Gareth Cartman examines what Microsoft's acquisition of marketing automation provider MarketingPilot tells us about the changing CRM sector.
There’s a general feeling, spurred on perhaps by IDC’s forecast, that marketing automation is going to be the fastest growing segment in CRM over the next few years. Indeed, many believe that marketing directors are going to be allocated more financial clout than IT directors, with the shift from on-premise to cloud having already seen significant reductions in IT spend.
Bob Stutz, the corporate vice president for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, said that marketers are “being asked to drive the overall strategy and execution of customer interactions across multiple channels and touch points, and to measure ROI on those interactions.”
What this ultimately means is that marketers are becoming more and more adept at – and increasingly have better and better tools for – managing customer data. This customer data spans the entire organisation, from operations and customer service information through to billing, and increasingly, social media. What MarketingPilot gives MS Dynamics customers is a stronger vision of how customer interactions across digital, social and traditional channels increase revenue. It allows customers to manage lead and advertisement buying: this acquisition gives MS Dynamics an automated marketing arm that it previously didn’t really have.
The Dynamics-MarketingPilot marriage is a quick and easy one, and it’s not alone – Salesforce bought Buddy Media for around $700m in June, and acquired Radian6 a year early for just under half that amount. Oracle unveiled its own Social Relationship Management platform this month, having acquired Collective Intellect, Involver and Vitrue – all in 2012. Equally, Microsoft have are always buying, having just acquired StorSimple for greater cloud storage. Ultimately, there’s a ‘social gold rush’ going on right now, with CRM providers realising that if it’s not part of the core offering, it’s not going to sell.
Evolution, not revolution
So what does this acquisition, and similar ones, mean for CRM in general? Well, it’s not revolutionary, it’s evolutionary, and it’s something we’ve been expecting for some time. The talk about social CRM gathered pace two or three years ago, but mainly within CRM circles. As with all trends within B2B technology, the uptake is two to three years beyond the talk, and social CRM is becoming a reality in the workplace only now.
And yes, MS Dynamics certainly had social integration beforehand. With its activity feeds, users could like or unlike posts, just like in Facebook. They could integrate with LinkedIn (perhaps the most useful feature) and they could enrich their internal data with publicly available content.
Microsoft then went on to buy Yammer, the internal social network, with an aim to adding greater collaboration and social communication through Dynamics. While we’re as yet to see how Yammer will integrate itself into the Dynamics set, it does help pull MS Dynamics into Salesforce territory (although many say that it’s not in the same league as Chatter – yet).
However, what MarketingPilot gives Dynamics is the ability to integrate the whole range of marketing data into automated marketing campaigns – from newspaper advertising to social media, and that really does take Dynamics away from the traditional CRM space, and more into the area that Salesforce currently occupies.
It’s the new-found ability to take that social data and integrate it with the whole marketing data set that has really spurred on these acquisitions. Equally, the ability to bring together multi-channel campaigns and automate them is something marketers have been calling out for. The holy grail is to get detailed customer engagement signals – i.e. data that marketers can actually act upon.
But ultimately, as Josette Rigsby points out, users want nothing more than highly integrated, flexible solutions that “just work”. As we’ve seen in the past, Microsoft will take its time integrating its new acquisitions into the Dynamics offering, but it knows that the market has moved on from merely discussing these offerings, and has finally started to put both automation and social as its core offering.
Therefore, it is our responsibility, as users with a stake in the bottom line, to express clearly how social CRM can develop our understanding of the customer and ultimately deliver value for the business. And by value, we mean “adding to the bottom line”.
The CRM providers have seen the bottom line impact of investing in marketing automation and social media, but it’s now up to us to express exactly how SCRM is not just a marketing investment, but a business growth investment. And let’s go back to the words of Bob Stutz: “drive the overall strategy and execution of customer interactions across multiple channels and touch points, and… measure ROI on those interactions”.
If we learn one thing from the acquisition of MarketingPilot, it’s this: the CRM providers know you want to measure the ROI of social, and they’re all scrambling to provide the best solution for it. All you have to do is put together the business case, and it’s easier than ever.
Gareth Cartman is an experienced digital, direct & data marketer with several years' experience in driving lead generation for one of the UK's leading outsourcers, and developing online marketing strategies for B2B clients.