Buy Microsoft Dynamics CRM—and Unlock Its Potential (n.d.) Retrived July 11, 2011, from http://crm.dynamics.com/en-us/how-to-buy
CRM (n.d.) Retrived July 11, 2011, from http://www.pcmag.com/products/1627/1
CRM Software Review (n.d.) Retrived July 11, 2011, from http://crm-software-review.toptenreviews.com/
Dreamweaver (n.d.) Retrieved July 25, 2011, from http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver.html
Harrelson, D (2009) Rapids Prototyping Tools, Retrieved July 25, 2011, from http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/rapid-prototyping-tools
Help on Hot Topics for New Users (n.d.) Retrieved July 11, 2011, from http://crm.dynamics.com/en-us/support-overview
Internet Business Foundations (2009). Tempe, AZ: Certification Partners, LLC
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Service Level Agreement (“SLA”) (n.d.) Retrieved July 11, 2011, from https://signin.crm.dynamics.com/portal/static/1033/sla.htm
I started off using the following keyword phrase: Best CRM Reviews. This search was conducted in Google, Bing and AltaVista.
Once I had determined the software I was going to review (Microsoft Dynamics) I refined my searches by including that term along with the specific areas I was searching for. The keywords used will be shown before the screenshot it was used for, in bold. These searches were performed in Google only as I was able to find what I was looking for in Google without having to resort to other search engines.
CRM Microsoft Dynamics Demo
Used to find information of whether a demo was available of the software.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Training
Used to find information about the training options offered for the package.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Installation Timeframe
Used to find information relating to the installation time for the software.
Project time line:
The following describes the project time line and shows were each part of the project falls into that time line.
Some project areas cover more than one stage as noted.
- Adobe Dreamweaver will be used to prototype and design the site (unit 7)
- Customer Relationship Management Database will be designed (unit 5)
Build and deployment stage:
- Adobe Dreamweaver will be used to build the site (unit 7)
- Shopsite will be installed on a remote host and created pages uploaded. A database of products will also be created on shopsite. (unit 3)
- The trust seal and liveperson functions will be incorporated into the pages (unit 3)
- A page for the Oobgolf mashup will be created (unit 8 )
- Cross browser compatibility will be an ongoing function during build and deployment. (unit 9)
- Customer Relationship Management Database will be created (unit 5)
Post site going live:
- Use Boounce to monitor site ranking performance. This information can be used to determine possible changes to the site, or the content of future blogs in an event to increase the ranking for various keywords. (unit 4)
- Maintain a regular stream of blog posts (unit 8 )
- Send out regular email campaigns using Constant Contact. (unit 6)
- Use context specific ad services but ensure they are reputable companies that will not reflect badly on us or the site. (unit 9)
The post site going live functions will most likely be indefinite functions for the life of the site.
Internet Security (Unit 9) – Security concerns
One area of advertising that is on the increase is context specific advertising, otherwise known as Online Behavioral Advertising. This relies on a search engine, or ad company, monitoring the search history of a visitor and displaying ads it believes would be of interest to that visitor. It works on the idea that a person visiting a car website is going to be more interested in an ad for motor oil than an ad for diapers. Issues have recently be raised however about whether such a system is an invasion of privacy and whether a ‘Do Not Follow’ law needs to be created to help combat such systems. I would recommend that we use context specific advertising as our target market is very specific as well, however as we do not wish to be associated with such grey areas of advertising we will need to be ensure that we only deal with reputable companies. A more thorough analysis can be found here: Online Tracking
Internet Security (Unit 9) – Web browser compatibility
Another area of concern is the way different browsers, on different operating systems, display the same code. Internet Explorer 6 has a well earned reputation of being very difficult to work with in regards to accepting and displaying HTML code in the same way as other main stream browsers such as FireFox. Comparing page layouts in various formats is a requirement when building a site to ensure cross-browser compatibility. A large portion of potential customers could be lost if the layout does not function on the browser they are using.
Various testing sites exist that enable a designer to check pages without having to install multiple browsers or operating systems. I decided to use Adobe Browserlab to test out various pages to determine where possible issues would lie.
The browsers are known to interpret code in different ways and I expected to see different visual results, especially with earlier versions of Internet Explorer which are notorious for requiring code fixes to display sites satisfactorily. For example, it is known that Internet Explorer 6 has a problem displaying the transparent sections of PNG files. Because of this issue we have coded our golf cart tires site to take that into consideration and so it should display correctly. If it displays anything incorrectly it will be because we had missed it as an potential problem.
I checked out my blog page and the golf cart home page in the following browser and system combinations:
- IE 6 – Windows
- IE 7 – Windows
- IE 8 – Windows
- IE 9 – Windows
- Safari 5.0 – OS X
- Firefox 5.0 – Windows
- Chrome 13.0 – Windows
I recorded any difference in layout, alignment, graphical display that appeared in each test.
The results of the testing were as follows:
All browsers, except IE6, display the blog page the same way. The main blog article on the left hand side, the profile section on the right, with the graphic on the main page overlapping the right hand column if the page size is shrunk. This was the expected result. IE6 however forced the left hand column to be the width of the graphic regardless of page size, which then forced the right hand column to display underneath the main blog post as it could not fit to the right if the page was shrunk.
Golf Cart Tires home page:
Because we had tried to take IE6 issues into account when we originally designed the site there was very little difference between the various browsers and systems we tested. However, there still was a slight difference under the IE6 testing in that it showed a top border to the page that did not exist in any of the browser displays.
As expected, these results show that IE6 compatibility is a difficult thing to achieve. However, IE6 is several generations old now and a decision has to made when designing a site as to whether to try to ensure total compatibility, and thus compromise on design, or to ignore IE6 as it is used by a increasingly small percentage of visitor browsers.
This form of compatibility testing should be used before the site goes live and before any future changes go live as well.
E-mail marketing solution (unit 6)
After sales marketing can be a very lucrative market to tap for e-commerce sites. You are dealing directly with customers that have already purchased from you in the past and that increases the chances of repeat custom with targeted email campaigns. By sending out regular emails , for example: on a monthly or quarterly basis, you keep your name fresh in the mind of existing customers and hopefully encourage them to return by the addition of special offers and coupons included in the emails.
Constant Contact is an email campaign system that integrates with Shopsite (our chosen cart platform) and would be the best choice for a Golf Cart Tires mailing system. By combining this system with the mailing list we can extract from the CRM system, we hope to boost orders from repeat customers. The following screenshot shows an example of the type of emails that can be created, as well as listing the functions that the Constant Contact system offers:
Rapid Prototyping Tool (Unit 7)
The ability to rapidly create a basic graphical representation of a site, called prototyping, is a helpful function when designing and creating sites. It enables the designer to show a concept idea to the customer without the need to physically code the pages. If the software used is then also able to create the code for you based on your design then that is certainly an added feature worth taking. Adobe Dreamweaver is such a piece of prototyping and design software, and is widely regarded as the industry leader in the area. Its use as a design and building tool is invaluable and would be recommended in the redesign of the Golf Cart Tires site.
A presentation of the features of Adobe Dreamweaver can be found here: Adobe Dreamweaver presentation
Internet Communication (Unit 8 ) – Blog
Blogs can provide valuable content for a site that can be used both to increase keyword relevance to increase search engine rankings, and provide helpful and instructional information that can attract visitors, who will then hopefully go on to purchase from the e-commerce side of the site. WordPress, the blogging system used to host this blog, is the industry leader, and like Constant Contact emailing system it can integrate with the shopsite platform. Blog writing is a career by itself and a regular stream of content should be uploaded to a site in order to maintain a following; it is an ongoing process not only after a site goes live, but should ideally be performed alongside site development so that a catalogue of posts can be available upon deployment.
Internet Communication (Unit 8 ) – Mashups.
Another way to attract visitors is to provide up-to-date, current information, about a particular area relevant to the site. Mashups help to provide that information by taking data from various sources and creating a new output with that data. One recommended mashup for use with the Golf Cart Tires site is Oobgolf. This mashup provides geographical information about various golf courses dotted around the US. It also provides information of course length, costs, course par etc. Incorporating this mashup on a page within the golf cart tires site will add content to our site and will hopefully attract more visitors who will go on to buy. More information about the Oobgolf mashup can be found here: site mashups
Customer Relationship Management Database (unit 5)
Uses for CRM software
There are a variety of uses that CRM can be used for but some of the main ones that could be used by the golfcarttires site include:
- Mailing list information for promotions and special offers: After marketing, as it is called, can be a big source of revenue. You already know you have people that are interested in your products as they have purchased from you in the past and so you have a greater chance of a sale that with a cold call. By using a database of customers in a way that highlights the products they bought, when they bought and how often they bought, you can specifically target groups of customers for mailing lists.
- Seasonal sales information: Information can be extracted from a database that be used to show a breakdown of sales figures by year, quarter, month, week, day etc. This information can be used to determine trends in sales figures over specific periods of time which in turn can be used to determine when products should be in stock, which should be promoted heavier to take advantage of seasonal sales and so on.
- Product sale information: Is one product outselling another? Is one product selling poorly? This information can be useful in determining how a product is promoted, priced etc.
CRM Software search
Originally, a keyword search in Google, Bing and AltaVista for the phrase “best CRM reviews” produced several results that seemed to suggest the SalesForce CRM package was a highly rated package. (“CRM”, n.d.; “CRM Software Review”, 2011)
However, a subsequent search in Google for CRM SalesForce SLA brought up results that suggests that SalesForce had issues with their system and SLA, and were in fact no longer offering an SLA agreement with their software. There were however several articles that spoke of Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM software as being a viable alternative and that was the software I decided to concentrate on.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM – (http://crm.dynamics.com/en-us/home)
One immediate advantage you get with the Dynamics software is the Microsoft name. Microsoft often enable its various software packages to integrate with each together and Dynamics is no exception, allowing you as it does to actually review and control Dynamics from within Microsoft Outlook if you wish. They offer both an online or a “on-premises” deployment option, this review concentrates on the online version.
The software site itself is splint into 3 sections, each highlighting a particular area of the CRM software: Sales solutions, Customer Service Solutions and Marketing Solutions. The sales sections deals with account information, sales planning lead building etc. The customer service section deals specifically with the one-on-one interaction with customers such as contract information, account problems, etc. The marketing solution section deals with the planning of marketing campaigns, responding to leads, market analysis and so on. After reviewing the small business CRM software solution article I chose the following 5 areas to concrete my review on:
Like most Microsoft products today Dynamics CRM is available for demo testing before purchasing. This 30 days demo version is a full working version of the online software that can be made live at anytime via either an online credit card transaction or calling in an paying over the phone. There is no commitment in order to use this demo; no software is downloaded and no credit card information is taken in order to be able to use this demo (“Buy Microsoft Dynamics CRM—and Unlock Its Potential”, n.d.)
Cost of package
Once the decision is made to sign up and use Dynamics the price is set as low $44 per user of the system/ per month. With a large number of users this system could get expensive very quickly but with proper planning the cost could be kept to a minimum. They also offer volume pricing agreements for those companies that have signed a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. (“Buy Microsoft Dynamics CRM—and Unlock Its Potential”, n.d.)
Service Level Agreement
Microsoft has learnt from the problems that plagued SalesForce with their SLA and offer a 99.9% uptime SLA with service credits if the uptime is not met. This uptime is calculated per month, using the simple formula of total possible minutes per month – total downtime for the month / total possible minutes per month.
The following responses would be offered if applicable:
- Less than 99.9% grants a 25% service credit
- Less than 99% grants an 50% service credit
- Less than 95% grants a full 100% service credit.
(Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Service Level Agreement (“SLA”), n.d.)
This is comparable to the SLAs that most other CRM offer, and to other SLAs that Microsoft currently offer for their online software products.
The installation guide that is available for Dynamics suggests allowing between 30 and 60 days for a complete system install and configuration. Because we are concentrating on the Online version of the CRM this installation and configuration will take a much shorter time as all the base configuration will have already been completed. The 30 day free trial also suggests that to get a basic system up and running would also fit within that time frame to allow ample time for testing.
Apart from the standard manuals that come with the software, Microsoft also have an E-learning system of videos and online reference manuals to assist the learning process. This online training program is split into the various areas of the CRM software:
- CRM Marketing
- CRM Sales
- CRM Service Scheduling
- CRM Service Management
- CRM Customization
They also have community forums and online support functions as well to provide extra training and support if required. (“Help on Hot Topics for New Users”, n.d.)
Overall this appears to be a very capable package that certainly matches the criteria suggested as being the basics required in a CRM solution. The fact that it has the Microsoft name carries extra weight with it as the support infrastructure behind Microsoft’s products is quite extensive, and as such I would feel confident going ahead with using this package.
Information about the search terms used, with resulting screenshots can be find in this blog post: Screenshots
The aim of this project is a redesign of an existing site: http://www.golfcarttires.com. It is one of about 17 sites that is owned and operated by Cedar Rapids Tire. The site was designed as a platform to sell golf cart tires and wheels for a variety of cart uses: on the golf course, on the road, and off road. A wide range of tire and wheel types are on offer, from smooth course tires, to heavy lug tires, and even camouflage wheels for those that use the quiet electric carts for hunting. The site is a year or so old and has consistently failed to perform to expectations. It is hoped that a site redesign will improve its visitor numbers, and the visitor/order conversion rate. The addition of a blog and other possible visitor attracting content will be investigated to determine whether that will aid in increasing visitor numbers as well.
Project Breakdown – Needs Analysis and Project Team (unit 2)
The site has in the past focused on 5 specific key phrases for ranking in search engines: golf cart tires, golf cart rims, golf cart wheels, golf car tires and Carlisle golf cart tires. Despite a year of promotion of the site and submission and creation of links the site has risen slightly in the rankings but not high enough to satisfy the company management.
(see table below for key words and rankings)
|Keyword/phrase||Google Rank||Bing Rank||Yahoo Rank|
|Golf Cart Tires||6||2||2|
|Golf Cart Rims||9||6||6|
|Golf Cart Wheels||15||44||44|
|Golf Car Tires||8||19||19|
|Carlisle Golf Cart Tires||25||8||8|
Google analytics reporting shows that visitor numbers, although seasonal, are predictable and fairly constant. However it also shows that the sales conversion rate of visitor to purchase ratio is a very low 0.39%, far enough below the 2% to 3% industry average to warrant concern. The bounce rate of around 30% requires monitoring but is not unusual for an ecommerce site.
The demographics for the site covers a wide selection of the public. The golf course users are more likely to be retired, middle class, of either gender. The off roaders are likely to be male, 20s to 30s and will want something will grip and power. The road users, like the golf course users are also likely to be retired, middle class and simply after a tire to get them from A to B. This means the site needs to appeal to a large spectrum of the public.
Overall this site needs an overhaul and redesign to increase both its rankings and conversion rate, and to take advantage of other areas of site design it currently does not use, such as blogging and social media.
Therefore the project needs to cover several areas of the site:
- Redesign the pages on the site in order to be more attractive and appealing to the visitors, thus raising the conversion rate.
- Redesign the pages on the site in order to be more ‘attractive’ to search engines to raise the site in the rankings.
- Determine other additions to the site that could be used to improve the site, such as blogs, FAQs etc.
- Determine what external advertising needs to take place to both increase rankings and attract more visitors.
- Determine a remarketing strategy to help gather back lost potential revenue from when visitors simply leave the site.
My role as Ecommerce and IT Manager will be one of both project manager and website creator for the redesign project. It will be my responsibility to ensure that the project meets the requirements, stays within budget, and completes on time.
|Name||Title & Department||Role:|
|1. Robyn Keel||Office Manager||Robyn will be the management’s representative on the team. She will have the authority to make decisions on their behalf and to arbitrate if conflicts arise. All updates and progress reports will be delivered to Robyn. She will also work closely with Elvis and Lynn to ensure that all the relevant products have been assigned to the site, and that all the information about the products is correct.|
|2. Elvis Bernauer||Sales Manager – Sales||Elvis will be the sales team representative on the project team. He will supply the team with information such as which products sell best and which sell poorly and may need to be heavily promoted on the site. He will be able to supply lists of frequently asked questions that his sales team get asked by customers in order that such information can be readily available to visitors to the site. He will also provide information as to how the sales staff would prefer to see the information on the site displayed if they need to help a customer remotely.|
|3. Lynn Cooper||Warehouse Supervisor -warehouse||Lynn will be the Warehouse liaison to the project team. His input is one of supplying the team with information such as which tires/wheels are going to be most often in stock, which will be drop shipped from the manufacturer, etc, so that the product information can be collated into a usable form. He will work closely with Elvis to help determine a final product list to put displayed on the site.|
|4. Dan Vittetoe||Database programmer – IT||Dan will be responsible for the creation of any databases required for the site, whether it be a product database used for assigning products to site pages, or customer order imports to a separate database.|
|5. Katie Hamre||Graphics designer/Web marketing – Marketing||Katie will be responsible for initial site redesign and layout ideas, the creation of the graphics and the layout design on any additional site functions such as blogs, and any external functions such as banner ads.|
|6. Russ Taylor||Accounting Manager – Accounts||Russ will be responsible for assigning and controlling the budget for the project. All purchase requests will go through him and he will responsible for reporting any budget problems to both myself as project manager and Robyn.|
Software-as-a-service (unit 3)
We have identified 3 specific software-as-a-service applications that we should incorporate into the site redesign. These applications will be added as part of the redesign and deployment section of the project.
- The first action was to identify a shopping cart platform to use to base the site on. As we already use Shopsite Pro as the platform on this, and our other sites, it makes sense to use the same platform for the redesign. This platform is an html based system hosts a website on the front and supports and also handles the order processing and payment authorization, shipping, taxes, and so on.
- Next we explored the area of trust seals. These e-commerce seals provide us with several commercial advantages. Firstly they show visitors that we comply with the legal requirements involved in running an e-commerce site, and secondly it helps to increase visitor confidence in the site and as a result it can result in a higher order conversion rate.
- The last application identified was the LivePerson chat function. This application enables our sales staff to not only talk to our site visitors via a form of instant messenger but it also allows them to take over control of the website to visually show a visitor where they need to go in the site to find a specific product. It requires a button and some code placed on each page to allow a connection to be made.
More information about these software-as-a-service applications can be found in this online document at the following link: Software-as-a-service
Firefox Add-on (unit 4)
One of the areas of concern for the existing site is how it ranks in the various search engines; the higher the ranking, the more visitors that get drawn to the site. In order to monitor how the site in performing in search engine rankings we need some way to track the results, in each of the major search engines, quickly and easily. The firefox add-on called Boounce performs this very function. Simply by clicking the relevant tabs we can see how our site ranks for various keywords in Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. This is a post deployment feature of the project, and will be an ongoing function.
A video presentation of Boounce, and its functions can be found here: Boounce Video
Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) is becoming a hot topic these days with more and more companies using the context delivery of ads as a source of marketing and income boosting. Up until now the industry has relied on self-regulation but the Sacramento Bee, repeating an editorial from another newspaper, published a news story about how all that may be about to change (http://www.sacbee.com/2011/07/27/3797517/time-is-running-out-on-internet.html)
Congress is currently looking at a bill, called the ’Do Not Track’ bill, that forces advertising companies to offer a way for site users to opt out having their browsing information tracked which enables the companies to deliver ads it believes are in the area of interest to the visitor. Californian Democrat, Jackie Speier, is a leading proponent of the bill, and claims that self regulation is not working; he actually goes so far as to call it ‘a joke’ and that something needs to be done to protect the consumer.
A main issue raised about OBA is that it has been found that companies have still been tracking users information even though the users believe they have opted out of being tracked. This has led to consumers worrying about what information is being tracked and what purpose it is being used for.
The industry is now trying to work with consumer advocate groups to come up with a data collection system that satisfies both parties as to what data can still be collected if a user opts out of data collection and what users can do if these rules are broken. Internet advertising companies are worried about the loss of revenue from these ads, and how they would be able to provide evidence to companies that use their service that their ads were in fact delivered in the first place if no information is allowed to be collected.
We currently use such an ad system for one of our main websites through a service offered by Google. There is a certain threshold limit of site visitors using a specific keyword in order for the ad service to be activated but to my knowledge there is no option to allow a user to decline this service. It of course makes sense to us to use this service, as delivering an ad for a product that the system has recorded the user has looked at in the past makes more sense to us than to simply drop an ad, on any page, for any user. This is even more true when we are talking about the golf cart tires site that we are currently redeveloping. Displaying a Carlisle cart tire to someone that recently looked at golf carts or tires makes an ad conversion more likely than simply placing an ad on a random site to a random viewer.
Although we could not be held responsible if an advertising service we were using ignored user ‘do not track’ requests, if could conceivably hurt our reputation to be linked to them. To this end it would behoove us to ensure that we only used advertising companies that guaranteed that they followed the user’s instructions and removed them from tracking. We could also put a disclaimer on our site that we specifically do not pass on user information, or work with ad companies that do.
This course of action could actually have the added benefit of increasing customer confidence in the site, and could lead to an increase in the order conversion rate of the site. It has been shown that adding trust seals to a site increases conversion rate and it is not inconceivable to think this would have the same effect as well.
One acknowledged way of attracting visitors to websites it to provide content that is functional and helps to enhance the visitor’s experience of the site. A simple way to do this is to embed a mashup into the site. Mashups are applications that take existing information from various sources, and produce a specific output from this information.
In order to try to attract visitors you need to offer a mashup that they would find useful and provide a valuable service. For our site, Golfcarttires.com, the options are limited as to what would provide the best experience for a visitor, and what would create a reason for them to visit. There is however one such mashup in Oobgolf (http://www.programmableweb.com/mashup/oobgolf)
Oobgolf is a mashup that enables people to locate golf courses in a specific location and provides information such a course rating, par, costs, course length etc. By inputting zip code, town or state information they can see all courses located close to that location, and then by clicking on a particular course they can see further information about that course. They also have the option to map directions on how to get to a particular course.
It is a simple mashup that only uses 2 APIs as sources of information:
- Mapquest: Used to provide the graphical maps, directional and location information.
- Lat49: Used to provide location based online marketing that supplies the golf course information.
The tag cloud for this mashup would be relatively small, and I would suggest would consist of the following terms/phrases:
- course finder,
- course information,
- route directions,
- golf links,
By adding Oobgolf to our site we achieve two marketing functions. The first is we provide a reason for people to come to our site. This helps put our name visible in the public domain. If these visitors also tell other people that this utility is available then that could also increase our exposure. Those that use the mashup would then be more likely to return to our site when they require golf cart tires rather than try searching elsewhere.
The second function of installing the mashup on our site is that it provides extra site content for search engines. Search engines love content on a site and this would provide us with the option to create a new page for this mashup, and fill the rest of the page with keyword rich, but also very relevant, text. This in turn should help our ranking for particular search terms in the various search engines.
- Golf Cart Tires Project – References
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Keywords and Search Engine Screenshots (unit 5)
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Part 5 – Project Time Line
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Part 4
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Part 3
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Part 2
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Part 1
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Online Tracking/Privacy Concerns
- Golf Cart Tires Project – Site Mashups