The standard marketing capability found in previous versions of Dynamics 365 CE could have been considered the least functional area of the platform. It allowed organizations to create marketing lists, create campaigns, including campaign activities, and send bulk emails through quick campaigns. This functionality may have been able to serve businesses marketing requirements a long time ago, but in society today, where marketing has become increasingly digital, requirements have evolved way beyond this functionality to the point that the old marketing features of Dynamics 365 struggle to meet those requirements.
For this reason, the marketing area of Dynamics 365 CE has become a popular place for ISVs (independent solution vendors) to create their own managed solutions. These solutions are either embedded into the application, like Click Dimensions and PowerObjects marketing add-ons, or act as “connectors” to other marketing applications, such as DotMailer. This has allowed the platform to functionally meet the changing needs of marketing in a more digital and omnichannel space.
In the past year, Microsoft Office com setup has redesigned the standard marketing features of the Dynamics 365 CE application and introduced the Dynamics 365 for Marketing application. This application is licensed separately, like the other Dynamics 365 CE first-party apps, and has been created by Microsoft to introduce marketing departments to the latest Microsoft technology and Dynamics 365 CE capabilities.
It includes the capability to create segments, design simple to complex emails, create behavior-driven customer journeys, score leads, and use an extensive event-management module. The event-management feature allows organizations to create an external portal for events and manage pages for events for the organization, from speaker sessions to event registrations. This blog aims to be an essential guide to this functionality within the Dynamics 365 CE for Marketing application and to allow you to get started.
Leads in Dynamics 365 for Marketing
Leads can be used in segments within Dynamics 365 for Marketing. However, leads must include a linked Contact record.
There has been an understanding that a Lead record is separate from a Contact record. The lead is seen as an unqualified contact and has historically allowed an organization to keep unqualified contacts away from the main data store of the Contact table.
This is done until they reach a qualified state, at which point a Contact record is created as part of the qualification process. Following that, qualified contacts would then be able to have leads created and associated under the “Existing Contact” field (or “Parent Contact for Lead” field), which represents existing or continuing business.
The way Dynamics 365 for Marketing utilizes leads is as an expression of interest and means a contact must exist for both new business and existing business, should they wish to be marketed to. It introduces a marketing managed process for leads and a period of time when a lead is “owned” by marketing before it is classified as a sales-ready lead. This gives organizations some distinct advantages, as follows:
•\ Being able to produce a lead lifecycle report through a contact
•\ It does not reach the sales team until it is scored or already prequalified for specific reasons
•\ Clear definitions between ownership of marketing and sales
•\ A single place to manage consent if contact should unsubscribe or change their preferences; this is managed in a specific area of the segmentation and would automatically drop out.
•\ The rare occasion of having two or more leads at one time is possible and can be managed
•\ Provide organizations with extensibility options should the preceding hold no distinct advantages. If the Lead record does not add any value to sales, the transition to sales ready could be automatically qualified through customizations, creating an opportunity, and instead full ownership of a lead can lie within marketing and be used to manage the topic or product marketing.
Organizations have, in the past, purchased leads that they often wish to keep separate from the main Contact table, as referred to earlier. If this is the case, it would mean that they would need to mark imported contacts as not sales ready and create a contact that has been set as “Marketing Only.”
The Contact record holds the details for consent and whether the individual can be contacted, and how, which is linked to data-protection regulations. The Contact record is a single point of change for this data. It also allows organizations to keep their marketing consistent to a single contact.
It can be argued that this approach to leads is going directly against the core Dynamics 365 CE platform. Dynamics 365 CE has, however, always had an “Existing Contact” record lookup field on the Lead form, and the change of moving toward creating contacts together with a Lead record (initially) would affect the organizations that are using a strict lead-management process (e.g., not creating contacts before creating a lead and qualifying).
The marketing-to-sales process needs to be defined when implementing these features. The ownership of the records, what and where exactly the transition point is from the marketing team, and where the transition happens to the sales team need to be addressed.
Obtaining this distinction and being able to attribute sales back to a specific campaign or customer journey is a challenging task for organizations and a core requirement of marketing to ensure they can measure the effectiveness of their strategy, even if it’s not just by revenue made, but by influence in the number of interested parties and contacts gained from it. Lead-scoring functionality can help in this area. A lead, which is linked to a contact, can be automatically updated to “Sales Ready” when it reaches a score.
At this point, any amount of automation can happen using configuration such as Workflows. This can include the owner being changed (which would drop it out from marketing views and into sales views), or it could automatically qualify the lead to an opportunity, and more.
Once sales owns the lead, they can see the Contact 360 in more depth, so they can have direct access to all the interactions associated with the lead and what has led to that score. They would be able to take the best route based on the information contained within that data to take the opportunity forward in the sales lifecycle.
Getting Set Up with the App
At the time of writing, Dynamics 365 for Marketing is available in a trial form, in the same way as the other Dynamics 365 CE apps; for example, Customer Service and Sales. It can also be added into existing subscriptions and licensed separately. Dynamics 365 for Marketing uses the Unified Interface and is not available within the Classic Client.
When setting up the application for the first time, users must ensure the home URL is set for the Event Portal functionality and agree to consent about the marketing data and how it is processed. Once this is set, it takes a moment, and the instance is ready to use.
Dynamics 365 for Marketing has it is own email servers that it sends the marketing emails from, and all sender IPs by Microsoft are shared with other organizations using the app.
This means a portion of the delivering of emails is managed by Microsoft, and by having a shared IP, the deliverability of the emails is improved compared with a new IP, which must gain the trust of email providers and build up a positive reputation score. There is the possibility that organizations can use a dedicated IP, which is discussed in the “Further Reading” section at the end of the blog.
Dynamics 365 for Marketing utilizes a small number of configuration records set up behind the scenes. These are the Default Content Settings, Default Marketing Page, and Default Marketing Settings records. These records are used to manage litmus integration (a marketing preview and testing feature), the address and core details of the organization, and the main Subscription Center that is linked to these settings.
Subscription Centers are a way to manage subscription lists within the Dynamics 365 for Marketing application and are covered in more depth in the “Segmentation” section of this blog. Subscription lists are based on the legacy Marketing List entity as a static list and are used to manage the subscribes and unsubscribes of customers.
These lists are associated with a customer journey, which, when it sends a marketing email, sends the subscription link details along with it for several reasons, one being a legal requirement to provide a way for a customer to unsubscribe.
Core entities are set up for marketing as standard, which includes the Contact, Leads and Account records. Any entity, including custom entities, can be set up for use within the Dynamics 365 for Marketing application;
however, it must be turned on to synchronize with the Customer Insights Service, which manages the segmentations. Despite any entity being able to be utilized in the query, the query must still end in the associated Contact record and in the linked relationship being defined from that query. Once an entity has been set up to be synchronized, it cannot be unsynchronized.
Task: Update the marketing settings to configure the app for additional entities.
\ 1.\ Open the Dynamics 365 for Marketing app.
\ 2.\ Navigate to Settings ➤ Advanced Settings ➤ Marketing Settings ➤ Customer Insights Sync to open a page and contains a list of the entities within the system.
\ 3.\ Select the entities checkbox that needs to be set up and synchronized.
\ 4.\ Select “Publish Changes” and wait for the confirmation at the top of the screen.
Segments are groups or lists of contacts within Dynamics 365 CE. Segmentation is a way to separate contacts into logical lists that have defining qualities about them relevant to the organization and their marketing strategies.
By targeting specific segments of contacts, customer journeys can be tailored to be more relevant and better suited to a customer’s needs. This can lead to a more positive interaction from within the journey, contributing to lead scores and more leads that can be passed over to the sales team. An example is where Contacts are in a specific geographical location or if they have purchased a specific product.
As referenced in an earlier section, marketing lists are used to manage subscription lists, which can also be targeted through segments that will be referenced within a customer journey.
To create a new subscription list and use it within a customer journey, a new marketing list needs to be created and associated with a marketing form. The marketing form is then associated with a marketing page to create a new Subscription Center, which is referenced within a Content Settings record.
This Content Settings record is associated with a customer journey. This allows tailored subscription links to be referenced within the email for the customer to unsubscribe or subscribe to a specific subscription list.
You can also utilize this list to send marketing materials to the contacts as a segment. When adding a new segment, set the “Segment Source” field to be the marketing list that references the subscription list you wish to use.
Marketing lists, where they are of a subscription type, are only ever static marketing lists. This means when a user unsubscribes or subscribes, essentially what they are doing is manually adding or removing themselves from this list.
For steps on how to complete these tasks, review the “Further Reading” section at the end of the blog under the heading “Subscription Center Management.”
Segments have three different types, as follows:
• •\ Static segments – Similar to a static marketing list, these are lists of contacts that are manually added to the list.
• •\ Dynamic segments – A list of contacts that is based on one or more logical queries from a direct or indirect relationship
• •\ Compound segments – A combination of other segments that are published
There are different routes by which to create Dynamics segments. They can be created by using the Designer, Flow, and Query methods. The Designer and Flow methods provide an additional function to “explore” a relationship, which shows a live map of the entities and their relationships to other entities, allowing a user to build a segment with extra visualization options.
The Designer method allows a query to be created by using lines of statements and operators that all need to evaluate as “true” for a contact to be included within the segment. Many more operators are being shipped in the October 2018 release of Dynamics 365 for Marketing, allowing greater control of the segmentation functionality.
Using the segment Flow method, you can easily create a more dynamic experience as it allows greater control when using groupings such as Union, Intersect, and Exclude within queries:
• •\ Union – Allows you to add another query group to the existing segment
• •\ Exclude – Allows you to define a query of contacts to remove from the total segment
• •\ Intersect – Target a specific query of contacts, and those matching this query will be taken forward only to the next segment, and the remaining contacts that do not will be removed
Segments need to be published and in a “live” state before being used. Once in a live state, the segment cannot be changed until it is stopped and changed back to a “draft” state. Live segments are ready to be used within customer journeys.
Creating Marketing Forms, Pages, and Emails
Dynamics 365 for Marketing has three core components that are used to send emails and associated content messaging such as landing pages to customers.
•\ Marketing Forms – Reusable form components used in marketing pages. These reference fields and data within the contact database. The form is intended to be filled in by a customer.
•\ Marketing Pages –Marketing forms have three core types: Forward to a Field, Subscription Center, and a landing page. These can be sent as a separate block within a customer journey and do not have to be associated with an email. They will be sent as an email, and the page will form the “email” design.
•\ Marketing Emails – Marketing emails are specific emails that are sent to a customer and can contain a marketing page, survey, or event and normally form a larger piece within a specific marketing strategy.
All of these components have built-in templates within the Dynamics 365 for Marketing app that are pre-created with expected forms those types of fields are used with. The Dynamics 365 for Marketing app comes with extensive editing capabilities beyond utilizing the templates and can be created using the drag-and-drop designer or HTML. The design can be easily previewed on some different form factors, from browser to mobile, using the preview feature.
Marketing forms have content and lead-matching strategies. Depending on the purpose of the form, it will be specified to create a contact or lead or create a new record based on the matching strategy. The matching strategy specifies which field or fields this matching should be based on. As a default, the strategy is based on the email address. These can be changed within the “Advanced Settings” area of the app.
Once a form is created, a new marketing page is created. The “Form” block can be dragged over to the designer and configured using the Properties tab within the toolbox.
Marketing pages can be utilized within a customer journey as a separate block, independent of a marketing email. They can, however, also be utilized within an email and appear as a “call to action” link in the same way the “Event” and “Survey” blocks are utilized.
An email gives greater context and control to users as to how the links are portrayed and presented to customers and can assist in encouraging them to click on the links within the email to follow up with the specific information (as opposed to being an independent page).
Emails can be created once and used within more than one customer journey, and can even be used more than once in the same customer journey if required.
Activity Marketing Templates
Within a customer journey, you can add an “Activity” block, which automatically creates an Activity record in Dynamics 365 CE. This functionality is particularly useful when an action has occurred based on the behavior of a customer within a customer journey, which can trigger a certain follow-up action; for example, a Task record being created and assigned to a member of the sales team.
To create activities in this way, an activity marketing template needs to be created that specifies a subject, priority, duration, and specific schedule type for the activity being created as part of that customer journey.
When this block is used, the template is then referenced within the customer journey. The template can be set to be a fixed date, or it can be set to be delayed by a specific number of days, saving the time and effort of users having to complete specific details each time.
Customer journeys are behavior-driven journeys that are based on customer segments. Users can build customer journeys by using a series of blocks that reference an action, such as sending a marketing email, or reference a trigger, such as waiting for a set amount of time or after an email is opened.
Customer journeys are driven based on the subsequent behavior of the customer (Contact record) in each block. Based on their behavior, they move throughout the journey, triggering actions within that.
Customer journeys use the same process designer as seen in earlier blogs and originally covered in Blog 8, meaning the learning curve to get started with creating customer journeys is even smaller.
Simple to more-complex email marketing campaigns can be sent using customer journeys and other types of marketing, such as being sent “call to action”–style landing pages, newsletters based on subscription lists, event marketing, and follow-up surveys from a customer experience using the voice of the customer.
The types of blocks available are as follows:
•\ Marketing Email – Sends a marketing email to contacts that arrive at this block
•\ Marketing Page – Sends a Call to Action button that links to the page or can be embedded within a “Marketing Email” block as a child block. Landing pages generate new leads or update existing leads based on the matching rules.
•\ Event – Similar to pages, are linked as child blocks within an email •\ Survey – Similar to events, are linked as child blocks within an email •\ Activity – Generates a new Activity record in Dynamics 365 CE
•\ Launch Workflow – Launch a workflow process as part of the customer journey
•\ Segment – A selection of people to target
•\ Record Update – Use to add Contact records at a stage in the journey •\ Scheduler – Waits for a particular time before continuing
•\ Trigger – Added after emails, pages, and events that are referenced in the properties and the specific trigger selected. Trigger actions change depending on what they are referencing.
•\ Splitter – Sends a random amount of contacts down a path
•\ Splitter Branch – Used with splitter tiles to create branches in the customer journey
Customer journeys are linked to a Content Settings record that references the Subscription List that manages new customers subscribing to that list and those existing ones unsubscribing. A suppression segment can be added so that a journey can reference a segment of contacts who should not be sent any of the content from this journey, even if they exist within the specified segments.
Lead Scoring and Grading
Leads are normally created from landing pages sent from a customer journey. Landing pages can be configured for many different things depending on the business and the marketing strategy. Common uses of landing pages are for when a customer is downloading content from the organization’s website, for registering for an event, or for signing up for a subscription list.
When a customer completes a form and submits it, based on the lead-matching rules configured within Dynamics 365 for Marketing (covered earlier), a new lead is created or an existing one is found. If a new lead is found, it can activate one or more lead-scoring models configured within the system.
Lead-scoring models are simple condition and action processes that are created based on a condition activated by a customer, such as an email clicked.
Once the condition is met, then, an action takes place, which can lower or increase the overall score by a set numerical amount. The overall score contributes to the “grade” based on where that score sits within specific boundaries set within the “Grades” properties within a lead-scoring model. Leads can be scored and graded using more than one model when they appear on a sub-grid within the Lead record.
Lead models also have a specific “sales-ready” score set. The sales-ready score is the score a lead needs to reach (from any model) for the ‘Sales Ready’ (yes/no) field on the Lead to be automatically updated to “Sales Ready”. Based on this action, any number of specific customizations can be completed, as discussed in the “Introduction,” in the lead-qualification process of your organization.
This blog has covered the essential details of the Dynamics 365 for Marketing application. It has covered core definitions of leads and how they are used within the app. This section is important, as without a Contact record associated with an entity referenced within a segment, the query will not be able to find a contact to use within a customer journey.
The blog then went on to highlight how marketing lists are used to create subscription lists, which can be used to market to segments and can also be used in marketing forms to manage customers who are subscribing and unsubscribing. Segments are a critical part of the marketing application as they represent who the organization is going to be marketing to as part of their overall marketing strategy.
The application allows these to be created in numerous ways and to be used in customer journeys to conduct behavior-driven marketing campaigns.
Customer journeys often create leads and actions from those journeys, which include triggers such as opening an email or clicking links. These actions can trigger lead scoring, affect lead scores and grades, and influence the accumulation of points for the “Sales Ready” score to be triggered.
Dynamics 365 for Marketing also provides functionality to run extensive event management, which can be used together within customer journeys to market the event, gain registrations, and facilitate the running of the actual event. The native capability within Dynamics 365 CE has been expanded extensively, giving marketing departments the capability to successfully execute digital marketing campaigns.
Special thanks to Mauro Marinilli, Group Program Manager for Dynamics 365 for Marketing app at Microsoft for reviewing this blog.