IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Microsoft Ships Cloud-Based Marketing and Billing Apps

The three new systems, which are designed to help SMBs run marketing campaigns, manage their social media presence, and generate invoices, are now included with both Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium. By Rich Freeman

Microsoft has made three marketing and billing applications generally available to its SMB customers and partners in the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

The new systems, named Connections, Listings, and Invoicing, join the previously introduced Bookings scheduling app and Outlook Customer Manager CRM system as included components of both Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium and Microsoft 365 Business, the all-in-one productivity, security, and management solution for SMBs that entered general availability today as well. All three applications debuted in July at Microsoft's 2017 Inspire partner conference.

Microsoft also announced today that StaffHub is now included with Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium as well. First unveiled in January, that system is designed to provide “frontline” staff who work in call centers or behind counters rather than at desks a way to manage their schedule, share information, and access work-related apps.

Microsoft Connections aims to serve as an easy-to-use, self-serve email marketing solution for small businesses with modest budgets and limited expertise. Stocked with pre-fabricated templates for distributing newsletters, announcements, and referral campaigns, the system also comes with tools for targeting specific customer segments, as well as reporting tools for tracking open rates, clicks, new sign-ups, new customers, and more.

“It showcases their brand and really drive customer sales, customer referrals, [and] incremental sales,” says Caroline Goles, director of Office SMB at Microsoft.

Microsoft Listings is designed to help SMBs create and centrally manage a single, consistent brand on Facebook, Google, Bing, and Yelp. Among other things, the system lets users roll out content changes on all four social media outlets simultaneously.

The third of the new business apps, named Microsoft Invoicing, lets users build and distribute professional-looking estimates and bills. Equipped with an accompanying mobile app, the system integrates with PayPal, for accepting payment via credit and debit cards, and syncs customer, catalog, and billing data with both QuickBooks Online and Microsoft’s own Dynamics 365 for Financials package.

Together with the earlier Bookings and Outlook Customer Manager systems, the new applications seek to provide SMBs an integrated environment for finding customers, marketing services to them, setting appointments with them, and collecting revenue from them. All five solutions share a single contact database and can be managed via the Microsoft Business Center administrative interface.

Offerings like Connections, Listings, and Invoicing, as well as StaffHub, are the fruit of an ongoing effort by Microsoft to construct a portfolio of simple, entry-level business applications.

“Microsoft all up has really doubled down and invested,” Goles says. “We put in some dedicated engineering and marketing teams to really think about some specific solutions to meet the needs of our small business customers.”

While declining to comment on the matter definitively, Goles describes the future appearance of additional business applications as an open possibility.

“You can count on our commitment to the small and midsize business and bringing solutions that help them empower their employees, build business, and safeguard their company,” she says. “If there’s other areas of opportunity, we’ll certainly look at those.”

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