As an innovative professional services marketing firm specializing in the tech sector, Mercer-MacKay Digital Storytelling (MMS) wanted to become more resilient and future-proof its business through a tech-intensive approach. Scaling up meant building specialized marketing software targeted at technology companies, a high-risk bet for this woman-led organization. Rejecting the multimillion-dollar custom software route, MMS selected Microsoft Dynamics 365, and worked with a talented Microsoft partner to develop its vision at a fraction of the cost—in eight short weeks.
Mercer-MacKay Digital Storytelling (MMS) has impeccable creds as a marketer in the information technology world. Headquartered in the city of Burlington in Ontario, Canada, the company was started by a sales and marketing expert who is a dedicated storyteller. MMS aims to fill the gap between the stellar technical solutions so many Microsoft partners and other technology companies develop, and their ability to share those stories of transformation to attract prospects and customers. But as a professional services organization, MMS could only scale so far. The company dreamed of building a marketing software solution that could help thousands of technology companies tell their own stories.
As the company founder and her team began to plan and whiteboard their solution, they envisioned functionality that they could release in phases. The first module was to be a collaborative space where MMS customers could marshal their assets as they prepared to submit for the intensive annual Microsoft awards competition. But the development cycle to build this was daunting. One solution emerged as a way to bypass an expensive and lengthy build: Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Mercer-MacKay knew that she could parlay her captivation with technology into a specialized service that Microsoft partners could use to market their solutions. Working with startups had honed her storytelling skills. “When you’re selling something no one has ever heard of before, you have to perfect your storytelling chops,” she says. Over the years, Microsoft had hired her company to teach its partners how to market. Mercer-MacKay Digital Storytelling launched a series of programs at the behest of both Microsoft and many of its partners, who requested presentations on everything from executive branding and communications to structuring marketing campaigns. When the company reached capacity for the in-person sessions it could conduct, Mercer-MacKay began to consider a leap in her approach. “I can’t scale the live seminar model,” she explains. “But I envisioned an online destination where our customers could help themselves, starting with entering the annual Microsoft awards competition. We began a project to outline a software solution that would encompass our knowledge and best practices—a platform that combines wizards, templates, dashboards, and training.” Mercer-MacKay’s vision was a content marketing platform specialized for technology companies and based on AI and machine learning technology that her customers could use to attract prospects. Her team began to research its options.
The company researched similar solutions its competitors were launching. The cost, estimated between $15 million and $50 million, was daunting. So was the 12-month timeline to get a minimum viable product (MVP) into market. Mercer-MacKay’s mentor, Stacy Tatem, in the WiC Accelerator program suggested AI-driven Microsoft Dynamics 365, particularly Dynamics 365 Sales and Dynamics 365 Marketing. “My company is a marketing company, not a technology company,” she muses. “Dynamics 365 was the answer we needed. By giving rise to citizen programmers, it’s changing how quickly companies can take ideas like ours to market.”
It was an ambitious project with the added tang of a tight timeline: the annual Microsoft awards submission deadline was less than three months away, and Mercer-MacKay needed the solution to be live in time for her customers to take advantage of her vision. By creating the custom portal with the two Dynamics 365 apps and Microsoft Power Apps, not only met the Mercer MacKay Storytelling budget and shaved off more than 80 percent of the original timeline, but also eliminated the company’s previous monthly subscriptions for services like Infusionsoft, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact.
The benefits went beyond the budgetary for Suzanne Huber, Marketing Manager at Mercer MacKay. “One big benefit is that we now can better organize the data we need to communicate with our customers,” she says. “The segmenting is very powerful; contacts coming in through the portal mesh with our customer information in Dynamics 365. We benefit from the interoperability between the Dynamics 365 solutions, which helps us create dynamic marketing lists that automatically populate from the configurations we’ve created between those solutions.”
“We send out weekly emails to our prospects and customers that align to their interests,” explains Mercer-MacKay. “We are able to measure engagement not just through open and click-through rates, but through the responses back. We get at least one new deal every month from someone who has been reading our emails and reaches out for help. Our goal is never to sell anything to our readers, but simply to build an authentic relationship by offering information. The sales come as a by-product of the digital trust we are intentionally building.”