would know that because they know where I live and where I work,” said Rob Brosnan, SVP of strategy at cross-channel marketing services and platform company StrongView, in a recent interview. “So it’s sort of like, ‘Let us be the broker for business context.’ Maybe I run Salesforce.com to be able to say what are my opportunities and accounts, but then LinkedIn is about business context."

Said Price: "We want to come up with real smart analytics to help a brand think about editorial calendars, and ‘how do I talk to executives or IT decision makers in a certain geography?’ It could help inform strategy around what content should I be developing?”

At the same time, he added, measurement is getting more sophisticated, which better enables LinkedIn to attribute activity to content marketing, or to qualify the value of using CRM data.

LinkedIn can already import and cross-reference business and personal email addresses through its “call-to-action” or “add multiple email account” functionalities. And the company’s recent roll out of a souped-up version of Sales Navigator was another step into sales automation.

“LinkedIn could conceivably get more into the CRM space themselves,” said Chris Golec, CEO of B2B marketing and advertising platform Demandbase, which serves ads on LinkedIn’s network and recently launched an app on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange to link marketing and ad campaigns to sales revenue and CRM. Separately, Salesforce.com invested an undisclosed amount in Demandbase for stake in the company.

“It’ll be interesting to see if [their data] gets leveraged off their network,” he added. “That’s the big privacy question because everybody that signs up for LinkedIn agrees their information will not be shared off network."

Price seemed cognizant of privacy concerns, however. In 12 months, LinkedIn will unlock new ways to take marketing leads and determine, for instance, how a prospect engaged with display ads or video. It will anonymize that information for privacy purposes and make those marketing engagements quantifiable in a marketer’s own sales channels, Price said.

“LinkedIn today is really focused on monetizing LinkedIn itself, and Bizo had done a great job building up an audience network and programmatic exchange,” Price said, referring to the recent acquisition of B2B marketing solutions provider Bizo. “Bizo developed great tech we will complement with our data and tech. The idea is to use your LinkedIn identity as a one-click to fill out any form on the Web.”

With LinkedIn gaining more access to data, such as accessing in real-time a businessperson’s schedule, a next step for them could be, "Let me surface those contexts back to businesses you actually have a relationship with?’" said Brosnan, feasibly taking on some of ExactTarget's customer journey conversioning characteristics.

This, unquestionably, brings to light Salesforce.com's "open ecosystem" approach, where its partners (in this case, LinkedIn) perform many of the functions of its own platform - a strategy that's appeared to work for it to date.

 

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting thought. My sense is that Salesforce & LinkedIn could complete in a number of area's but the main difference between the two platforms, from a B2B Marketing perspective, are the email addresses they have on file. Which certainly makes LinkedIn a very interesting solution for B2B Demand Gen & CRM.

    Salesforce.com's main limitation is not a product of their own, rather a product how CRM databases are constructed. I've never been inside of a B2B sales organization that was able to capture a prospects work & personal email address. Most SFDC implementations (I have to imagine) contain your prospects work email address only. And from a cross channel marketing perspective that is severely limiting. Because most people don't log in anywhere with their work email. Save a few trade publication sites and technology platforms...

    Where LinkedIn can really start making this interesting, is their ability to target your prospective or current customers anywhere on the web. They of course have logged in users, I'm not quite sure how many are perpetually logged in, but their recent Bizo acquisition provides them tremendous infrastructure to find and target LinkedIn members off of linkedin.com. The additional factor to consider here is that LinkedIn more than likely has your personal identity as well, given that almost everyone I know uses their personal email address for their LinkedIn account. So they are in a very unique position to stitch together your personal & professional identity. Which obviously could make them a very attractive solution to B2B marketers looking to find and reach their customers/prospects.

    It obviously quite similar to the approach Facebook is taking. However the glaring hole here is that LinkedIn does not have it's own ad server, so their ability to operate in a world without cookies is to be determined. However as the ability to find and target people based on the hash of their email address increases over time, they may not need one...

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