Friday, September 14, 2012

ClickDimensions Grows Quickly by Offering B2B Marketing Automation as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Add-On

When I first wrote about ClickDimensions in a February, 2011 post, the concept was intriguing – a marketing automation add-on to Microsoft Dynamics CRM – but the product itself had been available for less than six months and claimed barely 50 clients. Since then, the company has grown its customer base more than ten-fold (it won’t release specific figures), won the Dynamics Marketplace Solution Excellence Partner of the Year award, signed up more than 250 channel partners around the world, and attracted outside funding. Sounds like the idea has legs.

The product has matured as well. The most important addition is a flow builder that supports branching campaigns. This is a bit limited – each node can only have yes/no branches – but it includes a reasonable set of actions including send an email, wait, notify user, add or remove from list, and run CRM workflow. It can also check for whether a contact has opened an email or clicked on a link. This is comparable to standard marketing automation products.

Other enhancements include an expanded survey builder that can skip questions or pages based on previous answers; a/b testing (two splits only) within emails; subscription management; and improved builders for email, landing pages, and forms. The system already provided dynamic email content, although users have to write the selection rules in a scripting language – something many marketers will find intimidating. Web behavior tracking, lead scoring, and social discovery (searching for and importing public data on LinkedIn) are also available.

None of this would make ClickDimensions stand out from other marketing automation systems if it weren’t for its fundamentally different architecture. ClickDimensions works directly from the Dynamics CRM data files, rather than creating a parallel, synchronized database like most marketing automation products. Additional tables needed by ClickDimensions are also custom objects within the Dynamics system. The result is direct connection between the two systems. ClickDimensions functions are also accessed within the Dynamics interface.

ClickDimensions isn’t the only vendor to take this approach. CoreMotives (purchased last March by Silverpop) has a similar architecture within the Microsoft Dynamics world and Predictive Response (which I haven’t looked at in detail) is a similar add-on to Still, as the shortness of this list suggests, the dominant approach to marketing automation remains separate, synchronized data files.

This could well change: as marketing automation becomes more widely understood, it will be purchased by less sophisticated companies. These buyers are already customers of CRM resellers who can easily offer ClickDimensions and similar CRM add-on products. That gives the add-on vendors efficient access to a huge market. The CRM vendors themselves would have the same advantage should they choose to add marketing automation  features. 

In practice, most buyers neither know nor care about the architectural differences between the two approaches. So long as the add-on architecture will work – and there’s no reason to doubt it does for all but the very largest implementations – success may well be determined by who reaches the most buyers first. As ClickDimensions’ fast growth already suggests, its reseller-based approach could be a decisive advantage as the marketing automation industry enters its next stage.  Only time will tell.

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