CRM and Marketing Automation

CRM and Marketing Automation

Written By: Dave Packard

from February 4, 2013

Of all the possible add-ons to a CRM system, none have been receiving more attention the last few years than marketing automation. I have had more questions about it than another other ISV solution, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain what it is and how your CRM system could benefit from it.

CRM Marketing

To start, let’s review the default CRM Marketing module. With campaigns you can track your activities, attach costs to each piece of the campaign and track your overall ROI based on the responses you get and Opportunities closed from it.


These are all great back-end features but what about the front-end of marketing?

CRM has two options for email blasts:
      1. the email router, and
      2. Outlook.

The router can send the email blasts in the background. Outlook can also do a blast but it must remain open and it will take a while for Outlook to process the entire list, so I don’t recommend it.

However, the downfall of both options is the lack of analytics. You won’t know bounces, percent delivered, click-throughs or any data on how effective the email was. This is a known limitation of CRM, so it was built to rely on third party solutions to fill this gap.

Standard email vendors can provide the necessary email tracking and some have integrations with CRM, but they only provide email. Marketing automation solutions provide email tracking and much more.

Marketing Automation

You have customers. You probably have email and snail mail addresses for most customers. But you also have a website. Do you know who is on your website? Do you know what they are looking at on your website? Do you know how long they stayed—on each page?

If you have web analytics you know some information about your site such as hits and where the traffic came from, but you don’t know who is on the site and what they have been looking at. Enter marketing automation.

Marketing Automation capabilities typically include the following:

  • Email marketing
  • Web tracking
  • Lead scoring
  • Surveys
  • A social media component
  • Campaign tracking
  • Web forms
  • SMS messaging
  • Nurture marketing
  • Landing pages
  • Subscription management

Everything is tracked in CRM, so sales, marketing, and customer service have visibility into all customer interactions, whether it is from an email blast or a website visit. Add in lead scoring and you can put customers into nurture campaigns to automatically receive news and updates about their interests, so their score goes up with each interaction until they are a “hot” lead and can be passed to a salesperson for follow up.

It’s a little like turning your website into a salesperson.

Big Brother?

So marketing automation can track customers and prospects on your website and let you know what they are doing down to the very second. The next question I often get is “So, is this like big brother?” No.

The reality of business today is that you must have an online presence. Customers and prospects typically start their research on your website, even if they already have met you face-to-face. They want to know more about you. Letting them browse your site anonymously is like having a brick and mortar store and refusing to interact with the customers who come in. A good retailer will ask questions, learn what you like, and offer suggestions. You should do the same on your website. Ignoring your website visitors is letting an opportunity slip through your fingers.

Plus, it will put you in good company. Amazon and Google have been successfully tracking customer web interactions to better serve their customers. That is not bad company to keep.

What solutions are there?

There are a few providers out there but my two favorites are ClickDimensions and SalesFusion. They both offer similar capabilities and both integrate with Dynamics CRM but ClickDimensions has a tighter integration.

Their pricing structures are probably the next biggest difference. ClickDimensions is based on the annual number of emails sent while SalesFusion is based on the database size with unlimited emails. Both are good options.

Here are two short videos from each:

ClickDimensions video

SalesFusion video

A Final Note

In October 2012, Microsoft purchased MarketingPilot, so I am interested to see what they will do with this recent acquisition and what effect it will have on the marketing module in CRM. An announcement about the plans is scheduled for this year’s Microsoft Dynamics Convergence in March.

To learn more about marketing automation and integrating it with your CRM system, contact Cargas Systems, a certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner, offering software, services, and support that help improve your business processes.