You can hardly find a product or solution offering that doesn’t position itself inside multiple levels in the marketing technology stack. A marketing technology – ad technology arms war is raging fueled by lots of available cash and the idea that owning the full tech chain is capable of capturing clients, allowing for profit at every step. To be fair, there are of course more altruistic visions mixed in there: “We’ll buy the best at every level of the stack and won’t it be great for the clients and for us. We’ll need a lot of marketing money, though.”
The Specialty Solution Challenge
Former specialty solutions that did one thing, say email, and did it well are feeling pressure to do more, delving in to other areas – email providers are making a grab to try to be your ‘one stop marketing database’ by adding new digital channels. That tactic is all about revenue and trying to stay relevant. Business intelligence (BI) tools have moved into “analytics.” Deep analytics is now the province of ‘data scientists,’ and these data experts are being urged to use a wide variety of ETL-type tools coupled with analytics or with R interfaces. Marketing Service Providers are either buying pieces of the stack (campaign tools, consumer and B2B, DMPs, etc.), building their own pieces, and/or selecting best-of-breed vendors resulting in service-heavy contracts to produce an overall solution.
This “oozing” into other areas that aren’t the sweet spot of these products is where the story gets complicated. Each additional layer of the stack, each channel and feature added through acquisition, requires more services to stitch the process together. The marketing of such a “platform” is easier than actually delivering it. These stitched solutions also represent yet more siloes, where data interfaces need to be cobbled together, typically inefficiently, and multiple separate applications must be accessed and used as the data moves through each of the different specialty solutions.
Lots of “360 degree” and “1:1” stories are out there, and the general approach of their marketing material is to talk about their “full stack” solution as an ecosystem that they already have. The reality is, they aren’t one integrated platform, and one look at the different applications and stitching beneath illustrates this point.
Why the Marketer Needs to Know About the Stitching
When you buy into a full-stack vendor now, their goal is to get you to buy into their version of the stack as a captive to each module that they sell. Sure, they will sell you any component that you want; that’s the way to sell you the rest of them over time. You are being asked to buy into a system of separate components (mostly) loosely tied together – not a true, fully-integrated solution. The idea that these components could all be “best-of-breed” is highly unlikely. Future and current planning tends to naturally go down a vendor-centric path, which very likely isn’t cost-effective nor will it be the most marketing-effective approach. It’s simply part of a stack that the vendor tells you is “easier if you use our module for this or that function.” Sometimes, it is easier – for the vendor – if you choose their captive email provider product – because it is the only one that actually works automatically with their tool. That’s not quite the open option that a modern marketer needs.
The Intelligent Marketer Journey
If you are an intelligent modern marketer with a budget plan, you should not go down this path. You know what you need in the first, second, and third year of your modernization journey. To keep your journey from spiraling out of financial and efficiency control, focus on the fundamentals:
- If you haven’t already, get your existing data under control (1st and 3rd party). Buy only the products that support that goal and ignore the “stack story” for a bit, with one exception; make sure the vendors you use have open APIs so that all the modules they offer are appropriately available to be used for whatever needs you may have. If they do not have open APIs, they are likely more interested in capturing you for a long-term financial encumbrance and their own revenue stream than they are in helping you achieve your ultimate marketing goals.
- Choose an orchestration platform architecture that doesn’t tie you to a product line. Don’t buy a marketing campaign platform that requires additional modules or a “license key” for every time you want to add another channel or media or audience platform to your marketing mix to resolve another problem, in addition to buying the product license for the new channel or media product.
The tech stack grab is in full swing. Don’t fall for the hype. Instead, choose a thoroughly modern marketing architecture that integrates and operates as a cohesive system.