Marketing automation. Social media monitoring. Customer relationship management (CRM). These tools are essential for most businesses, but a new report from content management system/community software vendor DNN notes that mid-sized companies struggle to put them together.

The report, "Marketing Got Complicated: A Look Inside the Marketing Department at Mid-Size Companies," was conducted in conjunction with Lawless Research. It surveyed 300 marketing decision makers at companies with 50 to 5,000 employees. On average, marketers at these companies reported that they are responsible for six marketing functions, with the top ones being market strategy, online marketing, customer retention, brand management and social media marketing. 

Dealing with Multiple Vendors

The most popular tools are CRM, social media marketing, web content management, marketing automation, social media listening and online community management. With these kinds of needs, the report found, a budget of $5 million or less doesn't leave much for things like ads, content syndication, sponsorships or trade shows.

Fifty-six percent of the companies surveyed use five or more marketing solutions, which — for more than half of the respondents — means managing at least five technology vendors.

"To get a single view of the customer," DNN Director of Product Marketing Dennis Shiao told CMSWire, "these systems have to talk to one another." As an example, marketers might want their lead scoring tool to interact with their customer relationship management tool.

That's why the survey found that, in selecting solutions and vendors, the top two objectives for marketers are "integration with other systems they use" and "exceptional customer support." Data in one tool needs to be accessible in another, and it needs to be tracked across tools.

"Despite all the technology solutions available," the report said, "marketing has become more challenging," according to 70 percent of respondents. Sixty-nine percent say "it's difficult to manage all the technical vendors" and 59 percent say they "need a mini-CIO to help them manage marketing technologies."

Easy to Use, Hard to Integrate

The tools themselves are often fairly easy to use, the report said, but "integrating them into a cohesive system is a challenge for the mid-size marketer." Large enterprises can get dedicated staff to deal with integration issues, or they can bring in an IBM or Accenture team.

Learning Opportunities

But what can resource-challenged mid-sized companies do? Since they can't afford many specialists, the report recommends hiring "well-rounded and adaptable marketers" with a wide set of skills and experiences. These companies "need to find multi-talented employees who can use Marketo, CMS" and other tools, Shiao told us.

ROI, Integrated Suites

Mid-sized companies are further advised to spend more time researching their tech choices before jumping in, including defining return on investment metrics and setting deadlines on whether to commit to specific solutions.

While it is desirable for any company to choose the best-of-breed tool in each category, because integration such a big issue, integrated suites may be more feasible -- even if one or more components represents a compromise. Of course, integration between the marketing suite and existing tools still has to be considered.

When asked if the demand for data is driving the complexity for marketers, Shiao told us "the trend in marketing is more data [because] data is a job justification." When they have figures to back up their decisions and directions, he noted, marketers are more likely to get the support they need.

And, of course, to get the data they need all those tools…