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Dynamics 365 Marketing – Art vs. Engineering

It is a fair question, that I have heard often recently. Does anybody on the team building the new Dynamics 365 Marketing application… know anything about Marketing? Or the Microsoft partners that will be expected to sell it for that matter? How on earth will this succeed? Is it “Blind leading the Blind”?

The Left Brain

To create any kind of cloud application, particularly one on a platform, you need some darn good engineering chops. Microsoft has that in spades. A literal army of troops, any one of which can take a requirement and execute it in code beautifully. Do they need to know why they are doing it? Hell no, that’s someone else’s job. Do they need to have an understanding of Marketing, to build an application for Marketers? Nope, just a list of requirements. Does anyone involved in building a Marketing application actually have to be a Marketer? Maybe back in the day, whenever the very first Marketing application was built, that would have been an absolute requirement.

But today, there are a ton of Marketing applications, including some that were built on the Dynamics platform. There are also many marketing applications that have been built for other platforms, or are themselves platforms. In other words, there is a world of built applications to emulate. By dissecting the highly thought of ones, and the aspects, or features that are successful in other ones, you can indeed craft a set of requirements. With that in hand, you can turn a bunch of engineers loose and build…something.

The Right Brain

Effective marketing is more art than engineering. If you don’t now the difference between marketing and sales, you should probably stop reading now. One of the things that falls under the marketing umbrella would be “Branding” for example. There is very little that is technical about building a brand. It is touchy-feely and squishy. Take just one aspect of branding for example, like a logo. While someone might use a technology, like Adobe Illustrator for example, to design a logo, the tool has nothing to do with the success of that effort. The tool did not create that warm, fuzzy feeling you got when you looked at the logo… the person using the tool did. Or more likely, the truly creative person standing over the shoulder of the person using the tool did.

Beyond branding, which is way bigger than just logos, marketing would also include messaging. The words that you spill out into the public world about your business. Webpages filled with words, email messages, tweets, LinkedIn profiles, product packages, etc, all contain words. Who writes these “words”. Who takes the technical description of your product and converts that into a string of words that makes people, who are not technical, want to buy it, or engage with you? Marketers do. Words written by a left-brain thinker, seldom compel anyone to action. While a creative marketer may use a tool like Microsoft Word for example to write the words, Microsoft Word had nothing to do with the resulting statements ability to drive interest.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing

Circling back to what Microsoft is doing. A team of left-brain engineers at Microsoft are building a tool-set to be used by right-brain marketers. No different than what Adobe did with Illustrator. I would doubt that any of the engineers that built Illustrator can even draw. I would also doubt that any of the team building Dynamics 365 Marketing, could market themselves out of a paper bag. But they don’t need to. No different than the artists paint brush manufacturers. Microsoft will be coming to market with an artist’s studio. They will have all of the brushes, paint and canvases needed for a “real” artist to create a masterpiece with.

Blind leading the Blind

Installing Dynamics 365 Marketing, will not solve a single problem for you. Sorry, marketing success is not a push-button operation. Who will be selling Dynamics 365 Marketing to you, why your handy Dynamics 365 partner of course. Surely they can help you succeed? Not a chance. With rare exception, Dynamics partners don’t know anything more about Marketing than Microsoft engineers do. One of those rare exceptions is a partner called Coffee+Dunn, but Microsoft will need far more than one partner to accomplish their goals for this product. Don’t get me wrong, your Dynamics partner should be able to install the application for you just fine, but that is about were their value will end.

Who will do it?

So you decided that you really need a marketing platform, and you buy Dynamics 365 Marketing from your partner, who installs it and says “good luck”. Now what? Fireworks in the hands of a fool, generally leads to a lost eye, not a memorable display. If you have one of those right-brain marketers on staff, awesome, they will now have a tool to wield. If you don’t, you might reach out to your local marketing agency, who knows marketing, but they don’t know your tool. Microsoft is aware of this dilemma, and is actively recruiting marketing agencies as I write this. The other option is existing Dynamics partners building a marketing muscle, and I expect a few will.

Why consider Dynamics 365 Marketing?

Plenty of customers today already have the right-brain marketing skills covered one way or another. For these customers, who I expect to be the first customers for Dynamics 365 Marketing, they have a broad choice of marketing automation options. So why might they choose Microsoft’s option? As a business owner, and knowledgeable user of software myself, I have learned a few things. The first thing you have to decide is if Marketing is “Mission Critical” for you, or is this just an experiment. If you are just playing around, testing to see if marketing is even something you need, pick anything, who cares. But, let’s assume that you know that marketing is critical to your growth and success. Now suddenly, the application you choose is important. As I said, you have a ton of choices, so how would you narrow that down?

The first thing that I want to know is who is behind this application. Am I confident that they going to be around, are they going to support it, are they going to advance it? That narrows the list quite a bit. The next thing I want to know, is what the platform is. I don’t want to buy a product that was built a decade ago, regardless of how highly thought of it might be. I have to give that check mark to Microsoft as Dynamics 365 Marketing is brand new, and built on top of Dynamics 365 which is also largely brand new, all of which is running on Azure, which is also brand new. So the whole stack is the latest technology, by a company that is continuing to advance that technology every day.

Another thing that I have learned about software applications is that siloed, point solutions are a pain in the ass. Having any activities taking place in one application, that is largely disconnected with everything else, is not something I want to put up with anymore. Maybe I am spoiled, but in recent years the concept of having to export data from one application, and then import into another, just feels like a huge waste of time. I have accepted the fact that Microsoft wants to own everything I do, but as long as they are making my life simpler, I cannot resist. With Dynamics 365 Marketing being a part of Dynamics 365, and therefore part of the entire Microsoft Cloud, where everything can talk to everything in real-time… that is probably checkmate for me.

The product has not even launched yet, so I am not claiming victory, but it feels like it’s gonna be big.

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