Transitioning from Outbound Marketing to Real-Time Marketing

If you are an existing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights – Journeys customer (formerly known as Dynamics 365 Marketing), you will likely have heard that you need to transition from the Outbound Marketing side of the platform to the Real-time Marketing side of the platform. 

But what does that exactly mean? 

Let’s rewind a moment to explain what those terms refer to: 

Outbound Marketing – is the legacy part of the platform, largely segment-based journey creation, with some capabilities for forms, landing pages, lead scoring and some limited social posting. 

Real-time Marketing – Microsoft’s shiny new(ish) part of the platform (it’s been available since around 2021), which is being heavily invested in and is evolving at a rapid rate, with totally new features but also improvements on some of the features that were available within Outbound. Real-time is focused on exactly what it says on the tin ‘real-time’ customer interactions and communications. 

Why do you need to transition to Real-time Marketing? 

Microsoft have announced that they are bringing together how you buy and license both Dynamics Customer Insights – Data, i.e. the Customer Data Platform (CDP) and Customer Insights – Journeys. We’ll be posting another article about that in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on our blog. 

Also, since September 2023 any new customers purchasing Dynamics Customer Insights – Journeys will not get access to the legacy Outbound Marketing any more as standard. 

So, for any existing customers this signals that Outbound Marketing is very much on borrowed time. 

How long, is hard to say for sure. Microsoft will provide notice for any retirement plans, but to make sure you are not caught out by this when it does happen, here are our top tips for starting your migration over to Real-time Marketing: 

  1. Get yourself familiar with the similarities and differences between Outbound Marketing and Real-time Marketing. Especially consents as that works quite differently within Real-time Marketing. 

  1. Map the functionality you are using to the new capabilities available within Real-time Marketing to help identify opportunities for a re-design or an evolution of any journeys, and to help identify any training requirements for your teams. 

  1. Start auditing any assets that need to be migrated, such as content, segments, forms and imagery as a good place to start. 

  1. As they say, “by failing to plan, you are preparing to fail”. So make a plan! Consider the milestones you have, such as major events or revenue generating journeys to help you understand what may be safer to stay put for the short term or what you need to tackle migrating now. 

  1. Tackle any new journeys you are planning for deployment within Real-time Marketing. Get familiar now with the different interface (although it is much easier to use and navigate than the previous Outbound Marketing) and the feature set you have available in that side of the platform.  

  1. Review what existing journeys you currently have and will need to migrate. Which journeys could do with a ground up re-think or redesign, rather than a straight “lift and shift”. Factor in the new features you have available to you within Real-time Marketing.  
    For example, maybe it would be better to move a specific journey over to being Trigger based rather than Segment based. And what do I mean by those terms? 

  • Segments – Demographic or firmographic information, behaviours and/or preferences, which can be either ‘static’ or ‘dynamic’, i.e. operating on a scheduled refresh. 

  • Triggers – Responding to an action in ‘real-time’ for example, someone visiting a website, abandoning the basket or cart, walking into a store and logging onto Wi-Fi, checking into an event or scanning a ticket. 

And maybe you will have some journeys that won’t need to be migrated at all. It is a good time to do some housekeeping and drop any journeys or campaigns that are not generating any value for your marketing efforts. 

  1. Create a training plan for your users and super users with relevant resources and run some hands-on guided sessions. Especially consider anyone planning or reviewing how to update and migrate your journeys so they understand what Real-time Marketing features may provide opportunities to evolve legacy journey designs. 

  1. If you are using any interaction data from Outbound Marketing (such as open or click data) in any custom reporting outside of Dynamics Customer Insights – Journeys itself (so outside of the native dashboards available within the platform), for example within PowerBi. Then you’ll need to be aware that Real-Time Marketing approaches this quite differently. For Outbound Marketing this data has to be surfaced via Azure Blob storage for any reporting outside of the platform, whereas Real-Time Marketing uses an managed data lake, which leads to some interesting challenges if you need to stitch your historical data and Real-Time Marketing interaction data together. But the good news it, this then opens the door for some exciting developments on the reporting horizon from Microsoft in the not to distant future too – which may make for another interesting article. 

  1. If you are feeling a tad overwhelmed or are not quite sure where to start, our team of experts are on-hand to help you through this transition, so reach out

Overview of Real-time marketing: 

  • Real-time, trigger-based journeys with the right message sent, at the right time, to the right person and on the right channel. 
  • Customisable and flexible system to present your users with the information they need to see in their day-to-day. 
  • Shared database with Dynamics Sales and Customer Service meaning no complex integration work or cost required, so your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and your marketing platform work seamlessly together out of the box. 

  • Native integration with Customer Insights – Data, opening the doors on executing automated and targeted journeys sent to unified profiles collated from multiple source systems. 
  • Multi-channel with email, SMS and push (plus the ability to develop custom channels). 
  • Event planning for onsite and virtual events. 
  • AI powered channel optimisation, content ideas and segmentation creation. 
  • Personalise communications and make it more relevant to your audience via the use of conditional content (i.e. dynamic contact) in your email creative. 

  • Act on enquiries using out of the box forms which can be embedded on your own website or can use system-generated standalone pages. 
  • Reduce contact fatigue and unsubscribes with frequency capping settings to restrict how many communications get sent to your audience on different channels and within different time periods. 
  • Improve the consistency of your tracking and reporting with automated Google Analytics UTM tagging. 
  • Creation of tasks and activities right from the journeys canvas and assign to sales or the right person to act on that task. 
  • Lead scoring and qualification. 

We’ll take a closer look in the next article in this series on the key differences and similarities between the features of Outbound Marketing and Real-time Marketing. So stay tuned!

Author boiler plate: 
I’m Debbie Rowles a Solution Architect heading up the Marketing Technology side of the Microsoft Practice here at Edit. 
We work with our clients to help them select, implement and optimise their usage of their marketing technology platforms to drive value and adoption throughout their organisation. 
Prior to my time at Edit, I’ve largely worked client-side, leading Marketing Operations, Campaigns and ECRM functions in both B2C and global B2B organisations, having been working with many different Marketing Automation Platforms available on the market since around 2014. 

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