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More people are talking about digital marketing technology. And that means more numbers.

We started the year with this "inspiring," "frightening" number -- 1,876, or the number of marketing tech vendors out there.

Today, we continue to the conversation with another number: 50. That's 50 as in the percentage of digital marketers who favor a marketing cloud suite -- the same number who like a best-of-breed solution approach.

That's the finding of the Winterberry group, which interviewed more than 50 advertisers, marketers, publishers, technology developers and marketing service providers last fall. Marketers, the research found, are evenly divided when it comes to the build vs. buy debate.

Keep Talking

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Ok, so the 50-participant number is not impressive for gathering some good data. We know. But the survey does continue topical conversations digital marketers are having today:  the "build vs. buy" debate and integration of marketing technology.

Integrating data and technology still remains challenging for marketers. It's a big concern for them. Just ask some Adobe customers.

Mike Sands, CEO of survey sponsor Signal, which offers cross-channel marketing technologies, said there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Therefore, integration is simply reality.

"More than 60 percent of marketers said better integration of existing tools is the top priority in helping them extract more value from data and technology," Sands told CMSWire. "The urgent need to close the integration 'gap' was the one single issue in the survey where there was overwhelming agreement among marketers. No wonder so many companies are not yet ready to provide the relevant, seamless experiences that smartphone-toting consumers desire."

And as for build versus buy?

"The survey showed that there isn't a right or wrong answer for which type of technology to purchase," he said. "Either approach may be appropriate depending on an organization's priorities, existing investments and resources. Some clients prioritize reporting and deployment efficiency, others want to maximize flexibility and specialty capabilities."

Does Provider Choice Matter?

Travis Wright, chief growth officer for MediaThinkLabs, opened a large debate in his presentation at last August's Marketing Technology Conference about build versus buy. He likes the build approach.

When CMSWire shared with him the Winterberry results, Wright told CMSWire companies like Tealium and Ensighten are rolling with "Open Marketing Cloud," and Signal seems to be going with "Open Marketing Technology Stack."

"It's all the same," Wright said. "I don't care who you use, although I do think it's a good idea to use tag management as a buffer between the integrated marketing stacks and your data. That way you own and control your data."

Benefits for Each Approach

Scott Brinker, the Godfather of Marketing Technology and the man responsible for that 1,876 marketing tech discovery, also took a peek at the Winterberry data.

"Both approaches -- integrated suites and best-of-breed, independent stacks -- have benefits," said Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technology Blog, organizer of the Marketing Technology Conference and the co-founder and chief technology officer for Boston-based ion interactive. "The reality is that it's more of a continuum between them, with many companies anchoring around a core platform and then supplementing it with more specialized capabilities that fit their strategy. I think the balanced point-of-view that many participants in the study shared reflects a maturing of marketing technology management."

What's the advice to someone stepping into buying marketing software for the first time?

"When you make your technology investments," Sands told CMSWire, "always keep integration top-of-mind -- don’t just focus on features and functionality. All of your teams should be trained to make integration a priority. And when buying new solutions, you should select vendors that understand your company’s data strategy and provide a clear path to making their technologies connect to the rest of your ecosystem, including legacy systems."

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Eirik Newth.