Marketing automation provider: Jack- or stack of all trades?

There is a new movement on the rise in the martech landscape. SaaS-players are overly abundant and each pick a specific market pain point to dedicate their company to. Be it customer journey management, lead management, inbound marketing,... there is a tool out there for you. For all these Saas players, Fate only has three options in stock: to thrive, to perish or to be acquired.

Marketers live in exciting times, thanks to the new environment this has created for them. Application suites such as IBM, Microsoft or SAP, were the safe bets back in the days (a suite is a collection of computer programs — usually application software or programming software). You might have heard the saying “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”. However, the shift towards a “Best-of-Breed” vendor selection is gaining momentum, and there are a couple of good reasons for that.

Marketing automation provider: Jack- or stack of all trades?

Your marketing department gets to pick its own tools

Implementing software like a marketing automation platform was usually managed by the IT department. Their expertise in the world of digits caused budget and resources to be at their mercy, because in the end, it would be up to them to watch over technical complexities when integrating tools in the current infrastructure. Application suites were the safest bet at that time, since they offered components that were already “compatible” with each other.

The introduction of SaaS (Software as a Service) was a big relief in that sense, since marketers became much less dependent on IT. Software required no installation or maintenance and all tools became accessible through a web browser and a stable internet connection.

Even better, with Saas you always get the latest version, no updating required. As a result, implementation takes less than a fraction of what was needed before, meaning increased productivity and time to first value. When we started out 20 years ago, SaaS was a revolution, but now, luckily, it has become the standard.

The API (Application Programming Interface) economy and the birth of IPaas (integration platform as a service) are the next big leap towards integrations and software deployment.

Today, marketing operators are able to set up data flows independently, using tools such as Zapierwithout any IT knowledge. Even the technical teams can enjoy actors like to boost their scalability and agility with easy drag-and-drop interfaces.

The combination of SaaS and iPaaS results in IT teams being less burdened by months or years of implementation and makes companies less dependent on technical restraints when choosing different software providers.

Which brings us to the marketer, the end user. Rather than being stuck to the tools that passed the rigorous IT trials, marketing now gets to choose the tools that truly answer their specific needs. Decision making becomes more customer oriented in that sense: With sites such as G2 Crowd marketers can now engage with their peers to evaluate technology even before getting in touch with a sales rep. In these fascinating times, you can buy top-notch technology as you would buy shoes on Amazon.

Avoid being locked in a suite

Sounds like a warning for starting hotel clerks, right? One of the dangers of going for an application suite is that you are locking yourself in as you rely on multiple applications of the portfolio. It makes your data less portable and all the custom developments made on your side will make it harder and more expensive to even consider moving to other parties.

Similarly, application suite providers tend to throw in extra applications for a much lower price when feeling threatened by a competitor. If that extra application doesn’t meet your requirements, people with less marketing expertise might find it hard to understand why you wouldn’t take the bargain. That means it will be harder to defend any other platform you prefer, while also risking to end up with something that, despite its lower cost, still doesn’t deliver the expected ROI.

Best-of-breed solutions are interchangeable. Every piece of software has its designated spot to fill and you have the freedom to replace it when the need arises. Again, API’s make it so much easier to do that. Rather than having to change your entire car, you just put in a new motor, new brakes or tires and you are back on track.

Steady wins the race

Ask yourself how you want to progress: do you want to buy a big package at once where you await a long process of setup, or do you want full control and be able to follow up the progress on each component?

When you are in a mid-market to enterprise-level company, technology doesn’t come cheap anymore. Time to first value is crucial to ensure both yourself and management that your investment can and will start generating ROI soon. That’s what we mean when we preach agility: test, learn, iterate; think big, start small.

Between signature and first value we have the setup, yes, but there are also teams that need to be onboarded and assets to be prepared. A gradual approach in that respect is the safest way to monitor the progress of your efforts and focus on the problems that need to be solved first.

Combining dedicated solutions gives you the opportunity to have smaller teams of experts work in parallel. They can focus individually on your specific needs for their field of expertise, where you would otherwise have to choose your battles and pick one priority at a time.

You can also choose what level of subscription fee you pay for every service, which gives you greater flexibility to attune your budget and invest in the most crucial components as you proceed. Instead of having a big suite that offers a lot of features at once, your team can start with starter models per tool and upgrade when they genuinely need those extra features. Less onboarding time also means a quicker first value out of your investments.

For an insightful read (apart from this one of course), have a look at Frans Riemersma’s article on the end of Enterprise Suites. He explains how companies end up using very few of the suite's modules , and how they don’t even scratch the surface of all features in those modules. So why pay for all that?

Steady wins the race

Best-of-breed vs. Best-of-suite?

Eventually the choice is up to you. It’s not that suites do not offer any advantages or benefits of course. They earned their success and they still do. But the game is changing and rising players are offering the agility that a tech giant just can not.

Last year we saw the purchase of major companies being acquired by even bigger tech giants. Adobe acquired one of the biggest e-commerce platforms, Magento, along with Marketo, one of the leading B2B marketing automation platforms for enterprises. Salesforce went for Tableau, a major company in analytics software, and ClickSoftware, which was a renowned field experience software platform.

Acquisitions are nothing new of course, but it shows how big cloud solutions are rapidly expanding to other markets in an attempt to keep up with customer expectations and the ever expanding reach of the martech landscape. Making major platforms like that talk to each other in perfect sync is a job that no tech company can pull off overnight.

Meanwhile, rising players are setting up partnerships, packages, connectors to one another every day. Tools like Zapier and allow you to link those apps with a couple of clicks. New possibilities open up every day, and it's up to you to start connecting the dots and build the marketing stack you've always dreamt of.

Et Alors?

Make sure to assess what you need and what kind of technology you are looking for, once you have a confirmed need for marketing automation technology. More importantly, don't forget the human aspect of things. A trustworthy partner will aid you in your cause and can steepen your growth curve significantly. Get local support, so that you are close to the people that are building your solution every day. That being said/written/read: reach out to us or browse a little further to learn how to discern the right tool for you in the vast and opaque category that is marketing automation.

Et Alors?

Like the insights?