For many years Crimson has recommended ClickDimensions when clients have wanted a marketing platform. ClickDimensions remains a robust solution with many of the features most organisations use day-to-day, including email marketing, landing pages, and lead management.
Until now, Microsoft has missed the mark for most midsize organisations, instead touting solutions better suited to international business-to-consumer marketers. But with the introduction of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing, Microsoft has finally started to take the needs of modern digital marketers seriously.
In this blog post, I'll share my views – as a marketer – about why I believe it's now time to add Dynamics 365 for Marketing to your shortlist of marketing automation tools.
It's no secret that Microsoft has been working hard to mature their marketing solution; following the acquisition of several products, Microsoft has hundreds of developers working on the app. Here's a summary of current features that have been available since 2018:
According to Microsoft, this is a breakdown of current features and how they compare to ClickDimensions:
- Roadmap Autumn 2019
- Roadmap Autumn 2019
- Find more leads with AI-driven insights embedded inside Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing
Marketing organisations can leverage the power of Customer Insights to create and act upon strategic segments. Dynamics 365 Customer Insights (in Preview) - link
- Cloud architecture/Embedded intelligence
- D365 for Marketing: Disconnected from Dynamics 365 and built entirely on dedicated high-performance Azure microservices. Marketing insights derived from interactions data stored separately in Azure services.
- CD: Same cloud infrastructure as Dynamics 365, everything in the transactional system. Reporting and analytics dashboards run off of interactions and transactions stored in Dynamics 365. Can affect performance.
- 3rd Party, eg TeleSign - link
- Social Post introduced with April 2019 release (link) , Social Listening in Market Insights - link
- Roadmap Autumn 2019
Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing Pricing
Many of my consulting colleagues have been wary of the pricing model for Dynamics 365 for Marketing as it's based on the number of active contacts in the system. Active contacts could be people who are receiving your emails, responding to surveys or visiting your website (and therefore having their activity tracked). However, this pricing model isn't a new concept for marketers, and Hubspot has been using this pricing model for a long time. If you compare pricing to Hubspot, you'll find Microsoft is more affordable than Hubspot.
It's true that if you allow your database to get out of control, you could end up paying more than necessary for Dynamics 365 for Marketing. However, with new GDPR rules, good governance should help to regularly prune your contact database and prioritise the right people to stay in contact with. Indeed, the automation rules in Dynamics 365 could actually help you with such pruning.
ClickDimensions, on the other hand, uses a different pricing model, based on the number of emails you send. Clearly, depending on your email usage ClickDimensions may or may not be a lot more cost-effective option for you. However, it's not a simple comparison, as I'll explain.
Where is the advantage of choosing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing?
There are few stand-out features in Dynamics 365 for Marketing in my view that may well resonate with your marketing ambitions:
- Campaign workflow and automation. The campaign building tools within Dynamics 365 for Marketing will really help marketers stay organised. Marketing automation can quickly get into a mess if you're not careful; with automation rules triggering emails and tasks, marketing teams can easily become confused about who is receiving what and when. Worse, recipients will tune out from a deluge of messages if you're not careful. Microsoft has clearly put a lot of thought into this problem, and their visual planning tool really helps to understand your workflow and trigger points so that you can create more personalised experiences for the buyer that follow a logical route through the messy modern buying cycle.
- LinkedIn integration. For business-to-business marketers, LinkedIn is massive and proving to be a very effective platform for reaching business decision-makers. Microsoft's ownership of LinkedIn means that Dynamics 365 will always have an advantage over other platforms in terms of integration features. By being able to synchronise your data with LinkedIn will prove invaluable in enriching the data you're gathering and building multi-channel email campaigns.
- Event management. If you run lots of events, you'll appreciate the event management tools built inside Dynamics 365 for Marketing. ClickDimensions relies on integrating into Eventbrite, which can be limiting in terms of the control you have over how you present your brand to event delegates. Event management isn't a deal-breaker for most marketers, though, as Eventbrite is a good product. Nevertheless, any opportunity to abandon the tangled web of apps marketers now rely on to do their job has to be a positive move.
- More intelligent sales and marketing alignment. Integration is Microsoft's trump card because if both your sales and marketing teams are using Microsoft Dynamics 365 then the potential to use data more effectively has exponential value. At a simple level, having the ability to alert salespeople when their prospect is visiting a pricing web page is compelling. But by combining automation and Microsoft's machine learning, you can open up the ability to present tailored messages to prospects that actively move them along the buying journey.
A quick summary of the look and feel of the product can be seen here:
So should I choose ClickDimensions or Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing?
The comparison between the two products comes down to, in my view, your organisation's marketing maturity and its vision for how far it wants to take its sales and marketing function. If you see marketing as a chance to blast out some emails, set up some conversion forms on your website and do some basic tracking, then ClickDimensions remains an affordable, sound option.
If however, you recognise the value of data and the potential of artificial intelligence, then you will want to consider the digital platform your business is building that allows data sharing between functions. Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing isn't perfect – some areas aren't as slick to use as competitor products - but it's hard to argue with the overall proposition and the direction of travel that Microsoft is taking.
The public often imagines the age of artificial intelligence to mean humanoid robots serving us, but the reality is very different: Dynamics 365 is providing the building blocks for a very sophisticated sales and marketing automation engine that uses data to better understand how to interact with your contacts and serve up the information they need to make a buying decision. And that's the future of AI that Microsoft can afford to invest billions of dollars into each year to make sales and marketing robots a reality.