The hype surrounding marketing clouds hasn’t entirely faded, but I constantly meet marketers who are disenchanted with the reality. They know exactly what they want to achieve: true omnichannel marketing in real or near-real time that consistently delivers the right offer or message, based on a dynamic understanding of each individual. But they’ve come to see just how difficult it is to “get there from here” with today’s marketing clouds.
A while back, my colleague George Corugedo predicted some of the obstacles they would face. George quickly recognized that many leading marketing clouds were better described as “frankenclouds.” They had been cobbled together from acquired subsystems never designed to work together, so their multiple code bases integrated poorly. These integration problems couldn’t be papered over with a single interface: they would likely lead to major problems with performance and scalability.
George proved right. And, with two years’ more experience, we can identify three killer problems with most of today’s leading marketing clouds. These problems are baked into the DNA of today’s marketing clouds, and deeply problematic to marketers
Marketers have long understood that their data contains great riches, if it can be mined appropriately. By now, that’s a cliché – which doesn’t make it any less true. But you can’t glean the diamonds unless you can explore your data without limitation and use it without friction.
First and foremost, full access to your data is needed for your machine learning, analytics, and data science applications. Unfortunately, most marketing clouds provide a very narrow portal into your data. It’s like looking through a submarine periscope.
Marketing clouds lock down your data to make sure you can’t see anyone else’s. Every query is pre-filtered by your own ID: you can’t see your raw data tables. It’s difficult or impossible to use the tools you prefer. To go beyond the provider’s pre-built queries, you’ll need custom development – typically by a consultant who may charge $200 an hour or more. Even if you have all the money in the world, it’s harder to move quickly or innovate. You bought into the cloud to improve agility, but the exact opposite is happening.
As George predicted, layers placed between you and your data – combined with poor integration across the stack – can also kill performance, especially as you scale, or identify the need to offer highly personalized responses to customers in milliseconds. That’s one key reason many companies have grown increasingly skeptical about marketing clouds.
Marketing cloud providers desperately want you to purchase their entire stack. Unfortunately, their stack is never best-of-breed in all areas, and it’s certainly not best-of-breed in every function you care about. As soon as you decide to use a third-party tool, you’re back in the integration game whether you like it or not – usually requiring an expensive consulting project. The alternative, of course, is to buy the whole stack, sacrificing functionality and/or investments you’ve made in automation, templates, and training. Most companies don’t like that tradeoff at all. According to Walker Sands, among the 21 percent of marketers who use single-vendor suites, only 1/6 stay entirely within the suite.
All this assumes you’re given the choice. Sometimes you’re not. For example, most large enterprises have chosen their own tools for delivering emails, reflecting their own requirements. But one stack provider recently told customers it will ban third-party email products, requiring its own. That makes life harder for customers. It’s no way to make friends, but presumably, the stack provider thought it had the whip hand in those relationships. Which brings us to Reason #3 …
If you’re a marketing cloud customer – even a very large one – you have little leverage over where your service provider is taking you. What happens if your business strategy and theirs diverge? What if they decide to de-emphasize your industry for their own competitive reasons? What if you’re dependent on the current implementation of a feature they want to change?
Someone else is driving the bus. You have to hope they keep heading in your direction.
If marketing cloud stacks create more cost, restrictions, and risk than they’re worth, what’s a better alternative? An “open garden.”
Companies that integrate a true customer data platform (CDP) with a modern orchestration layer can integrate all their data sources. Open garden solutions can make it possible for companies to ingest data of any variety at any velocity or cadence, keep using the best-of-breed they’ve invested in, and host anywhere it makes business sense – whether in a preferred cloud, a datacenter, or a hybrid environment.
With an open garden as a foundation, companies can establish a current and persistent golden record that leverages all that’s knowable about every prospect and customer. Then, they can use all their knowledge to drive analytics, predictive models, and segmentation for next best offers and messages – and do it in-line with customer experience, across all touchpoints. They can finally “get from here to there,” without compromise.