As a marketer I have always used Dynamics CRM to fulfill my marketing activities, so when I found out that Microsoft would be releasing its own marketing automation software I was excited to see what they produced and keen to try it for myself – not as a Microsoft Gold Partner, but as an end-user.
Currently I use Click Dimensions integrated with Dynamics CRM, so I wanted to see how Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM) compared and whether it could deliver all the required functionality or even improve on it.
To start, I did what I hope most people would do – I searched online! While there were some high level articles on both solutions individually, there was nothing comparing the two and very little about marketers actually using MDM. As I wanted to compare the two for my own use I decided that I would also take notes to create this article – in the hope that it would help other end-users.
Please note: We also have an updated comparison of Click Dimensions vs Microsoft Dynamics Marketing with an infographic comparing the two marketing automation systems. Please view this here.
The first thing you notice about Dynamics Marketing, is how similar it looks to Dynamics CRM, which helps to keep the consistent user experience. The next thing you realise is just how much there is! I was surprised by how many entities there were (Projects, Marketing Execution, Assets & Media, Budgeting, Performance and Settings) as well as the granular detail in which they goes into – just take a look at Event Management below as an example:
Quite quickly I realised that I would only need to use about a third of the functionality – not because it wasn’t useful but because I simply didn’t need it for my role. It seems that everything a marketer could possibly do is covered here, which makes it seem more targeted at the enterprise or large business market. Everything seems aimed at a large and busy team/department of marketers, such as routes for approvals, personnel management, expense claims and even time slips. The other thing to note is that currently MDM is a separate system (with a connector to CRM) so if you also want CRM open you will have to work across two tabs.
Click Dimensions in comparison, is tightly integrated with Dynamics CRM and all the records are found under the Marketing entity. Very helpfully all the records for Click Dimensions are shown in green to differentiate them from out-of-the-box records in CRM:
Both Click Dimensions and Dynamics Marketing have a wide range of offerings, so the top priority is to understand exactly what functionality is required - otherwise it can be easy to get side-tracked by features that really aren’t needed or cause an unnecessary jump in costs.
I defined my primary tasks as:
- Lead management – lists, opportunities, contacts
- Form building
- Web tracking
- Nurture marketing – automation
- Email campaigns – creation, subscription and analysis
To start, lead management is, in my opinion, well covered by Dynamics CRM (Professional) standalone. Out of the other requirements only Forms is lacking in MDM, which is a shame – this being the ability to build forms to capture information from website visitors (i.e. signup to newsletter, download this paper etc). This is extremely easy in Click Dimensions and also helps to automate the process by adding the new information posted into a lead form and automating any follow-up actions required.
I found the web tracking to be good between both systems – both easy to use and straight-forward, showing the analytics needed (landing pages, session times, exit pages, etc) and would say them are both on an equal level.
The nurture marketing for both are fantastic. Both Click Dimensions and Dynamics Marketing use a simple but effective drag and drop method (which I love). This makes automation very simple and can help take marketing to a next level with very little manual input. The Dynamics Marketing automation can be set up on the back of campaigns, which is very useful and the new release will also be updating this to include A/B split testing and webinar experience automation. Click Dimensions also offer a simple nurture automation with very similar functionality but I think the user interface for Dynamics Marketing slightly wins out of the two:
Finally, it’s email marketing. Click Dimensions is very instinctive – I may be biased as I use it regularly, but I remember it taking only a half day to get used to it before I was designing and sending email campaigns, which was primarily thanks to the fantastic training videos. The drag and drop builder is very simple to use and there are very useful functions built in – such as preview (on all devices and browsers) and A/B testing, plus the analytics are fantastic. Heat maps to show most clicked areas of the email, simple charts displaying amount opened/ read/ clicked and what pages leads went onto visit – so far anything I have wanted to know, Click Dimensions has been able to show me.
In comparison, Dynamics Marketing only comes with written guides that don’t go into as much detail as needed, especially as it is not very intuitive. The strong use of small icons can mean you’re not sure what you need to click and some of the drop-down menus are not immediately obvious. Small details that affect the user experience –the calendar is not automatically set to the current date – are all minor, but just make the user journey slightly stilted. I still do not feel very confident using this system, and one of the main reasons is the lack of a drag and drop editor – however this December update is bringing this functionality, so it will be useful to re-asses.
Small business with very little marketing? Perhaps just consider standalone Dynamics CRM to start.
Small to Large business with marketing? Click Dimensions. Due to its quick user adoption, simple and effective methods and established network it’s a great solution and also has short-term contracts so you can use it while Microsoft Dynamics Marketing establishes itself or to see if it’s right for you.
Large to enterprise companies with large marketing departments? Dynamics Marketing is worth considering. The well-rounded functionality that covers most scenarios is definitely targeted to the enterprise. While it may need a little while to develop, we know that switching to new software is no quick process.
For my own role, I will continue using Click Dimensions – it helps me to carry out my key requirements, and it does it very well. From my first tests with Click, I found it very user friendly and very simple to use and the amount of resources and support available online is extremely re-assuring – their customer service is regularly cited as ‘outstanding’.
While Click Dimensions fulfils all my requirements, Dynamics Marketing has shown me solutions which I hadn’t even considered. It may not be functionality I require at the moment but thinking long-term about a scalable solution is important. This scalability can be thought of in two ways: managing your marketing as your business (and marketing team) grows, and thinking about how the products are individually going to evolve. MDM is more suited to larger marketing ‘departments’ – and while we may not all have a large team, it is worth thinking (optimistically!) that the team will grow. As it grows perhaps approval routes and time management will become role-critical, which perhaps Click Dimensions won’t be able to offer.
In terms of product development, with Microsoft’s rapid release cycle, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing is going to rapidly improve and innovate. Click Dimensions are also strong innovators, but at the end of the day, Microsoft have a wealth of resources for R&D that few companies can match. (Did you know in 2014 Microsoft was the 4th biggest R&D spender worldwide?)
Click Dimensions is still the one for me but I will definitely be keeping a close eye on MDM releases – while it might not be quite there yet, I have no doubt it will be soon...
With the next release of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing happening this month, I will update my comparison with the additional functionality and will also include a comparative infographic for a quick, visual reference. (See this post here).
In the meantime, if you are interested in marketing automation with your CRM system, please contact us or keep checking our News section.