By Nicola Wright
When Microsoft launched its Dynamics 365 suite in 2016, it was hailed as the future of business applications; an end-to-end solution that meshed together CRM, ERP, and business intelligence to offer companies a one-stop-shop to manage their processes and operations.
There was one thing absent at go-live however: a purpose-built marketing tool. In an age where digital marketing is an essential part of any organization’s day-to-day running, and a crucial aspect of operating a successful business, users waited with anticipation for the missing piece of the Dynamics 365 puzzle.
In the past, Dynamics customers have had to rely primarily on third-party services to satisfy their marketing needs. That is until 2012, when Microsoft acquired Marketing Automation software Marketing Pilot, that it later renamed Microsoft Dynamics Marketing. Around the same time that Dynamics 365 was released, Microsoft announced that Dynamics Marketing was being retired, and would be discontinued entirely by May 2018.
Recognizing the need for a new Dynamics marketing platform, and realizing that no software it could acquire would be tailored to work with its new family of interconnected apps, Microsoft set out to create one from scratch. And, as Microsoft’s competition with CRM giants Salesforce heated up, this new app needed to be of market-leading quality.
Now, eighteen months after the suite’s initial launch, Dynamics 365 for Marketing has finally been rolled out. Here, we take a closer look at Microsoft’s new marketing automation platform, and see what it has to offer in a market where cloud-based automation apps are increasingly accessible, and battling for prominence.
The first purpose-built marketing app under the Dynamics 365 umbrella, Dynamics 365 for Marketing aims to provide all the tools SMBs need to execute successful marketing campaigns across several channels.
The app features robust tools that can be used out-of-the-box to create and deliver campaigns across various channels, and comes loaded with high-end templates that can be extensively customized using a simple drag-and-drop interface.
Users can create tailored customer journeys, with targeted messages and activities set to be rolled out at various stages, depending on either timing, or in response to customer interactions. These personalized, automated interactions help nurture leads and move them along the pipeline.
Being as it’s part of the Dynamics 365 family, and uses the same Common Data Model to store and share data with other apps, Dynamics 365 for Marketing benefits from being tightly integrated with other branches of the Dynamics CRM system, such as Sales and Customer Service. All these apps share the same “brain”, meaning they are always in sync, and up to date, so the sales and marketing arms of your business can collaborate more effectively.
The app is also primed for use on a multitude of devices, and features a unified interface across mobile, tablet, and desktop.
Dynamics 365 for Marketing features a lot of intensive tools, and in-depth tracking of customer journeys, making it far more powerful — and complex — than many entry-level cloud marketing platforms. For this reason, it probably isn’t best suited to the narrow end of the SMB spectrum, as it’s unlikely that small businesses will have the need, or the resources, to fully utilize the extent of Marketing’s capabilities.
For mid-sized organizations that are willing to invest a little more time and money into their marketing strategies, Dynamics 365 for Marketing is a great toolkit, especially for those that’ve outgrown the basic, native marketing functionality of other Dynamics 365 apps such as Sales.
Though the app caters for both B2B and B2C marketing, it’s generally more suited to business-to-business marketing.
For more substantial businesses and enterprises, Microsoft still recommends using Adobe Marketing Cloud, that’s run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
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Dynamics 365 for Marketing encompasses features that allow for both the creative and data-driven aspects of a great marketing campaign.
As any good marketer will tell you, before you start to create campaigns and generate leads, you need to map out the customer journey. Creating a customer journey gives you a clear idea of how a customer goes from discovering your business, to learning more about your product or service, evaluating their options, and finally, with a bit of luck and a lot of marketing pizazz, converting into a customer.
Mapping out this transformation from prospect to customer helps businesses work out exactly why they should be dropping breadcrumbs along the route to make sure that prospects continue to travel along that path to purchasing.
With Dynamics 365 for Marketing, the customer journey isn’t just a hypothetical concept, but an actionable, customizable model. The app features a drag-and-drop customer journey builder, where users can create unlimited numbers of custom workflows, assigned to specific segments of contacts.
Each stage in the journey can be automated to execute a step — sending an email, for example — either through scheduling, or when triggered by a particular customer action. These workflows can be splintered down into further activity, depending on customer reactions; the customer who engages with an email message will be sent different messaging in the future to the customer who did not.
Utilizing a tailored customer journey allows businesses to offer personalized interactions with their customers, streamline their marketing operations with event-driven automation, and easily visualize their campaigns.
These campaigns can be rolled out across a multitude of channels, with templates and design tools available to help quickly put together professional-looking branded emails, lead capture forms, and dynamic landing pages, with a focus on driving conversions.
There’s also an option to create SMS/text messaging, and social media campaigns. For greater control over social media marketing, the app integrates with Microsoft Social Engagement, which comes bundled with any of the suite’s CRM apps.
A feature that really sets apart Dynamics 365 for Marketing is its native event management tools. Modern marketing is all about offering value to your existing and prospective customers, and if your business chooses to do that by hosting in-person events like conferences or seminars, Marketing has a host of inbuilt tools to help.
The app’s event management features offers comprehensive functionality for planning event logistics such as venue and speaker management, registrations, scheduling, and tracking attendance.
There’s even a portal management system, through which companies can create a branded event portal for attendees to manage their profile, attendance, registrations, and get all the information they need about speakers and event timetables.
Webinars are another excellent way to generate leads through content marketing, and Dynamics 365 for Marketing also allows you to arrange, manage, and deliver webinars by integrating with third-party webinar platforms.
The end goal of all marketing campaigns is to generate leads, and Dynamics 365 for Marketing contains intuitive lead management tools to help track, score, and nurture leads more effectively.
The app uses an intelligent, automated lead-scoring system to qualify leads at every stage of the customer journey based on predetermined rules, such as email engagement, website visits, and event registration, so businesses can rate leads based on criteria that reflect what’s most valuable to them. The scoring system then assigns grades to the leads asserting their sales-readiness, helping salespeople to focus on the most lucrative areas.
Customizable lead dashboards help marketers get an overview of lead health based on parameters including lead age, interactions, and pipeline progression.
With the Dynamics 365 Connector for LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms, Marketing users can automatically sync up leads captured on LinkedIn — from multiple accounts — with their Dynamics 365 solution, score them, and funnel them either into a Marketing segment, or straight through to the sales team.
Analyzing the success of a campaign is a key part of deriving insight and improving marketing strategies. As well as the lead-scoring metrics mentioned above, Dynamics 365 for Marketing features rich analytical tools to collect and scrutinize data, and offer actionable insights.
Included with Dynamics 365 for Marketing is Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights, an Azure-based business intelligence service designed to help businesses get an exhaustive and informative picture of their customers by using data visualization tools like heat maps. The service is integrated with Marketing, so that companies can see detailed interaction reports for every piece of content deployed throughout their customer’s journey, from within the app’s native dashboards.
As mentioned above, customer portals can be set up to help event attendees get the most out of an organization’s events, but that’s not the only thing Marketing’s portal system can be used for. Customer engagement content and online surveys can also be managed through the tool.
The app also integrates with Microsoft’s Voice of the Customer survey platform, that enables users to create, distribute and analyze customer surveys.
Dynamics 365 for Marketing is not available as part of a predetermined plan, though there is a hefty discount for those already using the Customer Engagement Plan, or any of the apps within it. This includes Dynamics 365 for Sales, Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, Dynamics 365 for Field Service, or Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation.
Marketing breaks away from the per user, per month licensing model of the rest of Dynamics 365’s apps, and users are instead charged according to how many contacts they have contained within the app.
As a standalone service, Dynamics 365 for Marketing is priced at $1,500 per month. This covers up to 10,000 contacts. For each additional 5,000 contacts, the cost rises by $250 per month.
For any customer already licensing the Customer Engagement Plan app, or any app from the plan individually, the starting price drops to $750 per month, though the $250 charge per 5,000 contacts remains the same.
Microsoft has made a number of changes to the pricing and licensing of its Dynamics 365 apps since the family’s initial launch, sometimes for clarity, and sometimes in response to reactions from the Dynamics partner and customer communities.
With this in mind, and given that public feedback on Marketing’s pricing structure has so far been less than glowing, it’s not impossible that Microsoft may revisit its licensing model for Dynamics 365 for Marketing licensing model in the future.
|Price per month||Contacts included|
|With any customer engagement application or customer engagement plan||$750||10,000|
|Dynamics 365 for Marketing only||$1,500||10,000|
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