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Marketing Cloud Vendor Promises Probably Don’t Fit Your Digital Reality

As organizations march toward a digital-first future, it can be hard to resist the lure of digital marketing “suites” or “clouds” many software vendors are offering.

If you’re in the market for new digital technology, fair warning. There’s a one-two-three punch waiting to surprise buyers that can derail your digital transformation plans.

  1. The lure of the vision: Marketing cloud vendors describe a persuasive picture of how all their digital marketing applications and customer experience tools get packed into a unified package to benefit buyers. It’s a compelling promise of complete application integration, seamless user interfaces, and a unified data model to let you act on every bit of customer insight. Looks great, sounds great -- a perfect “10” to solve all your WCM and digital experience requirements!
  2. Then, things start to get real.

  3. When you pull back the technology curtain, buyers often find integration promises don’t match reality. Capable vendors like Adobe, Sitecore, IBM and others have spent years and billions of dollars acquiring companies and now have digital tech portfolios across WCM, analytics, personalization, marketing automation and more. They’ve packaged them together as “marketing suites” and “digital experience clouds”. How complete are these integrations? It varies, but integration is widely viewed as a work-in-progress. The problem often surfaces after buyers make an initial software investment and have to admit to their boss that “integration” is going to mean “more money and time required to get it all running”.

    Acquia prospects and partner agencies have repeatedly pointed this out to me in recent months based on their experiences. The result? Clients live with it, they double down on their implementation investment, or they take door number three -- seeking an alternate solution before they’re in too deep.

  4. But wait there’s more.

  5. The “marketing cloud” dilemma, where the vendor vision is a 10 and vendor execution may be a 5, degrades further. Many organizations have low maturity and aren’t able to leverage all that digital capability. In the new, digital-first reality, it’s one thing to run websites, commerce sites, or good digital marketing. It requires a giant step in maturity (people, process, training, organizational alignment) to execute cohesive omnichannel campaigns, contextual and rich digital experiences, analytics- and data-informed marketing, and other aspirational goals, and do it at enterprise scale. I find even large organizations today struggling to make basic content personalization work.

Every organization is trying to get more digitally mature. You need to walk, then jog, then run, before you can sprint. If you drop a marketing cloud on a large organization that doesn’t have a plan, strategy and skills to execute, then they’ll fail or use a small sliver of that massive investment. Never mind the integration challenges.

Organizations seeking new WCM and digital experience technology are weighing the issues I describe above. In my role at Acquia, I’ve been speaking with many IT and business buyers over the past few months, and here’s some of what I’m seeing:

  • Right-sized thinking: Buyers rarely want or need the “kitchen sink” approach found in vendors’ marketing cloud solutions; high costs, complexity, and slow time to market (not to mention grappling with software overload) is a threat to success with massive suites. They want better WCM and other capabilities, but many are taking a “right-sized” approach that doesn’t lead them to massive marketing clouds but to a more rational approach to their digital technology stack.
  • Focus on flexible foundation: Many buyers are choosing Acquia Platform, not cloud suites, to serve as their WCM and digital experience “foundation”. Acquia’s cloud-based, scalable, resilient platform for WCM and digital experience provides an alternative to all-encompassing marketing clouds. Acquia customers use the platform’s flexibility to bring their existing, third-party marketing apps to the platform (e.g marketing automation, analytics) with straightforward integrations. They already have the tools and teams around these applications; they’re not about to throw that away. The reality for nearly every company and brand is this: You will continue to have a large, diverse ecosystem of technology. (See Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Supergraphic.) You need platform that thinks “integration first” for today and the future.
  • Technology aligned with maturity: Every enterprise aspires to be bigger, better, and faster when it comes to capabilities and digital execution. After investing in generations of WCM and digital technology, buyers know technology is not a silver bullet. This should force any organizations to ask themselves: If I’m about to buy a particular technology, is our organization prepared to utilize all the new capabilities we’re buying? Will we be paying mightily now for capabilities we might use … someday?

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