CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management II

CuttlefishThis piece expands on the preceding cuttlefish analogy loosely taken from a PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage”. Just as cuttlefish were driven to develop intelligence to deal with a challenging ocean environment, so will CRM need to evolve to managing the total consumer relationship to keep the corporation alive in a real-time social web environment. To oversimplify (and irritate all of the product vendors out there), CRM now essentially manages the sales pipeline (i.e. the food supply of the corporation). Of course there are second and third derivative benefits, such as managing sales force statistics and marketing effectiveness, but the prime directive is essentially feeding the primal corporate beast.

This matches the analogy to any cuttlefish, food first (skip reproduction, not something I want to envision for corporations). Second is defense within the ecosystem, as it is best not to be eaten it you want to be successful. Before we can dive into the evolutionary changes that will occur to CRM we need to look at the environmental drivers of natural selection. I will break the topic into three pieces; a loose description of the ecosystem, how typically corporations handle the external ecosystem, and why it matters.

The ecosystem has become much more complex with the advent of the Social Internet, with the resultant time compression of impression dissemination throughout the total consumer population. Combine the increasing number of competitors, regulators, and special interest groups (predators), with an increasingly informed consumer (food); life for a corporation looks as difficult and precarious as in any primeval cuttlefish sea. A plethora of content starved, advertising fed Web sites are an archival repository of free and unedited consumer opinion, comparison, recalls, pictures, demonstrations, and any combination(s) of products and services (real and imagined). Social media provide the neural synapses of communication for all of this (dis)information to consumers, special interest groups, media, and regulators. Time and thoughtful editing have been successfully disintermediated from the environment.

Like a cuttlefish, most corporations swimming in the Web, have a marketing group who may (or may not) perform market research, target customers, and report market direction. Legal, finance, and engineering/development groups usually track regulation and compliance. Public relations will handle corporate communications. Naturally, all of this will be done independently in the organization, essentially in a vacuum. Some efforts will not even have a persistent data repository or memory, and likely none of it will be correlated and indexed for learning and re-use. In fact, the supporting corporate “senses” are rudimentary and essentially manual (endangered species material to say the least).

Why does it matter now, if it has not to date? Because the Web ecosystem itself has changed with the integration of social media. A Twitter or Facebook reference on any SmartPhone can direct customers to a YouTube video of your company’s semi-transparent exercise pants, its signature product. Even better, an ambitious DA has decided to round-up your customers for indecent exposure after “Mothers for Decency” (an advocacy group) cite your product for contributing to the corruption of minors (cash contributions abound for the DA and “Mothers for Decency” from concerned citizens). Federal and State regulators contact your warehouse in LA regarding your violation of garment content labeling laws with respect to importation and distribution. Your successful corporation is now on full display in the Web ecosystem for predators and number one on the endangered species list (cuttlefish extinction event).

As ridiculously contrived as the example is, the potential is obvious and needs to be addressed. Natural selection in the market will force corporations to evolve and the most successful will prosper. I contend the current corporate IT system most apropos to evolve to act as a repository to consolidate and index is CRM. CRM systems are by their nature flexible to extension and for the most part the latest and most up-to-date addition to corporate IT. Ultimately, this environmental information pertains to all levels of customers; past, current, and potential, a true universe of consumers.

Next we will look at some natural extensions and architectures to evolve.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – Fall 2013

In the fall of 2013 Microsoft will release their next major release of their Customer Relationship Management software, Dynamics CRM. The target date of this release is October 2013 and is a major step forward for those who desire a more intuitive, guided approach to CRM systems.  It also includes much needed enhancements in the realms of social collaboration and mobile access. Microsoft codenames intermediate releases after stars and originally planned for this release to be “Orion”. Microsoft has since made the decision for this to be a major release and have named it Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. Some of the changes were partially available in the previous intermediate release named “Polaris”. This new release of CRM takes Polaris to an entirely new level. Below are a few highlights of the new platform:

Flat, Modern, Ubiquitous User Interface

  • The new user interface (UI) takes out much of the scrolling, clicking and “pop-ups” often associated with Dynamics CRM.  It has a more refined look and feel.

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  • The ribbon that used to be available across the top of the page has been streamlined and simplified, prominently displaying the most common used actions. Additional actions are available via the ellipsis drop down (which looks like three dots or “…”).  The redesigned ribbon is located in the top-left area just above the record type.
  • The enhanced UI simplifies the user experience and eliminates the classic navigation bar. This provides a great deal of additional real estate for higher valued, relevant information.

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  • The user experience has been significantly enhanced through an almost wholesale elimination of disorienting window “popups” in favor of a flat user experience, embedded window-quick forms and inline editing (including (finally!) support for the browser back button).
  • Until CRM 2013, customers requiring quote and order capabilities in CRM found the “popup” experience associated with these processes frustratingly cumbersome. A very significant enhancement we note is the streamlining of the Quote and Order processes which leverages the streamlined UI and inline editing of records (for example, Opportunity Products). Much better!

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Business Process Flow

  • In addition to the new UI, Microsoft provides a business process to be built into the records at the top of the page. This configurable flow allows a company to determine the recommended processes which need to be followed through a guided UI based on stages to complete various business practices, such as making a sale or servicing customer needs. There can be multiple flows depending on the needs of the business which updates dynamically based on user choice. The flow allows various records to automatically be opened based on a user’s present stage. This eliminates the decision work for the user. Like the stages, there are configurable actions in each stage to provide greater clarity and configured to meet business needs.

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Mobile Access

  • Previous releases of Dynamics CRM provided the lightweight “Mobile Express” which many found was not adequate for business needs. Many customers requiring mobile capabilities have relied on fully featured mobile ISV solutions. CRM 2013 has a mobile offering built in at no additional license fee freeing companies from the need to seek a third party ISV for a great mobile experience. For tablets, the iPad and Microsoft Windows 8 devices (including the Surface) are supported. Microsoft, iPhone and Android smart phones are also supported. Mobile will be accessible via a downloadable app from the device’s app store. The app will provide a user experience very similar to that of the browser, albeit scaled and adjusted to conform to the device’s screen limitations. This interface is optimized for touch.

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Social Media

  • Social media is a hot topic in business and is required for many companies. Microsoft has expanded on the “What’s New” and “Record Wall” features to make them more prominent on the CRM forms and dashboards, enabling internal communication in a social manner. In addition, with the acquisition of Yammer and its integration into CRM, companies may communicate not only with internal employees but with external customers and clients, all from a single application – Dynamics CRM. The relevant conversations from Yammer are pulled into the relevant records in CRM allowing users the ability to stay in the application and still receive the benefits of real-time conversations.*

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*Requires an additional license subscription. See Yammer for details.

There are many additional features and enhancements in the new CRM 2013 release. Some of these additional items include improvements to the native Outlook operation with CRM, searching across multiple entities, administration changes and business rules. As we get closer to release, we’ll learn many more details. Of course, if at any time you would like to discuss this or other CRM topics, feel free to contact us at

CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management

CuttlefishI was watching a PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage” about cuttlefish, a close relative of the octopus and squid (yes, everyone has strange ways to relax…), and was struck by the creature’s intelligence and how that intellect had evolved. Being at the top of a family that includes clams and other mollusks would not seem to indicate a source of intelligence (well, given some people I’ve spoken to…), but natural selection has driven the development of intelligence and cutting-edge camouflage to blend with its environment and evade predators. It seems cuttlefish are a great packet of pure protein and at the top of the list for just about every other sea creature from fish to dolphins. This has been the imperative for it to be smart and a chameleon.

At this point you are wondering what does all of this “Wild Kingdom” digression have to do with CRM? Actually, from an analogous point of view, a great deal. If we view the Web and all of its manifestations as the sea and a corporation as the cuttlefish, with CRM as part of its brain and nervous system, the evolutionary comparison is a compelling analogue. In early life, the organism looked inward to its development to organize its cellular organization; however, it quickly had to shift its view externally to survive the environment.

The issue is the same, CRM organizes a company’s sales, marketing, and customer efforts with respect to itself. The Web with search engines, social media, mobile devices, etc. is always on, like the sea. Predators abound in this sea; a consumer with a bad experience, an advocacy group with contributions and grants on the line, government regulators with promotions or political office in mind, competitors looking to take your share and territory, employees, prospective employees, vendors, the list is endless. All of this information needs to be linked and correlated in one place with all of the corporate communications, sales, and marketing resources to ensure a fast and consistent response with tracking and reporting. I believe the best place to evolve that functionality within corporate IT infrastructure is to extend CRM’s nervous system outward.

Unlike IT, natural section rarely evolves competing “smoke stack” organs, it cannot afford to or the organism will be lunch. The rate of change of technology, the Web, and societal change will not allow IT the luxury to create vertical smoke stacks and then consolidate them later. Evolution will have to occur now, in realtime, ready for mobile. CRM would seem to be the best candidate as a starting point.

I intend to add further installments extending both the analogy and the proposed architecture. So kick back, get an order of calamari, and watch the show (PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage,” too).

Daily Matching and Merging of Guest Data to Make the Guest Unique

In the hospitality industry, storing information about guests and their stays is critical to tailoring offers to each guest. Information regarding the guest and the stay is stored in a system called the property management system at the hotel franchise’s corporate headquarters.  The property management system stores information for each guest such as: (This is a sample list of attributes, not a complete list):

  • Prefix (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr., etc.)
  • Full name • Company name
  • Physical address
  • One or more e-mail addresses
  • One or more telephone numbers
  • Gender

The property management system stores information such as the following for each reservation that a guest makes (this is a sample list of attributes, not a complete list):

  • Booked date
  • Arrival date
  • Departure date
  • Folio status (booked, checked-in, checked-out, cancelled, no show, etc.)
  • Property where the guest will stay
  • How the reservation was made
  • Promotion response code (this is the code that is captured if the reservation was made after receiving promotional e-mail such as providing a discount if a reservation is booked in the next 5 days)
  • Room type booked
  • Length of stay
  • Method of payment
  • Was the reservation an advance purchase

Property management systems can be setup with centralized or decentralized data storage architecture. Let’s discuss what each of these means to storing guest profile and stay data.

Centralized PMS Data Repository:

With this type of storage architecture, all of the guest profile and guest stay data is stored in one location. Therefore, the franchise properties for a particular franchise will access all of the guest profile and stay data from a single location. What does this mean? It means that this system:

  • Reduces the amount of duplicate data entered as searching for a guest can be done against a single source
  • Records all guest stay data to a single guest profile record
  • Eliminates the need to cleanse the data by a data processing company

Decentralized PMS Data Repository:

With this type of storage architecture, the guest profile and guest stay data is stored in multiple locations. Each franchise property has its own storage and the data from each of these sources of rolls up to a single storage located at the franchise headquarters. This type of operating environment makes it very difficult to provide for the daily matching and merging of guest data to make guest data unique. Therefore, there is a definite need to cleanse the data and remove the duplicates by a data processing company. This can be done on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  However, frequent cleansing may not be very cost effective. So, what are potential causes for the duplicated data?:

  • There is no central database of guest profile data
  • There is no visibility into guest stays at other properties
  • Lack of a single unique identifier for the guest

While there are three main causes for duplicate data, there are also guest data anomalies/concerns that can contribute to the duplicate and inaccurate data. Here are some of the anomalies/concerns:

  • Guest data inconsistently entered across properties
  • Guest data from external sources (Hotwire, Priceline, etc.)
    • Not providing guest personal data (i.e. generic address, generic email)
  • Administrators at a company may be making the reservations for a group of people with different names and email addresses
    • Front desk staff are not updating the correct guest profile information
  • Data quality issues:
    • Guest name example: first name was blank and last name was Hotel Beds (Wholesale reservation channel)
    • Incorrect guest address, which impacts guest match rate
    • Email address of hotel property entered instead of that of the guest, with insufficient guest profile information
  • Operational Data Collection Issues:
    • The field ‘Email’ is not required to be completed
    •  Mobile phone numbers are not in PMS with proper masking and numeric fields
  • Guest data cleanup initiative is required

As one can see, a decentralized PMS architecture tends to have challenges around the uniqueness of guest profile data. The rest of this blog will focus on processes surrounding how to make a guest unique in an operating environment that has a decentralized PMS system.

The following section depicts an example solution created with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 on making a guest unique in a decentralized PMS environment.  This solution includes the following components and processes:

  • PMS Database Tables: these are the tables in the PMS System that store the guest profile information such as name, address, e-mail, etc. and the reservations made by each guest
  • Guest Profile:
    • Definition: this is the record in CRM that stores basic information about the user and is a cumulative rollup of certain guest stay information
    • The basic information stored is:
      • First name
      • Last name
      • Physical address
      • Zip code
      • Telephone number(s)
      • E-mail address(s)
      • Opt-in
      • Gender
    • The cumulative rollup information stored is the following:
      • What was the method used to book the last reservation?
      • What is the frequent method of booking reservations?
      • What is the total room nights stayed across all reservations?
      • What is the total sum of revenue spent?
      • What is the total number of stays?
      • What was the last date stayed?
      • Is the guest in-house or does he/she have a pending reservation?
      • What was the average daily rate paid by the guest?
      • What is the average length of stay?
  • Guest Stay:
    • Definition: this is the record in CRM that stores information about each guest stay. A guest stay record is created anytime a guest books a reservation at a particular franchise property.  Therefore multiple guest stays can be associated to a single guest profile record
    • The information captured on the guest stay form is:
      • The date the reservation was booked
      • The date the guest plans on arriving
      • The date the guest plans on departing
      • The franchise property where the guest will be staying
      • The folio status (booked, checked-in, checked-out, cancelled, no show, etc.)
      • The type of room booked
      • The average daily rate for each particular stay
      • The length of stay for each particular stay
      • The method of payment used to book the reservation
      • Was the reservation an advance purchase?
  • Now that we know what the components are, lets discuss how these components are used in the following three processes:
    • Daily loading
    • Cleansing
    • Reconciliation

Figure 1: Guest Data LifeCycle

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 Daily Loading Process:

The first process we will discuss is the daily loading of the reservations. For each reservation loaded into Dynamics CRM, a guest profile record is created and a corresponding guest stay record is created which is associated to the guest profile record.  For example, if John Smith makes two reservations (regardless of the reservation channel) for two rooms, he will have two guest profile records and two guest stay records in the PMS. Each guest stay record will be associated to one guest profile record.  Since the data is stored in this manner in the PMS, it is loaded from the PMS into Dynamics CRM in the same way. This means that every time a guest makes a reservation, there will be a guest profile record and an associated guest stay record created for each reservation, even if the guest stays multiple times in a short period such as a month at a franchise property. This is referred to as un-cleansed data.

Cleansing Process:

On a regularly scheduled basis, such as a weekly or monthly period, the guest profile data from the PMS is compiled into a file and sent to a data processing company. The data processing company reviews for duplicates based on the following criteria:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • E-mail address
  • Physical address:
    • Street 1
    • Street 2
    • City
    • State
    • Zip code

Reconciliation process:

(this can be weekly or monthly basis. For this discussion the reconciliation process will be monthly at the end of each month)

  • Step 1: Once the duplicate records are removed, and the cleansed file is returned, the new guest profile data is loaded into a staging database and in this database all the cleansed guest profile records are associated to their guest stay records. For example, a file containing un-cleansed guest profile records for the entire month of January was sent to the data processing company.  If there were two John Smith’s in the un-cleansed file, and then based on the above criteria, the two matching records will be compared and the one that has the most completed information would be kept.  With the returned cleansed file containing only the one John Smith guest profile, the next step is to associate all the guest stays that John Smith had for the month of January to his cleansed guest profile record.  For example, if John Smith stayed five times in the month of January, then all five stay records would now be associated with his cleansed guest profile record.
    In a nutshell when the un-cleansed file is sent to the data processing company at the end of each month it, the data being cleansed is for the month that just ended. Once the cleansed file is returned with unique guests for the month, then the guest stays for the each of those guests for that particular month is associated to each unique guest profile record.
  • Step 2: Once step 1 is completed, then the identified unique guest profiles with their associated guest stays for the previous month are loaded into Dynamics CRM 2011.  This is performed in two separate steps:
    • First the unique guest profiles are loaded
    • Then the guests’ stays are loaded and associated to the guest profile records
  • Step 3: Once step 2 is completed, then the un-cleansed guest profile and guest stay data loaded in the previous month is purged. This process will only delete all the un-cleansed guest profile and guest stay data. The cleansed guest profile and guest stay data will remain in Dynamics CRM permanently.

As one can see, when a PMS has a decentralized storage architecture, there are some processes that need to be put in place to make a guest unique.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Polaris

In  December  2012,  Microsoft  released  their  next  interim  release  to  significantly  increase  the  functionality  of  Dynamics  CRM.  Microsoft  introduced  a  brand  new  look  and  feel  in  their  user  experience  (UX)  which  they  call  the  “Flow  UX.” They’ve  given  this  overall  release  the  code  name  “Polaris”  (after the star of the same name).

Microsoft  has  invested  a  great  deal  of  time  enhancing  CRM  to  bring  it  into  today’s  technology  age.  The  flow  of  the  sales  process  has  been  drastically  refreshed  and  is  much  more  intuitive. They have also spruced up the service case entity. The following is a review of the UX improvements:

  • Lead,  opportunity,  account,  contact,  and  case  entities  have  a  new  UX:
    • Pros:
      • Overall,  the  flow  within  and  between  the  entities  feels  a  lot  easier  and  more  intuitive
      • Within  lead  and  opportunity  entities,  there  is  now  a  built  in  set  of  sales  stages  and  sales  steps  to  help  guide  one  through  the  sales  process  and  an  equivalent  Service  stages/steps  in  the case entitypolaris graphic 1
      • There  is a built in social feed,  a type of Facebook-like conversation flow which  can  include  Yammerpolaris graphic 2
      • Creating tasks and phone calls got a lot easierpolaris graphic 3
      • Viewing and creating notes is easierpolaris graphic 4
      • Data  is  automatically  saved  upon  closing  a  record  or  every  30  seconds
      • Bing  Maps  integration  is  included  on-scree
      • Skype  support  is  imbedded  to  auto-dial  outgoing  calls  (by phone or Skype to Skype… a Skype account is required)
      • The  navigation  side-bar  is  automatically  minimized,  but  still  accessible
      • Ability  to  revert  to  the  classic  screen

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      • Existing  Dynamics  CRM  2011  Online  users  can  choose  to  opt-in  to  the  new  UI  –  it  is  not  forced  (but once opted in, the conversion con mentioned below adjusts permanently
    • Cons
      • Conversion  from  lead  will  now  automatically  create  an  opportunity  record  whether  you  want  to  create  one  or  not
      • There  is  no  ribbon  access  on  the  new  form  without  completely  reverting  to  the  classic  formpolaris graphic 6
        • Cannot create of any new, related record (such as an activity). The  +  sign  add-option  works  somewhat  but  is  clunky  (but is not available at all for entities
        • No  recalculate  option  for  opportunities
        • No  “Add  to  Marketing  List”,  “Follow”,  “Run  Workflow”,  or  “Start  Dialog”  options  along  with  other  missing  options
      • The  new  sales/service  stages  and  steps  are  one-size-fits-all  and  there  is  no  ability  to  make  them  required
      • There  is  no  auto-conversion  of  classic  forms  into  the  new  format
      • Jscript  is  not  available  on  the  new  forms  OnLoad,  OnSave,  or  OnChange
      • Auto-saving  of  data  becomes  a  training  issue  not  to  adjust  records  for  “demonstration  purposes”

In addition to the UX changes above, Polaris included some additional changes:

  • Browser  support  for  Firefox,  Chrome,  and  Safaripolaris graphic 7
  • Multiple  organizations  are  available  in  a  single  deployment  without  having  to  pay  for  additional  licenses
    • A  potential  application  would  be  to  have  test  and  production  organizational  instances
  • The  Resource  Center  has  been  removed  from  the  main  left-hand  navigation  menu

Presently,  Microsoft  has  made  the  availability  of  Polaris  to  CRM  2011  Online  customers  only.   If  you  have  an  on-premise  implementation  of  CRM,  the  Flow  UX  won’t  be  available  until  the  release  of  CRM,  code  named  “Orion”  coming  out  sometime  in  Q3  2013.   Until  then,  on  premise  users  can  at  least  experience  the  browser  updates  via  Update  Rollup  12.

Overall,  the  Polaris  release  is  a  good  next  step  forward  and  will  help  in  combatting  some  of  the  weaknesses  of  the  classic  UX  as  compared  to  some  of  Microsoft’s  competitors.   For  organizations  already  accustomed  to  using  Dynamics  CRM,  some  of  the  drawbacks  in  the  new  Process  UX  may  present  some  challenges.   Organizations  new  to  Dynamics  CRM  may  not  notice  all  or  any  of  the  drawbacks,  depending  on  their  needs.   Generally  speaking,  it  feels  like  there  are  several  additional  components  that  Microsoft  would  have  included  but  decided  to  postpone  to  a  later  date.   What  exactly  these  were,  I  hope  will  be  additional  activity  options  and  putting  back  in  the  loss  of  some  of  the  ribbon  options.   We  will  have  to  wait  for  Orion  to  find  out  for  sure.   In  the  meantime,  Polaris  provides  many  new  opportunities  to  provide  customer  relationship  management  than  we  had  before.

It’s tax season….the IRS does not have to be the only ones auditing!

Enabling auditing is a quick and effective way to help ensure data integrity.

Have you ever had a Sales Rep ask who changed the status of a record?

Have you ever wondered who deactivated a large set of account records?

These types of questions and hurdles can easily be answered through auditing.

Turn on auditing in Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

You can either:

  • Navigate to Settings, System, Administration, System Settings, Auditing tab
  • Navigate to Settings, System, Auditing, Global Audit Settings

Click the Start Auditing box then select the areas where you wish to enable auditing. You can hover over the area names such as “Common Entities” to see a list of the entities included.audit graphic 1

You also have the choice to customize which entities you would like to audit. Open the solution, click on the name of the entity and select “Auditing”.

audit graphic 2

Be sure to read the fine print! When you select Auditing, all fields within the entity are being audited by default.  There are two options to disable fields.

Option 1: You can open each field that you do not want audited and click disable auditing.

audit graphic 3

Option 2: You can select multiple fields on the entity and select ‘Edit’ and you can change the status of auditing per field there as well.

audit graphic 4

audit graphic 5

Reviewing Audit History:

Navigate to the record, on the left side toolbar click Audit History.

audit graphic 6

This view list the date a change was made to the record, who made the change, the event which occurred, the name of the field changed, the old value and the new value. In the example below, the Business Phone was changed from 904-555-1212 to 904-222-8888 and an extension was added which was previously blank. The change was made by Ashley Kleeman on 4/15/2013 at 12:06 pm.

audit graphic 7

Review Security Roles:

Review security roles to ensure users have the appropriate access to view audit history. Open the security role, click on the Core Records tab and you will see the Audit related buttons at the bottom of the page under the Miscellaneous Privileges section. The average user only needs access to “View Audit History”.

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Trigger Based Marketing with Dynamics CRM 2011


Creating and maintaining profitable customers is the main aim of business. Therefore, customer satisfaction leading to profit is the central goal of hospitality marketing. In the hospitality industry, the marketing department tends to be responsible for both Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing.  The marketing team needs detailed data on prior leisure and business guests to successfully target marketing campaigns to the appropriate audiences.

The main purpose of this article is to discuss B2C marketing and in particular a process called Trigger based Marketing in Microsoft Dynamics 2011.

What is trigger based marketing?  For the purposes of this article, trigger based marketing is defined as consumer profile or stay data meeting the criteria of a marketing list for an active campaign. This active campaign then processes an e-mail blast to the recipients of the marketing list on a scheduled and automated basis.


Assume the requirement is to create a process that allows for the automation of trigger based campaigns which, in this case, means guest satisfying particular marketing criteria.  This requirement of automating trigger based campaigns is dependent on daily matching and merging of guest data to make the guest unique (the process of ensuring a guest is unique will be discussed in a separate blog). The following are potential trigger based campaigns:

  • Driven by check-ins – “Welcome”
  • Driven by check-outs – “Thanks for Staying”
  • Reactivation
    • “We miss you!”
    • Requires guest stay history
  • In-house guest campaigns
    • Loyalty related
    • Requires guest stay history

So, the next question becomes, “Once the triggered campaign requirement is satisfied how does the e-mail blast execute on a scheduled basis?” To satisfy this requirement a third party marketing integration product such as ExactTarget, CoreMotives, or ClickDimensions can be used.  These are just some third party marketing integration products for CRM 2011, there are additional products out there.  Most of these third party marketing add-ons tend to have Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) available that can be programmed. In this particular instance, ExactTarget and the ExactTarget API were used to achieve the requirement of executing the e-mail blast on a determined schedule.


The processes developed contain a combination of manual and automated processes to complete the triggered e-mail process.

Manual Processes

  • STEP 1: Marketer contacts advertising company to create art design
  • STEP 2: Approved art design is converted to HTML format
  • STEP 3: Receives completed HTML
  • STEP 4: Prepare website for marketing campaign with website design company
  • STEP 5: Create an e-mail for each triggered e-mail process in ExactTarget
  • STEP 6: Create a dynamic marketing list for each triggered e-mail scenario
  • STEP 7: Create a campaign for each triggered e-mail scenario
  • STEP 8: Create an ExactTarget automated send record for each triggered e-mail scenario
  • STEP 9: Create an application configuration record for each triggered campaign

Automated Processes

  • STEP 10: Custom application runs at a schedule time on a nightly basis and performs a lookup against active campaign configuration records.  Deactivated campaign configuration records will not be executed against.  While this application will run on a nightly basis by default, it will use the configuration record for each active triggered campaign to determine the appropriate schedule (daily, weekly, monthly) it needs to run at for the automated campaigns. For daily processing, the custom application will run every night at a given time.  For weekly processing, the custom application will check the day of each week of the current day and compare it to the list of days of the week selected in the configuration record. If the current day of the week matches any of the selected days of the week in the configuration record, it will run.  For monthly processing, the custom application will run on the date selected on the configuration record. Therefore, the custom application will run on the exact same day each month. The custom application is setup and scheduled using the windows task scheduler.
  • STEP 11a: Create a copy of the dynamic marketing list as a static list
  • STEP 11b: Compare the new static list created in the step above to the static control group list and removes the contacts matching in both lists from the static marketing list, which is then used as the list to process the e-mail blast
  • STEP 11c: Create a recipient record for each daily email blast and then the recipient record will be associated to the marketing list attached to the campaign
  • STEP 11d: Associate the recipient records to the appropriate send record designated for each campaign
  • STEP 12: Results from the email blasts will be processed as ExactTarget response activity type records directly into CRM against the guest profile record

metesh email process graphicCONCLUSION

In conclusion, while this is only one solution of meeting a requirement to process triggered campaigns using Dynamics CRM 2011 and ExactTarget,  other solutions can be created using Dynamics CRM 2011 and other third party marketing integration products.

Open a Portal – Close the Sale: Why Manufacturers Create Sales Portals

Sarah Blog GraphicIn today’s world of social media, successful sales and marketing in manufacturing is a complex balancing act requiring more and more visibility to actual data. Real-time visibility to dealers, agents, and customers involved in your business has never been more important for maintaining successful pipelines and customer loyalty.

If you don’t have a bi-directional communication portal to every channel of your business, you’re missing the critical information you need to stay ahead of your competition. You may not have a sales portal to your business, but your competition does and they are listening. They are listening to your prospects, your reps, and your customers.

The good news is many manufacturers who have become lean on the production floor are learning that applying similar principles in sales and marketing can also lead to increased production. These manufacturers know nothing is more important to their sales than an accurate visual of what is happening in their channel right now.

These forward-thinking manufacturers are looking at their complex sales scenarios, including inside sales, field sales, direct sales, reseller networks and partner sales and noticing communication gaps, redundant data and slow movement. They understand two things very clearly. First, they recognize the impracticality of trying to make good decisions using countless spreadsheets on multiple desktops with no consolidation. Next, they understand that their sales models include people who are not their employees but rely on them for business performance and that giving these non-employees a method to communicate allows their companies to monitor and adjust their performance. Then they ask, “How can we view the whole sales process in real time to better run our business?” And the answer is a sales portal which helps improve management and forecasting in these areas:

  • Account ownership
  • Distributor management
  • Order management
  • Support management
  • Pipeline visibility
  • Quoting
  • Closing
  • Messaging

A sales portal can also bridge the gap to your back-end systems and create a seamless communication protocol that empowers everyone in the channel, employees and non-employees, while providing accurate real-time visibility in a secure manner that can help accelerate the sales process.

View the Edgewater Channel Portal in action.

What can you monitor with a sales portal?

  • Real-time dashboards
  • Heat maps across the entire territory showing high and low performers
  • Inside, field and channel sales
  • Security between users accessing quotes and orders
  • 30/60/90 day forecasts
  • New revenue
  • Estimated close dates
  • Quote requests
  • Service requests
  • Customer loyalty
  • Announcements for tradeshows and product guidelines

With a portal you empower your sales force with the tools needed to succeed. Each user has a different security level and sees a custom dashboard. For example, a manufacturer’s rep can see how his or her overall pipeline is performing. The rep can see new leads, can adjust those leads and can notify you of constraints. As the manufacturer you can see the rep’s pipeline incorporated into yours, and you can help move sales along by knowing precisely where the rep is in the pipeline. You can also send discounts to your field reps immediately and see how those discounts perform real time.

With a sales portal you can allow all of your reps to have access to a common document library and collaborate via discussion groups where you  can include future products, sales literature, competitive information and more.

To see what is happening right now means opening a sales portal, which is as easy as opening a dock door in the warehouse – once you build it.

CRM Resolutions for 2013

Organizing your personal preferences in CRM is a great way to start your day, review your upcoming events, and utilize the features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM® 2011. Below are a few easy ways to stay organized in 2013!

1. Setting up your personal preferences:

In your CRM options menu, update the below fields on the “General” tab.

    • What page in CRM do you use most often? What page would you like to set as your home page/landing page? If you review your dashboards frequently or like the visual reminder of your activities, you can set it as your default pane and default tab. (A)
    • Do you use the “Get Started” pane? If not, disable it. It will add more real estate to your CRM form. (B)
    • Set your records per page. By default, CRM list 50 records per page. We recommend changing it to 250. (C)
    • Check that your time zone and current are correctly set. (D)

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2. Stay Organized with Dashboards

One of the best ways to put everything you need in one spot in CRM is on a personal dashboard that you can set on your home screen and see all your major needs. As described in this blog, you can set a home screen that CRM will start on every time you open it and you can set a default page for every entity. But what if you want to see more than one CRM aspect right away?

Setting up a personal dashboard will allow you to choose up to 6 different views on one screen. Not only will you be able to put in the views such as your daily activities for the day, you can also put charts within the dashboard to measure any kind of progress to suit your needs!

Here are just a few of the countless examples of dashboards:

  • This dashboard put personal “Activitiy” views all in one dashboard so you don’t have to toggle between different views

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  • This dashboard captures a few measurement charts as well as an opportunity and activity view

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3. The “What’s New” Feature

“What’s New” is an exciting new feature of Dynamics CRM 2011 which allows users to follow their fellow colleagues, certain accounts, etc. for up-to-the-minute activity. It is similar to an internal social media page. Below is an example of the items users can follow.

The “Activity Feeds” comes in a solution which is free to download, just make sure you have rollup five installed for it to function.

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As you can see, there are plenty of ways to keep organized in CRM. All it takes if a few clicks and turns and you can determine what works best for you!

To learn more about the Edgewater CRM practice, click here.

Why pay for CRM when I have Excel?

The Collaborating Game

“Software #1, are you available in the cloud?”

Someone once asked me, “Why should I pay good money for CRM when I have Microsoft Excel® and a shared folder?”  Well, that is a valid question.  It is true that Excel has features that would allow you to track information about their customers/clients, contacts, prospects, marketing events, etc.  You could easily have one workbook for all of these or separate workbooks.  You could even go to the extreme of hiding certain columns or rows and locking it down if those shouldn’t be seen by others.  Instead of emailing it out, it could be placed on a shared folder or someplace where everyone could have access to it.  This would definitely save you money…

What CRM provides is not just a way to spend money, but a way to save time and help support your business in ways that many don’t consider.

There are many ways that any CRM would make a value-added investment. Two of the foremost ways are: 1) A CRM connects and relates different records together as a part of the normal way the data is entered. You don’t have to remember to do this… it prompts you to do it! 2) It helps you remember to do activities you might have forgotten to do or document.

Let’s dissect Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM® in some more detail and understand some of the most important ways it offers you a return on your investment!

“A picture tells 1,000 words…”

The human mind can more quickly interpret and make decisions when seeing a picture than when reading.  This is why CRM has built in Dashboards to help get a visual understanding of your data.  You can analyze and drill down on your data graphically or quickly get to the underlying data too.


Available in the cloud or on your desktop!

CRM is available when and where you need it. You can work how and when you want.  As of the December 2012 release, it is now even available on web browsers other than Internet Explorer so you may use it in the cloud the way you want to!

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Automatic associations/relationships between records

CRM is all about relationships… it is designed to prompt you to specify them.  No more wondering which account is connected with an opportunity or prospect.  Knowledge is power! Here are just a few of the related relationships:

Accounts related to one another:

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Opportunities related to an account:

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Contacts related to an account:

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“I totally forgot to do that…” or “I didn’t have time to do that…”

Forgetful?  Limited time?  Don’t worry – it happens to everyone.  CRM’s Workflows can automate tasks to make you more efficient.  It can also provide reminders for you so something is not overlooked.  You can always adjust them or make new ones too…

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Get everyone on the right page

CRM allows you to have multiple custom screens so that only the most appropriate layout and fields may be seen by a user… you can have multiple views of records too!

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CRM uses Dialogs to provide scripts so that users are all following the same process and/or asking the same questions

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Provides a medium to track back results based on activities

Ever launched a marketing campaign and you don’t know if it was worth the money?  CRM allows you to connect related responses to your campaign along with the prospects and opportunities it generates.

By following the opportunities to wins, the revenue generated relates back to the campaign allowing a 360-degree picture of the work

Successful campaigns can be duplicated to bring in more revenue and less successful campaigns can be retired to not waste precious time and resources on those rotten ventures…

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As you can see, CRM can bring value and Microsoft Dynamics CRM has some of the greatest value-providing ways to help you do more business with less time and waste.  Do you miss your excel though? Not to worry; you can still have your Excel!

At any time, you can export the data from CRM to Excel

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Now you decide… Would you consider paying for CRM over just using Excel?