By Bridget McCrea, Contributing Writer

Microsoft's 2012 acquisition of MarketingPilot has the potential to put a full spectrum of integrated marketing management (IMM) tools into the hands of Dynamics CRM customers this year. According to Microsoft, the provider's second quarter Gemini release will introduce the "Microsoft Dynamics Marketing" branding and will begin to integrate some of MarketingPilot's features into Dynamics CRM Online, including collaborative project and digital asset management, social media, analytics, and campaign management.  

But with IMM tools still so new to so many, will users be ready to take advantage of the capabilities?

Key IMM Drivers  

IMM focuses on planning, budgeting and spending  by marketers with a goal of executing campaigns that directly tie marketing investment to business results.  IMM and its related competency of marketing resource management (MRM) are becoming a "mission critical area for most enterprises," says Brad Koontz, director of product marketing at CustomerEffective in Greenville, S.C. "Most people in the CRM space have heard the claim that either now or in the near future, a CMO's IT budget will exceed that of the CIO."

Kim Collins, research vice president, CRM, at Gartner in Stamford, Conn., says the firm is seeing more interest in MRM and that accountability is a key driver of that trend. "Many marketing organizations are starting to realize that they have to be more accountable," says Collins. "Gone are the days when you could just keep spending and spending on advertising and get away with it."

Increased use of mobile and social are also pushing companies in the direction of MRM, according to Collins, who sees it becoming a bigger priority for firms of all sizes and across nearly every industry. "While large enterprises definitely have more complexity in their marketing organizations, along with more resources and people and budgets to manage," she points out, "sometimes the fewer resources you have the more careful you have to be about how you allocate them."

In a recent article in his CRM Watchlist series, CRM analyst Paul Greenberg compared MarketingPilot and Teradata Aprimo, the latter of which he identifies as a market leader in the IMM space. "MarketingPilot, a small competitor of [Aprimo's] who somewhat mirrors what they do," Greenberg writes, "is now part of Microsoft and thus has the resources that Microsoft can bring to bear." Greenberg also points to Infor (which recently acquired Orbis) as another key market player.

The Low-Hanging IMM Fruit

Koontz says companies that are currently using manual distribution of marketing assets or inconsistent messaging and branding are the top candidates for an MRM solution. "Really, it's anyone who needs to increase productivity of their marketing departments," he says. "This includes automating processes and approvals and using collaboration tools to streamline the creative process."

Beyond the functional capabilities, MRM ought to play a role in winning over the CMO and making a real case for ROI. In many cases, that ROI is driven by increased internal efficiencies, either in sales automation or some type of xRM process (like fundraising, loan applications, or claim processing, as in the case of a financial service firm), according to Koontz. "Once you have realized success in internal process improvement, the next logical step is better customer engagement," he says. "That's where marketing automation comes in."

To companies that will be getting their first taste of MRM as part of Microsoft Dynamics CRM's Gemini release this year, Collins says the technology itself is fairly straightforward but the change management that goes along with it tends to pose challenges. She sees project management as one of the "lower hanging fruits" for companies that are starting to use MRM, and says automating that function alone typically results in shorter production cycles, faster go-to-market times, and quicker product launches.

"A process that took 20-24 weeks to complete can be whittled down to 4-8 weeks with an MRM," says Collins, "depending on the type of programs that the company is using." Collins says MarketPilot's core competency in MRM will give Microsoft Dynamics CRM users "a prepackaged solution that they didn't have before - and one that is best integrated with the CRM set."