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


Silverpop CoreMotives Review—An Independent Marketing Software Analysis

CoreMotives offers marketing automation software for small and midsize businesses (SMB) that also use Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The company counts more than 1,600 customers, 5000 users and 250 competitor conversions (as of September 2013), making it one of the market share leaders for marketing automation software within the Dynamics install base.

CoreMotives was founded in 2009 in Atlanta by Rhett Thompson and Jeremie Desautels. The company was acquired by Silverpop in March 2012, itself a marketing automation software provider to over 5,000 companies. With the CoreMotives acquisition, Silverpop became a two product company, positioning CoreMotives in the Dynamics CRM SMB space, and positioning is more popular Engage marketing software in the midmarket and enterprise space. While CoreMotives is embedded within Dynamics CRM, Engage is separate but integrates with Dynamics using Scribe for data transfer.

CoreMotives marquee accounts include Barclays Bank, BMW, Coca Cola, Phizer, PWC, Weight Watchers and a number of sports teams such as the New York Jets. While the product is not necessarily vertically focused, the company does well with higher education and professional sports teams, in part because Microsoft Dynamics CRM dominates these markets and also as CoreMotives has developed a Ticketmaster revenue tracking capability which allows marketers to track which email campaigns resulted in Ticketmaster sales.

The CoreMotives software is available on-premise, in the cloud or partner hosted.

Digital Lead Acquisitions

Non-technical marketers will find the email and landing page design tools simple to use. Landing page forms are similarly simple, and can be extended where necessary (i.e. field controls, field validations and the like) with javascript. Landing pages are hosted on Azure, but customers do have the option to host their own landing pages with only a minimal loss of functionality.

An interesting feature not available from some competitors is the ability to create custom URLs that include keywords in the landing page URL string. This is one of those features that the SEO gurus like.

Anonymous visitor behaviors are displayed in an iframe window. This may be a double-edged sword as it facilitates CRM performance by not bogging down CRM with very high volumes of detailed lead activity tracking, but at the same time limits the marketers ability to create queries with the data. This could become an issue for marketers seeking to identify anonymous visitors by buy propensity, such as querying for anonymous visitors with multiple same-company staff making multiple visits.

Another unique feature is CoreMotives built-in integration and bundled delivery of InsideView. This sales intelligence tool comes with CoreMotives for free for 3 months, giving new customers the option to try it and then subscribe if they like.

For the commonly requested function to alert sales reps when a named account or designated company is on the website or otherwise engaging with marketing assets, the marketing application can use triggered emails to send notifications, create tasks in CRM or simply display the activities in dashboards.

Nurture Campaigns & Email Marketing

Emails are designed and distributed from within Dynamics CRM. Email tracking is closely tied to website activity so that marketers recognize which emails brought prospects to the website, and what content those prospects consumed once they arrived.

Emails can be constructed using rules-based, dynamic content placement, which renders dynamic content based on a user profile, or a visitor attribute or behavior. Dynamic content does not extend to landing pages, which is in largest part a limitation of the embedded architectural approach whereby marketing data is housed in the CRM application.

Although emails can be created from templates, or what CoreMotives calls “Mailing Definitions”, the application doesn’t include traditional content management functionality (such as version control, check-in/check-out file management and asset security permissions). This is a common limitation of marketing automation systems, and more typically handled by MRM systems such as MarketingPilot.

Email testing is not as powerful as some competitors and this may negatively impact email deliverability rates. The system does support simple test messages and uses a built-in integration with Litmus to display a visual rendering of how emails will appear in various email clients and programs. Unfortunately, this simple approach falls short of identifying which ISPs, email clients and spam protection services will find objectionable content (and block the emails from being received) and suggesting resolution for such content before the emails are actually sent. On a better note, I checked Silverpop’s sender reputation scores and they were very good. This is in part as both CoreMotives and Engage force unsubscribes on emails and the company maintains dedicated staff to review and enforce CAN SPAM compliance.

A/B testing is newer and somewhat limited. At the time of this marketing software review, CoreMotives was in the Beta phase in offering a randomized (i.e. every Nth visitor) multivariate testing process. Currently, A/B testing for email is largely a cloning method, but that is expected to change soon. The company does not support A/B or multivariate testing for landing pages or forms, although does offer an integration with Unbounce for this capability. As with ClickDimensions and SalesFUSION, there also isn’t a method to validate an MX record in order to verify form registration email addresses.

An interesting and somewhat unique email feature is the One-Off Email Tracking, which permits individual email distributions to leads or contacts using CoreMotives’ Send Tracked Email function, along with the recipient activity tracking. Also, the MailGun function supports email distributions using Outlook or Gmail while still tracking recipient activity in the CRM system.

The email Subscription Center offers email recipients choosing to opt-out the option of selecting more targeted email distributions rather than globally unsubscribing. It’s a standard feature and good practice, however, few SMBs actually offer multiple campaigns for recipients to choose from, so it’s one of those good ideas that seldom gets effectively used.

As with some other native Microsoft-based marketing automation systems, the application doesn’t support advanced campaign features such as progressive profiling, the ability to switch campaigns and begin the new campaign at designated step, PPC integration, multi-campaign attribution or the ability to limit email distributions during business hours—a helpful option to increase B2B deliverability rates.

Social marketing is largely limited to posts to social networks, integrated social sign-in and showing what content is being shared and what traffic is sourced from social networks. Posts to social networks can be scheduled as a flight as part of a nurture campaign. Responses such as Likes and comments are then tracked. A social sign-in function is part of their form builder and helpful in improving form conversions.

Unfortunately, there’s not yet more advanced social marketing capabilities, such as integration with social network advertising, integration to Klout or similar reputation management systems, and most of all integration of lead and contact data with their social profiles. This last capability holds the most promise for marketers seeking to increase engagement and conversions by leveraging more personalized data for segmentation and more contextual messaging.

Finally, CoreMotives is adept at fairly high volume email distributions. The application can perform email bursting from within CRM application, as opposed to some marketing systems which may require the marketer to break up large email distributions into smaller groups.

Lead Scoring

CoreMotives lead scoring is simple but basic. Leads can be scored based on website behaviors, email responses, landing pages and form registrations. Lead scoring also permits some flexibility such as lead grades and limited negative scoring based on email responses.

While this may be sufficient for first-time marketing technology adopters, it may also fall short for some marketers seeking slightly more advanced capabilities such as the ability to track multiple scores for the same lead, the ability to score accounts (companies) and not just contacts, the ability to cap lead scoring activities (for example, only count a maximum of four website visits per day) and the ability to depreciate lead scores based on periods of inactivity.

On a better note, a relatively unique lead scoring feature is CoreMotives Rolling Lead scores which display historical point-in-time scoring. This time-based scoring allows marketers or sales staff to see the month to month lead score values to understand progress and trending.

Next: Silverpop CoreMotives Strengths & Weaknesses >>

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