Guest Post: 6 Marketing Automation Tips Using ClickDimensions

This post is republished with permission from our partner Magenium Solutions’ blog, and authored by CRM MVP Richard Knudson.

Marketing automation is one of my special interest areas within CRM, and I’m an enthusiastic user of the ClickDimensions marketing automation add-on for Dynamics CRM. If you’re using ClickDimensions (CD for short) or considering it, here are a few tips & tricks you may find helpful.

#1: Duplicate Email Addresses.

CD will only send a single email to an email address within a single Email Send (a.k.a. “email blast”), even if that email address is duplicated within one or more marketing lists associated with the Email Send.

#2: Advanced Find Example: Who Clicked, Who Unsubscribed?

Advanced Find is a powerful querying tool, and the mountains of data that can be generated by marketing automation efforts make it important to understand how it works. Here are a couple of queries that are useful both in understanding how your marketing efforts are paying off… and in understanding how Advanced Find works.

Suppose you want to query for all the contacts that clicked a link on an email you sent out for a specific campaign. You can use Advanced Find to “drill through” the related records and create a query like this:

Here’s how I’d explain a query like this one:

We’re querying on the Contact entity, which has a 1:N relationship to the CD Email Events entity. Email Events have a field named Type with values such as Open, Unsubscribe, or Click, which is what we query for here.

Because email events are not directly associated with campaigns, we need to take another step to filter for a specific campaign. Fortunately, Email Event has a relationship to Email Send (N:1, if you’re counting), and the email send entity is directly associated with Campaign (also by an N:1). So you can “drill through” the email send and then select the campaign value you want to query for.

Now, suppose you want to see which contacts unsubscribed from the same email. All you need to do here is change the Type query to Unsubscribe instead of Click, and that does it:

Now let’s ask a slightly different question, such as which contacts have unsubscribed since the beginning of the year, regardless of any other criteria. I’d do it like this:

#3: Removing Unsubscribes from Marketing Lists

To me, this one has never been as obvious as it seems like it should be. Here are a few of the reasons I put this into my “not as obvious as it seems like it should be” category:

First, if a contact or lead is opted out, CD has built-in functionality that will prevent emails from being sent to them. This is a nice feature, and at first it might make you think you don’t need to remove unsubscribes from your marketing lists. But I recommend removing all unsubscribes from lists intended for email marketing, mainly because list counts will be misleading otherwise.

Second, what do we mean by the term opt-out, anyway? We’ve seen above that CD uses the Type field on the email event to record unsubscribes, so you might use a query like this one to remove opted out contacts from a marketing list:

Third: yes, I know what you’re thinking: Wait a second, isn’t that what marketing preferences on the Contact record are for? Shouldn’t I use the Do not allow Bulk Emails field? Good point. And in answering this question, there are two sub-points:

  • Until recently, CD did not update the Do not allow Bulk Emails flag on contact or lead records in response to an unsubscribe event. Since many CRM users (myself included) have traditionally used the field for that purpose, it was easy to assume this happened automatically. Thankfully, this feature was quietly added to a recent CD update, so now it works the way you’d think it should, and you can use a query like this one to remove opt-outs from your marketing lists:

  • When I compare these two approaches, I generally remove more people from the list with the Bulk Emails flag than with the Unsubscribes approach. Why would this be? Well, think of it like this: there’s only one way an Unsubscribe event can be generated, and for every one of those CD now automatically flips the Bulk Emails flag to do not allow. But there are lots of other ways the Bulk Emails field could be set, most obviously by a CRM user updating it manually. So you’ll almost always remove more opt-outs – and maintain more accurate email mailing lists – if you use the Bulk Emails flag than if you rely on the more specific ClickDimensions Unsubscribe event.

#4: Which Editor to Use?

CD gives you a choice of three editor types when you’re creating a new email template: the Block Editor, Free Style, and Custom HTML. After you make your choice and save the template, you can’t change the editor type. So…which one should you use? Here’s how I handicap the three editor types:

Editor Type: Block

Pros: Easiest user experience; no HTML skills required, Wizard-style editing process
Cons: Width of email limited to 600 px; cannot paste HTML into entire template at once (must paste in a block at a time)

Editor Type: Free Style

Pros: Can paste in entire template at once; Can use visual editor or dive into HTML
Cons: Malformed HTML can make for hella-bad editing experience (out, damned &NBSP’s!)

Editor Type: Custom HTML

Pros: Can paste in entire template at once
Cons: Must HTML dive (no visual editor); Malformed HTML can make for hella-bad editing experience (out, damned &NBSP’s!)

The longer I work with CD, the more I like the block editor and the less I like the other two. While the wizard-style editing process may slow you down if you’re an HTML geek, for me that’s an acceptable tradeoff. Apart from its two main limitations (600 px width and inability to paste in an entire template in one go), there’s really nothing you cannot do in the block editor that you can do in the other two.

One gotcha you definitely should watch out for is importing malformed HTML in either the free style or custom HTML editors, which is easy to do (for me, at any rate). If you’ve ever experienced the rapidly proliferating &NBSP’s syndrome, you know what I’m talking about. And even if the HTML you import is perfectly well-formed, imported HTML will almost always have stuff in it you don’t need. For example, recently I imported an HTML template that had been created in Dreamweaver. It looked great and I didn’t see any obvious problems with it. But then I thought I’d take a quick look at the imported HTML and compare it to the HTML created by the CD block editor. For a straightforward comparison, I focused on one block, a “corporate information” section I wanted to include in my July email newsletter. In design view, with the Dreamweaver-imported block first and the CD-created block second, you can’t tell any difference:

But when I compared the HTML, there was a big difference. The HTML created by the ClickDimensions block editor was clean and easy to understand:

The HTML imported from Dreamweaver was at least 4x longer and much more complex, without any offsetting benefits. So in the Dynamics CRM marketing automation application of Occam’s razor, these days I generally go with the block editor.

#5: Tracking Marketing Activity

If you want to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts – and especially if you want to measure ROI for campaigns – you have to do some planning and be aware of a few CRM background facts. Start with the Marketing ROI Quick Guide from ClickDimensions. Once you’ve mastered that, read my Bullet-Proof Marketing ROI article and download the accompanying white paper. Then you’ll appreciate the following three related tips:

Start by Tracking Source Campaign

Of all the information covered in those sources, the only thing I’ll repeat here is the central importance of the Source Campaign field, which is available out of the box on the Dynamics CRM lead and opportunity record types.

Just remember this rule: If you want to have any hope of calculating solid marketing ROI metrics, always start by associating every ClickDimensions Email Send with a Campaign. This isn’t sufficient for ROI tracking, but it is necessary.

Remember: Email Events are Not Associated with Campaigns; Email Sends Are.

This is a reminder on a point raised in Tip #2 above, and it leads us to the following tip.

Track Most Recent Marketing Activity on your Contact Records

To measure marketing ROI you need to have the Source Campaign recorded on whatever transaction record you’re using to represent sales. In Dynamics CRM, the opportunity, quote, order and invoice entities are the out-of-the-box sales transaction records, and all but invoice have the Source Campaign field available by default. If you use invoices, you can add that field as a custom lookup, or if you’re using a custom entity you can add a custom lookup there (e.g., banks might use a “bank account” entity and use the “opening balance” field to measure a sale).

With that background information, let’s assume that you’re using opportunities to represent sales. The issue addressed by this tip is how do you know which campaign to associate an opportunity with? Relying on users to manually enter the Source Campaign field on every qualifying record is problematic at best, and the more so the more opportunities you have in your pipeline. (If you read my Bullet-Proof Marketing ROI article, you’ll notice I assumed you could associate a sales transaction with a campaign. I’m picking up the ball here where I left it there.)

The key is to automate the process: figure out the business rules that should associate an opportunity with a campaign, and build a workflow or a plug-in to implement those rules. There are lots of ways to do this, but to motivate one of my favorites, consider the following sections of a customized CRM contact form:

By default, CRM doesn’t provide much in the way of tracking recent marketing activity directly on the contact form. In this figure, only the Last Date Included in Campaign field is a default field. It shows you the last date a Campaign Activity was distributed for the contact, and since ClickDimensions emails aren’t recorded as distributed campaign activities, none of your CD efforts will be readily available from the contact record. Since many of my most high-impact interactions are through CD emails, I like to create several custom fields on the contact entity to track the most recent activity.

After creating fields like the ones you see in the Recent Campaign Activity section, a workflow like the following can be update them automatically whenever an Email Event record is created:

So…what’s the advantage of recording this recent campaign activity directly on a contact record?

A small advantage is convenience: even though you can use Advanced Find to query for contacts’ responses to CD emails (Tip #2), it’s kind of a hassle, and it’s definitely easier to build a query like this one, querying fields directly on the contact entity:

A big advantage is that if you do this you can automatically track revenue back to a campaign. When an opportunity is created, a simple automatic workflow can check the customer record (account or contact – the same logic applies to both) for the last campaign activity and fill the opportunity Source Campaign field appropriately. Automatic ROI tracking: Bam!

#6: Always Use Permission-based Lists

Do you use purchased lists for email marketing? If so, you’re in violation of the ClickDimensions terms & conditions, which explicitly prohibit the use of purchased lists. Most of their competitors’ anti-spam policies are very similar. Two examples:

ExactTarget Anti-Spam Policy

Constant Contact Anti-Spam Policy

On the other hand…Marketo’s anti-spam policy is a little different. It’s shorter, and basically says you have to be in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Marketo’s policy also says it’s ok to send email to someone who’s consented to receive email, including by “…publishing or providing their email address in a manner from which consent to receive email of the type transmitted may be reasonably implied.”

In any case, most direct marketers agree that permission-based lists are the way to go. Here’s an excellent article – Avoiding the Purchased List Email Marketing Trap – that cuts through the T&C clutter and provides a clear explanation of why it’s best to avoid purchased lists.

But that’s not the only thing you need to think about when building your email marketing lists. For example European anti-spam rules are generally stricter than American ones. Here’s a good summary of the differences in opt-in laws between the EU and the US. Probably the most significant difference is that in the US, the CAN-SPAM act allows emails to be sent to someone not opted in, provided they can opt out. In Europe, direct marketing email can only be sent to someone explicitly opted in.

On a topical note, many commentators have noted that the reaction in America to NSA’s PRISM operation has been relatively muted compared to that in Europe. Is it a stretch to make comparisons, or are our European friends more jealous guardians of their privacy than we are here in the states? In any case, if you need to build email marketing lists for both sides of the Atlantic, just remember that from a compliance standpoint: Americans are opted in until they’re out; Europeans are out until they’re in.

And from a best practice standpoint, always use permission-based lists.

Richard Knudson
VP, CRM Practice
Magenium Solutions

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