Microsoft Flexes Dynamics CRM's Marketing Muscle

The company courts CMOs by extending its CRM solution with marketing and social listening technology from some recent acquisitions.

Following the "highly transformative release" of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 last fall, Bill Patterson, senior director of Dynamics CRM, said his company is keeping the momentum going with some major new enhancements this year.

Microsoft today unveiled Dynamics Marketing, a cloud-based multichannel marketing component for the company's customer relationship management (CRM) platform based on its acquisition of MarketingPilot in 2012. Rather than simply graft the technology onto Dynamics, Patterson indicated that Microsoft set to work on fully integrating and extending MarketPilot's capabilities.

"We have completely rebuilt that solution from the cloud up," Patterson told eWEEK. He also said Microsoft "expanded on it greatly" and that Dynamics Marketing has the distinction of being "the first cloud service completely built on the Azure cloud service from us." Windows Azure is Microsoft's in-house cloud services foundation for both consumers and enterprise customers.

The company completely overhauled the user experience, processes and analytics, enabling marketers to project and measure results with better accuracy, added Patterson. Dynamics Marketing also leverages Microsoft's user-friendly Power BI analytics visualization technology for Office 365. His group "exposed Microsoft's Power BI inside of Excel to the Dynamics Marketing cloud," he said.

In a statement, Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Dynamics CRM, said the product enables marketers to "create a unifying foundation that allows them to plan effectively, execute across traditional and digital channels delivering qualified leads to their sales teams, and analyze the results that prove the value of their investments."

Microsoft also unveiled Social Listening, a social sentiment and analytics product available at no charge for Dynamics CRM cloud customers (Pro and above). Based on NetBreeze, which Microsoft acquired last year, the offering ingests social data in real time, allowing organizations to draw insights on "sentiment, topics and tone" affecting their brands, services, products and people, said Patterson. On-premises customers can subscribe to Social Listening for a "nominal fee."

Patterson also revealed that Microsoft has officially closed on the deal to acquire Parature, a provider of self-service customer support software. Microsoft announced on Jan. 6 that it was buying the firm to "complement the existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer-care solution with core strengths in workflow, extensibility and process-driven user experiences that allow contact center agents to do their best work."

Separately, Patterson said the Dynamics team has been greatly enhancing its customer care and service components. Configurable case management and escalation systems combined with "enterprise-grade queuing" help businesses tailor their customer service operations to their needs and those of their customers seeking help, information or a fix.

Finally, Microsoft is looking to banish alt-tabbing from a customer service agent's repertoire. The company took the wraps off its Unified Service Desk, an efficiency-enhancing feature that "composes multiple user experiences all in one view," said Patterson. Businesses can customize their agents' UI and workflows using a point-and-click designer.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...