Every marketing technology vendor wants to sell you their marketing cloud. Whether its Adobe, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce, Sitecore or SDL — all are making tremendous progress knitting together a comprehensive enterprise-marketing platform. So if you’re ready to pull out all of your existing plumbing and start from scratch, you've got choices.

Why Start from Scratch?

But in reality, most enterprises have already made significant investments over time in CMS, CRM, e-commerce, marketing automation, analytics, etc. So for most the question is not to marketing cloud or not, but how to build your own comprehensive “marketing cloud.” This will be a combo of what you already have, what you’re ready to invest in and what should be on the horizon after you’ve demonstrated positive ROI to the CFO and convinced the CEO of the positive impact on the business itself.

Start by defining for yourself what should make up your marketing cloud. As we saw in Scott Brinker’s famous Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic, there are literally thousands of vendors willing to demonstrate how their new software will revolutionize your marketing efforts.  

But for most of us, that chart is overwhelming. 

I’ve tried to distill it to a more manageable view. But when I presented it to a global 1000 marketing executive in Europe a couple of weeks ago, his comment was — "you call this simple?" So before you dive into vendor selection, let's take a look at getting your marketing basics in order first.

Marketing Stack

Content: The Undersung Data

Data lies at the foundation of an enterprise marketing platform (or marketing cloud).  If there’s big data, there must be small data.  There’s social data, customer data, transaction data. There’s first party data like CRM data and there’s third party data like you get from Experian. But fundamentally there’s two kinds of data: data about people and data about content.

So much has been written about people data that there’s no need to dig into it here. Suffice it to say, most companies collect far more data about their customers and prospects than they know what to do with and very few are really able to act on that data, especially not in anything approaching real time or cross-channel.

Content data usually gets overlooked. Marketers agree on the value of a single center of truth for all customer (people) data, yet most organizations have not embraced the same approach to their content. As soon as they begin to think about content and digital assets as data, content data's role as a core element to an effective and efficient enterprise marketing platform becomes clear.

Every digital asset — whether a copy block, an image, video or link — represents a piece of data. It can be tagged, measured and associated with any other piece of content data.  It can be aggregated into content archetypes and can be used as triggers for personalization. And when it’s all housed in a single source it can be more easily distributed, published and managed across channels, markets and rendered for every type of device known or coming.

Think for example of a global automaker. It's safe to assume it would have a rich library of car images. And it may select an image of a red roadster with the top down to promote its newest car. The problem is that in some markets, red might not be the most appropriate color. In other markets, it might be better to promote the hardtop.  

In a traditional model, each website and every single display ad or email will have to have its own image. Not only is this costly, it's cumbersome. And what happens when you want to change an image? You'll have to individually change every ad, every email, every website.  

A single centralized repository of all content would make it easy to make changes that cascade through every iteration. This is the first step towards omnichannel. And it takes place before any personalization or marketing automation software, as well as works together with marketing, sales and service applications.

Content as data and a single source of content truth is still not a part of any of the marketing clouds. It is but one example of how enterprise marketing platforms are 100 percent dependent on which companies were acquired by which large software vendor.  So while it's great to talk about how each version of a marketing cloud is taking root, get the basics in place first. And those basics take the form of data — both the people data we know and the content data we need to think about.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  kwanie