It seems these days every self-respecting technology vendor has a ‘marketing cloud’ offering; a suite of inter-related applications that allow the marketer to control the entire spectrum of the customer experience.
I can certainly understand the appeal. The marketing technology landscape is vast, never stands still and can be extremely confusing. So surely having a one stop shop for all of your requirements can only be a good thing, right?
The Cloud Nine Complex
The marketing cloud vendors certainly paint a compelling picture and I have seen good examples of how the various products of a single provider can work together in harmony.
But before you whole heartedly embrace a single vendor approach I urge you to carefully consider your options. Just because you’ve purchased a shiny new CMS, do you really need to replace your analytics tool with one of the same brand? Or when the time is right to invest in a real-time decisioning engine, is it right that the only option on the table is the one that comes from the same eco-systems as your campaign management tool?
These are scenarios marketers face every day. Once you began a relationship with a software vendor, they will get to know you and your business well. So when you’re looking to extend your technology capabilities they will seem a natural contact to turn to for advice. But remember, the opinion you’ll get from even the vendors with the highest levels of integrity will hardly be impartial. In fact it feels a bit like going to your bank for advice on what investment and insurance products to buy. Signing up will be very easy, but it’s often the case that you won’t walk away with the most competitive products to best suit your needs.
It is important to understand that due to the competitive nature of the industry, the vendors don’t have time to develop their applications from the ground up. The disparate applications that make up a single vendor stack are just that; disparate systems. These applications have been acquired from the purchase of other vendors and woven together with varying degrees of success. For this reason, don’t assume that getting these systems to work well together will be any easier than taking a best-of-breed approach.
The Silver Lining
In today’s world, integration between platforms is easier than ever. Most marketing technology platforms include a set of APIs which enable connection to other unrelated products. There are also established tools out there which allow connection to these APIs to be achieved by non-technical users.
Another consideration is the agility of the solution you are building. The pace of change is rapid, with new technologies and channels constantly emerging. The ability to quickly connect new touchpoints and swap out individual components of your infrastructure is key, particularly if you want to be ahead of the pack. The level of flexibility you require may not necessarily be possible by remaining within the eco system of the marketing cloud.
For these reasons, the promise of the fully integrated end to end experience of the single vendor approach is more marketing spin than reality. I’m not saying that it is not the right approach to take, but carefully consider your requirements, keep an open mind and explore a broad range of choices.