I've started playing around with Spoke recently which, since this summer, has now opened up access for free.Posted by: David Regler @
Last time I looked a while back I decided not to join as it appeared to be predominantly US focused and I couldn't justify the monthly fee (when compared to the access I was getting via LinkedIn).
[BTW, it's still very US focused as you can't search for contacts by country, although there are non-US contacts & companies on Spoke)
So, how is Spoke different?
At a first glance, it's obviously set-up more for sales & marketing people than LinkedIn. It allows you to search it's full database of 30 million contacts (which makes it nearly 4 times the size of LinkedIn) and you can save searches and set up alerts (which is something that would greatly improve LinkedIn).
The main difference, however, is how it generates it's data.
This article, "Spoke frees up its database", explains this in more detail.
Until now, Spoke has created its database by scouring the web, using third-party providers, as well as asking its members to share their address book contacts. You could think of it as a cross between LinkedIn & ZoomInfo, I guess.
But, as the article points out, "Any kind of database becomes practically worthless if you don’t know whether an entry is accurate or not. Even if 10 percent of it is wrong, you can’t trust it."
To me, this is always the main issue.
All these tools, LinkedIn, Spoke, etc are just the starting point of any names sourcing or business development research. When you're tracking people within companies, guess what, they move about. It's about finding an appropriate entry point.
Sure, if you're after anyone in the C-suite, then just pulling up the website will normally do it. But if you want specific role-holders then you need to get digging.
It's like I pointed out in my post "Drive-thru or counter?", sometimes it's easier just to pick up the phone.
This was illustrated the other day when a colleague emailed me and said he was trying to get hold of a senior budget holder within a major UK retailer. He said he'd searched everywhere and couldn't track down a name.
I just picked up the phone, called their Head Office, got through to the right department and asked. Sometime the simplest route really does work.
It would be nice to think that we can sit at our computers and do everything by searching & emailing (and sometimes that does work). But then you're just limiting your options.