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Dynamics Marketing

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Introduction

The introduction of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM) in Q2 2014 (code-named the “Mira” release) brings a whole new tool set with which Dynamics professionals must gain familiarity, particularly if they’re considering taking the MB2-720 Functional Application in Microsoft Dynamics Marketing exam as professional recognition of their knowledge.

MDM was created around Microsoft’s acquisition of the Marketing Pilot software in October 2012 and this article is intended as a quick overview of the product if, like me, you are coming from a solid Dynamics CRM background and want to understand where it fits in, how it is priced and technically how it integrates.  This is intended as a technical quick start therefore.

In the next few months I will prepare for exam MB2-720 and so will also post my revision notes and observations on that when my own knowledge of the tool has improved.


Functionality

MDM is quite a different beast from Dynamics CRM and here are the key points to bear in mind if you’re approaching it: –

  • It is only available as an online service.  You sign up via your Office 365 portal and access it via the browser only.  It worked best in IE11 for me and some functions (such as navigating the folder structure for assets) did not render at all in, for example, Chrome.
  • The interface is very similar to Dynamics CRM with a top-level primary navigation of tiles that splits to a secondary list of options.
  • The security model is very different from CRM with a limited number of user types (Regular User, Media Buyer for instance) and a set of roles that we can add to a user and afterwards modify in a grid of permissions.
  • It is centred around a set of powerful campaign management tools that you’ll easily find articles and blog posts about.  There’s a campaign workflow designer for automated actions (screenshot below) and an in-built email editor.  These are the most popular and well-known features and includes mass mailing of your email shots and tracking of opens, click-throughs, bounces etc.  There’s also quick functionality for managing opt-on, opt-off subscription lists, getting email recipients to sign up via a web form and tracking web page visits.  Auto-scoring of leads is another crowd pleaser.MDM2

FIGURE 1: Campaign Automation flowchart in Dynamics Marketing

  • Almost all the material I found online related to these core features but if you scratch the service there is a very rich and complex set of additional functionality with which you’ll need to be familiar for exam MB2-720 and for mastery of the tool.  This includes the screens for managing assets, routing marketing material for approval with on-screen mark up and a very complex mini ERP system that tracks your Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, expenses, timesheets, media purchasing, purchase orders, inventory valuation etc.
  • Personally it was this ERP aspect that I found most difficult to learn since it’s a mini “Dynamics AX” for marketing and I’ve yet to find good training material that starts from the basics for someone without a rudimentary knowledge of accountancy practices!

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  FIGURE 2: Mini-ERP functionality of Dynamics Marketing

  • The integration process to link CRM to MDM is relatively straight-forward and involves an initial request to Microsoft Support to turn “on” the connector.  A Service Bus in Azure is used for the exchange of data between the two systems so you’ll need an Azure account to enable your integration.
  • Like Dynamics CRM, MDM exposes an ORest service that can be consumed from Excel for the production of Power View, Power Map visualisations that you can then publish back to a Power BI website.  There’s even a Power BI “widget” for the home page (an IFrame that points at a Power BI URL) so that you can deliver your report there.
  • There’s no concept of Dashboards similar to Dynamics CRM, each user is free to add components to their home page as best suits their needs.
  • When viewing a single record, any data in a one-to-many relationship is shown at the bottom of the page in a section that you can modify by selecting the title from a drop-down list.  Confusingly some of the training material I have seen refers to this area of the tool as “Dashboards” e.g. the Contacts Dashboard to show the people who work at an Organisation.
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FIGURE 3: Power BI visualisations of Dynamics Marketing Data


Licensing

MDM is available at the Enterprise level of licensing, which also adds the Unified Service Desk and Parature Knowledge management services to CRM.  This level of license was announced in June 2014 and is in force at the time of writing (October 2014).  My understanding is that you therefore need, at minimum, one user with Enterprise license privilege for MDM to be activated.

You can buy an Enterprise license for a user of your existing CRM and this will cost US$200 (EUR153) per user per month or, if you are not a Dynamics CRM customer then you can also purchase MDM “stand-alone” for US$125 (EUR96) per user per month.  This underlines the important fact that MDM can be happily used without any integration to CRM whatsoever.

After these licensing costs the only additional costs you might incur are for increasing the ceiling on how many mass emails you can send per month (an extra 10,000 mailings will cost you US$50 / EUR41 per month).  By default you get 50,000 mailings per month included in your licensing.  Also, if you need to purchase extra GB for the storage needs of your solution you will pay US$9.99 / EUR8.20 per GB per month.


Integration

If you want to link your MDM and CRM instances then the high level steps are: –

  1. Have active CRM and MDM instances of course!
  2. File a request through the Office 365 Service portal that Integration Services be enabled for you.  I recommend doing this first since although Microsoft turn the requests around pretty quickly, this can take a few days.
  3. Download and run the Connector installer .msi file which will extract a CRM solution file.
  4. Install the CRM solution file in to your CRM Instance via Solutions.
  5. Set up a user with appropriate rights to act as the synchronisation agent in CRM and in Marketing note that this user does therefore consume a license.
  6. Configure an Azure Namespace as your communication bus.
  7. Perform initial synchronisation (this took about 45 minutes for me with minimal data the first time so you need to be patient).
  8. Perform some tests to ensure that the default, out of the box entities are being synchronised in near real-time.

Microsoft provides an excellent walkthrough of connector configuration in this video and there’s also a great detailed blog article of each of the connector steps listed above.  I worked from both links and the integration went surprisingly smoothly.

Once configured, entities like Accounts, Contacts and Marketing Lists are synchronised.

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FIGURE 4: Welcome Page customised per user in Dynamics Marketing


Resources

A round-up of useful links then for learning the tool includes: –