Microsoft Dynamics Marketing is about ready to launch, with a roadmap that includes two updates in 2014 and a semi-annual cadence into the foreseeable future. Microsoft officials said at Convergence 2014 that the updated product can be used by customers with as few as five marketers and as large as, well, there’s really no upper limit they say.
And the message will be one of simplicity and choice, Microsoft told media and analysts at the conference. Different marketers have different needs, and they will be able to turn on and off the different components of Dynamics Marketing to suit their needs. One of the first areas where Microsoft has moved the product forward from its MarketingPilot origins is in the area of email and social campaign management with an eye toward reporting and lead management.
Since the product is aimed at almost the entire range of Dynamics CRM customers and they have taken an early bite out of some of the core capabilities that existing marketing automation solutions bring to the Dynamics CRM market, it seemed like a good time look at where Microsoft stands compared to its ISV partners when it comes to selling modern digital marketing tools with Dynamics CRM. Who really has the advantage?
Rumor has it – and Microsoft has not confirmed this – that much, if not all of the acquired MarketingPilot team has now left Microsoft. According to his LinkedIn profile, the company’s founder and CEO, Ken Kornbluh, stayed at Microsoft for just 10 months before departing to start his own private equity and investment management firm. A quick check of MarketingPilot alumni on LinkedIn shows only one who remains at Microsoft – a developer. A few others seem to have moved into the Dynamics CRM channel while most moved on to roles that appear to be less related.
If true, this brain drain may or may not be a big deal to the Dynamics CRM management team. The loss probably accounts for some of the delay in releasing Microsoft Dynamics Marketing. CRM partners have consistently expressed surprise and displeasure at how long it has taken Microsoft to do something with MarketingPilot after the splash it made with the acquisition in October 2012.
Microsoft has smart managers working on the product, and presumably they’ve ramped up R&D, product management, marketing, sales, consulting, education, and support resources to oversee the vast product that was MarketingPilot.
But MarketingPilot didn’t seem like a pure technology acquisition, so it raises questions about how easily Microsoft can keep the momentum going in product development. As an informal comparison, a quick scan of LinkedIn for people who worked for Aprimo when it was acquired and are still with Teradata, the company that bought it, shows that at least a few Aprimo people in key roles have stayed on board in areas like product management and sales. There’s no such retention evident for Microsoft. Advantage: ISVs
Third party vendors generally acknowledge that Dynamics Marketing has introduced a smart mix of features – in marketing automation and far beyond into integrated marketing management (IMM). More importantly, the company is finding ways to make those features accessible to Dynamics CRM users without buying monolithic IMM solution – that’s something analysts have been telling Microsoft they had to do. But successful ISVs in the Dynamics CRM market have spent years developing features that are far more nuanced and tailored to their target audiences needs. For example, here are a couple of brand new features: SilverPop’s CoreMotives product just rolled out new advanced A/B testing across multiple email dimensions that can measure the effectiveness of different campaign options, then pick a winner automatically and shift the rest of the campaign to that more successful option. And SalesFUSION has rolled out new technology from a recent acquisition that adds predictive lead scoring to its core product. By contrast, Microsoft will roll out Dynamics Marketing without any A/B testing for email campaigns in their first release, though they have stated that it will be coming soon thereafter.
Spending the time to understand those segments has been a long, slow grind. To some extent Microsoft can simply look at other vendors’ successes over the years and replicate them if they need to. But even with an agile development methodology, Microsoft R&D will be challenged to move as quickly on tactical marketing innovation as an ISV’s team that is already dedicated to the cause. Advantage: ISVs
Microsoft just re-platformed MarketingPilot to Windows Azure. Yes, there’s lots more potential CPU cycles available to it now, but Microsoft R&D could now face some of the same issues that third party vendors have been fighting with and overcoming over several years of growth.
One such headache is managing the intricacies of email deliverability – sending emails on the scale of billions per month and keeping them out of spam filters. Microsoft has said it can handle 150 million monthly emails across all regions (presumably per org. But that type of volume comes at a cost, both in terms of performance and cost. It seems unlikely that the $200 per user per month pricing will account for such services, given that every other marketing software vendor factors in either emails sent, list size or some other metric to determine appropriate pricing. Advantage: ISVs
Marketing automation vendors have been working for the last three years or more to shape their go to market strategies in the Dynamics CRM channel. At this point, the successful vendors can tell you exactly what segments they are targeting and why – whether it is SMB or enterprise. They’ve also accumulated success stories from recognizable brands in a range of industries.
Now that ISVs see Microsoft bringing a Dynamics Marketing product to market with a broad sweep to it, those companies are going to push even harder to distinguish themselves as the trusted source that partners can count on to do marketing right. But that will be a new fight for ISVs, one that could place a new hurdle into their game plans. Advantage: None
Comfort in Simplicity
VARs want a simple message to bring to prospects. Sure, there are ways to position third party add-ons as a net positive, but in the end it would just be easier to sell a single marketing solution from their primary vendor. And that’s what Microsoft is giving them with Dynamics Marketing, more or less. They may technically still be separate products, but the integration is already looking tight for the Q2 2014 release and will only become more refined over time. And the pricing – a simple $200 per user per month level for Dynamics CRM Online customers who want to add Dynamics Marketing tools – ought to make for an easier sell than a third party tool. Advantage: Microsoft
Marketing automation vendors tell us that despite their best efforts, many Dynamics CRM vendors still cannot – or are not willing to – sell marketing automation on their own. Some vendors have been more successful than others in this arena. One vendor explained that despite a healthy sized channel, partners still call them to get directly involved most Dynamics CRM opportunities and implementations.
The issue when it comes to selling marketing automation – putting aside all the other areas that go into a larger IMM solution sale – is that it can be a complicated topic and it’s that second or third level of detail around things like lead scoring, campaign management, business process management, and CRM integration where subject matter experts can hear a prospect’s pain points and turn the software into a solution.
Having great mindshare in the partner channel already would have been a great win for vendors, but it may not be there as they’d like it to. Microsoft, with its large training organization, may do a better job at getting marketing automation (and perhaps broader marketing resource management and integrated marketing management) skills out to Dynamics CRM partners – with a Dynamics Marketing focus, of course.
This may be the factor with the most unknowns to wonder about for now. It remains to be seen whether there are Microsoft experts beyond product marketing who are ready to evangelize and train others on the ins and outs of the huge range of features in Dynamics Marketing. Partner expertise may be an area that hurts some vendors more than others depending on how they go to market. Advantage: None
Conclusions: A winner?
There’s no winner take all moment here, though it’s not the same game as it was three years ago. Marketing vendors we spoke with at Convergence 2014 tell us they’re as committed as ever to the Dynamics CRM channel, some more than they were last year. ISVs who are doing well today have a lot going for them – great customer wins, more advanced features, name recognition, relentless focus, and a better awareness of their optimal target markets. Microsoft has everything else – the hype, the budget, the advanced IMM platform, and the most direct access to its channel partners of all sizes.
Shared via http://msdynamicsworld.com/story/marketing-solutions-dynamics-crm-6-ways-measure-microsoft-against-market
By Jason Gumpert, Editor. Published March 9, 2014