(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
Remember the Outlook Business Contact Manager? That was Microsoft’s attempt at introducing customer relationship management via contact management to its small business customers who used Office. That product was discontinued in 2020.
Remember Microsoft CRM? That product changed its named a few times sothat now it’s identified as a subset under the company’s Dynamics’ product line. During that period, which lasted about 15 years or so, Microsoft actively marketed its flagship CRM product to small business customers through its small business division. That doesn’t happen anymore. In fact, there’s no “small business” division anymore at Microsoft. It’s just the “business” division. Microsoft doesn’t have a dedicated CRM product for its small business customers. I know this because my company is a Microsoft Partner. So is the software giant ignoring small business CRM? Kind of.
If you’re a small business looking for a CRM solution that leverages Office 365 tools like Outlook and Teams the company provides many third party options on its AppSource platform. You can try Nimble, an excellent product from the original makers of GoldMine software. Or Mission CRM if you’re a non-profit. Or SP CRM if your company wants something built on SharePoint. Or you can attempt to dumb down — sorry, make more user friendly — Microsoft Dynamics’ offerings with products like CRM Starter Pack and CRM Alerts. There are hundreds and hundreds of choices here for small businesses.
But none directly from Microsoft. So no, Microsoft isn’t exactly ignoring small businesses. But when it comes to CRM the company really doesn’t want to be that involved. Why?
It’s because Microsoft has correctly surmised that the vast majority of small businesses really don’t need CRM. They don’t require extensive customizations, workflows, integrations and the scalability that the Dynamics product line provides. This is overkill for most small businesses. So what is it that small businesses need from a CRM system?
We mostly need contact management. We want a database with everyone that touches our company and we want it to be easy for our few employees to use it. We want data completeness and accuracy so, once in a while, we can send emails, schedule tasks and make calls to our prospects and customers. Oh, and we want our systems to integrate with our email and calendar systems too. That’s about as much as you can expect from a typical small business. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is why a whole universe of CRM applications exist that focus on smaller companies and provide these very features. And even then most of my clients can’t even accomplish these objectives.
But many do and a percentage of them will grow beyond these needs. They’ll want more automation, workflows and customization. They’ll expand to advanced marketing and service management. They’ll be in a situation where they need help handling leads and analyzing customer behavior. When those few small businesses get to that level, Microsoft will be ready for them with Dynamics. The company’s hope is that they can keep them tethered to Office 365 through the third party CRM offerings on their AppSource site in the meantime.
It’s not an unreasonable plan. That’s because Microsoft is in business to make money and the company isn’t going to make much money selling three and five user licenses. And its partner community aren’t going to profit much from a ten or twenty-hour project. These are the bread and butter small business projects and, for Microsoft, they’re better left to niche players and smaller consulting firms (like mine).
So no, Microsoft isn’t exactly ignoring your small business. They just really don’t want to be bothered with you when it comes to CRM. But if you grow, and you have budget, then you’ll be welcomed whole heartedly into their Dynamics community.