Manage information about your current and prospective customers

Three of the most important and common types of database records are contacts, accounts, and leads. These fundamental business entities are shared by most Dynamics 365 apps, including Marketing. Read this topic to learn how these basic entities are used an affected by the Marketing app.

Use contacts to manage customer people

Contacts represent individual people. They are the primary customer entity in Dynamics 365 for Marketing. When you run a customer journey, your target segment will include only contact records. And when you create a lead, you will also relate that lead to a contact record. Other Dynamics 365 apps might treat these entities somewhat differently, instead focusing more on accounts or using leads that aren't related to any contact.

Most of your contacts will represent customers or potential customers, but you might also include partners or suppliers among your contacts, especially for events where you'll also typically include speakers, vendors, and sponsors in your contacts database.

To view, create, or edit a contact, go to Marketing > Customers > Contacts. This brings to you a standard list view, which you can use to search, sort, filter, create, and delete your contacts. Open any contact to view its details.

The contacts entity is common for and shared by most Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement apps, but Dynamics 365 for Marketing adds several enhancements to it, including:

  • Marketing source information: The contact Details tab includes a section called Marketing, where you can see which marketing initiatives were responsible for generating that contact.

  • Contact preferences: The contact Details tab includes a section called Contact preferences, where you can see information about how that contact prefers to be contacted (or not contacted) by your organization. Important settings for Marketing here include:

    • Bulk email: Controls whether Dynamics 365 for Marketing is permitted to send marketing email messages from customer journeys to this contact. When set to Do not allow, no marketing email messages will be sent to this contact. Contacts can adjust this setting themselves using a subscription center. More information: Set up subscription lists and subscription centers
    • Email: This setting is part of the standard contact entity (it isn't added specifically for Marketing). It controls whether any Dynamics 365 app (including Marketing) can send any type of email to this contact, including both commercial and transactional messages. More information: Set the legal designation to identify each message as either commercial or transactional
    • Prefill marketing form: Controls whether Dynamics 365 for Marketing is permitted to prefill form information (like name and email) on marketing pages for this contact. When set to Do not allow, all marketing pages (other than subscription centers) will present an empty form to this contact, even when the contact is recognized by the system. Contacts can set this option for themselves by setting a "remember me" check box on any marketing page that is set up to include the prefill feature.
    • Follow email: This field is often present, but is not added by Dynamics 365 for Marketing. It has no effect of the functionality of the Marketing app, including its ability to track email interactions. You can still use it in segmentation criteria, just like any other contact field. (This field is used by the email engagement feature of Dynamics 365 for Sales. More information: Use email engagement to view message interactions.)
  • Data protection: The contact Details tab includes a section called Data protection, where you can see and set the data-privacy consent level granted by this contact, and also see whether the contact is a child and, if so, who their parent or guardian is. For more information about these features, see Data protection and the GDPR.

  • Event information: Each contact record provides the following information about events the contact has registered for or attended:

    • The contact Details tab includes a section called Event information, where you can see basic information that was collected from the contact when they registered for an event.
    • The contact Events attended tab provides complete details of all event registrations and check-ins associated with this contact.
  • Marketing insights: Detailed KPIs and analytics about how this contact has interacted with your various marketing initiatives are provided on the Contact: Insights form view for the contact entity (available from the drop-down list above the contact name in the page heading). More information: Analyze results to gain insights from your marketing activities

Use accounts to manage customer companies

Accounts are companies that you market and sell to. They can also be partner companies or suppliers. If you use accounts, you'll usually also set up at least one contact for each of them.


Customer journeys can only target contacts, not accounts or leads, so be sure to create contact records for everyone you want to include in your customer journeys, and then associate each of them with any relevant accounts or leads.

To view, create, or edit an account, go to Marketing > Customers > Accounts. This brings to you a standard list view, which you can use to search, sort, filter, create, and delete your accounts. Open any account to view its details.

Use leads to register and track expressions of interest

A primary goal of Dynamics 365 for Marketing is to generate interest and then find, nurture, and qualify leads for salespeople. As mentioned, Dynamics 365 for Marketing is centered around contacts, which is the only type of customer entity that you can target by using a customer journey. When a contact shows interest in one of your products or services, you'll either generate a lead record that relates to that contact or allow a landing page to generate the lead automatically. The lead represents an expressed interest by the related contact in some specific product. A given contact might have several leads associated with it, each representing a different level of interest in a different product or offer.

You can associate each lead with either a contact or an account. If you choose to create account-based leads, then each account must be associated with one or more contact records because your segments and customer journeys still need to include and target contacts, not accounts. In this regard, accounts are essentially treated as collections of one or more contacts. More information: Account-based marketing.

Salespeople sometimes use leads differently and might therefore create leads that aren't related to any contact record, but you can easily customize your system to work with both types of leads. For details about how to integrate sales-driven (lead-centered) and marketing-driven (contact-centered) workflows, see Market to leads.

Dynamics 365 for Marketing keeps an eye on your leads and can automatically score each of them based on how the contacts associated with them interact with your marketing initiatives. For example, the lead score might increase each time the related contact opens a relevant email, signs up for a download, or attends a sales event. After a lead reaches a "sales-ready" score threshold, it's considered marketing-qualified and is ready to be taken over by a salesperson. The salesperson might eventually promote the lead to an opportunity and then go on to close the sale. Or the salesperson might decide to send it back to marketing for further nurturing.

Dynamics 365 for Marketing collects detailed interaction records for each contact. These records include information such as email opens, email clicks, website visits, and more. Interaction records relate to contacts, not to leads or accounts, so when you are reviewing marketing insights for a lead or account, you're actually viewing interaction records for the contact(s) associated with that lead or account. Leads that don't have a contact associated with them won't show many insights and also can't be scored automatically by Dynamics 365 for Marketing.

To view, create, or edit a lead, go to Marketing > Customers > Leads. This brings to you a standard list view, which you can use to search, sort, filter, create, and delete your leads. Open any lead to view its details. Select New in the command bar to create a new lead.

More information: The lead lifecycle

Gain insights into how contacts, accounts, and leads are interacting with your marketing initiatives

Once you have Dynamics 365 for Marketing installed, you Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement instance will be begin to collect information about how each of these entities interacts with your marketing activities. The system provides a wealth of information, including analyitics, KPIs, graphs, and more, to help you gain insights from your marketing results. More information: Analyze results to gain insights from your marketing activities