Today, Microsoft announced the purchase of social networking site LinkedIn for more than $26 billion.
If you're a LinkedIn shareholder you're pretty happy. And if you're a LinkedIn employee who owns stock in the company you're overjoyed. But who's the biggest beneficiary?
That would be about 90 of my clients. Small and medium sized companies that already own Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Yes, I am a Microsoft partner. And a LinkedIn user. And I couldn't be happier.
The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) business has been growing at double digit rates for years. It has been estimated that the industry size exceeds $20 billion. CRM is critical for any company, regardless of size. It's a database--usually a cloud based database--that holds information about anyone and any company that is in communication with your company. We're not just talking customers. We're talking prospects, vendors, suppliers, service providers and partners.
A CRM system does three big things for a company. Implemented properly it ensures that nothing falls through the cracks because it's designed to schedule tasks, forecasts, opportunities and add communications through automation and reminders. It ensures that all employees are on the same page because it integrates deeply with calendar and emails systems so people can see notes, actions and other important data about a contact or company regardless if they've ever spoken before. And most importantly, a CRM system adds intangible value to a company--wouldn't you pay more to acquire a business that's got a great CRM database in place? You would.
All of this is great. Except that most CRM systems are missing something big: social media integration. And to be more specific, LinkedIn integration.
Everyone in business uses LinkedIn. It's really just a database of resumes, right? And it's got the history, of anyone you meet (or you'd like to meet), all intertwined with each other through "connections.". But other than third-party products that scrape contact info from a LinkedIn page and add it to a CRM database, the integration with social media services has been less than satisfactory for my clients. What good is the data if you can't get it all into your CRM system? For CRM implementers like my company it's kind of the holy grail. Wouldn't it be great to have it all in one place? Wouldn't it be great for all my LinkedIn contacts to be synched to my CRM contacts and all communications shared? Think of the marketing and service opportunities this would provide!
LinkedIn is not a CRM system. But it's pretty darned close. All the data is there. It just lacks the critical functionality that a CRM system provides: lead management, opportunity management, marketing and service capabilities, website integration, workflows and the sharing of data. It's been an island on its own. And now, Microsoft--with a growing CRM application and looking for ways to compete with its enemy Salesforce.com--has now taken ownership of that island.
The opportunities look great and the future looks bright. That is, for anyone using Dynamics CRM.