Data, CRM And Native Are The Drivers As LinkedIn And Microsoft Announce Wedding Plans

Whether it started off with a Satya Nadella is checking out your profile or not, it certainly ended up with a Nadella is in the news alert -- Microsoft is in the process of buying LinkedIn for just north of $26bn. There has been a lot of speculation, as you would expect, over the last 24 hours as to what lies behind Microsoft's move. LinkedIn's motivation is a little easier to fathom when you look at the price tag.

Nadella has said that the deal will allow greater integration between Microsoft's software the b2b social network -- features such as calendar and email inbox alignment have been named as "quick wins." It leaves the onlooker wondering, however -- what does Microsoft really have in mind because you can already reply to LinkedIn messages through an email inbox?

It has to be a combination of things that have put LinkedIn right at the sweet spot of where Microsoft sees its future lying, and it has very little to do with picking up messages and accepting meeting invites. No -- this is all about data, CRM and native advertising if you ask me, and here's why.

Microsoft clearly needs to tackle the very real issue that money is ebbing away from software. It is already handing out free upgrades to Windows 10, and must see the days of charging tens of pounds per year for a user to use Office tools are numbered with the proliferation of Google rivals and multiple low-cost productivity apps. So opening up a new revenue subscription and advertising revenue stream that fits well with its users makes a lot of sense.

It's here we get into the nub of the issue -- data and advertising. LinkedIn data is hugely valuable in itself, but when you think how Microsoft will almost certainly be working on a way of integrating data the service generates with its Microsoft Dynamics tool, the CRM implications become massive. Not only does each Dynamics get to benefit from an influx of data, but they have a new -- and no doubt integrated -- b2b content platform to act on those insights.

There are obviously subscription and display advertising revenue to throw into the mix but, for me, if Microsoft is playing the long game, it will be native that will be particularly appealing. LinkedIn is packed with articles and posts and thus it's already a useful site for b2b marketers to promote native content through. One can only imagine that this will be accelerated and intensified under Microsoft's ownership. Clearly content will be used for data capture at the start of the sales funnel to get permission to "inbox" a prospects and then push them through the funnel as further posts give a brand renewed respect and consideration until it's time to purchase. Nothing new about this route, but when a content platform meets a CRM service, that's where the route to market can really scale in a confined, manageable ecosystem. It's kind of like Salesforce with integrated access to millions of engage b2b content readers.

So expect diary invites and inbox alignment, but if you want to know what this deal is all about, watch native advertising blossom even more on LinkedIn as the service is linked in -- if you'll pardon the pun -- with Microsoft Dynamics.

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