Saturday, July 23, 2016

10 Questions for Firsthand Marketing Research



You can hire marketing researchers to study your market, and read studies that others have made in your industry to understand which marketing techniques are most effective. You should also consider yourself as a sample of one and pay attention to your behavior as a way of injecting some common sense into your marketing plan.

Ask yourself questions like these:

  1. Do you pick up the phone when a telemarketer calls at your home?  At your office? When you find out who is trying to sell to you, do you think more or less highly of that brand?
  2. What do you think about companies that show up high on organic web searches?  Is it different that they way you consider those that purchase ads from search engines?  What about those that have ads and also score high in organic search results?
  3. How many pages of search results are you willing to read before giving up?  How many products or companies do you need to find before you consider you have researched the competition? Three options, ten options? More?
  4. Do you use consumer rating websites to search for scores of products or companies?
  5. Who do you ask for referrals for products or services?  Friends? Colleagues? Experts?  Do you search online for a referral?
  6. How much of your evaluation do you do yourself with online resources?  At what point do you contact the vendor?  At the beginning or near the end of your search?
  7. How long does your purchase process take? Does it often take longer than you expect?
  8. How much importance do you place on a company's website?  What do you look for?  Recent updates?  News? Are you put off but what looks like boilerplate stock photography and text? Are you impressed with videos, animations, and special effects? 
  9. Which marketplace websites do you visit to research a product or service?  Do you read reviews on Amazon.com or service partner descriptions on a site such as Microsoft's?
  10. Do you purchase online or do you need to talk to a person or meet them before you can finalize your purchase?  Is standard pricing sufficient or do you need a custom price quote? 
The answers to these questions vary significantly by industry.  Tech products usually offer detailed information line, for instance, and consumers are likely to make their purchase online without talking to someone or requesting custom pricing.  Enterprise products and services, on the other hand, tend to be expensive and complex enough to justify further communication and a more customized, personal touch. 


Once you have answered these questions yourself, take them to others who will be candid with you. Decide how these considerations apply to your industry and target customers.

An unexamined marketing plan is not worth following, so trust your experience to refine your plan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Understanding Microsoft AppSource and Dynamics 365



On July 6, 2016, Microsoft announced the introduction of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft AppSource. Scheduled to be available in the fall of 2016, Microsoft Dynamics 365 will allow new ways for customers to consume Microsoft's current CRM and ERP cloud offerings based on business functions such as financials, field service, sales, operations, marketing, project management and customer service.

Microsoft AppSource will be an online store for cloud services from Microsoft and third party providers such as InfoStrat and other Microsoft partners.  Microsoft expects to offer more than 200 business SaaS apps, add-ins and content packs when AppSource launches.



The announcement garnered quite a bit of response in the press, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes

Although all the details of Dynamics 365 have not been announced, the essence is bundling and un-bundling of products and features from Microsoft's extensive Dynamics catalog.  Microsoft is enhancing the integration of Dynamics products with Office 365, and moving customers to Office 365 for authentication and management of Dynamics solutions.  One can easily imagine Microsoft progressively dropping support for on premises versions of some products -- perhaps sooner rather than later.

At the same time, Microsoft will be breaking some products into their component parts in order to allow a customer to mix and match the functions that they need to perform.  Dynamics CRM, in particular, has grown along with Microsoft product acquisitions and new developments, adding nearly a dozen new modules or products to CRM.  The Dynamics 365 announcement calls for a more a la carte approach to CRM, so customers could adopt sales force automation without a customer support capability.

In addition to new bundling and de-bundling options, Microsoft's announcement mentions two products which offer connections to "glue" Microsoft (and third party) products together -- Microsoft Flow and PowerApps. Flow connects web services to one another and let's you script business processes and publish templates to connect the web services you need for your business.  For instance, you could use MailChimp for marketing automation but integrate with Dynamics CRM. PowerApps is a tool to build web or mobile apps without writing code, connecting structured and unstructured data sources and even using mobile hardware capabilities such as cameras and GPS. 

Pricing has not been announced for Dynamics 365, but one might expect modular pricing as well as the option to install only the modules that the customer wants to use. 

Microsoft requires third party products on AppSource to use Azure authentication and to use more than one Microsoft product, such as combining Dynamics CRM and PowerBI. 

Up to now, Microsoft has not had a single, consolidated app store for line of business solutions but has had many sites with product listings and scattered app stores with limited support for purchase transactions. 

I doubt that anyone still harbors doubts about Microsoft's commitment to cloud computing, but if so this announcement is another indication of Microsoft's firm product direction to their cloud. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Statewide Grant Management Systems

State governments are slowly moving toward standardization of their grants management systems. Grant management software has been a small niche for many years, and government agencies tend to allow each grant program to choose its own software package, leading to duplication of cost and effort as well as making consolidated reporting difficult.

The rise of cloud computing is leading to consolidation and standardization of those grant management systems.  Major cloud providers have entered the market, and have invested in government cloud facilities which comply with rigorous U.S. Government security requirements and governance standards such as FedRAMP and FISMA.

Microsoft is one of the key players in grant management with its Grants Manager Plus solution running on Dynamics CRM Government as well as its Azure Government platform.

Choosing large vendors is a way for government to reduce the risk that a supplier will go out of business or its product will be retired after an acquisition.  For instance,  Altum, Inc., acquired PhilanTech, Inc. and Benevity acquired Grantstream.  Microsoft has also been in an acquisition spree for CRM companies (and LinkedIn as well).  So far in 2016, the consolidation trend has not ended.  

For more information on grant management and Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, see my posts:

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
6 Things to Look for in Grant Management Software
Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation
Grants Manager Plus: Theme and Variations
Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Online Resources for Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Portal Options for Microsoft Grants Manager
Statewide Grant Management Systems

Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager

Friday, July 1, 2016

Microsoft's New Dynamics CRM Product: Project Service


Microsoft has intensified the pace of innovation in Dynamics CRM, adding a broad set of new capabilities in recent versions of Dynamics CRM Online.  Most of these have been from companies that Microsoft acquired, such as Customer Service (Parature), Field Service (FieldOne), gamification (FantasySales Team), and Marketing (MarketingPilot).

Project Service, the latest addition, was developed in-house by Microsoft.  It offers an end-to-end solution that helps sales and delivery teams track project delivery activities.

Project service helps you:
  • Estimate, quote, and contract work
  • Track time and expenses
  • Plan and assign resources
  • Enable team collaboration
  • Capture time, expense, and progress data for real-time insights and accurate invoicing
Project-based contracts
Project contracts relate quotes and orders to project plans, financial estimates, labor pricing, and billing arrangements, like time and materials or fixed price. The contract highlights key metrics, including profitability and feasibility.

Project planning
Visual project planning tools include predecessors, and automatic task scheduling. The plan may be exported for use in other documents.

Resource management
Project Service tracks skills and availability, so you can assign people to the right projects. The following screen shot shows resource utilization for members of your project team.


Time and expenses
Team members can use the web or mobile apps to record time and expenses for projects. Managers can participate in approval workflows for timesheet entries.

This demo walk-though video is a good place to begin:



For a longer description of Project Service, watch this:



Many of our CRM clients require project management capabilities but find Microsoft Project Server too unwieldy for users who are not professional project managers.  CRM Project Service fulfills the needs of a large audience -- perhaps for the majority of services projects.