Constant Contact Email Marketing

The business value of email marketing is inarguable. Few advertising alternatives can even come close to providing the same value for every dollar invested. Email is not just a generator of new sales either. It also helps keep your business on the minds of consumers and builds brand loyalty. When your targeted messages reach customers’ in-boxes, those messages provide you with opportunities to influence your customers’ behaviors, whether that is to encourage them to click a link, buy a product, or simply to think about your company.

The benefits of email marketing are clear. However, once you have created an email template, crafted the message, and fired it off, you are left with nagging questions. How many of my email messages ended up in spam folders? How many recipients opened the email? Did they click any links contained in the email? How many recipients unsubscribed? Did anyone forward my message to new potential customers?

If you are using a standard CRM system to manage your email marketing, you most likely are not receiving the answers to these questions. CRM systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com, or SugarCRM, typically include some level of email marketing functionality as part of their marketing areas. However, this functionality is relatively limited, and does not include the kind of advanced analytics that you need to make informed decisions about your email campaigns.

Standalone email marketing services handle the task of creating and managing email campaigns better than CRM can, and Constant Contact Email Marketing is one of the best.

Constant Contact Email Marketing Features that Rock

Constant Contact Email Marketing features a user-friendly email editor with customizable templates and drag-and-drop editing that makes it incredibly easy to design professional-looking emails. The email editors that come standard with many CRM applications are usually serviceable but not adequate for companies that are serious about effectively marketing their products and services through email. The Constant Contact email editor and templates make it much easier to craft great looking emails with no HTML knowledge necessary. Constant Contact also makes it easy to integrate your social media into your emails.

The email editor is great, but the metrics that Constant Contact provides make the service a virtual necessity. If you are using the email marketing features in most CRM applications, you can utilize the included HTML editor to create an email, create a marketing list using your contacts, and schedule the email as part of a campaign. Once the emails have been fired off, however, you have very little information that allows you to analyze the effectiveness of your campaigns. Unless the recipient responds via email or calls, it is very difficult for you to make informed decisions about your email marketing.

Constant Contact email metrics include bounces, opt-outs, opens, clicks, and forwards. This information allows you to analyze your email campaigns and make informed decisions. Constant Contact lets you know how well your email messages are being received. Trying to conduct effective email marketing campaigns without this information is virtually impossible.

Constant Contact Integration

Another benefit of Constant Contact Email Marketing is that it can be integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, as well as with several other CRM applications and services.

If you are using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to manage your important relationships and Constant Contact to get your messages into your customers’ inboxes, Microsoft Partner xRM has created an integration tool. This tool allows you to synchronize your CRM contacts to your Constant Contact and push many Constant Contact metrics into the CRM system that you already use to make many of your critical business decisions. xRM Constant Contact Integration saves you time, ensures that your Constant Contact marketing lists are accurate, and eliminates the burden of managing multiple databases. To explore other integrations, visit the Constant Contact Marketplace.

Constant Contact Pricing

Constant Contact Email Marketing pricing begins at $15 per month for companies with 0-500 contacts*. The company offers discounts to organizations that prepay and an even greater discount to non-profit companies that prepay.

This table shows the standard monthly pricing.

Number of Contacts Monthly Price
0-500 $15
501-2,500 $30
2,501-5,000 $50
5,001-10,000 $75
10,001-25,000 $150
25,000+ Call

*Pricing accurate as of 5/1/2013

Click here to learn more about Constant Contact Email Marketing.

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Is Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online HIPAA Compliant?

At xRM, we frequently hear two questions from our customers who work in the medical industry, whether are they doctors, dentists, clinics, or health insurance companies:

  1. Is Microsoft Dynamics CRM HIPAA compliant?
  2. Will Microsoft provide a signed HIPAA-BAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act and The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act are two federal laws that govern the handling of personal health information (PHI) Personal Health Records (PHR). The laws require that all hospitals, insurance providers, and medical offices (known as HIPAA-covered entities or entities for short) maintain control of and security over this personal information. The acts require that vendors that provide services to HIPAA-covered entities comply with the regulations as well. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online meets all of the requirements of HIPAA and HITECH.

A Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is a contract between a HIPAA-covered entity and a vendor that provides that entity with services. HIPAA and HITECH impose regulations on those vendors who use and disclose PHI. Microsoft will provide a signed HIPAA-BAA for any of its CRM Online customers who request it. You can request a signed HIPAA-BAA here.

You can read more about Microsoft’s commitment to security and privacy by visiting the Microsoft Trust Center.

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How Secure is Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online?

The words “cloud” and “online” can generate a considerable amount of consternation for some people who worry about the security of data stored in those systems. Customers of xRM.com frequently ask us the same question: How secure is Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online? The people that ask this question aren’t luddites. They have legitimate concerns about the security of their data in online systems.

Microsoft is the largest software company in the world, and it has put its considerable resources into ensuring that Dynamics CRM meets the strictest security standards in the world. Back in August of 2012, we wrote about the appearance of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online on the Security, Assurance & Trust Registry created by the Cloud Security Alliance. At the time, CRM Online was one of only 1% of cloud-based solutions that had met the requirements and registered. To this day, it remains the only online CRM solution on the registry.

In addition to joining the STAR registry, Microsoft has ensured that CRM Online continues to meet the strictest security requirements:

Certified for ISO 27001

The ISO 27001 standard, created in 2005, is the standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) for any kind of organization, large or small, for-profit or non-profit. ISO 27001 specifies requirements for the “establishing, implementing, monitoring, reviewing, maintaining, and improving a documented Information Security Management System.” The BSI (the organization that certifies ISO compliance) regularly audits Microsoft to ensure that CRM Online meets the ISO 27001 standards for information security.

CSA Cloud Controls Matrix

The Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix provides a framework of security principles designed to help cloud service providers ensure that their services offer the highest level of security. The matrix also provides customers with a way to evaluate the security practices of the cloud service providers whose services the customers are investigating.

Click here to read how Microsoft meets the security, compliance, and risk management requirements of the Cloud Control Matrix.

Safe Harbor

The European Union, which has stricter privacy rules than the United States, created the Safe Harbor requirements in 2001 to govern the transfer of personally-identifiable information out of the EU countries. Companies that wish to do business with EU customers must abide by the Safe Harbor standards. Microsoft recertifies its Safe Harbor compliance every twelve months.

EU Model Clauses

Microsoft has also made a major commitment to follow the requirements of the EU Model Clauses, which govern the transfer of personal data of residents of the European Union to locations outside the EU. Organizations that deal with the personal data of EU residents must make sure that their cloud service providers understand and abide by the conditions of the EU Model Clauses. Microsoft will also back its commitment with a signed contract. While the EU sets a high standard for the security of transmitted data, you don’t have to be an EU citizen to benefit from the EU Model Clauses.

If you are considering a cloud-based CRM solution, please visit xRM.com to learn more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM. xRM has a variety of resources including Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online webinars and a self-help video library devoted to Dynamics CRM called the Success Portal.

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The Simplicity of Polaris

As a CRM Online customer, or even a person who might be interested in CRM Online, you have to appreciate the current thinking from Microsoft – that their CRM solution is a bit … complex.  In fact, it’s not just Microsoft that believes this, but it’s something we hear a lot as we work with our own customers, and those who we help to decide whether CRM Online is for them.  As powerful as it is to transform business operations and sales , we still get plenty of folks who walk away because it’s just too complicated to simplify things.

Good news!  There is a new release for CRM Online  code-named “Polaris” , in which several important changes were made. Perhaps the most significant, global change is support for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox web browsers.  We have tested CRM Online 2011 on Chrome, and we find it to work well. 

Another significant change has been the simplification of the Sales Process within CRM.  As you may know, the Lead entity is designed to be where you store relatively low-value information which may or may not “Convert” or “Qualify” to become more valuable and richer information, such as Contacts (People), Accounts (Companies) and Opportunities (Revenue).  Well , if you are a user you also know that the Qualify process, while it is somewhat of a time-saver, forces you to open a separate window for the Contact, the Account, and the Opportunity.  And in some cases, the information you are trying to find overlapping on all three forms!  This is the kind of complexity that cause some people to move away from this product, and we are happy to say that the new “Polaris” interface is vastly less complex.  With Polaris, when opening up a Lead, there is just one screen to look at as you move through the stages of Contact, Account, and Opportunity.  All of the records are still created, but in the background, and you can continue to work on the sales process without opening a bunch more windows. 

Same with Activities – instead of CLICK! – Activities –CLICK! – New – CLICK! – Phone Call and fill out information – now it’s right on the form itself, as an embedded element.  Ahhhh .. simplicity.

Please have a look at the video below to see it in action…

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How to Set Your Own Default Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

This is simple but huge. New to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, every user can set his or her own default view for every entity. That means whenever you navigate to an entity you commonly access, you don’t have to wait for the system default view to load and then choose another view. It’s a move in the right direction toward an interface that conforms to the user rather than the other way around. This is just one of the new personalization features in Dynamics CRM 2011. Used in conjunction with setting your own home page and creating your own personal views, setting your default views can save lots of navigating time and make your work more comfortable.

We will demonstrate this by setting My Open Leads as the default view for the Lead entity.

Note: This task requires no extra permissions beyond those found in all default security roles. It is available in all deployments of Dynamics CRM 2011, including CRM Online.

1.  Navigate to the Leads entity located in the Marketing module in the left navigation pane. In this example, All Leads is currently set as the default view. Next, we choose the view we wish to set as our default view by opening the dropdown menu listing all available views. To open the dropdown menu, click the arrow next to All Leads. Then we will select the My Open Leads view.

2. A highly touted improvement to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface, especially the context-sensitive ribbon. The ribbon intuitively organizes and presents the commands most relevant to your current task. Now that we have opened our desired default view, we simply click on the Set As Default View button, logically located in the View tab of the ribbon. It’s pretty straight forward.

From now on, whenever we select the Leads entity, we will immediately be presented with the My Open Leads view. We can change our default view whenever we want and how often we want as well, and other users can set their own defaults. It’s personal!

If you wish to improve your fluency in Dynamics CRM 2011, you might be interested in xRM.com’s formal CRM Online training. You may also find our CRM Success Portal, which hosts numerous xRM.com produced Microsoft CRM Online tutorial videos, to be quite helpful. To learn more about CRM Online, we invite you to discover the xRM process.

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xRM.com Stands Out at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2011

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recognized xRM.com as a key contributor and innovator in taking Microsoft Dynamics CRM to the cloud. He did this during his keynote address this year at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC).

You may be wondering, “What is the Worldwide Partner Conference?” The WPC is the annual gathering of the Microsoft partner community. Tens of thousands of Microsoft partners spanning 130 countries attend the WPC every year to learn what the future has in store for the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft uses the WPC to present its partners with a roadmap of its goals and plans, as well as to report on progress made in the previous year and recognize partners for their achievements. For Microsoft partners, the WPC provides an opportunity to network, collaborate, and get the inside scoop on Microsoft’s latest product innovations.

At the WPC 2011, Microsoft reaffirmed its commitment to the cloud. Mr. Ballmer also recognized the profound impact Microsoft partners have on Microsoft’s success in realizing cloud technology. With this in mind, he cited xRM.com.

“I believe you can understand we’re all-in [on cloud technology] and we want partners who really push with us—partners like xRM.com. xRM.com is a partner that’s worked with us on a win for CRM with the LA public schools—70,000 employees all moved to Microsoft CRM through the work of xRM.com.”

Mr. Ballmer is referencing our work with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). By leveraging the xRM concept, we were able to design a business solution that met LAUSD’s practical needs while improving user adoption and reducing expenses. For more details, please read our xRM.com-LAUSD Case Study.

We are thrilled about receiving recognition for our work, and we continue to push forward by finding innovative and effective methods of meeting the needs of our customers. xRM.com prides itself in creating tailor-made business solutions. We offer a variety of services at xRM.com, and they all revolve around the Microsoft ecosystem. If you are interested in leveraging an xRM platform, we invite you to discover the xRM process.

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Office 365: Just Getting Started

If your business leverages cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft Office 365, we have good news for you. Microsoft has announced that it plans to add CRM Online to the base suite of hosted applications available in Office 365. While the exact details of licensing and pricing are uncertain at this time, Microsoft plans to release this package in the second half of 2011.

Here is a little background information on Office 365. It is an updated bundle that includes the cloud applications previously offered through Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services along with other applications that have moved into the cloud, creating a powerful package of productivity tools that can be accessed anywhere over the internet. Office 365 includes the online versions of the popular productivity applications Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. It also includes a Microsoft-hosted suite of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online, creating a comprehensive package able to meet the productivity, communication, and collaboration needs of any business. Now, with the inclusion of CRM Online, Office 365 is about to get even better.

The infrastructure and billing system of CRM Online is currently independent of that of other Microsoft cloud applications. In fact, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online each runs on its own servers in Microsoft datacenters across the globe. You may be wondering, “How can Microsoft effectively deliver a unified solution that includes so many individual pieces?” The answer is Windows Azure, a cloud-computing platform designed to run applications, at scale, via the internet. Microsoft is working to move all elements of Office 365 to Windows Azure, including CRM Online once it is included in the package. This common platform will allow Microsoft to align update schedules and deliver tighter integration to all Office 365 customers.

The inclusion of CRM Online adds to the value of Office 365 because it is step towards an all-inclusive Microsoft environment. Fully integrated applications that work and communicate with one another can increase efficiency and foster strong collaboration.

xRM.com specializes in Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementations. We have vast experience with the Microsoft Online Services portfolio. We have provided many of our customers with business solutions that include BPOS and CRM Online, and we look forward to being able to provide them together in the new Office 365 bundle. If you wish to learn more about this, or are interested in our consulting services, please follow our xRM Call to Action.

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An Abundance of Third-Party IT in the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace

Coinciding with the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, Microsoft has created the Dynamics Marketplace so partners, like xRM, and users can post custom CRM applications and solutions to benefit the Dynamics community. Microsoft Partners create an ample number of solutions for Microsoft Dynamics products, which are designed to help users fully leverage the software. The Dynamics Marketplace helps users find a solution best suited to their needs. Created primarily to compliment Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 (though it contains content for Dynamics ERP as well), the Dynamics Marketplace is mutually beneficial for partners and customers. Partners can post their written solutions and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 customizations while customers can browse the catalog for industry-specific applications or compatible Microsoft partners.

The main purpose of the Dynamics Marketplace is to connect Dynamics CRM customers with a Microsoft Partner that can help them with a business solution; the marketplace does this through a traditional catalog environment. This catalog empowers customers, giving them the freedom to choose a specific application through a series of filters and suggestions. Code for these applications will be hosted in the marketplace and customers can download them as a trial or as a production system. If customers’ needs extend beyond a single application, the marketplace allows them to find partners that can be hired to host and manage their CRM solutions.

The Dynamics Marketplace fosters mutually beneficial relationships now that partners can attract customers who are seeking out a service provider based on select criteria. The marketplace allows partner “X” to attract business from customers seeking out services, who have not yet heard of partner “X”. The Dynamics Marketplace is the forum that brings the two together. At the time of this writing, partners can post links in the marketplace that lead customers directly to their sites, where they can handle transactions. Eventually, the Dynamics Marketplace will be able to handle transactions between the partner and customer on the site, streamlining the experience for both parties.

Dynamics Marketplace
Get to the Marketplace from CRM 2011 by clicking
Resource Center, Highlights, and Marketplace.

The Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace is an environment that helps customers maximize their business’ potential, and allows partners to highlight their specialties. Accessible from both inside and outside of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, the Dynamics Marketplace is not only the discovery of third-party IT, but also the effective utilization of IT. The Dynamics Marketplace delivers partner value in a frictionless way. As a Microsoft Certified Partner, xRM will be contributing effective and helpful solutions to the Dynamics Marketplace.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Update Rollup 14

Microsoft CRM Update Rollup 14

Microsoft released Update Rollup 14. This set of updates includes performance enhancements that are packaged together for easy deployment.

System Requirements

  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows 7; Windows Server 2003; Windows Server 2008; Windows Vista; Windows XP

Prerequisites: 

  • This update must be installed on a computer that is running Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0.
  • This update requires Microsoft .NET Framework 3.

Download CRM Update Rollup 14

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