Golden Days of Martech?

Marketers increasingly use a best-of-breed approach to consolidate software tools

By Karen J. Bannan



The amount of technology marketers use these days is staggering. According to a 2017 research study by the Martech Industry Council, a typical B-to-B CMO and his/her team deploy an average of 15 software tools. Of the 275 respondents, 25 percent said they use more than 20 tools, while some claimed to use nearly 100. It's little wonder, as marketers now have roughly 5,000 tools from which to choose.

It was just a few years ago that marketers embraced software suites, which incorporate multiple marketing capabilities within one overriding system, to try and reduce complexity and cost. No longer. Now, marketers are deploying more marketing technologies altogether. As the number of vendors and solutions have exploded, so too has the number of companies, and marketing departments, taking a "best-of-breed" approach — a strategy of selecting the best product of each type of software category — in addition to tapping stand-alone products and their suites, says Steven Casey, principal analyst in the B-to-B marketing group at Forrester Research.

"Account-based marketing (ABM) is a good example," Casey says, referring to efforts among brands and organizations to execute more personalized marketing efforts. "The use case came into prominence a few years ago, and you had some pretty focused point solutions that expanded over time. At the same time, you had the core platform vendors adding ABM to their platforms. Both solve critical business problems and there are relative strengths and weaknesses in both."


Big Vendors, Bigger Platforms

Mark Roth, CMO at SmartStream Technologies Inc., says he's embracing the "golden days" of marketing technology. With countless options, he can choose best-of-breed solutions that dovetail with his marketing goals and objectives. This is critical, Roth says, because of the complexity of his company's products and services and the fact that buyers are looking to acquire information on multiple platforms.

Lauren Flaherty, EVP and CMO at CA Technologies, also made the move to best-of-breed solutions. Previously, the company's marketing was "highly siloed," she says, and encompassed only a few programs. Today, she uses about 35 tools, with the intention to "whittle that down a little."

No matter which tools marketers use, the built-in APIs (Application Programming Interface), or how applications interact with one another, make forecasting and analysis among applications possible. APIs also let marketers share data between apps, build custom interfaces, and make functionality available on the web.

"No one can run a [marketing] business using a single platform," Flaherty says. "Having the ability to merge data streams with something like gives you different insights. The granularity of what we can see when someone comes to — it's literally night and day."


Taking Advantage of 'Platformization'

Flaherty is capitalizing on what many have dubbed "platformization," one of the most significant changes in marketing. The discipline enables marketers to combine data, decision, and delivery within a single platform (usually part of a suite) that connects to other marketing technologies. This is possible because the major software suites, such as Oracle,, and SAP, which had previously operated as stand-alone models, are now being developed and released with standard APIs so marketers can use them for management and execution for other marketing programs.

Take the marketing automation service company Marketo. It invested in APIs and integration so its customers can continue to evolve their marketing efforts based on a single source of truth for all marketing interactions with prospects and customers, says Matt Zilli, VP of product and solution marketing.

"We very intentionally invested in the core technologies of our platform so we can bring all the data from all these marketing technologies together so customers can get data in and out," Zilli says. "If it doesn't all come together, companies risk having silos. Giving that single view to the customer still remains our main focus."


Lots of Choice, Lots of Decisions

Choosing which marketing tools are best for an organization takes a lot of work, says Forrester's Casey. "You need to look at solutions and ask, 'Is it good enough? Can I use the capabilities in my suite or do I need something more?'" Casey says. "Just as important, if you do end up going with the best-of-breed solution, [ask yourself,] 'Are there APIs and enough integration?' So you can share data and insights between all your marketing tools."

Paul Gottsegen, EVP and chief marketing and strategy officer at Mindtree Americas, a global IT consulting firm, says the integration of best-of-breed solutions with other platforms cannot be ignored by marketers. "The key with best of breed is you want your foundation — your marketing automation — to be popular enough that all the other options have the right connectors into the marketing automation," he says. "You also need someone internal, or access to a consultant, who can do that integration."

The work really starts once marketers choose a specific marketing arsenal, Gottsegen says, noting that it requires computer system enhancements. "One thing I found in my own team is that it's human nature to get married to whatever software you have purchased," he adds. "But I push the team that if the software isn't literally 'perfect' they have to keep looking."


Sharper Insights

Xerox, for example, takes a similar-type approach to its marketing strategy. SVP and CMO Toni Clayton-Hine says about 30 percent of her current marketing wheelhouse is different from what it was in 2016. "The majority of the new tools were brought in for new ideas," she says.

Clayton-Hine uses many best-of-breed marketing tools as well as traditional suites. She says the choice comes down to what's going to best amplify her message and give her insight into the company's customers and prospects.

"We're not looking at the technology first," she says. "We're parsing out the goals of our initiative and making choices based on what's going to give us the best integration pre-, during, and post-sale." In every case, she ensures the tools mesh with the company's existing ones.

For Jonathan James, CMO at the IT service management company CompuCom, a tool's ease of use ranks especially high in importance. Though his tech stack includes several suites, including Domo, HubSpot, and Salesforce, he says some of the more than 20 best-of-breed point solutions are more user-friendly. "The interfaces are easier and you don't need a programmer on staff, so we can have the entire marketing staff launch campaigns," James notes.

And for marketers who dismiss integration and would prefer to have the proverbial single throat to choke? Tony Byrne, founder of Real Story Group, a buyer-focused analyst firm, says there's no such thing. "Internally, that [one] suite has 10 different products, each with its own product manager," he says. "Literally, many of those suite components may have recently been acquired too, so there may be just as much integration with a suite."




Don't Rule IT Out

Over the past few years, the proliferation of cloud-based marketing tools has taken decision-making out of the hands of IT and placed it squarely in marketing's court. In January, the research firm Gartner announced that CMOs are spending 27 percent of their budget on technology, on par with IT departments' tech expenditures.

For marketers eager to take a best-of-breed approach, experts say, having a collaborative relationship with IT can boost marketing campaigns and enhance returns. It can also raise marketing's value within the organization and drive business growth. IT (or the CIO specifically) should be involved with integration, customization, data management, deduplication, and data security.

These tasks are easier if the CIO has an "active role in revenue generation," says CompuCom CMO Jonathan James. "You can also streamline the process by investing the time needed to take the IT department through your annual marketing plan," he adds. "Involve [IT execs] in the conversations instead of just dictating what you need."

Marketers must make sure they are aware of every tool they use, both on-premise and in the cloud. It may not seem important to tell IT about the inexpensive listening tool that's paid for monthly, but without giving the IT department the full picture, they can't protect and backup any data created, nor integrate myriad software tools.

"We've hit our limit as to what we can do as rogues," says Xerox SVP and CMO Toni Clayton-Hine. "If you really want to tap into the customer experience and make the post-sale experience to be more marketing driven, you need IT. Marketing and IT are stronger together."
— K.J.B.


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