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What’s the Best Marketing Automation Software for Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

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An Independent Dynamics CRM Marketing Software Review


I’ve been doing marketing automation software reviews for about 10 years. The biggest reason I enjoy reviewing, implementing and refining these marketing systems is because of their unmatched ability to accelerate leads through the revenue funnel. I don’t want to over-simplify these applications, and history shows that most adopters don’t get it right the first time, but when deployed with CRM software and complimented with a content marketing strategy, these apps can be powerful.

The marketing automation software space isn’t new, but also isn’t commonplace. It was born at the turn of the century in large part due to a void left by the CRM software publishers. CRM providers included marketing among their three pillar software suites, along with Sales and Service, but limited marketing to little more than campaign profiles.

Eloqua was the pioneer to define the marketing automation category and others quickly stepped up to deliver robust marketing functionality such as digital lead tracking, digital lead acquisition, lead scoring, nurture campaigns, lead transfer and rich lead management analytics.

The success of the marketing automation start-ups triggered the next predictable movement—being acquired by CRM and enterprise software publishers. IBM bought Unica, Teradata bought Aprimo, Oracle bought Eloqua, bought ExactTarget (shortly after ExactTarget bought Pardot) and Adobe bought Neolane. In fact, the last two major CRM publishers yet to make a marketing automation acquisition include SAP and Microsoft. Many pundits expect SAP to follow the trend in order to stay competitive, while most of those same pundits believe Microsoft will try to build out this functionality over several years.

Microsoft has acquired MarketingPilot, but this solution is more about Marketing Resource Management (MRM) than marketing automation. For reference, MRM is focused on managing and measuring campaign related resources and spend, while marketing automation is focused on acquiring more leads and accelerating those leads through the revenue cycle.

With Microsoft looking like the last CRM software green field opportunity for independent marketing software publishers, there’s a flurry of competitive jockeying to secure market position and penetrate the large and growing Dynamics CRM install base.

This marketing software review takes a look at the top marketing automation solutions designed to work with Dynamics CRM. It’s my intent to identify differentiation, strengths and weaknesses which permit potential adopters to more quickly hone in on the application that best serves their particular objectives.

A Note on Embedded versus Integrated Marketing Automation

There’s an overarching difference in how the marketing automation systems in this review are positioned.

ClickDimensions, CoreMotives and SalesFUSION are part of a growing trend of marketing automation systems being embedded within the CRM application. The benefits of this approach are many, and include a central marketing data store and a more unified user experience. The marketing software is hosted in the cloud, but most of the data is stored in CRM tables, whether your Dynamics CRM is installed on premise or hosted. This makes marketing data locally available for queries, SSRS reports, workflow, customization and other situations where marketing and sales data can be mixed for business purposes.

However, this unified marketing and CRM approach is not the norm, and has not been adopted by the market leading marketing automation systems such as Eloqua, HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot (now part of the Marketing Cloud). Instead, these marketing systems operate in an integrated (as opposed to embedded) fashion which effectively retains (unqualified) leads in the marketing system and pushes sales-ready leads to the CRM application. While this integrated approach can impact the user experience by requiring operation in two separate applications, the reality is that marketers generally spend their time in the marketing application while sales people spend their time in the CRM app. More so, this integrated approach offers more advanced marketing functionality (such as progressive profiling, interactive dialogues, multi-source lead attribution, etc.) and greater scalability.

Interestingly, the upcoming Microsoft MarketingPilot solution will also use the integrated approach whereby a Connector will sync campaigns, but leads and their activities generated in MarketingPilot will not reside in Dynamics CRM. Instead, marketers will use a drill-back feature to the actual lead data in MarketingPilot.

Whether an ‘embedded’ approach or an ‘integrated’ approach is best for you will depend upon your requirements and objectives.

Marketing Pilot

MarketingPilot was not included in this review for two reasons. First, the Gemini version is not really Generally Available (GA) with Dynamics CRM. Second, despite some loose language, MarketingPilot is not a marketing automation system. It’s more of a Marketing Resource Management (MRM) system, with some basic marketing automation features. All that said, if MarketingPilot enhances its marketing automation capabilities, which Microsoft suggests it will, I will likely include it in the next update.

About This Review

I had multiple conversations with the executives at each of the marketing software companies, and also received demos and in some cases trial accounts. Fortunately, I was also able to seek out my own references for each product in order to get direct customer feedback. Also, recognize this a limited review, based largely on factors that are considered important as determined in my frequent discussions with Chief Marketing Officers as well as my opinion of what capabilities are delivering the most material benefits.

Due to the fast changing market and products, and the significant increase in marketing software spend by CMOs, this review will be updated annually. I expect to publish the next release in Q3, 2014.

Next: ClickDimensions Review >>

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