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Market Forecasting using Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Forecasting is an interesting area in marketing. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM data can be collected and reported on to aid with forecasting and analysis of the results of a marketing campaign. I’m considering writing an article about creating and using this data in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but I’m having some difficulty figuring out how customers are actually using the fields provided in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Inside Microsoft Dynamics CRM we find some summary fields provided to place cost and revenue estimates. In campaigns themselves, the Campaign > Information > Financials tab provides fields in which you can enter summary numbers for Budget Allocated, Miscellaneous Costs, Estimated Revenue. While under Campaign Activities, once an activity is opened, Budget Allocated and Actual Cost are fields provided for this information. It would make sense that Campaign Responses, Target Products, Sales Literature, Target Marketing Lists, and Related Campaigns all contribute to the forecasting or analysis effort. The issue for me is where are users accumulating the detail data that goes in to these summary fields? Are we all just using Excel to manage the details and generate the summary information that can then be placed in the above fields?

It seems likely to me that the forecast and results data available within CRM for use in marketing include:

1. Support contracts (associated with support call centers). These have a history of costs and revenue associated with the contracts. If marketing plan includes contracts, you should be able to create a forecast of revenue from this data.

2. Support Cases. Contracts usually deal with cases. Reports on time spent on cases and billing activities resulting from the case, should be easy to create, track, and therefore forecasts of future efforts can be created.

3. Service activities. CRM already has a default service report titled Service Activity Volume. It seems possible that scheduling services could provide another window into revenue forecasts for marketing campaigns associated with services.

4. Sales activities. If increased sales of products is the goal of a marketing campaign, you can use the default Campaign Performance report to show all the dates, targets, definitions, responses, and financial returns from the campaign. The key indicator here is the campaign response. So a way to measure the effectiveness of campaign generated appointments, E-mails, Faxes, Letters, and Phone Calls is essential. Opportunities are designed to aid Microsoft Dynamics CRM users to create sales forecasts. These can be included in a marketing forecast. For example, the Sales Pipeline report displays anticipated sales grouped by various types from Sales Users to Sales Territory among others.

5. Campaigns. Additional default reports include Campaign Activity Status report displays a summary for one campaign and the Campaign Comparison report identifies most and least successful campaigns. However, if multiple campaigns occur at the same time, then multiple Campaign Activity Status report would have to be combined in a marketing forecast.

6. Quick Campaigns. This marketing tool can be used within a standard campaign; otherwise, some of its potential data may be lost or end up in notes attached to Accounts, Leads, or Contacts.

The key issue appears to be how users are accumulating field or report data to create a marketing forecast. If you have experience using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to create a marketing forecast, please leave a comment on this post.

James Matteson