The All-in-One Marketing Cloud vs. Integrated Best-in-Breed Solution

Are you considering a marketing cloud solution? One that combines all kinds of disparate technologies and features into one package? Many companies are going that route. And it might be that it’s a good solution for you…and it might be that it’s not.

A bundled solution has its downsides, as you’ll see below. And there’s a lot to be said for one customized exactly to your needs.

The marketing cloud as a bundled solution

A marketing cloud solution typically bundles together a variety of technologies onto one platform for you—technologies such as CRM, eCommerce, social media marketing, analytics, and possibly more. When you want your marketing solution offered to you as a total package in one platform, the cloud solution might make sense. It is also could be the right way to go when you need a really deep integration that is more than two disparate technology companies have built.

However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of that all-in-one package as it just might not be the right package for you. While it certainly can be easier to deal with one vendor for all your needs, you’re also locking yourself into using those other services (and often paying a higher price because they’re included). More importantly, you’re not getting the best solution for all the functional areas that you need. And you become totally reliant on the marketing cloud and they know it. You become a “captive client.” When did your business plan call for that?

Marketing Cloud Alternatives? A best-in-breed approach

If you think you want more flexibility than what I’ve just described, consider a best-in-breed approach as an alternative to the marketing cloud solution. Unless you have specific reasons for preferring the bundle, you’re better off picking individual technologies that are best for you and integrating them.

Don’t be scared off by the idea of integration. It shouldn’t be the issue it was in the past because most of the best-in-breed solutions out there already have many existing (and deep) integrations. And if there isn’t one you need, many vendors will often create an integration to enhance their offering and win your business.

Take behavioral marketing as an example. There are ESPs and marketing clouds that offer behavioral marketing as a part of their solution set. And then there are companies like SmarterHQ that does nothing but behavioral marketing. Who do you think has a better focus, better solution and higher ROI? SmarterHQ might not be for you—maybe a less robust solution makes sense for where you are in your marketing sophistication at this point—but the example illustrates the difference between getting something that’s bundled and getting the best there is.

And if you do want to change a solution out later on, it is much easier as well as much less disruptive to your process and ROI to change one area of your marketing stack compared to the entire thing!

Bundled solutions lead to broken promises

And what about those companies that buy a solution to integrate it into their complete package? Those integrations are not usually as buttoned up as they’re supposed to be. At iPost, we hear about this issue all the time from clients who didn’t get what they were promised.

When I say marketing cloud solutions often aren’t as “buttoned up” as they could be, I’m referring to the many pieces that are supposed to be integrated into the one solution, within the same platform, and with no limitations, but aren’t. Just because Big Company A acquires Little Company B to be able to add B’s capabilities to A’s marketing technology mix doesn’t mean that integration will be instant and/or seamless. As a result, you get promised functionality or deep integration but not the actual—or at least not all the time. There always seem to be limitations. The issues might get ironed out in time, but it’s still something to be wary of if you don’t have time to wait. (And I’m sure I’m not the first person to say that what is promised in a sales conversation isn’t always true.)

“Jack of all trades…”
There’s another disadvantage that comes out of this attempt to do everything: not excelling at anything, aptly described by the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” When a company offers many features but excels at none of them, you’re likely not getting best-in-breed at all.

And it turns out not offering a best-in-breed solution is a downside. In a report by ClickZ, a majority of respondents (36%) cited failing to be best-of-breed as the biggest disadvantage to a marketing cloud solution. (Over-reliance on one vendor was the second most-cited disadvantage at 30% and the increased cost was the third at 20%.)

I won’t go so far as to say a perfect solution exists for you, because perfect is, well, perfect. But I will say it’s worth your time to really consider what you’re committing to—and what you’re getting—when you choose a bundled solution over a best-in-breed approach.