Microsoft Loads Dynamics CRM With Web 2.0 Features

Four months out of the gate, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online has been updated with Web 2.0 functionality to support Internet marketing campaigns, as well as other activities.

The new features allow users to create and manage online and search engine campaigns; research and bid on keywords using search engine optimization; analyze return on investment on the keywords using click-through and conversion rates; and capture sales leads from the Web using pages hosted by Microsoft or the organization’s own Web site.

Integration with CRM analytics further streamlines and unifies this search engine intelligence, Bill Patterson, director of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, told CRM Buyer.

Been There, Seen That

Much of this functionality — particularly the technology around keyword-bidding and ROI — has already been introduced to the market by numerous best-of-breed vendors, as well as such CRM Software as a Service providers as Salesforce.com, NetSuite and Oracle On Demand, Patterson acknowledged.

However, in this new version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, the company has ratcheted up the standard expected functionality, adding new options for users, he said.

For instance, Salesforce.com offers a Web-to-lead service, “but it doesn’t host the landing page for their customers,” which can be a major pain point for marketers,” Patterson pointed out.

“The customers we talk to note most marketers aren’t coders, so just giving them the code doesn’t help very much,” he explained, “but giving them a turnkey solution like we have done helps them significantly.”

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online takes the data that has been submitted in this process into a “data staging area,” where it is vetted to make sure it is accurate.

“We clean the data before it goes to the right salesperson, which is another way our service is unique,” Patterson said. “A lot of times that data is just not accurate.”

Microsoft has experienced delays in refreshing its CRM software, notes Denis Pombriant, and even skipped a whole version number as a consequence.

The market is likely to forgive the lapse, though, especially given the set of features the application now offers, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone told CRM Buyer. “A lot of vendors have been offering digital advertising and other related Web 2.0 functions, but Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online has been doing well. In general, Microsoft is viewed as a powerhouse that provides solid applications.”

As part of the service update, Microsoft is introducing a multi-engine marketing utility — Google is noticeably absent — through which users can research and purchase keywords.

It was the company’s intent to launch with the necessary code to incorporate all of the search engines, Patterson said. “We found Google is not interested in working with us.”

The company has also integrated typical search engine tools that measure page impressions and click-through rates with such CRM data as opportunities generated or actual sales purchased from a particular keyword.

The updated version will also scale to support teams of multiple thousands of employees and provide a direct link from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Resource Center to the Microsoft Pinpoint marketplace, where they can connect with more than 200 Microsoft Dynamics partners.

Future Upgrades

Made generally available in April, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online offers the same functionality as Dynamics CRM 4.0 — albeit run and supported in Microsoft’s data centers.

The upgraded version of Microsoft’s Software as a Service CRM application will be available later this month. Meanwhile, users can look forward to the next series of upgrades, which, according to Patterson, will include data intelligence and analytics, role-based dashboards, and a single sign-on with Active Directory for enterprises.

The company also plans to launch a new service level agreement after the start of 2009, he said. “We are seeing a lot of success with the early service because people perceive us to have the better value — a perception that will be backed by our SLA.”

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