Marketing Technology industry is moving so fast that marketers are struggling keep up. Hence it’s crucial for marketing leaders to have a well-defined approach to building your marketing technology stack – an effective approach for managing the various technologies and systems.
This brings us to the topic of what’s the right approach. Marketers are divided between best of breed and best of suite when it comes to marketing technology investments. Both approaches have their pros and cons. On one side sits advocates for best-of-breed technology solutions with market-leading functionality. On the other are those who prefer the simplicity of integrated technology suites with broad capabilities.
In the recent past, the popularity of best-of-breed marketing technology has grown as 1000s of specialized martech startups have mushroomed offering advanced AI technology to solve one problem well. However, with the sudden need to accelerate digitization driven by customer demand, marketers are looking for digital transformation partners – those that drive customer-centric approach wherein they enable deep customer understanding and leverage those insights to engage with the customer in a relevant way at the right time in the channel of their choosing. A marketing software is evaluated based on its ability to provide differentiated customer experience for the brand. This is evident in the direction the marketing technology industry is moving towards – Salesforce purchases Evergage, Manthan and RichRelevance merge to form Algonomy, Sitecore buys Boxever and many more. The aim is to be able to solve the pertinent problem of personalized customer experience. Now, is this adding to the confusion that you thought you had it all sorted? I’m not an advocate of one-size-fits-all approach. So, I believe, marketers must evaluate the technologies that are out there in the market with a clear agenda of what challenges you want to address keeping in mind your existing position.
So, there are multiple factors at play in choosing one approach over the other. Let’s evaluate the approaches based on 5 key factors: time to value, functionality, scalability, flexibility and seamless experience.
Time to value:
In a world where digital adoption is rapidly increasing, quick ROI on marketing technology is an important criterion that marketers must evaluate technology on, with win or fail fast agenda. The one that delivers the fastest time to value are those that come with out-of-the-box algorithms in-built into the system that cater to industry-specific use cases. In general, marketing clouds tend to be generic and horizontal where the gestation periods are long and immediate business impact is elusive. A platform that is ready to use without the need for marketing teams to further tune the algorithms to fit your objective are the ones that deliver the least time to value. For example, retail-specific strategies could include ‘Buy Together for Cross-sell’ or ‘Category Top Offers for Offer Based Strategies’.
The biggest advantage of best of breed marketing vendors is that they offer highly specialized solutions with levels of functionality that suite vendors are unable to provide. For example, Personalization product vendors offer end-to-end personalization which is powered by advanced machine learning algorithms covering search, content, recommendations, browsing, navigation, & more across all channels. There aren’t too many full-suite vendors who provide great quality products for specialized functions with deep integration across products. Full-suite vendors that have a strong product development team for individual products or those that have brought together best-of-breed products and stitched them well, could be worth considering too. They also offer good customer support ensuring that the best practices are available to you and will constantly help tune your business for the best results. Best of breed or best of suite, markers must look for availability of key functionalities based on your business requirement as a factor of evaluation.
If you are looking for a martech stack that supports large scale customer data management and large volume campaigns, then an integrated stack is a good place to start. The challenge with best of breed is that they break when the volumes are big. Your current volumes and pace of growth are important factors in making that decision. The other aspect is the ability to make system/product updates without impacting the performance of the existing system or without needing to train the staff on the new system.
I’ve noticed that flexibility is a factor of the business model the marketing technology company embraces, not so much whether it is a focused product or an integrated suite. While mostly smaller companies are more flexible to allow for customizations to suit your business requirement, there are many suite vendors who not only offer the flexibility but also bring the right teams with the right skills to custom build some of the features or provide custom support.
Here, one must note that many full-suite vendors who specialize in providing industry-specific solutions offer best-of-breed solutions that focus on specific niches and may provide functionality that’s more tailored to your organization. At the end of the day, products that are interoperable and adaptable are essential for building out an effective martech stack.
Seamlessness is a must-have both for end-customers and users in the marketing team. A critical aspect of providing frictionless user or customer experiences is in well-integrated martech stack which provides a single customer view and helps you drive personalized customer interaction. Marketing suites or platforms connect seamlessly out of the box, and this reduces the effort required for implementation. This also means it’s easier for users to get started with using the platform. With the best-of-breed approach, building a seamless martech stack usually requires substantial effort. While most best-of-breed martech products have APIs that make it possible for seamless integrations, problems do often arise. Not every best-of-breed technology plays well with other technologies. It’s important that the technology you invest in has robust integration capabilities across ingress and egress of data for smooth orchestration.
When it comes to choosing between a best-of-breed or suite approach, it really does come down to your brand’s circumstances, resources, and existing software stack. However, maybe choosing between the two isn’t necessary. Perhaps the best option is a combination of the two approaches – best of both worlds, if you will.
Customer is a good place to start in identifying where the gaps are in providing a best-in-class experience for them. Evaluate your existing stack and look for platforms or products that provide fast time to value, with the required functionality, flexibility to meet your specific requirements, that can scale without breaking and provides great user & customer experience. This could mean choosing niche products for specific functionality that can easily integrate with larger solutions or an integrated, robust martech stack that provides a frictionless experience. Either way, look for a vendor whose skin is in the game and one who intends to be your strategic partner for the long run.