Three years after its acquisition by Microsoft, LinkedIn is soaring. Its user base has grown by a reported 200 million users, roughly 50% since the deal went public. Revenues are $6.8 billion; up nearly 30% year-over-year. But few if any CIOs and CFOs have yet understood the importance of LinkedIn subscription tracking.

LinkedIn has moved from being a social network for the workforce to something much more serious. Now it is an indispensable tool for connecting, networking, hiring, prospecting, advertising, and career development. Much like Salesforce’s early ambition to modernize the CRM, LinkedIn is positioning itself as critical to the knowledge worker’s workflow. The platform's information, visibility, and access are connected to real, economic results. Nowadays, a sales team without LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is arguably not a sales team at all. Entrepreneur Magazine goes further, claiming it can “send your sales through the roof.”

While LinkedIn may be a useful tool, the perspective driving its transition from nice-to-have to practically-essential makes over spending and poor license management far more likely. This is especially the case for companies without a software or solution for subscription tracking.

A premium product at a very-premium price

"LinkedIn’s licensing and subscription offerings are more complex and significantly higher on a per user basis than many SaaS tools." - Gasper Vojevec, Head of Customer Success, Cleanshelf

Consider this: a Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium license and a Dropbox Standard Business license are both $12.50 per month. LinkedIn’s Premium Business license is nearly 5x this, at $59.99 per month, while its Sales Navigator product begins at $79.99.

“LinkedIn has entered new territory. Much like Microsoft Office, Adobe and Salesforce in years past, employees see a LinkedIn subscription like email, file sharing and business productivity apps – a bare minimum software suite now,” shares Gasper Vojevec, Head of Customer Success at Cleanshelf. “The problem is, LinkedIn’s licensing and subscription offerings are broader, more complex and significantly higher on a per user basis than many SaaS tools.”

Today, LinkedIn offers premium options for job seekers, sales and talent professionals. It also targets general professionals who want more insights or access to career development and educational tools. Understanding each offering is not easy, however.

LinkedIn’s sales outreach tool, Sales Navigator, for example, has three tiers of individual and corporate pricing. Each subscription offering has feature sets that make it attractive for different user types and corporate teams. Unlike an application like Gmail, where needs are uniform throughout the organization, LinkedIn usage is varied. Employees tend to use it on a more ad-hoc basis, and are more likely to purchase it in a similar way.

“Individuals’ needs change as job duties change, but re-examining a LinkedIn license type is hardly top-of-mind for most employees,” notes Vojevec.

In many cases, these workers are either oversubscribing and holding redundant licenses – or they miss out on critical features because they don’t have the correct license.

Where will LinkedIn live?

Cleanshelf is increasingly seeing a surge of misallocated licenses with new clients too.

The unique nature of LinkedIn’s product suite makes it unclear who will actually own and manage the licensing. For example, because LinkedIn is not yet an enterprise-wide system, in many organizations, sales, and sales operations teams want to own their Sales Navigator deployments. Others want Marketing to manage licenses because of the tool’s lead generation potential. Business development, professional services, channel sales, and partnership teams all have a stake in the growth and nurturing opportunities LinkedIn can provide, too. Recruiting and HR might argue for ownership given their candidate networking use cases too.

Cleanshelf is increasingly seeing a surge of misallocated licenses with new clients too. Departments often buy licenses with the expectation of sharing them but coordination falls apart. Is Marketing buying licenses for the reps that prospect for leads, or was that headcount covered under Sales’ purchase? The company also promotes double-digit discounts for annual contracts, driving well-meaning managers to buy into inflexible contracts.

According to Vojevec, “These are the types of scenarios that prospects come to us with every day. Double spend scenarios are a nightmare for IT, finance and procurement leaders, not to mention a waste of budget for department managers.”

Licensing hunting

LinkedIn also delivers a heavy dose of messaging touting integration that adds attractiveness for employees aiming for full productivity.

Companies may eventually opt for an Enterprise license, but this introduces more issues. Clawing back employees’ previously purchased individual licenses to eliminate overlaps or accidental renewals is messy. Especially because many of the premium licensing options can’t be purchased in a bundled, team-level way. This often forces workers to purchase premium licenses from LinkedIn on a one-off basis. Turning off unneeded spend means tracking down one license owner at a time. LinkedIn also delivers a heavy dose of messaging touting integration with tools like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Hubspot, Zoho, and SAP, add attractiveness for employees aiming for full productivity.

The larger the company, the greater the problem. It is increasingly difficult to keep up with SaaS use as en enterprise grows in size. To regain visibility of overlaps and double-spend, many are now consider Cleanshelf’s SaaS optimization and management platform. Our software makes all LinkedIn subscription tracking LinkedIn possible - not to mention real-time visibility over 2,000 other SaaS products. Whether licenses are deployed at the enterprise, team or individual level, we help:

  • IT admins determine if the right licenses are in place for the right role types
  • reduce cases of double-spend, improving budgeting and cost savings for finance
  • remove unused licenses for existing or recently departed staff

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LinkedIn’s usefulness may make it worth it. CIO Magazine published an article titled, “Why LinkedIn Premium is worth the moneysharing that idea. Although the benefits aren’t always apparent, they can be long term depending on how LinkedIn is used and managed. But mismanagement can be profit crushing. While we hate to see any license waste, an $8, overlooked G-Suite license is easier on the P&L than a $79.99 monthly Sales Navigator subscription or a $119.99 Recruiter Lite license.


About Cleanshelf

Cleanshelf is the leading enterprise SaaS management platform focused on tracking, controlling, and benchmarking SaaS applications. Their SOC 2-compliant and AI-powered technology helps companies save up to 30% on their SaaS spending by automatically identifying unmanaged contracts, duplicate licenses, and wasted cloud software subscriptions. Based in San Francisco, Cleanshelf provides an enterprise-grade solution to over a hundred clients, including Hilton, Looker, and CoStar Group.

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