SMB Marketing Using MS Dynamics CRM 3.0


 Continuing our series of guest speakers, here is Daniel Petersen of Applied Tech


We are a 15 employee SMB IT provider who has been using Microsoft CRM in house since 1.0.  Initially, we had been using CRM primarily for the service functionality to track help desk cases and projects we were working on.  As our company grew to the point where we actually developed a real sales team with dedicated sales staff, we moved into using sales processes and opportunity tracking.  The release of CRM 3.0 with its new marketing component aligned with the hiring of our first dedicated marketing staff person so we had a nice opportunity to plan our campaigns around the CRM tool and take advantage of what it has to offer.  I’d like to share a bit about the campaigns we’re running, how we’re using CRM to manage them, and some of the issues and workarounds we encountered.


For those of you unfamiliar with the marketing piece of CRM, I’ll give a quick general overview of the process.  Campaigns consist of a set of planning tasks which must be completed prior to launch, campaign activities which are carried out through the course of the campaign, and campaign responses which are the customer or lead responses that ultimately the campaign is designed to generate.  Examples of what planning tasks could include are:  deciding on an audience to target, determining campaign budget, choosing the marketing channel, etc.  The CRM system will prevent the campaign from being launched until these tasks are completed.  Campaign activities are the actual marketing activities such as direct mailings and phone calls.  Each campaign activity is distributed to its associated marketing list, generating an individual CRM activity to be completed for each member of the list.  Campaign responses are audience’s reaction to the campaign activities and would include responses such as not interested, interested, or requests to be removed from future marketing lists.


The campaigns we’ve developed have generally been specific to a particular product or service offering, but have all had the same structure and associated activities.  The template we’ve been following consists of the following steps:



  • First awareness postcard mailing

  • Second awareness postcard mailing

  • Third awareness postcard mailing

  • 1st Phone Call – Personal Introduction

  • 2nd Phone Call – Follow up

  • Final awareness letter

  • 3rd Phone Call – Follow up

The postcard activities are performed via mail merge by our marketing person.  The phone calls and final awareness letter are performed by the sales rep who has been assigned to the associated lead or account.  The entire audience gets the postcards, but beginning with step 4 individuals drop out of the following steps as soon as contact is made.  There is generally one week between mailings and two days between phone calls.  Communication and timing are extremely important in the success of these campaigns because we don’t want someone calling cold and we don’t want our potential customers to go too long without a touch from us.


So to begin the campaign, our marketing director goes through the planning tasks of determining the audience and choosing the mailing collateral for the campaign.  She then creates the marketing lists and creates four campaign activities corresponding to the first four steps outlined above.  She distributes each of the first postcard mailing activities at the appropriate time, performs the mail merge operation to generate the postcard labels, and sends out the postcards.


After the postcards are mailed, she distributes the 1st phone call activity and the remainder of the campaign is handed off to the sales reps making the actual calls.  The CRM marketing component automatically creates separate phone call activities for each call to be made and these activities are automatically assigned to the owner of the associated lead or account.


The first issue we ran across was in the creation and distribution of the letter based campaign activities for our postcards.  When a campaign activity is created, you must specify both a target list for the activity and the channel associated with the activity (e.g., fax, letter, phone call, etc.).  The campaign activity is then distributed, creating a separate CRM activity of the chosen channel type for each member of the list.  For example, if the campaign activity is a postcard mailing and the target list contains 200 leads, distributing the activity will create 200 individual open Letter activities in CRM, each of which links to a particular lead as the recipient.


The problem we ran into with this is that to ensure accurate records, each of these letter activities must now be closed individually when the mailing is sent.  In cases such as phone calls, this isn’t an issue because each phone call is made individually and notes need to be taken for each call.  For letters that are mail merged and sent in bulk, this creates a time-consuming (and not very exciting) task for someone in the marketing department.  A quick fix for this is to use a combination of workflow rules and letter naming conventions.  We preface these activities with a ‘CPN’ abbreviation and set up a workflow rule that looks for this preface when letters are created and automatically closes those that match.  This ensures we have a complete activity summary for our leads and accounts that still provides accurate open/closed status information for each activity.


The second issue we ran into was in the follow up phone calls and final awareness letter.  As mentioned above, as soon as a personal contact is made, we want to remove the lead or account from the list of remaining activities.  The distributed campaign activity model used for the first set of mailings and initial phone call won’t work here because the list of recipients for each of these later activities is dynamic.  We could possible have used Advanced Find to create these filtered lists, but we wanted our sales staff to work independently through their assigned accounts without requiring any additional support from the marketing department.  Another way to handle this would have been to use the same phone call activity as the one originally created with the distribution and just change the topic from “1st Phone Call” to “2nd Phone Call” and change the due date.  We didn’t like this because a performance metric for our sales staff is the total number of dialed calls and we would lose this data if we simply used the same activity.


We ended up using a customization that builds on the existing Follow Up feature in CRM.  The idea of the follow up is nice, but the default in CRM doesn’t carry enough data from the original activity.  Ideally, when you are in a phone call activity and create a follow up phone call activity, the new phone call would default to the original recipient name and number.  It doesn’t do this, so using this feature would require our sales reps to re-key or copy and paste this information.  When working through a set of 150 phone calls, this becomes very time consuming.  I was able to find a customization posted by Peter Maude at http://www.tconv.com/blogs/crm3tips/2006/03/modifying-standard-toolbars-in.html that addresses this issue.  What it does is create a single click toolbar button called “Follow up with Phone Call” that defaults the appropriate information into the new call.  This is used to generate the 2nd and 3rd phone call activities.


After a sales rep completes all the 2nd phone call activities there is now a list of 3rd phone call activities yet to be completed.  Using a saved view, the sales rep then uses a mail merge to create the final letter for all leads or accounts who have this 3rd phone call associated with them.  After the letter is sent, the rep waits a few days and then completes the last set of calls.


Throughout this whole process, campaign responses are tracked and leads are converted to accounts/opportunities when appropriate.


Daniel Petersen

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