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Dynamics 365 for Marketing vs ClickDimensions (part 2)

Two String men arm wrestling

 

This is the second part of a two-part post comparing the user experience of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing versus ClickDimensions in a basic functional area.

In part-one we went through the experience of creating an email template with Dynamics 365 for Marketing.

ClickDimensions

The ClickDimensions experience is as follows;

The first step is to create an Email Template record in Dynamics. Once you have populated any mandatory fields on the form, you can then choose your favourite editor type.

CD_editor type

We found the the NEW Drag and Drop editor is the easiest to use for newbies, but the geek squad can select Custom HTML and create the whole thing in code if they are comfortable with that. There are a few more editor type options available and it is worth experimenting with them all, but we think most people will prefer an easy drag and drop approach.

ClickDimensions Email Record

Once you have saved the record you can click the Open Editor button to start building a template.

Layouts

The next step is to select a layout.

Template selector

There are two tabs to choose from, one contains just visual layouts and the other contains sample content so that you can see how your template might look.

Email selector

Once you have selected a template it will load into the designer view, ready for further editing.

You will notice the layout is very similar to the template designer in the Microsoft product.

Designer Canvas

Design Elements

Clicking on an area within the template, will open up the settings for that particular area.

Images

If we click onto the top image area in the template and click the Select Image button, we are able to select an image from our image library and adjust other settings for the block. One of the advantages that ClickDimensions has over Dynamics 365 for Marketing is that you can edit images once they are uploaded into the image library (see the options in the toolbar below)

Image Toolbar

Both products offer standard type settings such as, alternate text, alignment, image links.

Text

Click into the text block. The text block has a comprehensive tool bar, which appears on the right of the screen as you select a text block.
The tool bar contains all the features you might expect from a word processing tool bar.

Text Settings

Dynamic Content

As with Dynamics 365 for Marketing, ClickDimensions has a button in the text tool bar for adding dynamic content. (see below)

Add Dynamic Content button

The content is added in a Free Marker format. Free Marker is a universally recognized language for preparing and displaying dynamics content. For the user, this means that you can just use the out of the box options to choose and display a field or you can extend the way in which the data is generated and displayed by writing Free Marker code.

Let’s assume, for this post, that we are just interested in a typical scenario and we just want to pull fields from the contact record.
Click the button, you can choose the area you want to take the dynamic content from. Again, we will use the most common case scenario and just go for the first name field of a contact.

Adding Dynamic Content to email

The result is as follows

text freemarker 2

If you want to add a default value, in case there is no first name on a particular record. Then just add it in between the two last quote marks (see below).

text freemarker

Reusable Content

As with Dynamics 365 for Marketing, ClickDimensions allows users with permissions to create reusable sections that can be dragged easily onto an email template. The ability to be able to be able to create a Saved Section is controlled by Dynamics security roles that come with ClickDimensions.

design elements

Overall Page Design

One of the main design principles of ClickDimensions is that all the elements are contained within blocks, and the blocks sit inside sections. The blocks can be formatted individually, or if you leave them, they will take the formatting from the overall Global Style of the template. This  makes it really easy to make changes, such as adjusting the number of columns in your template.
In the images below, we show how easy it is to change a single column template to be a 2-column template.

new email template

I have selected the main section on the template and changed the Number of Columns to 2.

 

email template

Preview and Spam Test

Under the Test & Preview menu there is a drop down which allows a user to validate and preview the email template (as well as send a test email).

Test and Preview button

The preview initially shows a basic desktop and mobile experience for the email template but allows the user to run a fully comprehensive inbox preview which shows a screenshot of the template in various email clients.
Simply click on each one to expand it.

Inbox Preview

The second tab on this screen is the spam filter. The Spam filter shows a score or a PASS for various spam filters

Spam Tester
The validations button will check the Free marker text for any errors and also check to see how likely your email is to be treated as spam.
Once saved, your template is ready to be sent.

Summary

So, now we have looked at both email template creation experiences, what do we think?
Microsoft have built a comprehensive tool in the email template designer. It’s very interesting to note how similar it is to the ClickDimensions template designer (which, of course, existed long before). To us, it feels as though Microsoft have carefully considered the ClickDimensions template designer and more or less tried to emulate it.

We wanted to judge the two products from a user experience point of view.  And we have to say that the use of both products is fairly similar. At times the Microsoft product did feel a little bit glitchy and not as slick and easy to use as ClickDimensions. Having said that, it is usable and we don’t think that the lack of polish on its own would be a show stopper for anyone considering a digital marketing tool.
When it comes to creating and sending marketing emails, what really sets the two tools apart is not so much the template creation, because Microsoft have pretty much got that nailed, but it’s more likely to be the bells and whistles around the sending of emails.
Split (A/B) testing is a standard feature in ClickDimensions which doesn’t exist at all in Dynamics 365 for Marketing. We think this is a huge miss by Microsoft. The sending of emails via  Dynamics work-flow and email “quick-sends” (to groups or individuals) are all standard with ClickDimensions but don’t exist within the Microsoft product. These features, and others (such as proper spam-testing),will be a major consideration for customers looking for a digital marketing tool.
Another factor to consider is that ClickDimensions have a huge amount of blog content and tips on-line, built up over the past few years,  to help new users to get started. Currently Microsoft don’t have enough users using the new product to be able to compete in terms of on-line content. So there is a noticeable lack of help and advice available.

Verdict
In support of Microsoft it has to be considered that Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing is still a baby and has literally been built from the ground up in the last couple of years. Therefore, you have to agree that the progress that has been made is remarkable. If Microsoft continue to invest in developing the product, who knows where it will be in a year or two.

However, in terms of an overall verdict: If my customer was looking for a platform for digital email marketing inside of Microsoft Dynamics 365 today and wanted a recommendation I wouldn’t  hesitate in pointing them towards ClickDimensions.

If you want to discuss this blog post or have a look at anything discussed in more detail please get in touch with us to arrange a chat.

Note: It is important to remember that both products have a lot more features than just email marketing, and customers should not base their decisions on reading one blog post. If you want to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both products in any other area please contact us to arrange chat and possible demonstration.

About Iain Wicks

Iain has been working in the CRM industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience of implementing CRM for small to medium sized business teams. Iain’s focus is on “Keeping it simple” and on user adoption,