Nearly 400 attended the first Marketing Technology Conference at the Seaport Hotel in Boston this week to make sense of the more than 1,000 digital marketing technologies in more than 40 categories available today.

Bottom line: marketers want digital technology that works for their organizations. Easily, the most bantered about topic these past two days in Boston boiled down to one question:

Buy or build your marketing cloud?

Much like a little tea party here in this city 241 years ago, you had your division at #MarTech this week. 

Today, in the first of a two-part series, we catch up with the guy who got the debate going and two providers who sell marketing technology. To conclude the series, we'll talk to digital marketers who've had to make the buy versus build decision.

The Conversation Starter

digital marketing, Buy or Build a Marketing Cloud? Tales of Two Vendors

Meet Travis Wright, the one responsible for sparking this debate with his Tuesday presentation, “To Build or Buy Your Own Marketing Cloud?” 

Wright, pictured here with a #MarTech attendee, is chief growth officer for MediaThinkLabs. He consults with businesses on how they should arrange their marketing stacks and likes the “build” approach.

Wright told CMSWire after his session that “buying” one large marketing cloud provides less flexibility than the “forward-facing” approach of building your own from multiple best-of-breed solutions.

The most important reason to build your own marketing cloud?

“It’s really flexibility,” Wright told CMSWire. “A lot of these companies are busy integrating and are not innovating,” Wright added, referring to large marketing clouds he talked about in his presentation such as Adobe, Salesforce, IBM and Oracle, which combined have acquired about $11 billion worth of marketing technology in the past two years

He specifically called out Adobe, telling CMSWire, “If you are a competitor of Adobe, then they're going to lock you out from their App store and are not going to allow you to be deployed through their solution. A lot of other tag management solutions are not able to go to Adobe Summit and are not able to go to their App marketplace.” (Ed. Note: Wright was an “Adobe insider” at this year’s Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City.)

When build a marketing cloud, you have a lot more flexibility with all those technologies that are being built -- or haven’t been built yet, Wright said.

“Someone’s in their garage right now saying I'm going to build something,” he added. “… Basically when you build your own you want to make sure you’re forward facing. That’s why the tag management solution to start off as a foundation is kinda cool.” 

Best-of-breed vendors in a “build your own” environment can help you walk through it and help you with some of the implementation. “So it takes away a lot of that pain,” Wright said.

Buy Marketing Cloud

Meet Ben Gaines, senior product manager for Adobe Analytics, who caught up with CMSWire in an email interview during #MarTech. Gaines responded directly to Wright’s charges about App store and Adobe Summit lockouts to other tag management providers. 

digital marketing, Buy or Build a Marketing Cloud? Tales of Two Vendors

“This is simply an inaccurate misrepresentation,” Gaines said. “Adobe has a number of competing point solutions in Adobe Exchange today, and this will not change. For example, with our purchase of Neolane and its integration into Adobe Marketing Cloud as Adobe Campaign, we could close Exchange to all email vendors. But we have thousands of customers, and we recognize that many of them are going to want to choose their own solution for email, and so a large number of email integrations remain available, and will indefinitely. Our system is anything but closed.”

Adobe, he added, offers myriad APIs for ingesting data, retrieving data and taking various actions within the Adobe ecosystem when a third-party marketing technology is not part of Adobe Exchange.

“We even built,” Gaines said, “a real-time, event-level API called Live Stream, part of Adobe Analytics, to allow marketers to get actionable data out of the platform quickly and easily for actioning in any number of other tools -- including those whose solutions overlap with Adobe's.”

Of the 6,000 guests who attended Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City in March, Gaines said representatives from at least two other major tag management vendors attended.

“We don't invite competing vendors to sponsor Adobe Summit,” he added. “I think that is pretty standard at similar conferences. However, anyone is welcome to attend, and many of the TMS vendors have done so for the past several years.”