Microsoft have realised that there is a strong demand for marketing automation software, which can be seen by the number of available third party add-ons for Dynamics CRM. In 2012, Microsoft responded to this demand by acquiring MarketingPilot and using this to create Microsoft Dynamics Marketing – their own marketing software aimed at helping the CMO or Marketing department carry out their continually evolving roles.
Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM) was first released in Q2 in 2014, making this December’s update the first one since its availability. While I have reviewed Dynamics Marketing against my preferred third party add-on, Click Dimensions, I wanted to revisit Dynamics Marketing following its Q4 2014 ‘Electra’ update, which promised to improve many features which had previously been lacking.
This post reviews the new improvements to MDM 2015 focusing on UX, email and campaigns along with screenshots. In this separate article I also go back to compare Dynamics Marketing 2015 to Click Dimensions and include an infographic summary.
My initial impression of MDM was fairly positive but I did find a number of critical gaps as well as being a bit disappointed with the overall user experience. However, as I mentioned in my first article, I would expect Microsoft will quickly iron these out during the first few releases. As this is the first update since being launched, I can safely say that Microsoft are doing just that.
General User Experience
User experience is so important for any piece of software, which is why it was surprising to see errors in the UX for Dynamics Marketing when first released. Luckily, this first update has addressed quite a few issues. While UX issues can be very small, it is surprising how much they affect the user’s journey and productivity. For example, one thing that frustrated me in the previous version was that when any calendar was opened there was no outline around the current date.
A small thing but when it’s gone you realise how much you expect it as standard so its great to see it amended in this release. Another example of improving the user experience is the increase in readability by having a grey background but with editable form fields shown in white.
This is, in my view, was the biggest weakness of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing as it is such a critical area of marketing now and it’s great to see how well this has been improved. Microsoft have brought in a number of new features:
Simple drag and drop email editor: Drag and drop editors are a fantastic way for marketer’s to create compelling email campaigns, without the need for HTML expertise. This drag and drop editor gives users the option of adding text, images and HTML to a variety of column templates and is simple to use without training.
Linked to effective asset database: In order to place images within your email messages, the images must be already stored within your asset file library. While you still have to navigate away to upload files it is a good setup to create your own asset library, which would be especially useful when restricting what can or cannot be used in email marketing as everyone works form the same central archive within MDM.
Preview on mobile devices: Once your email is built (or during the creation) you can preview how it will look on a smartphone, tablet and desktop PC, which is especially useful in today’s mobile-driven world. It also allows you to change the orientation from portrait to landscape.
Validation checklist: I think this is brilliant- when you go to send your email an automated validation checklist appears and highlights anything you’ve missed or highlights any concerns. This is ideal for busy marketer’s rushing to get an email out – if you do not convert HTML to text then it will tell you, or if the subject line is accidentally blank then it stops it from being sent. This just ensures emails being sent from MDM are always consistent and correct with the responsibility on the software and not the person!
Analytics & performance: The email analytics in MDM provide the information needed – opens, delivers, clicks, forwards, unsubscribes, however it is still difficult to interact with it (i.e. exactly who forwarded the email?) I have also found it difficult to keep visibility on marketing activity within Dynamics CRM, which the Sales team would be using, so I would hope to see continual improvements for the MDM connector (or perhaps later, integration).
One thing I do want to note, is that the ‘remaining email balance’ has changed and instead of showing the remaining balance for the month (user’s get 50k emails monthly), it now shows a restriction of 25k per day and 50k per month, which was not there before and could be problem for companies that would just use the email marketing for one large monthly email campaign or newsletter.
Campaigns were already impressive in the first release, and they have been further improved with this release. The drag and drop campaign automation was very simple, intuitive and visually appealing and this has been extended across the Campaign entity:
The addition of 3 new actions within campaign automation: A/B testing, Offers & Webinars (webinar integration with Lync). These give a further richness to the automation with A/B testing being a must-have and webinars and offers very useful if relevant to your business.
Improved Analytics: There is a new analytics tab within each Campaign which gives additional visibility on results and again, maximises on the beautiful visual display we see in CRM and had seen previously in the campaign automation. Here, you have the ability to create your own charts and graphs based on metrics you define – in an easily digestible format.
Campaign calendar: Finally the campaign calendar is a very effective visual for juggling multiple campaigns. This could be useful for holiday management, general time-keeping, prioritisation and awareness. The simple layout helps you to see when campaigns overlap and is a much more consumable way to view campaigns. Users are also able to click onto the separate campaigns, which brings the full campaign detail across the screen for a quick-view (while staying on the same page).
It is brilliant to see Microsoft address so many concerns and gaps within Microsoft Dynamics Marketing after only their first release. With the continual rapid release cycle, I think MDM will become a very powerful marketing automation tool.
While many issues have been addressed there are, of course, still more areas to sharpen and improve on. It also seems that Microsoft realise the power of great visuals over more text-based results and it’s great to see this being brought in more, making marketing results more appealing, easy to grasp and easy to create. In the evolving marketing landscape it’s vital for marketer’s to be able to show results and ROI and you can clearly see that is a priority within MDM.
The next release is already planned for Q2 2015 (apparently codenamed ‘Spica’) and I can’t wait to see what it brings. If in the meantime you want to know more about Dynamics CRM or marketing automation then please do get in touch or read through our News.
(For any further info on Dynamics Marketing 2015, these YouTube videos give a good detail into the updates.)