Posted by: Joe Hoffman | January 11, 2009

LinkedIn as a Marketing Metaphor

bass_curve1A year ago I posted a short piece entitled “Why Does it Take So Long?” that spoke briefly about the forces that drive how long it takes to get market penetration.   You can find it here

Today I was looking at the growth of the number of my LinkedIn contacts and of their contacts.  I realized that this was the perfect metaphor for the marketing planning tool, the “Bass Curve”.  My contacts have grown exactly as would be expected, based on the size of the potential sphere of people that I have known, the degree to which I have made my presence known on LinkedIn and finally it is influenced by the number of people that refer me to someone else.   That is the Bass model in a nutshell.   How large is your potential market, how many people have heard of or know of you and have they been referred by a trusted source.

I tell by EAP students that they need to make an honest assessment of the real size of their market.  (If you sell shoes, it isn’t everyone with feet.)  Their next decision is how much can they spend on direct marketing to make themselves known and finally how much word of mouth or Buzz, can they create to get referrals from trusted sources.

If you are not happy with the growth of your business, then take a look at expanding the market size, how much you spend in time and money for advertising and PR and look at how much word of mouth you create.  It is a set of trade offs but it might help you sort out how to spend your money.

The marketing folks that read this might comment that I have over simplified the issue and they would be correct, books have been written about the curve and there are over 250 modifications to it out there.   However,  you generally can’t sell something to someone who does not want what you have, or they have not heard of you or no one that they trust has told them that you are OK.



  1. I would add that a limited budget highly influences where you would best market your business. There’s a reason that I keep posting about networking on my blog. My target is small business — usually sole proprietorships — for them it is of most importance to work on skills & strategies for getting face-time and low-to-no-cost marketing opportunities. Two referrals equals one “heard of” and one “personal recommendation”. It won’t reach as far as an advertising campaign, but it will get business in the door. There are other ways around it, but networking is straightforward and has other pay-offs than just making a sale. I’ll write a post about it. LOL Here’s my latest post on Networking:

  2. I believe that we all are presented with incredible opportunities to network these days that small businesses never had in the past. What we’re all doing right here, for example, for free – never existed. We need to take advantage of the tools that are available to us in delivering a strong, consistent message to the world and our potential customers. The biggest drawback is that there are so many “tools” being thrown at us all the time. I believe the secret to utliizing them is to work with one and master it – become consistent with it, and don’t lose focus. Then expand…

    Many small businesses today are unaware of most of the tools that are available to them – and even more importantly are unaccustomed to utilizing these tools as a new means of marketing themselves. It’s our job to get that out to them…

  3. I heartily agree with you. One of my LinkedIn contacts and past colleagues, Ed Callahan, has done just that with LinkedIn and it is serving him well. Keep the contacts growing, and stay connected. The Bass Curve Rules!

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