We've spent a lot of time in February talking about how we can build better web experiences with the help of marketing automation. While the technology is all there, how it works together is often questionable, especially when we look at the difference between integrating best of breed technology and investing in a platform that does it all (a suite we use to call it). The big question we put out to our panel, is what is the best technology approach when working with WEM and MA?

The Question 

Can an all-in-one platform solution (i.e. MAP, WEM, etc) win out over the "potential for theoretical greatness" via integrated best of breed solutions?

The Responses

Brennan Carlson -- Lyris

brennan.JPGAs Vice President of Product and Strategy, Brennan Carlson is responsible for product planning, management and strategy at Lyris. He provides cross-functional leadership for the delivery of the company's product vision, with a focus on roadmap planning, requirements definition, user experience and user/acceptance testing and other strategic product initiatives. Carlson also provides expertise in working with prospects and customers, and serves as digital marketing thought leader for Lyris. Before coming to Lyris, Carlson held enterprise marketing, product management and business development positions at several computer software and Internet technology companies, including Yahoo!, Akamai Technologies and Trilogy Software. Carlson holds a Bachelor's degree from Stanford University.

Potential for theoretical greatness is often not the leading motivation to seek integrated best of breed solutions. While the functional capabilities of point solutions enter the mix, constraints of the business and technical environment, rather than the opportunities perceived, set the stage for technology decisions.

Enterprise marketing technology projects are rarely ever “green field.” Legacy systems and workflows that support daily operations provide the foundation for new technology investments. Ask anyone who has been through it and you’ll find that “rip and replace” rarely works as planned.

Where all-in-one platforms shine is within enterprises that lack core competency in implementing and managing technology solutions or in the lower half of the market, where functional coverage provides significantly greater return than the investment in point solutions.

All-in-one platforms have the opportunity to win out by continuing to invest in modularity and flexibility of the platform to become the best of both worlds: integrated, yet flexible. Highly integrated solutions will always carry the challenge of making systems work with each other rather than making systems work for the business.

Jon Miller --  Marketo 

Jon Miller Headshot.jpg Jon leads strategy and execution for all aspects of Marketo's thought leadership and content marketing programs. Before co-founding Marketo, Jon was Vice President of Product Marketing at Epiphany. He is the author of the comprehensive handbook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies with under US$ 250 million in revenue.

The best thing about marketing automation software is that it’s both an all-in-one platform and a “best of breed” amalgamation. Any time individual pieces of software can’t integrate with each other to produce powerful analytics, they should be disqualified from being considered “best of” anything other than “best of creating bad databases.”

Marketing automation software is much greater than the sum of its parts. Let me give you an example. Imagine you are using an email marketing vendor to reach your leads and customers: the only targeting available to you is based on broad demographics, and after you send out an email, at best you can see open and click rates. Those metrics exist in a silo, and more importantly, they don’t matter to other executives. There’s no way to track if the open rate translated to revenue. An email marketing vendor and clever subject line can get you a high open rate, but you won’t have a clue if it helped grow your business. With marketing automation software, you know what events led up to that person receiving the email, what they did with the email and if they were ready to be passed to sales or if they needed more nurturing. You’ll know exactly how your marketing campaigns are helping to grow your business. And you’ll be able to show your CEO the metrics that matter -- not open rates, or click throughs, but revenue.

That same example could be used for every single standalone vendor -- events management, landing pages, social marketing or lead scoring. If your data exists in a silo, it may as well not exist at all, because you’re missing the point. In today’s world we’re drowning in data. What we could really use is a way to understand that data, and that’s exactly what marketing automation software delivers.

Think of the same example I gave about a standalone email marketing vendor, and imagine it integrated into your marketing automation solution. You’re still sending an email blast, but it’s broken down into different segments based on behavior, not just demographics. Did a potential customer recently visit a product page on your website? What about sharing your social content? Does this customer already own one of your offerings? Where is the customer on the buying cycle? What’s this customer’s lead score? Using marketing automation software, you’ll know these answers, and your sales team will know these answers. When your sales team knows these answers it spends more time on better leads, and that means more revenue.

The choice between a “best of breed” strategy and an all-in-one platform is a false choice. If marketers want to succeed, they take the holistic view. The only way to be “best of” is to use a platform that incorporates all of the varying data a marketing campaign creates.

Darren Guarnaccia -- Sitecore

DarrenG_Sitecore.jpgDarren Guarnaccia is the Senior VP Product Marketing at Sitecore, a Web CMS software vendor headquartered in Denmark. He's spent the last 12 years working with Internet technologies, from his first project with Broadvision at startup, to running large teams of consultants doing e-business integration, to working with a few different WCM vendors.

It’s a scenario that’s been played out in various arenas of enterprise computing -- What’s better: an integrated, all-in-one software suite or a best-of-breed environment that incorporates multiple point solutions? In enterprise circles, customer engagement is today’s hotbed of business growth, and the place where this classic argument takes a twist. Does an integrated customer engagement suite provide “best of need” capabilities that optimally meet today’s requirements, while providing a clear path to “digital maturity?” Or does a best-of-breed approach provide more flexibility toward achieving that goal?

The way I see it, the problem with the best-of-breed myth is that everybody thinks they need every square inch of every product. The reality is that people use 5-10% of the products they buy. They don’t. What they need is to enable business processes across all of their marketing applications that touch less than 20% of any tool. In the customer engagement world, marketers have all these different applications that were engineered in silos, never intended to work together -- creating manageability nightmares. Multiple systems make it impossible to understand both the impact of campaigns, attribution and the behavior of customers, across multiple channels.

Sitecore’s “best of need” approach offers a strategy that leads organizations with an optimal universe of capabilities at all stages of digital maturity -- in comparison to best-of-breed environments that hold companies back because it forces companies to spend far too much time on the endless treadmill of integration updates across multiple point solutions. This kills marketing agility; a must in today’s constantly evolving customer experience market.

I predict in 5-10 years we will no longer be debating this issue since a best of breed approach won’t be around.

Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer-- Hippo

TjeerdB_Hippo.jpg Tjeerd is CMO of Hippo. Under his leadership as a co-founder, Hippo grew from 3 co-founders to an organization with more than 80 people, and headquarters in Amsterdam and Boston. In 2009, 2008 and 2007 Hippo was one of the fastest growing technology companies in Europe. Tjeerd has extensive experience as an international speaker. Before Hippo, Tjeerd worked as a consultant for KPMG, ProjectX and Fource Consulting. Tjeerd sets Hippo's marketing strategy and travels around the globe to share the Hippo Awesomeness.

We believe that delivering an optimized customer journey includes, but goes beyond, creating perfect landing pages, targeted content channels, personalized emails and analyzing big data with an integrated CRM system.

As such, within the process of Marketing Automation, integration is the key to actually making it work in the enterprise. Customer data is stored in different systems (SAP, SalesForce, Google Analytics, Adwords, etc.) inside the organisation and within the external "partner" eco system (partners, traffic information, weather, stock exchange, Radian6, etc.). This is especially true if a B2C organization wants to combine the brick & mortar and digital marketing automation into a cohesive experience

So, an all-in-one platform is great demoware. But in reality it doesn't enable the optimized customer journey. Try to tell a global enterprise that they have to replace all their current back office systems with one all-in-one platform for Marketing Automation. I would say "good luck!"