Chances are you saw this coming a couple of years ago if you are a digital marketer, a software vendor, a consultant or an analyst. And everyone arriving at this blog, whichever your role or background, will most likely be aware by now:
Software solutions available to marketing departments have multiplied exponentially with the advent of the cloud (paradoxically, now that many had announced the doom of marketing itself!).
Of course, this is not just a consequence of a widely available cloud infrastructure. An open source revolution should also be credited, having facilitated the availability of common development components, libraries and even high-performance programming languages and methodologies.
Just have a look at Scott Brinker’s (“Chief Marketing Technologist”) recent Marketing Technology landscape to get an idea. The picture is poised to becoming even more cluttered in a few months.
Now, I believe there are two possible ways to digest the current scenario and benefit from it, from a marketer’s perspective:
a) You can place your bets on the all-encompassing approach that has dominated software over the course of two decades. Basically: hope for a “suite” to pack a solution to all of your problems in a single box. Definitely less of a hassle.
b) You can extrapolate the same principles that have democratized software development in the first place to accept that we live in a very different world. And you may obtain enormous competitive advantages by adapting to it first.
In this dilemma lies, I believe, the key to success in the management of marketing technology portfolios (and new marketing challenges, eventually).
We come from a world where Microsoft, IBM, SAP or Oracle controlled the proprietary systems that underlie most software offerings. We expected them to simply address all of our needs in a simple way. And they did. Along came the Corels and Macromedias of old times, finally delivering boxes for a new (“digital”) marketer.
Now, take a look at the different players from the aforementioned Chief Marketing Technologist Marketing Operations ecosystem taking place in this year’s Adobe Summit trade show (arguably the most relevant Digital Marketing event in the world today). Every one of those vendors (yes, including Sweetspot) complements the Adobe Marketing Cloud in a very particular way, covering a need that simply was not there a few months earlier.
None of them is really competing with any of the already many solutions in that Marketing Cloud, but the needs of marketers keep becoming more and more granular in a consumer-driven world that gets more complex by the minute.
The same applies to IBM’s offering. Or Salesforce’s. Even to Oracle’s new approach to cloud-based marketing solutions.
Will you trust your “all-in-one” vendor to produce (or buy) best-of-breed solutions for every single need that arises? Do you really expect every one of those add-on solutions to somehow “integrate” with the pre-existing tools so that the single point of reference is justified?
Even more crucial: Do you expect to find competitive advantages in waiting for a particular “solution” to become available out-of-the-box in mainstream “packages”?
As it happens, Adobe and Salesforce have already shown great clarividence in this respect, precisely by surrounding themselves with a very compelling ecosystem of “compatible” micro-vendors. Have a look at Salesforce’s Dreamforce exhibitor floor for an impressive display of muscle (in marketing and beyond) in this regard.
I am certain that this trend will increase. No question, the big Suite vendors will accelerate their pace of acquisitions. But their Suites will become less and less encompassing every day.
The sooner you start building your own vision (with the help of the likes of Chief Marketing Technologist, Gartner, Forrester or other independent thought leaders), the earlier you will be able to reap the competitive advantages that come from adopting technologies and methodologies still ignored by everybody else, and ensuring that there is a very specific place in your vision for each of them.
Further on this point, I highly recommend that you read “Digital Marketing consolidation is not inevitable” by Gartner’s Martin Kihn if you find the minute.
And, as always, open to your thoughts.
Not Another Dashboard.