If your organization is executing efficient, modern, and largely automated marketing efforts that work seamlessly with your Customer Relationship Management system, then bravo!  You may only want to scan this article to confirm your belief.

But if you feel like things might be better than they are, then I encourage you to read on.

Customer Relationship Management and Marketing … the hard truth

Just about everyone knows that CRM is required now, and most people understand that without effective marketing, it’s hard to grow a new business. And it’s pretty much a no-brainer that these two systems need to work hand-in-glove, as one.

As the primary decision-maker for your startup, you could be forgiven for presuming that in this day and age there would be tons of fully-integrated solutions wrapped in pretty packages on the shelf just waiting for you to grab, unpack, and hit the ground running.

Sadly, there are not as many as you think.

But before we even go there, let’s take a moment to define some basic criteria for success.  First, I think that we can all agree that nowadays we need to know who our potential customers are, our actual customers are, and the means by which to effectively reach them – and to know to what extent they are listening to us. That’s a baseline, but let’s put a little structure on these criteria:

Ideally, a CRM and Marketing Solution should support:

  • Intelligent Marketing
    • Email Tracking. Emails sent with links that track activity in my CRM
    • Web Forms that create Leads directly in my CRM when submitted
    • Website traffic that shows my potential and existing customers visiting my site and interacting with my products and services
    • Campaign Automation. Communication based on the interaction of my customers with my communications and website.
  • Native Integration.
    • I don’t want data in two places.
    • I don’t want to log into two or more systems.
    • I want to see the results of my marketing efforts in the context of my potential and existing customers.
  • No Data Constraints
    • I shouldn’t have to pay extra simply because I have thousands of leads in my database.

Solutions

There are a small number of solutions that even come close to achieving all of those criteria for success. We have created a short list of those with a brief note for each solution.  This is followed by more detailed information.

Choice Matrix

Details

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 and ClickDimensions. ClickDimensions features a native integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365, and is not a standalone product. It is designed to work within the interface of Microsoft Dynamics in such as way as to become a native part of the overall Customer Relationship Management platform for a given organization. From the perspective of a modern marketer, ClickDimensions completes Microsoft Dynamics 365 by supplying the missing piece – Marketing Intelligence in the context of potential and existing customers the same system where you manage customer information. This particular solution is powerful because of a wide range of features available as your business scales upward, such as Surveys, Text Messaging, Event Management, and Social Marketing. And pricing is simple and not tied to the number of contacts or leads in your database.
  • Salesforce and Pardot. Salesforce is a powerful Customer Relationship Management system and the addition of Pardot completes the missing piece of Salesforce as a full-featured CRM, since a full suite of Marketing Intelligence is provided. If price is no object whatsoever (this solution costs more than just about any other in the marketplace), and if an organization is already using Salesforce and now needs a marketing solution, this combination is a good choice.
  • Mailchimp and CRM. There are no native integrations with Mailchimp and Customer Relationship Management systems, as Mailchimp is a standalone marketing platform. If Customer Relationship Management functionality is required in addition to Intelligent Marketing, a connector is required, or a company can opt to attempt to use the features of Mailchimp as a CRM, but very few companies would be satisfied by the small feature set that Mailchimp as a CRM brings to the table.
  • If your organization is a single-user organization or relies less on advanced customer relationship management sales and marketing features and more on inbound marketing techniques, then this solution may be a good choice – at least as a start. The CRM included with HubSpot is what you might call “essential” CRM, with little or no sales automation tools available, although by upgrading to more expensive plans there are some features available, like the ability to track products and services in your opportunities. This slight disadvantage with this solution is that for a complete suite of sales, marketing and services components, the price escalates pretty quickly.
  • Microsoft Marketing and Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement. For a long time, a large part that was missing from Microsoft Dynamics as an advanced Customer Relationship Management platform was Intelligent Marketing. There have been fits and starts from Microsoft to fill this gap, and Microsoft Marketing is the latest effort. The solution hits some of the most important criteria, such as marketing automation, formatted email templates, and nurturing campaigns, but the pricing is based on the number of contacts in your CRM system. In addition, the deployment is rather complex, as it leverages the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Portals component, the configuration of which is not for the faint of heart.
  • Act-On. The claim to fame for Act-On is known as “adaptive customer journeys,” which allows for dynamic choices during nurture campaigns. However, there is no native CRM component, and this requires a connection with your chosen Customer Relationship Management system, which means that the sophisticated marketing functions reside in a different system and database than do your potential and existing customers, all of their related information. There is an initial limit of 2,500 contacts, and the price goes up with the addition of more contacts in the system. There are also paid support plans.
  • Marketo. This company was purchased by Adobe in 2018 for almost 5 billion dollars, and mainly serves the large enterprise space. The system is quite robust, with all of the Intelligent Marketing criteria hit, although it’s rather complex to set up and manage. Deploying Marketo will almost certainly require professional services, and so total cost of ownership can reach fairly high levels even before the system is deployed. The most native integration is probably with Salesforce, since the system was built on the SF platform. Integrations with other CRM systems are not native, which results in sets of data in two places, with two systems to manage. For very large companies with robust technical resources, Marketo might be a good choice. For most others, probably not.

Your Journey

If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last dozen years of implementing Microsoft Dynamics, it’s that every organization is different. The solution you ultimately choose for your marketing efforts can be based on many factors.  Hopefully, this article will help sort out what is currently available to join your marketing efforts with your use of a Customer Relationship Management system.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or if you think we may be able to help.