There are so many social platforms today that facilitate varying levels of professional networking opportunities, so a question I’m often asked is: why should an organisation invest in a CRM system? This issue again came to the fore recently when Microsoft announced the acquisition of LinkedIn.
Unquestionably, there are many who see the value in using LinkedIn to expand their networks and connect with people. Then there are those who don’t use LinkedIn at all. At the same time, there are a large proportion of occasional users – they are on the platform, but don’t actively monitor their profiles to keep them current.
Herein lies one of the key issues with LinkedIn – while it’s a great resource and networking platform, the data isn’t always accurate; and data in all its manifestations is the lifeblood of any organisation.
In fact, one of the alleged drivers for the sale of LinkedIn to Microsoft is to halt the gradual deceleration of active users of the platform over the last couple of years.
Getting the data right is important
In the context of relationship management, accurate and trusted data of contacts is paramount. Given the ever-growing competition in a global business landscape, a broad brush approach to business development is proving inadequate.
Corporations need the ability to ‘extreme target’ – i.e., identify the organisation’s truly top prospects based on ‘extreme qualification’ – companies in which it has the strongest and widest number of contacts at the right levels and across geographies so that those connections can be leveraged to its advantage.
LinkedIn is an excellent starting point for relationship management, the CRM system provides the meat on the bone
The message here very clearly is ‘less is more’. Nevertheless, in the absence of insightful relationship and engagement intelligence, marketing and business development teams are often challenged to identify which relationships to really focus on and take forward.
Typically, when researching a prospect, marketing teams patch together information from a variety of sources: go to LinkedIn, visit their internal shared drives and library, perform a Google search, go to the prospect’s website, review blogs and articles, and so on.
But do all these sources combined, deliver the same benefits and accuracy of data that a CRM system does? For instance, with many of LinkedIn’s 433 million users not updating their profiles regularly, can business development professionals be sure that they have their potential contact’s latest employment details?
And even if they do, is it possible to see the entire organisation’sprevious engagements with this contact, over and above their own? A patch work of information, manually collated from multiple data sources simply doesn’t provide a single, 360-degree view of a prospect.
LinkedIn’s a starting point
Furthermore, LinkedIn connections can exceed hundreds of contacts for each individual, but how does one know which of those relationships should be nurtured? LinkedIn is an excellent starting point for relationship management, the CRM system provides the “meat on the bone”.
A CRM system is required to derive true relationship intelligence, including how the organisation is connected with the prospect organisation through to the depth and breadth of the relationship across the company.
LinkedIn, which is a great platform for establishing connections on an individual level and perhaps providing visibility of common connections between contacts, is one of the key data sources for the CRM system.
Recognising the value of LinkedIn, advanced CRM solutions integrate with the platform so that contact information can be centrally assimilated for intelligence.
This kind of integration enhances a user’s experience by extending visibility of relationship data into research workflows when browsing blogs, websites and social media sites.
CRM can be intelligent
There is an opportunity to present CRM intelligence to the user at this specific point so that they don’t have to leave the interface they’re currently using.
To illustrate, let’s say a marketer is searching for information on the ‘CEO of corporate Z’ and this information is already listed within the organisation’s CRM system.
When performing a search in Google Chrome, the icon of the CRM system used by the organisation appears and presents the existing firm wide intelligence collected on the CEO of corporate Z to date within the browser itself for convenient reference.
This is merely one example of a possible integration between LinkedIn and a CRM system. In doing so, technology facilitates seamless gathering of information (regardless of the type of interface being used) to deliver combined insight on the prospect at the right time – including both external data and existing intelligence from colleagues. This helps establish a credible connection between the vendor and buyer.
The integration between LinkedIn and a CRM system may as yet be a road less travelled, but with the growing need for marketing and business development teams to be more focused, it will become increasingly important for an organisation’s CRM system to be the central hub to which disparate data sources connect, LinkedIn being one.