CRM for training providers - Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365?
A customer relationship management system is essential for any training provider that wants to leverage the data it collects to increase course bookings, improve learner satisfaction and streamline admin.
Two of the biggest, most established CRM systems are Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Salesforce. Both platforms are highly configurable and are a good choice for larger organisations that work with learners, courses and enrolments.
Salesforce and Dynamics 365 come with extensive documentation, support materials, case studies and examples from the education and training worlds. And there are networks of consultants who - for a fee - will adapt your Salesforce or Dynamics 365 implementation to be a better fit with your business requirements.
Choosing between them is hard. Either platform can be used to develop a solution that will work across a range of typical training/education business processes:
Collecting enquiries about courses that come in through the training company or course provider website.
Both platforms come with tools that make data collection from an external website straightforward. You can embed Dynamics 365 Marketing forms in your company website.
Likewise, with Salesforce you can also build forms that capture data from website visitors.
Publishing a course directory or catalogue on the web - ideally one that integrates with the training company website.
Both platforms also allow you to build a product catalogue - and your products are courses. Metadata about courses - prices, discounts, categories - can then be managed and stored in your Dynamics/Salesforce database.
But you can do more than that. Salesforce and Dynamics 365 can be configured so you can automate processes around admissions and registrations. For example, prospective students can be sent reminders about forms to complete and you can generate letters to confirm places on a course.
Financials - forecasting and tracking revenue from courses
The Dynamics 365 Sales and Finance products include revenue forecasting and sales. Similarly, with Salesforce Billing you can also track revenue from different course sales.
Providing ongoing post-enrolment support to students
Both platforms can be used to develop content-rich student portals where students can access support materials, advice and book appointments etc. This is an increasingly common use-case in higher education.
Run sophisticated marketing campaigns to promote new courses
Dynamics 365 Marketing includes email marketing. Basic email marketing is also built into Salesforce. More extensive features are found in Salesforce Marketing Cloud - works alongside Salesforce.
Integration with other systems.
Dynamics 365 comes with tight integration with other Microsoft applications.
Both platforms can be integrated with third party applications. You might for example, integrate Dynamics 365 with your Sage accounting system or integrate Salesforce with your student record system.
More complex Salesforce and Dynamics 365 solutions take time to develop. Organisation-wide solutions that work across different teams are a big investment - they make most sense for larger course providers like big training companies or higher education institutions.
There are two important things to consider before you decide to invest in either Dynamics 365 or Salesforce.
First, you need to really understand your requirements. What do you want the system to do - in the short term and over the longer term? We recommend that you spend some time documenting your requirements. Make a list of requirements, write them as simple user scenarios and prioritise them.
Second, who will develop your solution? You will need help from external consultants. It’s essential that you find a team who have a proven track record of successful similar implementations. The ideal would be consultants with training/education sector experience. The outcome of your Dynamics 365 or Salesforce project depends on the experience of the team doing the implementation.