Marketing automation in and out of the Dynamics CRM box

Marketing automation, in terms of creating, planning and executing marketing campaigns, has always been a central pillar in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM feature set. In fact, the core features of marketing lists, campaigns and campaign responses really haven’t changed much since CRM 1 was launched many years ago. Most CRM projects tend to have been sponsored by stakeholders in sales and executive management and this has meant that requirements for marketing management have taken a back seat for the most part. In addition, marketing teams have often been well served by their agencies, existing technology solutions and a combination of piecing together many technology components to provide full functionality. More marketing managers are now starting to get more closely involved in CRM-based marketing automation due to several factors: CRM is now becoming the dominant repository of contact information, the features of add-on tools offered by vendors and ISV’s are now beginning to properly leverage this data and finally all marketing teams are working hard to take their brands into the social media space and need to link this to the existing sales and marketing tools (CRM being the prime example). This blog intends to highlight the options open to marketing teams whose organisations use CRM so that they can begin to plan how to integrate their processes with sales and service processes.

What do marketeers get in the Dynamics CRM box as standard?

So, what does CRM offer the marketing department from day one? Possibly, more than you think! Let’s consider a fictional client using CRM for marketing functionality. Bloggs Enterprise Systems has been using CRM for several years now and has worked hard to build technology support through the full customer lifecycle from enquiry to satisfied customer.

The marketing team at Bloggs now registers every marketing campaign through CRM and plans the campaign activities and the deliverable activities through these campaign records. Long gone are the days when the team stored a multitude of Outlook tasks, emails and spreadsheets in a shared drive in order to keep on top of preparing for a marketing campaign. They have also recently started sharing certain campaign records with the sales teams to gain feedback before the campaign is launched. By linking the campaigns to product launches, the team can get real-time data on how customers are responding to their initiatives via dashboards and charts that track responses to these campaigns.

The team constantly generates segments of customer data by using dynamics marketing lists and has worked closely with the sales team so that they can add data as required to static marketing lists. These marketing lists are then used against multiple campaigns as the team constantly refines their target audience against product and service offerings.

The team are very much aware of its obligations in managing customer data and so makes every effort to provide their clients and prospects with ways in which to manage their communication preferences. This in turn helps to protect Bloggs from being listed on SPAM filters.

Enquiries are routed through general purpose CRM queues and picked up by business development teams. They are trained in how to process these enquiries and how to convert these into campaign responses – where appropriate. This allows the marketing team to track the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns which are also recorded and categorised in CRM. Equally, the sales teams have been trained in how to take incoming enquiries from existing customers and track these as campaign responses against the marketing campaigns.

The sales and marketing teams at Bloggs work closely together to make sure that prospects and clients are tracked smoothly through from enquiry to order and in doing so provide valuable management information data that highlights where marketing funds are really having an impact. The teams find the marketing campaign performance report in CRM to be particularly useful in understanding the imnpact that each campaign is having.

When do you need to step outside of the box?

Bloggs is aware that it may not be having the impact that it should in the social media space and its current method of exporting data from CRM to its agency for email campaigns is losing company time and it is working hard to update CRM with response data. Bloggs has recently been considering the use of an ISV marketing automation tool that integrates directly into CRM. The marketing and sales teams have identified a series of functional areas that they believe would be useful to have directly under their control as follows:

Subscriptions: Bloggs’ customers are offered subscriptions to key publications and messages. So far, the Bloggs team has worked hard to keep their marketing lists synchronised with these subscriptions but it’s getting more difficult. It would be much more efficient if they could link customers and prospects directly to a subscription and keep marketing lists as a way of segmenting their audience. So, it’s essential that any marketing automation tool provides the team with options to manually and automatically manage subscriptions.

Lead scoring: the sales team is pushing the marketing team to provide better developed leads in order to focus time on the best prospects. The marketing team equally would like to do this and has been planning to implement lead scoring based on a series of activities and categories and to update leads in CRM with the lead score. Using the lead score, the marketing and sales teams hope to focus their efforts on the most likely prospects and customers.

Email content: Bloggs is aware that its email content is often 2-dimensional and lacking in creativity. The company feels that it has outgrown the capabilities of CRM emails and it needs to be able to drive more creativity in-house and rely less on agency resources. Therefore, Bloggs also requires a wide range of Web content development tools without forcing its users to get too acquainted with the subtleties of HTML and JavaScript.

Bloggs has to get better at tracking the accuracy of email addresses as it believes that a large percentage of the email addresses are no longer correct. It is essential that any marketing automation tool will help them identify which email addresses are resulting in any ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ bounces and which email addresses are actually opening the emails being sent.

Landing pages: Bloggs will drive customers and prospects to pages on their website to engage them into the sales cycle. The marketing team has to be able to measure the number of visits made to these pages and what customers and prospects actually do when they get there. Once there, Bloggs wants to provide a ‘call to action’ on every page with a form that will generate a record back into CRM – usually as an enquiry. So, it is essential that these forms are integrated back into CRM without complex server side coding.

Surveys: Bloggs is keen to engage its customers on a more regular basis getting feedback on its products and services. The company has decided to send regular surveys to its customers but to make sure that this survey data is used to update customer and prospect records in CRM and is available for MI reporting and analysis.

Social media listening: Bloggs has encountered several occasions where its products and services are being mentioned in discussions on social media sites. Unfortunately, it has identified these discussions too late and has not been able to be a part of the discussion or respond. The team now needs to be ready to respond and understand the trends of feedback (positive and negative) on social media sites.

Nurturing: Bloggs has worked with a marketing agency to build up a series of processes and activities that will help the company nurture the customer or prospect relationship. It needs a system to automate the process of nurturing through automatic communications with the contact – the company is also keen that these nurture processes can be easily adjusted to reflect experience and changes in the marketplace.

Chat: like any other organisation, Bloggs wants to communicate with its customers across multiple channels (such as chat and sms). The company needs a platform that will help it enable this functionality but also integrate these channels with the wealth of information that it aleady holds in CRM.

What Bloggs should consider:

Bloggs clearly needs a range of functionality – not all of which it might want to implement on day one. If CRM Knowledge was advising Bloggs we would be talking to them about CRM ‘add-ons’ such as CoreMotives or ClickDimensions to fulfill most of the features that they will need to meet their requirements. Both of these applications are tightly integrated in CRM and are both specifically focused on marketing automation functionality. We would also be introducing Bloggs to Social Media Listening – a recent innovation by Microsoft. However, one feature stands out as a gap. Chat is not a feature that is supported as standard on CoreMotives or ClickDimensions at this stage – while there are lots of options out there we would introduce the client to Moxie – this offers powerful chat presence and integration to CRM. You will of course note that there are many other tools on the market – some of which are highly rated and recommended. Our view is that you really need a tool that has a solid grounding in the Dynamics CRM technology platform and should work seamlessly from that platform. This will save you time and expense going forward and should mean you can benefit from all of the future functionality that will be available in Dynamics CRM.

We haven’t raised Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (previously known as MarketingPilot) in this article either – our view is that this level of functionality is well beyond what companies like Bloggs require at this stage. But, in the future as they build a bigger team and have more marketing resources to manage, then they certainly should consider it as an option.

Implementing and managing this range of functionality isn’t too difficult from a technology perspective – although onpremise customers should note that you would require your instance of CRM to be internet facing. The real challenge lies in building and integrating efficient marketing, sales and service processes with these functions and features. It’s a big learning curve for all concerned and it’s so important to get the strategy correct in your communications with prospects and customers. If you are in the same position as Bloggs then feel free to contact us at We will be happy to work with you in advising and developing your marketing automation strategy.

Peter Clements

CRM Knowledge




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