Microsoft and Adobe Announce Partnership: What Does This Mean for the Future of CRMs?

Microsoft and Adobe recently announced that they’re joining forces to provide better insights for customers using Account-Based Marketing (ABM) tactics.

A new integration will leverage the marketing tools of Adobe’s Markeo Engage, and the sales tools of Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 – and because Microsoft also owns LinkedIn, customers will be able to use the data collected in this integrated system to inform their LinkedIn ad targeting strategy.

New Capabilities with the Partnership

Upon announcing the partnership, Adobe stated that:

“This [partnership] will empower B2B marketers and sellers to easily identify, understand and engage B2B customer buying teams. This partnership will drive better orchestration, measurement and delivery of targeted content for a more personalized experience at both the individual and account level on key B2B platforms like LinkedIn.”

While an all-in-one marketing and sales platform is nothing new, the ability to connect with LinkedIn is the key differentiator here.

LinkedIn is a favourite channel for B2B marketers due to its huge user base of professionals and explicit focus on fostering business connections. Over the past year, LinkedIn has significantly beefed up its targeting abilities, adding matched audiences, interest targeting, and data from Microsoft’s Bing.

This new partnership significantly enhances these capabilities, allowing users to leverage data from Marketo Engage and Dynamics 365 Sales to gain deeper insights into the accounts they want to target on LinkedIn. This can inform their LinkedIn ad strategies, but it can also provide insights to enhance other aspects of their digital marketing efforts.

This can also help brands identify the best-fit accounts to pursue for their account-based LinkedIn strategies. Using Marketo’s Account Profiling tool, marketers can identify the best-fit companies to target out of LinkedIn’s wide audience base.

Taking Aim at Salesforce?

While this is great news for current Marketo and Microsoft Dynamic 365 customers, others feel that the capabilities offered by the integration with LinkedIn provide unfair competitive advantages to other marketing and sales platforms and their users. Specifically, many feel that this is a direct aim at Salesforce, which is a common rival for both Microsoft and Adobe.

It appears that Salesforce recognised the potential for Microsoft to use its merger with LinkedIn as a way to gain an upper hand over other automation platforms when it openly opposed the acquisition back in 2016, stating:

“Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition. By gaining ownership of LinkedIn’s unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage. Salesforce believes this raises significant antitrust and data privacy issues that need to be fully scrutinized by competition and data privacy authorities in the United States and in the European Union. We intend to work closely with regulators, lawmakers and other stakeholders to make the case that this merger is anticompetitive.”

Clearly, its attempts to block the merger was unsuccessful, but it still begs the question; is this truly an unfair advantage?

Well, yes and no.

I think that all platforms, Salesforce included, offer unique capabilities that can’t be matched anywhere else. This comes in the form of AI, integration partnerships, etc. So in that sense, I don’t think that this change is big enough for Adobe and Microsoft to have a monopoly over the entire CRM industry.

However, I do think that it has the potential to be a slippery slope for the future of cloud-based platforms. In a way, it sets the standard that social media platforms can have exclusive ties to one CRM/Marketing platform over another.

For example, if the capabilities are expanded upon, and Microsoft/Adobe users have significantly more access to audience data and targeting capabilities than a regular user would have, or other exclusive assets like special ad formats, then it would be impossible for anyone who isn’t a customer to create ads on the same level.

The same thing could then be rolled out to Facebook, Google (which would also mean to YouTube), and so on. It would definitely bring more competition, but would also significantly limit the ability for marketers to be effective across all their paid ad channels. While we’re not there yet, it’s important for marketers to remain mindful of these types of partnerships and think about where they might be headed. Iris Hearn

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