No Best of Breed in Cloud Computing Yet

The marketing technology (martech) landscape is vast, and choosing the software to enable your digital marketing strategy is daunting. In fact, 56% of marketers say the martech space is moving so fast that their companies are struggling keep up. That’s why it’s crucial for marketing teams to have an effective approach for managing martech.

Most martech software vendors market themselves in two ways:

  1. An Ideal Addition to Your Best-of-Breed Martech Stack: A relatively small, often one-dimensional software that prides itself on solving one problem well. It typically claims to easily integrate and communicate with the rest of your marketing and digital experience stack. 
  2. A "Full-Stack" Martech Suite Solution: This is a one-stop-shop content management, marketing and digital experience platform that claims to have all the features you'll ever need baked into the platform.

But what does this mean exactly, and which approach should you go with? 

While this topic has been discussed at length (with the conclusion often coming down to "it depends"), we're revisiting the question of suite vs. best-of-breed as it continues to haunt marketers. We’ve turned to marketing executives to help us understand how each approach stacks up in terms of ease-of-use, functionality and flexibility.

Related Article: The Components of a Martech Dream Team

Ease of Use

Michelle Kubot, VP of marketing at Ambrosia Treatment Center, believes martech solutions are generally easier to use and implement. “You don’t have to worry about connecting anything together,” she said, “which is where unexpected technical complications often arise.” Suite vendors put substantial effort in making their platforms connect seamlessly out of the box, and this reduces the effort required for implementation. This also means it’s easier for users to get started using the platform.

With the best-of-breed approach, building a seamless martech stack usually requires substantial effort. While most best-of-breed martech products have APIs that make it possible for seamless integrations, problems do often arise. “Not every best-of-breed technology plays well with other technologies,” explained Olivier Chanoux, CMO & co-founder of LumApps. Most companies rely on different tech stacks across departments, so it’s critical that the best-of-breed technologies they choose have robust integration capabilities.

Milan Lazich, senior director marketing at Intrinsic ID, said from an ease of use standpoint opting for the suite approach is usually the right choice. “For instance,” he explained, “a startup that is trying to capitalize on first-mover advantage might prefer a system that delivers 'good enough' performance in the near term so [the solution] can get to market.” While this approach offers a faster time to market, Lazich finds that companies eventually realize that there are best-of-breed solutions available that can deliver better functionality in the long run.

Functionality

Most of the martech experts agree that a best-of-breed approach usually leads to greater functionality. “We no longer live in a ‘one vendor fits all’ world,” stated Chanoux. The problem is that martech vendors try to be a “jack-of-all-trades,” which often leads to generic or lower-quality features. Suite vendors can’t be the best at everything, so they often acquire other products with varying quality standards. When it comes to email marketing, for example, there are highly specialized solutions with levels of functionality that a suite vendor will never be able to provide.

Kubot agreed, “Using a martech suite system compromises on functionality.” These solutions typically cater to the needs of a broader marketplace, so you can’t get exactly what your business needs. In many cases, however, smaller companies offer best-of-breed solutions that focus on specific niches and may provide functionality that’s more tailored to your organization. 

While a suite solution is tempting for its ease-of-use and potentially comprehensive set of features, it’s not likely that you can rely on one vendor for everything. “Even if you go with a martech super suite,” Kubot added, “there are still going to be niche or specific processes that involve outside technology.” That’s why products that are highly flexible are essential for building out an effective martech stack.

Related Article: What Does Martech's Ecosystem Evolution Mean for Marketers?

Flexibility

Chanoux believes companies no longer want to be locked into a single company’s ecosystem. “Companies today prefer open, cloud-based technology platforms,” he said, “that put them back in the driver’s seat.” Most organizations today want maximum control over their martech, and the best-of-breed approach enables this. “Most cloud-based solutions today rely on APIs to connect to other systems allowing companies to address the needs of specific groups, organizations or even specific individuals, quickly and cost-effectively,” explained Chanoux. The best-of-breed approach means products or services can be chosen and implemented by teams or departments instead of at the organizational level that suite solutions require.

Lazich agreed that the flexibility of a best-of-breed approach is essential. “If a new tool is introduced that improves on the capability of one tool,” he explained, “I can swap new for old without affecting the entire stack, and without needing to train the staff on a new system.” With the suite solution, this is much more difficult, and vendor lock-in could prevent adaptability altogether.

Exploring the Hybrid Approach

When it comes to choosing between a best-of-breed or suite approach, it really does come down to your brand's circumstances, resources and existing software stack. However, maybe choosing between the two isn't necessary. Perhaps the best option is a combination of the two approaches, a hybrid approach, if you will. 

“My hybrid approach,” explained Kubot, “is to look for what processes can be combined or simplified under one system without compromising.” This means choosing niche products for specific functionality that can easily integrate with larger solutions like Salesforce and Google Analytics to form a more robust martech stack that is still flexible and easy to use.