Microsoft Makes a Stronger SMB Marketing Push

This is the latest in Localogy’s Skate To Where the Puck is Going series. Running semi-weekly, it examines the moves and motivations of tech giants as leading indicators for where markets are moving. Check out the entire series here, and its origin here

Microsoft late last week announced a new marketing portal designed for SMBs. Known as the Digital Marketing Center (DMC), it will give SMBs a single dashboard to manage marketing across Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This one-stop-shop approach is key for SMBs (more on that in a bit).

DMC notably includes features to manage both organic and paid media. For example, they can organize social media publishing for organic campaigns, as well as the paid options offered by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These are each integrated and baked right into DMC so SMBs can do it all in one place.

It also boasts an AI-fueled approach to digital marketing management. Sort of like Google’s Smart Campaigns, this streamlines setup and management for busy SMBs by applying Microsoft AI to optimize campaigns. That includes things like audience targeting (social) and keywords & bidding (search).

“SMBs don’t have enough hours in the day to keep up with the demands of managing their search and social presence across all of the platforms, and it’s stifling their growth,”  Microsoft SMB Advertising Program Manager Prince Bajracharya told Localogy. “We were inspired to build an easy to use tool that does the heavy lifting for them.”

For social media optimization, DMC includes features that let SMBs create and schedule posts. And they can do so across each network and replicate things like post copy, thus saving time. The tool currently lets SMBs run up to ten social accounts, with all the trappings of a social dashboard (reply, retweet, DM, etc.).

DMC also lets SMBs build their own ads, or use suggested ad copy and creative. The biggest manual component is to set budgets. Once that’s done, the tool is meant to operate on auto-pilot, while also catering to SMBs that want to check in frequently for analytics such as engagement levels and audience growth.

Stepping back, this is a notable move for Microsoft on a few levels. The first is that it’s a one-stop-shop play, which will resonate with time-starved SMBs. Localogy’s Modern Commerce Monitor survey in fact shows that 73 percent of SMBs prefer to get marketing and operational software from a single vendor.

In addition to aggregating several networks, the AI components double down on the goal to save SMBs time and reduce friction. As noted, that will include things like campaign creation and writing copy for social posts. SMBs are often forced to act as marketers against their will, so automation tools should resonate.

On another level, it’s notable that Microsoft aggregating and supporting other ad platforms. This is likely a big-picture play, with the rationale that a free tool that provides true one-stop-shop value (rather than a walled garden approach) will have the best chance of gaining SMB traction, per the above.

With that approach, it hopes to develop a direct touchpoint with SMBs and thus “own the customer” from there, there are lots of benefits it can realize by having a direct marketing channel to these SMBs to upsell them to various services it has now or those that it plans to roll out (we’ll be watching).

“We’re all trying to help our struggling SMB customers achieve more as a business in a very competitive environment, and we want our partners to be successful in this endeavor as well,” Sr. Microsoft Advertising Product Marketing Manager Cristiano Ventura told Localogy. “Our work with this experiment will strive to complement and empower the work of all our collaborating partners. We see lots of exciting potential learnings to gather that can help them evolve their platform solutions”

The product came out of Microsoft’s innovation lab, Microsoft Garage. The project starts a pilot stage immediately in which it’s accepting new users. It’s initially open to U.S. businesses only.

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