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LinkedIn Lockout and the State of CRM

Here we are at the end of Q1 2014. Looking back over the past three months, the world of CRM has been relatively quiet. But there are trends and points that are worth pondering. So as we approach Q2, let’s dive in and take a look at the state of CRM.

Trendspotting

Almost without fail, the biggest trend in the CRM world today today is the rise of social CRM. By meeting potential and current customers where they are, these CRM systems are allowing for greater communication, better transparency and a more personalized approach than traditional CRMs. Names like Nimble, Batchbook, Zoho and SugarCRM are becoming commonplace in the market, rather than being relegated to second-tier options.

We’re also seeing a rise in simple CRM systems, with products that integrate into existing workflows rather than forcing users to change their behaviors. These systems – which are often best suited  to small, emerging, quickly-growing companies – are well-poised to take a chunk out of the portion of the market that larger names like Salesforce are willfully choosing to ignore. The names to watch in this segment? Here’s a quick list:

UPDATE: As of June 19, 2014, add the following to the list of LinkedIn API rejects:

Finally, as the requirements of customer relationship management continue to expand, we’re seeing a large push toward mobile-focused CRM. While there are great add-ons for the big-name CRMs (such as CWR Mobile for Microsoft Dynamics), the trend is in creating CRM systems that are mobile first, or even mobile-only.

In the upcoming quarter, it appears that this growth of social, simple and mobile CRMs will only continue. However, there is an elephant in the room. Or perhaps more accurately, an elephant that has gone unnoticed to the CRM-covering media at large.

LinkedIn Lockout

4305859251_07c3dd2c10_zWe’ve talked time and again about the walled garden of LinkedIn, but never before has it become so apparent that the company simply doesn’t want to play nicely with other businesses. Over the past few days, LinkedIn has removed API access from Nutshell CRM and Capsule CRM due to TOS violations (which arose from a recent change to those terms). Batchbook, it appears, caught the TOS change and proactively removed LinkedIn integration from its product.

Perhaps more disturbing than the change in TOS is the fact that LinkedIn is telling CRM vendors in no uncertain terms that there is no way to get back into the professional social network’s good graces. In response to Nutshell CRM’s request to join LinkedIn’s partner program, the company had this to say:

We discussed your application with the team reviewing API partnerships. At this time, LinkedIn is not taking on new partners in the Sales category. We are looking at ways to support these types of integrations in the future, but cannot do so today. As a result, we see no path forward for you to continue using our APIs at this time.

Where does that leave the market then? Essentially, if a customer requires LinkedIn integration in a CRM, their choices are between Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce. There are CRM products that have access to LinkedIn data via third-party systems, but Microsoft and Salesforce stand alone as far as direct integration is concerned.

Speaking of which…

Microsoft’s Sleeping Giant

Nobody needs to tell the CRM community about the success of Salesforce. Its accomplishments are lauded by the company itself and via its partners and customers. But Microsoft Dynamics is a name that rarely comes up in conversation.

According to Beagle Research, however, we should all be paying a bit more attention to what’s coming out of Redmond. Dynamics touts over 40,000 customers and four million active users. Further, Beagle says that Dynamics more than doubled its seat adds in the first half of FY 2014.

Microsoft_Dynamics_CRM

The overall health of Microsoft as a company is on the rise as well, as evidenced by the company’s stock price. Its 52-week high is just shy of $41 per share, up from a low of $28 per share. With money flowing through the company, Microsoft is well-suited toward continued bolstering of its products across all lines.

Connecting the Dots

Saleforce is huge, Dynamics is experiencing massive growth and LinkedIn is…closing doors to the outside world. So what can we gather from that? While this is purely conjecture, it’s easy to guess that LinkedIn has its eyes firmly on creating a CRM solution of its own.

Let’s think about this for a moment – whether you love LinkedIn or hate it, chances are that you have a profile on the service. It’s nearly a requirement for anyone who considers themselves a professional, regardless of the field in which they work. The company presently touts over 277 million users, with a monthly audience of 187 million. Further, the company plays home to over 3 million company pages and is undoubtedly the single biggest resource for finding business information about a person.

From an acquisitions standpoint, LinkedIn has already bought the tools that it needs in order to launch a multi-faceted CRM system. From recruiting software to publishing, presentation and social data display, the pieces have all fallen into place. Most recently, the company purchased Bright.com and its 50+ person team. The acquisition gives LinkedIn a tool for not only hiring, but also for displaying a scoring system (similar to Klout) for potential candidates and customers.

Suffice it to say, LinkedIn is most definitely positioned in a way that would open the door to creating its own CRM. The company’s brick wall toward integration with other systems only serves to bolster these thoughts.


Q2 is most definitely shaping to up to be an exiting time in the world of CRM. As SaaStr’s Jason Lemkin noted, as many as 20 smaller CRM companies are poised towards IPO in the next few years, and we’re beginning to see who those companies could be as upstarts position themselves for greatness today.

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