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What’s the Best Marketing Automation Software for Microsoft Dynamics CRM?


SalesFUSION Review—An Independent Marketing Software Analysis

SalesFUSION is an interesting marketing automation solution as it’s the only marketing software product to be embedded within the Dynamics CRM system, and also work with multiple CRM systems. The company was founded in 2006 as FirstReef and initially delivered an integration with In 2009, the company added support for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and has since added support for NetSuite, Sage CRM, SalesLogix and SugarCRM.

Despite its multi-CRM product support, the marketing application is tightly embedded to Dynamics CRM. It aligns well with the user interface and navigation and fully uses the CRM database along with five custom entities for Dialogues, Events, Clicked Links, Web Activities and Campaign Emails.

The company now counts about 175 Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers and over 450 total customers (as of September 2013) including marquee accounts such as Avanade, Hitachi, Green Giant, Enpointe, Heathrow Airport and Konica Minolta.

Digital Lead Acquisitions

Landing pages and forms are simple to create by non-technical users, and forms can be modified with javascripting for marketers that desire more presentation layer rules and controls.

Landing pages and forms are generally hosted by SalesFUSION. Clients can host these assets on their own website, however, in doing so certain marketing automation features such as dialogues and lead routing will be lost.

For A/B testing, the application offer true, randomized (i.e. every Nth visitor) multivariate testing, so customers don’t have to perform split testing, or effectively distribute emails as separate campaigns. However, testing is limited to emails and landing pages, and doesn’t include forms.

For immediate lead notifications, the application delivers alerts via email and within the CRM system using a “Web Activity” view to display when designated companies or contacts visit the website.

Digital lead tracking uses similar cookie and reverse IP lookup methods as do others, but also goes a few steps further. The marketing system integrates with Demandbase in order to identify anonymous users by IP addresses and not just cookies. The company also maintains its own global database, which offers an aggregate view of everybody the application has ever cookied over all prior years. Customers can opt-in to this database in order to share IP addresses and extend their own proprietary database of known IPs.

Another helpful feature not offered by most competitors in this review is tight integration with data append services. For example, from a “Web Activity” view, a marketer or sales person can review anonymous visitors, identify an active company consuming content on the website, and then use the integration service to search for a specific title at the visitors company and be presented the option to purchase the names of desired roles or titles at that company. This real-time integration allows marketers to only pay for highly relevant contact records and bring those records into the marketing system for outreach or nurture campaigns.

A somewhat advanced feature is the ability to use content blocks with rules-based, dynamic content placement. This offers the capability to render dynamic content based on the user profile, attribute or behavior as long as the website visitor is cookied and recognized. While this functionality is better than some others in this review, it doesn’t go as far as allowing marketers to update a template and cascade those changes to forms and other assets originally created from that template. Similarly, as with other Dynamics-centric marketing automation providers, SalesFUSION doesn’t support content management functionality such as expiration dates, version control, check-in/check-out file management and security permissions.

Nurture Campaigns & Email Marketing

SalesFUSION uses “Triggers” to create or identify events which insert leads into campaigns in a fairly linear fashion as well as “Nurture Designs” which offer more options such as design steps and can include CRM system actions (not just marketing actions). The application also uses “Listener Conditions” to create rules which identify conditions such as when to change a campaign.

Nurture campaigns are simple to setup but this simplicity also restricts their flexibility. This limitation is also shared by ClickDimensions and CoreMotives, and unfortunately impacts the volume of lead acquisitions as broad campaigns simply do not yield the same conversions as more narrowly focused campaigns.

For example, multi-product companies often figure out that a lead may have initially been put in the wrong product campaign or that subsequent lead tracking analysis suggests that there’s a better campaign for the lead. Unfortunately, marketing systems such as SalesFUSION (as well as ClickDimensions and CoreMotives) are unable to switch the campaign and continue the campaign sequencing from a designated step (e.g. not the first step). These types of advanced nurture functions are only available from applications such as Eloqua and Marketo.

Email management permits email throttling and distributions to be sent during business hours—a helpful option to increase B2B deliverability rates. For email deliverability testing the company uses a third party tool to preview what an email looks like in 30+ clients and devices as well as ReturnPath (as do all the marketing systems in this review) for sender reputation management. My reviews of SalesFUSIONS IP addresses and sender reputation scores verified the company’s high rankings.

SalesFUSION PPC/Adwords integration is better than most. The software can build a PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign, create an activity to pull in Adwords data, integrate with Google AdGroups, ping Google as frequently as every 5 minutes to pull in spend and impressions, and link to Opportunities in order to show revenues sourced from Adwords.

As is the case with ClickDimensions and Silverpop CoreMotives, SalesFUSION support for social campaigns is pretty minimal. The app supports widgets applied to emails, Itty Bitty URLs on landing page or on social network posts, and drops a cookie on social post clickers in order to track activities and propagation. There’s also dashboards and reports showing activities and referrals from social networks. SalesFUSION is currently without a social listening tool but advises a future release is coming in the not too distant future.

Lead Scoring

SalesFUSION performs lead scoring based on five behaviors: web activities, email activities, landing pages, events and demographic data (generally from MS CRM). Lead scoring is basic, but better than some competitors, and in addition to webpage scores which attribute values based on content consumed, lead scoring also permits negative score values for select activities (job seekers and unsubscribes), score depreciation based on periods of inactivity, the ability to cap a lead scoring activity and limit how often a data scoring element is counted (for example, only count a maximum of four website visits per day).

In addition to a numeric score, the application can produce a Score Summary (i.e. A, B, C or Hot, Warm, Cold), which can be very helpful when creating intelligent workflow processes. And possibly most importantly for marketers who have gotten past the basics of lead scoring, the system also tracks multiple scores for the same leads which can be helpful for multi-product companies and permits company (not contact) scores which can be calculated as either an average or sum of contact scores. From my experience in lead scoring optimization, these last two features are particularly useful when selling complex B2B solutions to buying committees.

Next: SalesFUSION Strengths & Weaknesses >>

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