When you think "marketing cloud" you probably think Salesforce.com and Adobe — and for good reason. These two providers have solid offerings that stay competitive with a steady addition of new features, industry experts concur.

They are not the only game in town, though, as a new report on the sector from Forrester Research makes clear: users interested in other offerings might want to investigate SAS Institute, Oracle, Teradata and IBM, it concluded in its Forrester Wave: Enterprise Marketing Software Suites for Q4 report.

But the report was less enthusiastic about SAP and Marketo. These two providers, Forrester stated, "have work to do to catch up with the others."

Much Needed Guidance

These suggestions may provide some guidance to software buyers in this space, which are typically burdened with dual – and conflicting — needs. They 1) want the latest in online marketing functionality to stay competitive and they want 2) that functionality ready to plug-and-play in the company's existing IT infrastructure.

Unfortunately as they go to market to vet the many offerings, they may find these goals to be mutually exclusive.

Certainly they will be confronted with vendors that boast of large portfolios of point solutions but, as Forrester says, "they haven't yet delivered on the promise of end-to-end integration."

This is not to heap blame on vendors, although there are clearly providers in the market that overpromise and underdeliver.

"Ultimately, the onus is on the end-users to define what they need," Laura DiDio, principal with ITIC told CMSWire. "I don’t care if you are talking about Salesforce.com, Adobe or IBM. You need to approach every purchase with a checklist and a strong due diligence plan," she says.

The advantage of using vendors with a strong track record and large installed base is that a company probably has had some experience with them at some point in their history, she continues.

Questions DiDio advises buying agents to ask — either themselves or the vendor -- during the pre-purchase process include:

  • Has the vendor articulated a well-defined product roadmap?
  • Has it worked with me to cost out what the prices will be over the life cycle of the product?
  • Has this vendor delivered what it promised in the past?
  • What is my company’s own five-year plan and what will we need in terms of marketing at that point?
  • Is this vendor experiencing financial difficulties?

Strong Integration

Strong integration will almost surely be on that list.

The Forrester report asked respondents the hypothetical question of "Your organization is throwing out all of its current marketing technology and is going to rebuild an enterprise marketing software suite from scratch. How would you rate your agreement with the following statements?"

Learning Opportunities

It found that "The ability to integrate is the most important feature of potential tools" rated the highest in terms of agreement.

Strengths and Weaknesses

With all that in mind, the Forrester report provides some unbiased guidance to online marketing application buyers.

Adobe "distanced itself from the pack" with its innovation, vision and in-market functionality "designed solely to provide marketers with a clear incentive to use multiple solutions within the Adobe Marketing Cloud."

Salesforce.com and Adobe were selected as "leaders" in this category. Salesforce.com has a strong product road map, unified interface and data platform plus its Journey Builder product rated highly for its utility.

SAS Institute, Oracle, Teradata and IBM were rated "strong performers" by Forrester for various reasons.

  1. SAS Institute "provides an ease of integration across discrete marketing functionality."
  2. Oracle has a "breadth of capabilities to serve both business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers."
  3. IBM's long-standing portfolio of marketing solutions was cited by Forrester.
  4. Teradata's acquisition of best-of-breed vendor Aprimo is its competitive differentiator.

Forrester does not entirely dismiss Marketo and SAP, which fell into the "contenders" category. It has doubts about Marketo's small-scale deployments but notes that it "swings above its weight class in this study."

SAP has a strong legacy background, to state the obvious, but "a limited vision for its native marketing offerings."

Title image by Kristina Alexanderson  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.