When it comes to managing a business, there are certain aspects that all organizations seem to struggle with, especially at the beginning. The management and engagement of customers is the foremost problem. Many small operations do not have the resources or the wherewithal to manage customer contact information, let alone employ active customer engagement.

With the rollout of several new tools for Office 365 Business Premium, Microsoft is looking to provide the basic tools every business needs to successfully engage and manage customers. As announced in July 2017, these new applications will give small businesses the trappings they need to attract new customers, engage those customers to drive new business opportunities, and then invoice those customers in a timely manner. These are three essential, albeit unglamorous, business activities.

SEE: 12 tips to get more out of Windows 10 (TechRepublic PDF)

New Office 365 applications

According to the Office 365 Team blog post making the announcement, the three new applications rolling out to Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium subscribers include:

  • Microsoft Connections–A simple-to-use email marketing service
  • Microsoft Listings–An easy way to publish your business information on top sites
  • Microsoft Invoicing–A new way to create professional invoices and get paid fast

If done right, email marketing to existing customers can be an effective marketing tool. In the past, good email marketing required the services of a professional schooled in the discipline, but with Microsoft Connections, small businesses can do simple email marketing on their own. The results of each campaign can be tracked via the Connections dashboard.

Another service many small businesses turn to when trying to establish their online presence involves marketers who promise to raise the company’s visibility on search engines and social media. Unfortunately, these so-called experts often promise more than they can deliver. With Microsoft Listings, small businesses can do their own search engine and social media marketing without resorting to tricks and shady practices that can’t sustain results over the long term.

To this day, one of the most often asked for Word templates on TechRepublic is for invoicing. Experience suggests that many small business owners start selling products and services before they have any notion of how to invoice customers. The new Invoicing application will manage the process for you by sending the invoices, tracking receivables, and then processing payments. Microsoft Invoicing has partnered with PayPay to make collecting payment via credit or debit card as simple as possible.

All of these new apps will be made available to Office 365 Business Premium subscribers as part of a new online administrative section called Office 365 Business Center, which will include the new applications, as well as the appointment scheduler, Bookings. The new services are available for preview now and will be generally available to all subscribers by the end of 2017.

SEE: Microsoft Office 365: The smart person’s guide (TechRepublic)

Bottom line

When it comes to Office 365, Microsoft is obviously making a push to be the only productivity suite of software any business will ever need. By adding Connections, Listings, and Invoicing to the Office 365 repertoire, Microsoft is eliminating several areas where third-party consultants and purveyors of niche software used to thrive.

Small businesses have less and less reason to look beyond Microsoft for solutions to their business problems. Whether the concentration of all that productivity software under one roof is a good thing or a bad thing is open for debate, but make no mistake–Microsoft is not done adding applications to Office 365 yet.

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Your thoughts

Is it a good thing, bad thing, or nothing that Office 365 offers so many applications for small business? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.