By Jason Gumpert, Editor
If Microsoft's recent MarketingPilot
acquisition left you scratching your head, chances are you weren't
alone. Few people in the Microsoft
Dynamics CRM space seem to have known about the small software company before October, with several marketing
automation vendors telling us they had never seen the company competing on a Dynamics
So while MarketingPilot's mix of marketing management
capabilities around planning, resource management, brand management, and more may
not be a typical focus area for many in the Dynamics CRM community, Microsoft's
investment reflects a belief that there is an opportunity to win more--and
presumably bigger--CRM-related deals in organizations where traditional CRM
marketing features don't go far enough.
While MarketingPilot's capabilities can in part be referred
to as Marketing Resource Management (MRM), it is a term that can cover a range
of capabilities that sometimes includes marketing automation and integrated
marketing management (IMM). Microsoft has
highlighted several key capability areas that it values:
It's also in the terminology where things start to get a
bit fuzzy for both the industry and for buyers.
For example, Dynamics CRM corporate vice president Bob Stutz's initial
blog post announcing the acquisition, titled "Microsoft
Dynamics CRM Steps Forward in the Marketing Automation Space," had some
observers thinking of more traditional marketing automation and execution capabilities
that several vendors offer in the Dynamics CRM space, more so than the
"integrated marketing management" or MRM space that the blog post
"MarketingPilot doesn't just do MRM," explains Seth
Patton, Microsoft Dynamics CRM product marketing senior director.
"According to Gartner they have traditionally been strongest in MRM, but
they have branched out over the last several years into also doing
Multi-Channel Campaign Management, Social Media Marketing, Lead and Campaign
Management, etc. Marketing Automation is usually used to describe the
Lead and Campaign Management portion, but also is used to describe the broader
category, and [we] agree that can sometimes be confusing."
The MRM landscape overall has been led by free-standing
products like IBM's Unica, Teradata's Aprimo, and SAS - all part of Gartner's
January 2012 MRM Magic Quadrant leaders.
MarketingPilot was labeled a "visionary" (lower right quadrant),
given its broad vision and capabilities, but somewhat limited by what Gartner saw
as its North American focus. Gartner
also noted that its customers were primarily in the midmarket but large
enterprise clients are increasingly considering the product. And they noted,
rightly, that MarketingPilot had set itself up as a good acquisition target
with its expanding capabilities in planning, financial management, and creative
production management, as well as its on-premise and hosted delivery options.
Who can benefit from
In theory, any
marketing organization that is serious about taking a data-driven approach to their
strategy and execution can at least use MRM principals. But the solutions out there are intended for
larger marketing teams, says Ryan Teeples,
a CRM and marketing strategy consultant who works frequently in both the CRM
and MRM solution areas.
"To draw a line
[from other marketing automation capabilities], MRM is about planning and
budgeting, building out project and task management, assigning pieces of the
project to different people, defining interdependencies, semantically getting
the language in line, and defining a common set of goals that roll into a
department budget or forecast," says Teeples. "[For example,] it
helps you understand how if one marketing group is targeting a segment of the
database, how it affects another group's marketing and how it rolls up to a
A pure MRM solution could offer Dynamics CRM customers a way
to improve their management, execution, and optimization of the full range of
marketing channels, starting with decisions made by the CMO. In discussing MarktingPilot, Microsoft points
to Gartner's prediction that, "by 2017, CMOs may have a bigger IT budget
than CIOs do."
MRM can also help with digital asset management. This is something that Dynamics CRM can
already do well, Teeples points out, if you know how to correctly bring in the
use of SharePoint document management
and libraries. These capabilities can prove valuable for managing digital
assets and developing a templatization strategy.
A range of possible
While the MRM-related capabilities found in MarketingPilot
and its competitors don't always link directly to traditional CRM solutions, there
are opportunities to bring the solutions together, but not without
challenges. As a competitive
differentiator, MarketingPilot's strengths could offer Microsoft a play on the
budgeting and planning that others like SAP CRM can already offer to
marketers. SAP CRM also benefits from
its integration to SAP ERP, so a use case that includes a Dynamics ERP solution
may not be far behind the CRM integration.
But MRM solutions are not without their pitfalls. For one
thing, MRM adoption is very difficult, Teeples has found. Even when a company
buys a CRM solution with MRM
capabilities, the MRM often goes unused or under-used, mostly because it
requires executives to adopt the tools, to change the way they work, and to
push their use into marketing organizations that include people with a variety
of backgrounds who all want to run campaigns their own way.
"What I'm intrigued by is how Dynamics CRM will use
MarketingPilot to be something of a project management function. There are plenty of add-ons that exist and you
can even use SharePoint with Project Server integrated to CRM, but this changes the dynamic because you
have a tool designed for marketing project management which can exist within
CRM potentially, and how does that affect the customer service team and sales
team with their project management?"
Marketing segmentation is another area where the MRM approach
might differ from what Dynamics CRM users typically think of when it comes to
segmenting CRM data through a tool like Advanced Find. "Developing A-B spits, building a test
and offer matrix, it will be very interesting to see how those work together
where you have the planning and database analysis as a lead in to the delivery
and execution piece."
As for why Microsoft targeted MarketingPilot specifically
for acquisition, Microsoft has stated that the company has "a comprehensive
vision for Integrated Marketing solutions that aligns closely to our
vision. In addition, they have a talented team and an innovative product
suite built on Microsoft technologies available both in the Cloud and
As for the other
marketing automation vendors that typically work with Dynamics CRM customers
today, Patton believes there is plenty of space for them to coexist with
MarketingPilot's offering in the future. "We believe there will still be a lot of
room for us to have a Marketing Ecosystem of partners which will help us
differentiate our offerings in this space now and in the future," he said.
Patton's prediction sounds reasonable given what we know now. MarketingPilot has apparently never competed on deals with the
popular marketing automation solutions that make most of the Dynamics CRM customer
short lists today, so presumably they have neither the exact technology mix or
strategic focus on those customers.
There is no guarantee, of course, that Microsoft can't start edging the
product in that direction, but investing in recreating marketing execution
capabilities that ISVs are already innovating on at top speed seems like nothing
but a good way to divert focus from the integration of other high value
marketing management capabilities around planning, budgeting, asset management,
and so on, that Microsoft is stressing already.
If nothing else, the
MarketingPilot story will begin to raise awareness among Dynamics CRM users and
professionals about the possibilities of integrated marketing management, which
is ultimately about creating a system of record for marketing teams to account
for execution based on specific strategy and measurable tactics. Pushing more marketers to adopt such data-centric
ideas can only help boost the value of CRM.
"The line between
marketing and technology is getting very blurry," says Teeples. "And
as a result, the need for marketers to understand technology at better depth is
vital. I encourage all marketers to understand basic database schema,
understand how CRM can be integrated to a content management solution, and how
that plays into marketing automation and the acronyms of technology. All those things are important for a true
data-driven marketer, which I think all marketers should be."