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What’s the Best Marketing Automation Software for Microsoft Dynamics CRM?


ClickDimensions Review—An Independent Marketing Software Review

ClickDimensions is a marketing application almost entirely embedded within Dynamics CRM. In fact, it can be difficult to tell what marketing software functions are Dynamics and what are ClickDimensions—and that’s entirely the point. To maximize simplicity, the application is designed and delivered as a unified or all-in-one solution. There’s no nightly syncs among disparate sales and marketing applications nor the tying together of different applications with a ‘connector’.

Founded in 2010, John Gravely (CEO) and Koren Tako (CTO), originally developed an email marketing solution in conjunction with ExactTarget, but later dropped it and built ClickDimensions. In November of 2011, the company took some series A venture funding to support its growth. That appears to have been a wise decision as revenue growth for 2012 was an impressive 256%.

The company’s target market is mainly SMBs, and the marketing software is largely horizontal. That said, ClickDimensions has a strong presence in high-tech, non-profit, higher education and professional sports teams (such as the Cowboys, Red Sox and Braves). Technology companies are by far the most aggressive adopters of marketing automation technology, and with Microsoft’s dominance in professional sports, several marketing partners have ridden Microsoft’s coattails in this industry.

ClickDimensions is well known within the Microsoft community. The company manages 422 Dynamics partners in 46 countries, is often the highest viewed app on MS Dynamics Marketplace and won the Dynamics Marketplace Solution Excellence Partner of the Year award in 2012.

Digital Lead Acquisitions

The marketing application delivers very helpful ‘Active Anonymous Visitors’ and ‘Active IP Organization’ views which display the IP Organizations (parent records) of anonymous visitors. That is, they show how many visitors from each IP address are actively consuming content. Tracking IP addresses separately (in addition to anonymous visitors) lets you know if your website is engaging with 10 people from same company but different locations, or the same person 10 times. This is one of those views that can be really helpful in determining which leads are qualified buyer opportunities and which are looky-loos. You can also build advanced find queries in order to filter anonymous visitors by user-defined criterion, and seek out the most active leads for follow-up.

In addition to creating a separate lead tracking entity for IP addresses to track multiple visitors from the same address, the application does the typical reverse IP lookup to identify anonymous visitors. My experience with reverse IP lookups results in anywhere from 20 to 40% of anonymous visitors being identified. It’s always higher for B2B visitors, and the larger your target market the better the lookup results.

The application can use Dynamics workflow to notify sales reps of named account behaviors or responses, such as email click-throughs or real-time website visits by named accounts or active prospects.

The application offers different form building tools depending upon your technical sophistication and requirements. Forms can be created in a drag and drop environment and appended with custom javascript if desired. You can also use their “Form Capture” tool to keep your existing forms and pass the lead registration data to ClickDimensions.

Form action responses are pretty routine, and include defined actions for appending to a marketing list, creating follow-ups, assigning email notifications, campaign responses, assigned activities and lead routing.

Nurture Campaigns & Email Marketing

Emails can be designed using a choice of editors, which include Block Editor, Free Style or Custom HTML. Each email designer is progressively more technical and more flexible. Emails dynamically insert lead, account and contact data and can insert configurable content blocks such as social links.

The Email Inbox Preview shows how emails will look on different browsers and devices and then does some high level spam detection tests to gauge email deliverability. My review of ClickDimensions sender reputation scores verified the company’s good deliverability scores.

Nurture campaigns support conditional logic and branching scenarios, however, branches only supports yes/no conditions. Actions may include email distributions, wait periods, user notifications, list insert or removal and CRM workflows.

Because of the tight integration, workflow processes can be created in either the Dynamics CRM workflow designer or the ClickDimensions Nurture Program designer. Dynamics CRM workflow includes ClickDimensions fields (to trigger events) and is probably best used for single field event activities. You can do more complex stuff, and the tool actually permits more complex logic than the CD Nurture Campaign builder, but it gets pretty technical and is beyond the skills of most marketers. Instead, marketers are more apt to use the Nurture Program campaign designer for more sophisticated logic.

Marketers are increasingly spending more on social marketing campaigns but finding it difficult to manage these efforts in a hodgepodge of fragmented programs. Marketing automation systems are slowly stepping up to manage these campaigns, but as verified in this marketing software review, each of the vendors varies greatly in their pace and breadth of support for social marketing.

All the marketing software vendors support the basics of social sharing (such as inserting sharing links on emails to promote and track social sharing propagation) and tracking of traffic, referrals and leads from social networks.

ClickDimensions goes a step further and uses some social discovery techniques to find and retrieve a contact’s social profile data, which it then displays as an iframe with links to the social networks. The view can be flexibly positioned in the marketing views or directly on the CRM lead or contact record. It’s a good start, and helpful for sales reps to glean contact intelligence, but unfortunately, key data elements such as title, location and the like can’t really be used in segmentation, marketing lists, queries or other marketing activities as the data doesn’t actually reside in the marketing or CRM system.

An interesting and unique capability not available from all competitors is the company’s heat map display, which measures click-through responses on landing page or email clickable assets. It’s a basic heat map but serves its purpose well.

In addition to nurture campaigns, the marketing software uses a function called OutlookCast to allow users to create on the fly email distributions to groups. Sales reps can simply create email in outlook and send to a designated Marketing List.

More marketers are leveraging Voice of the Customer (VOC) techniques in order to hone messaging, improve segmentation and fix broken processes. The ClickDimensions survey tool can aid this objective. Marketers can easily create surveys with a drag and drop designer that leverages simple if/then/else logic and follow-up with automated workflow responses based on survey results. Survey routines can skip questions or pages based on previous answers and the marketing application also inserts survey answers to the contact records and reports aggregate results.

Lead Scoring

Lead Scoring can be based on any ClickDimensions record. Lead scoring models are simple but limited. Typical lead score activities include website visits, page views, searchable keywords, form submits, emails clicked and opportunities created. Lead scores permit negative values and calculated scores can be manually appended if desired. Lead scores are also appended with grades. Lead grading generally identifies target market fit, or how interested a vendor is in a lead based on the lead’s size, industry, title or other criteria. Lead scoring instead measures lead activities and behaviors, and demonstrates how interested the lead is in the vendor.

Unfortunately, lead scoring doesn’t include several commonly requested features such as account (company) scores, depreciating scores based on periods of inactivity or lead score caps which prevent score run-ups based on activities repeated multiple times in a short period.

It’s also worth noting that custom code must be placed on all website pages that you want individually scored and tracked. While this is a requirement for every marketing automation system, applications like Marketo automate this capability so that marketers don’t have to manually insert and update page scores on every page of a website.

Next: ClickDimensions Strengths & Weaknesses >>

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