Discuss marketing technology without “marketing cloud” coming up. Difficult, right?

If you don’t have one, you may feel like that kid in the neighborhood who doesn’t have an iPhone.

Major enterprise software vendors offer them. Adobe’s got one. Salesforce’s got one. Oracle’s got one. But they're certainly not alone, either.

If you’re a B2B mid-sized company — with 50 to 1,000 employees — should you have one?

Fuhgeddaboudit, said Ian Michiels, principal and CEO of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Gleanster Research.

For you, these marketing clouds are about as reachable as real clouds. They’re illusions, “a catch-all term for whatever acquisitions the vendors have made,” Michiels said.

Of course, Michiels is not conceding defeat for every mid-sized company in the marketing cloud space. But he warns these clouds require “a ton of customization" that limited budgets and smaller IT teams probably can’t support without investment in consultants and systems integrators.

Widespread adoption of these technologies are about seven to 10 years away, Michiels predicted.

Build Your Own?

headshot of ian michiels of gleanster research

So what can B2B marketers who work for mid-sized companies do now with MarTech?

“You are building a marketing cloud,” Michiels told CMSWire, “and it's not coming from one vendor. You should document and map out your systems and the data that you collect on customers across all the different systems you use. In many cases you don't need to invest in technology but rather expand how you use existing systems.”

Some people have different opinions about the “buy versus build” marketing debate.

Buy Your Own?

San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe defended its marketing cloud when reached this week by CMSWire, noting that organizations of "all sizes" can leverage its technologies.

Adobe's Irina Guseva, who leads product marketing for Adobe Experience Manager sites, said Adobe's Marketing Cloud offers eight scalable solutions, each designed for companies of all sizes. It allows customers to address various skill sets, needs and tech capabilities to suit their organization. The most successful marketing clouds empower companies to deliver the best customer experience, regardless of size and number of employees, and Adobe Marketing Cloud is no exception. Adobe has a number of midsize customers including Electronics for Imaging, Medhost and First Financial, she said.

Guseva blogged yesterday that midsize companies "deserve great software to help them be successful and there’s nothing in the way for them to start using the same industry-leading digital experience management solution that is used by major global brands."

A Salesforce representative directed CMSWire to a case-study page for Salesforce clients with 100 to 999 employees. Oracle did not respond to a request for comment.

Guide Me, Please

To navigate the MarTech landscape, Michiels produced a 17-page Guide to the CMO Technology Blueprint for Midsize B2B Companies infographic.

It features selections of 57 different MarTech categories and, according to the report, is meant to augment existing MarTech infographics like the MarTech Landscape and LumaScape.

We all know Scott Brinker's MarTech Landscape infographic by now. He’s chronicled the space by showing the number of vendors on one supergraphic the past five years.

“I'm constantly speaking at events where the MarTech infographic is used in slide decks,” Michiels told CMSWire. “It does a phenomenal job at relaying one message: there are a lot of vendors and a lot of categories.”

It doesn’t help determine, he said, how to rank investments in technologies.

Reached by CMSWire, Brinker said he doesn’t disagree with Michiel's characterization of his graphic.

“The one message I wanted to convey with it was that there are a lot of vendors and a lot of categories,” Brinker said. “And, over the past five years, the universe has been expanding, not contracting. However, it's definitely not intended as a management or governance framework, and I think there's tremendous opportunity for people like Ian to help marketers tackle those challenges.”

Real-Life Challenges

headshot of scott vaughan, chief marketing officer of integrate

Infographics aside, choosing technologies is a very real challenge for CMOs.

Scott Vaughan, chief marketing officer of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Integrate, is part of a 90-employee company that provides marketing technology. He told CMSWire midsize B2B companies often need enterprise scale technology and often have complex issues -- global, interconnected systems and processes, regional deployment and integration of acquired companies, for example.

CMOs and marketers at midsize companies are in “fast-growing, cloud-based companies that require demand marketing and contribution to sales pipeline to meet growth goals,” Vaughan said. “This often means more tools and integrations needed to share and utilize prospect and customer data -- in essence, they need to act like enterprises from a marketing standpoint.”

Vaughan compared the challenge CMOs face today with that of CIOs in the 90s. IT had to automate and arm their companies with tech to connect with customers and make them more efficient.

“It’s marketing’s turn now -- small, midsize or enterprise,” he said.

Need for Middleware

headshot of dan gilmartin, chief marketing officer of blueconic

Another CMO — Dan Gilmartin of Boston-based BlueConic, a marketing tech provider with 34 employees — said that as the big infographics show, there are a tremendous amount of solutions that a marketer can choose from to fill most needs.

“Essentially,” Gilmartin added, “one can build their own platform with the specific tools necessary for their business.”

Gilmartin said he views an effective platform as a collection of tools coupled with some form of middleware to act as the wiring that connects the disparate solutions.

“The connection, in my opinion, is the user data,” he said. “This is what the big cloud vendors are trying to do, all under a single brand.”

B2B companies as much as B2C should focus on delivering an individualized experience for their audience.

“When you know the individual you can deliver improved user experiences which drive the business forward,” Gilmartin said.

Challenge Going Forward

In this MarTech convoluted space, Michiels said a “huge” challenge for midsized companies is technology overlap.

“If you already have an email platform with a decade of history in it,” he told CMSWire, “it's not all that easy to build a case around a marketing automation tool that may or may not fully replace everything you are doing in the email platform. To a decision maker, why would you change what's worked in the past unless there were competitive pressures or it's downright broken?”

CMOs must invest in talent that understands or has implemented marketing technology before, according to Michiels.

“You will pay more for them,” he added, “but their experience is invaluable in the long run. If you invest in innovative technology, invest in talent that has done it before. Recruit them from agencies, consultant firms and competitors."

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Moyan_Brenn.