Dynamics 365 – The New Marketing App

The information about Dynamics 365 Marketing came out of NDA recently, but I did not jump to write a post about it. It is not that I am not excited about it, I just thought I would wait until the stampede of other “me too” posts cleared out a little. Having read most of them, I thought I would try and plug some information gaps.

Why do it?

Competition. While Salesforce.com has Marketing offerings, Microsoft had abdicated this to third-parties. With Microsoft’s shift to the cloud, their revenue model also shifted, just like all of ours. In our new subscription economy, Microsoft will now be measured by their recurring revenues. It’s not that ClickDimensions was doing a bad job, far from it. However they were collecting recurring revenue, that was directly tied to a Microsoft product, for a key component that the major competitor had. It was not in Microsoft’s long-term interest to let that stand. This was recognized a few years ago, and Microsoft bought Marketing Pilot (Renamed to Microsoft Dynamics Marketing “MDM”) specifically to plug this feature gap. We now know, and many of us recognized it at the time, that Microsoft bought the wrong Marketing product. In time, Microsoft also recognized this, and pulled the plug on MDM. But they still had to solve the Marketing gap. Looking back at a mixed bag of success with past acquisitions, Microsoft decided to build a Marketing Application from scratch. With all of the new capabilities that had been brought to Dynamics 365, there was nothing acquirable that leveraged the full power anyway… so build it they did.

Who to point it at?

Microsoft originally approached this new Marketing App as a Small and Midsized Business solution. There was already a planned track for Dynamics 365 solutions targeting SMB. This solved two potential items, first, it made clear that this was not going to be an Enterprise solution, so as not to ruffle Adobe’s feathers given their new partnership. Second, it was going to be Microsoft’ first foray into building a Dynamics 365 “Solution”. The same Solution construct that partners had used for years for ISV solutions and customizations, but that Microsoft had not needed internally before. With this background, it was probably a safer path to target smaller customers with this effort. Not that smaller customer are less important, even though they are, but their needs are simpler and success could be easier to achieve in that segment.

The Edge Bleeds

In architecting this new solution, there seemed to be less effort in trying to replicate existing solutions, although I am sure they looked them over. The major emphasis seemed to be making the most modern Marketing Application, leveraging Dynamics 365 features that we not even launched yet. It had to be quite a challenge to build the most modern application on a platform that was itself undergoing massive modernization. The Marketing App is built on the new Unified Interface Framework, makes heavy use of the new Custom Control Framework as well as Azure insights… all brand new stuff! This would scare the hell out of me if I were in charge. Instead, the new Marketing App is a literal showcase of everything that is new in Dynamics 365, much of which is not even available to partners to play with yet. Beyond just using the latest and greatest from the platform, the Marketing App team pioneered some areas on their own that will feed back into the core platform. They are actually getting a ROI on the effort before they even launched!

So how does it compare?

It doesn’t. If you come to Dynamics 365 Marketing from any other Marketing solution, you might be scratching your head. Of course, if you go from any marketing solution that you are familiar with, to any other marketing solution, you would also scratch your head. While they may all have some things in common, they all approach those things differently, and there will be a learning curve. At a high-level, one area that may be new to users of other solutions will be the Events Management capabilities. Beyond just webinars. Dynamics 365 Marketing includes the capabilities to plan and manage up to a medium sized Conference. Again leveraging one of the newer features of Dynamics 365: Portals. For your “conference”, from within Dynamics 365 Marketing, you can manage everything that is required from the Event website, speaker bios, attendee registration, etc.

Yes, in some areas, Dynamics 365 Marketing is light-years ahead, leveraging technologies that others don’t even know exist. In other areas, it may be light on some basic expected capability. Microsoft knows the gaps, and this April launch will present “Version 1” of the Dynamics 365 Marketing solution, it will be far from the last version. I have talked to the team and they have a 100 mile roadmap!

So what Marketing solution should you invest in?

Before I get into that, the aforementioned SMB plans have changed. Instead of a suite of Apps targeting a particular “size” customer segment, Microsoft has shifted the plan to a suite of apps that target a particular set of more basic “needs”, regardless of customer size. So does this mean that Dynamics 365 Marketing is available to Enterprise customers? Well sure, as long as their needs are met by the application. But in reality, Enterprise was not the target for this application, and for most Enterprise customers the Adobe option will make more sense. The real target for this application is the Small, Medium and Corporate customers and their typical needs. For these customers, their choices will usually include ClickDimensions, of course, but also external solutions like HubSpot, or Marketo, etc. Instead of trying to compare to each of these, I thought I would just give the pros and cons of going with Microsoft’s offering:

Why you Should go with Microsoft

I will assume that you are already using Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement.. if not.. why not? Dynamics 365 Marketing is a product being built by the same company that built the product it runs on. Clearly, if there are any technical issues, Microsoft cannot point fingers at a third-party.. yes they like to do that. If you are fan of using the absolute most cutting edge capabilities to create advantages for yourself, then you have to give Microsoft the nod. If, in addition to Marketing, you run events like Conferences, Symposiums, Annual Retreats, etc, then again Microsoft gets the vote. If you are looking for a fully integrated application, that is built in the newest framework, the same framework the entire Dynamics 365 application will be using shortly, Microsoft wins again. If you want to manage your application’s licenses and users in the same place that you manage your Microsoft cloud users today, that will be the Microsoft Cloud Portal.

Why you Should Not go with Microsoft

There will be bugs and there will be gaps. It’s a brand new product, and even with extensive private and public previews, not all things will be caught. There will be no experts on the product. Unlike other offerings that have built a network of knowledgeable, experienced consultants over time to help you, this will not exist with the Microsoft offering for a while. If you think your Dynamics 365 partner is that resource, you would be mistaken. With rare exception, most Microsoft Dynamics partners can do little more than “install” any of these solutions. Microsoft Partners are not Marketing Consultants, at least not today.

My Summary

So I would say it boils down to this: If you don’t mind taking a risk, with the potential reward being to leap-frog your competition from a technology standpoint, go with Microsoft. If you prefer to play it safe, and use the tried and true solutions that everybody else are using, don’t go with Microsoft.

If you are curious what gives me the credibility to say any of this, please give a listen to this podcast with myself and the Dynamics 365 Marketing Program Manager, Kishan Chetan. You will hear many things including this quote from the Product Manager “Steve is a cutting edge partner who has been engaged with us right from the start, and a lot of the feedback we got from him has helped us shape the [marketing] platform.”

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