Over the past couple of weeks, I've received numerous emails and messages asking me questions about the differences between the LinkedIn membership levels - Free, Premium Business Plus and Sales Navigator Professional.
In fact, many people currently using Business Premium Plus want to know what benefits are left to having this account level, or if they need to upgrade to Sales Navigator to be able to accomplish their lead generation and social selling goals.
I've put together a breakdown of the different features and tools included in each LinkedIn membership level here, including the associated costs and how each can be of benefit.
Free LinkedIn Membership
Let's start with free LinkedIn accounts - with so many important features gone, many are left wondering if LinkedIn's still useful with a free account, or if they now need to pay, in order for it to remain worthwhile to invest of their time and resources.
With the removal of the 'Notes & Tags' feature, and the downgrade of the LinkedIn Advanced Search tool, lead generation has become more work with the free account - you may even need to use outside tools (free or paid such as Dux-Soup) to make the most of the platform.
But even with what's been lost, LinkedIn is still the best place for most professionals, B2B businesses and sales people to find and connect with their ideal clients.
You can still find and connect with your ideal clients, post regular status updates and LinkedIn Publisher posts, as well as engage in numerous ways with your connections.
This being said, I do think that it's a mistake for LinkedIn to alienate its free users.
The very premise of LinkedIn is that it's an active social platform for business - the power of the platform is that you can quickly and easily find and connect with professionals and business people all over the world. But that only remains true if people continue to join and use it regularly.
LinkedIn Premium Accounts
While there are several Premium account types, in this post I'll be comparing Premium Business Plus and Sales Navigator Professional, which are the most useful for the purposes of lead generation and social selling.
Here's a comparison graphic provided by LinkedIn on the differences between these two account types.
LinkedIn Premium Business Plus
If you're feeling limited by your free LinkedIn account, you might want to consider LinkedIn Premium Business Plus.
You can start off with a free month trial, then after your free month you'll pay $47.99 USD per month when billed annually (more on the monthly payment plan).
Here's a list of tools and features that you can access with your Premium (and Sales Navigator) subscription, to help you decide if Premium Business Plus is right for you.
Who's Viewed My Profile
You can find a great source of potential leads in the Who's Viewed My Profile section.
This section lists all of the people who've viewed your profile over the last 90 days (you can only see the last five people with a free account.)
LinkedIn also provides you with a couple of basic filters on the left side that'll show you what companies the people were from, the most common job title of viewers and how they found your profile.
If you want to reach out and send a message directly to someone you're not connected to and don't share a group with, you need to send them an InMail.
InMails can be useful when you want to reach out to a potential prospect before you send them a connection request.
This is only possible with a premium subscription - you're given a certain amount of InMails to use every month based on your subscription type, with the opportunity to purchase more.
Extended LinkedIn Network Access
With Extended LinkedIn Network Access, you don't have to worry about the Commercial Use Limits put on free accounts.
This means you won't lose access to search results part way through the month, which can negatively affect your lead generation searches.
Activities that LinkedIn counts towards the Commercial Use Limits include:
- Searching for LinkedIn profiles on LinkedIn.com and mobile.
- Browsing LinkedIn profiles using the People Also Viewed section located on the right side of a profile.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator Professional
LinkedIn also offers the opportunity to try out Sales Navigator for free for a month, and after your free month, you can pay as little as $64.99 USD per month when billed annually (more on the monthly payment plan).
With Sales Navigator Professional, you'll get all the benefits of Premium Business Plus and some additional features.
I've included the list off additional features here, as well as the benefits of each feature and how they can help with lead generation.
Advanced Sales-Specific Search Tools
The Advanced Search in Sales Navigator makes it easy for you to find your ideal clients and potential prospects.
Not only are you able to get all of the missing functionality back from LinkedIn's old Advanced Search but you also get several other additional premium filters.
Automatic Lead & Account Recommendations
Sales Navigator makes it easier than ever to locate potential prospects with their Suggested Leads and Suggested Accounts features.
To see the list of leads that LinkedIn is recommending, click on the Suggested leads link located in the navigation menu in the top left corner of the Home page.
You'll see recent updates posted by people Sales Navigator recommends, based on their similarity to other leads you have recently saved.
Here you can easily see and interact with them as well as save them as a lead.
To get to the Suggested Accounts section, hover over Accounts, located in the top navigation bar, and click on Suggested Accounts from LinkedIn.
On this page, you can see all of the Suggested accounts from LinkedIn. You can easily save a company as an account by clicking the Save as account button as well as view the business or view similar businesses.
Sales Navigator also provides you with several filters at the top of the page as well as a full search bar on the left.
Notes & Tags
A monthly subscription to Sales Navigator will give you access to the lost Notes & Tags feature from LinkedIn - which is a key feature for anyone using LinkedIn for lead generation and social selling.
You can import all your old tags and notes into the system, but first you have to save each connection as a lead in order to access them.
Here's a complete rundown of how to use the Notes & Tags feature in LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
Job Change Alerts
You can easily find out when one of your leads changes jobs with the Job Change feature.
This can be useful in a number of ways when determining who you should be communicating with at a particular company, as well as a good reason to reach out and engage with them, which helps to keep you top of mind.
From the Home page, click on Job change in the left navigation menu.
You can see their old job and new position as well as the ability to effortlessly message them.
With your subscription to Sales Navigator, you also get access to LinkedIn's Learning Center.
To get there, hover over Support, in the top blue navigation bar on the right side, then click on Learning Center.
Deciding Between LinkedIn Membership Levels
With all the recent changes at LinkedIn it can be hard to know which plan will work best for you.
For those who are using LinkedIn for lead generation, you'll definitely need to alter your social selling strategy unless you decide to invest in Sales Navigator, which will provide all of what you were currently used to having and more.
If you're like many people, considering a paid LinkedIn account may be necessary to achieve those results - it's important to look at the factors that are relevant to your business such as the value of your average sale, the time and resources you have available and budget.
Wrapping Up: Pay to Play
LinkedIn's doing the same thing Facebook did years ago when they changed their algorithm for Business Pages, making it almost impossible to be seen. That was the start of the 'Pay to Play' model with social media.
Having said that, social media has spoiled us over the years with the ability to reach our audiences without spending money. There's never been a time before that businesses could market themselves without spending any dime. Upgrading may not be right for everyone, but it'll certainly make sense for those who're looking to find, connect and build relationships with their ideal clients on LinkedIn.
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