Microsoft Convergence 2013 and Marketing
Marketing is for many CRM vendors the last frontier and many are integrating what had been a stand alone function into their solution sets. Marketing requires a different mind set and can deliver significant value as this report points out.
Fred Studer is the new GM, Microsoft Dynamics Product Marketing. He’s been on this job for about a month and I think he’s a good pick given his experience and background — Studer has a lot of tools to work with professionally and from the product side.
He’s been in the business for over two decades at companies like Oracle and Microsoft and most importantly he comes to Dynamics CRM at a point when the product set is hitting its stride. Last week at Convergence 2013 in New Orleans, Studer ran a general session (among other things) that highlighted Microsoft’s two marketing acquisitions including Netbreeze, a sentiment analysis and natural language processing engine from Switzerland, that will help power Microsoft’s foray into marketing. Also, he managed a discussion with analysts about Marketing Pilot, an earlier acquisition that forms the foundation of Microsoft’s marketing approach.
Marketing Pilot does the marketing blocking and tackling enabling marketers to build, manage and deploy digital content and programs through multiple channels. You could say the two products will form the yin and yang of Microsoft’s marketing products for the foreseeable future. Think of it as Marketing Pilot for outbound marketing and Netbreeze for inbound customer data capture and analysis.
So is Microsoft done with marketing? Far from it. Netbreeze and Marketing Pilot are only the beginning and on this framework you can expect to see many more ways to analyze customer data beyond sentiment which is a Netbreeze specialty along with natural language processing (NLP) in multiple languages. As valuable as sentiment analysis is, there are other things like intent, leadership and influence and more that analytics will be assumed to have in the near future. Netbreeze provides the basics and a roadmap and for now that’s fine.
So, back to Studer. He has a great combination of experience in product and corporate marketing, understands the enterprise, and is deep in back office and front office.
There were a few rough edges apparent in the Convergence messaging that I expect will quickly be polished away now thanks to Mr. Studer. For instance, there is the redundant and incorrect idea of a marketing connector to move data from Marketing Pilot to Dynamics CRM. It is a remnant from Marketing Pilot’s history as a private company. The product underwent some significant improvements between acquisition and Convergence — for instance, it got a new and simpler interface and many internal changes that make it a good fit within the Dynamics product set. By virtue of these changes, Marketing Pilot needs a connector the way my cats need my dog.
But old habits die hard I guess. One thing that impressed me about Microsoft Dynamics CRM messaging last week was how many things like the connector issue there are. They aren’t bad things and this is not a knock at Microsoft. Just the opposite. Issues like this take no coding to fix, they are messaging and positioning related and are easily addressed once you focus on them, so pay attention as Microsoft comes on strong in the months ahead.
Another thing I saw in the General Session video was a good presentation by the Illinois Department of Corrections. You might wonder what the connection between corrections and CRM ought to be — Corrections Relationship Management? It was not adequately explained. Of course, the right answer is Microsoft’s XRM solution, which might be referred to as the platform in other schemas. Microsoft has capable tools for building whole new applications on a CRM or XRM foundation or for extensively modifying CRM to fit a specific need.
The Illinois Corrections story is about XRM but the messaging around it was strained to say the least. It’s another example of how Microsoft has product but is not optimizing the way it brings the solution to market. Again, this is a happy problem because it takes marketing and not software development to fix.
Sometimes we take marketing for granted thinking instead that great products sell themselves but that’s not often true. Great products are great because someone saw the connection between what the product does and a market need and figured out how to explain it to buyers in concrete ways with simple language. As Microsoft itself becomes a vendor of marketing solutions I expect that people like Studer and Corporate VP and industry veteran Bob Stutz will help school the company in the finer points of product marketing in a social world. Microsoft has always been a good engineering company, they aren’t moving away from this but they are, I hope, bringing a heightened marketing sensibility to the party.