Marketing Clouds Aren't for Everybody

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Kraig Swensrud
Kraig Swensrud

Kraig Swensrud has stood on both sides of the fence.

He worked for Oracle and SAP, the two biggest players in the enterprise software market. He was at Salesforce for more than six years, rising to CMO. In that role, he implemented Oracle marketing cloud solutions (this was before Salesforce made a splash in that market with its 2013 purchase of ExactTarget. And yet he's telling me that time and budget considerations disqualify all but the very largest enterprises from drawing full benefit from the big marketing cloud options.

The big ones, right? Adobe, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce. The usual suspects.

How MA Stacks Up

In a sense, Swensrud would say that.  After all, he left Salesforce to found an online survey start-up, GetFeedback, subsequently acquired by email and marketing automation vendor Campaign Monitor, where he again finds himself CMO. And Campaign Monitor's sweet spot—their laser focus, as he puts it—is the small to medium-sized business market. He now says: "Marketing automation is super-exciting, but because in its origins it focused on the Fortune 1000, it's feature rich, but super-expensive and hard to use."

Today, Campaign Monitor is publishing striking data which tends to support Swensrud's contention. ("We'd been anecdotally collecting data," he said, "and we wanted to validate it.") A new report, How Marketing Automation Stacks Up, draws some eye-catching conclusions from a survey of 500 marketers from mid-sized businesses, "responsible for growing brands":

  • More than 40 percent of mid-market marketers have less than $50k per year to spend on marketing technology.
  • 57 percent expect newly adopted solutions to be deployed in four weeks of less (and preferably without input from a developer).
  • An "overwhelming majority" of mid-sized businesses—82 percent—currently use a best-of-breed marketing stack rather than a comprehensive, single-vendor marketing suite.
  • Almost all—95 percent—of the latter group believe the best-of-breed approach is superior, and wouldn't exchange it for a comprehensive suite.

Reasons for the latter? Above all flexibility—being able to choose and quickly deploy the tools they need. Also, but less important: The perceived opportunity to buy the best tool for a specific task; budget considerations (of course); and ease of use.  In that respect, "they don't want to be dependent on outside help or required to take lengthy vendor courses to make their marketing technology work. Almost all respondents needed solutions that could be used by staff without technical skills.

I asked Swensrud if these big, well-known "mega-vendor" suites were really as problematic as the research seemed to suggest. "Absolutely," he said. Implementing Oracle's marketing suite offering at Salesforce, he said, "it took one year from inception to going live, and one person knew how to use it."  When she went on holiday, the rest of the marketing team held their breath.

He did, however, make this concession: "All the benefits rang true at the end of the day." From better visibility into the customer journey and the sales funnel, to better lead scoring, Swensrud even said the benefits were "outsized." But it was a long, expensive day. "Marketing automation has been pretty awesome in the Fortune 1000 space," he said, "but what about the rest of us?" 

Big Name Brands, Small Teams and Budgets

Swensrud isn't talking about the plight of "mom and pop" operations. He points to brands like Sephora, Buzzfeed, TopShop, and even the San Diego Chargers—all high profile, household name companies, but none of them enterprises, none with limitless budgets or vast marketing teams (yes, they're Campaign Monitor customers). The Chargers, he told me, have fewer than five people on their marketing team, but they need to sell out an NFL season. Facebook and Twitter won't do that for them; a mega-marketing suite is out of the question; an email marketing solution, with automation, works. 

He say he's even seen buyer's remorse with marketing cloud investments. One company told him it felt like they'd bought a Boeing 747 with no user manual. 

I needed to challenge some of the report's implications. For example, if deploying one set of tools from the same vendor is so difficult, isn't it even harder to integrate a bunch of independently developed tech assets and make them work together smoothly?

"I don't want to over-simplify and say that everything integrates out of the box," he admits, "but there are different ways of building software." With a big solution there can be 10 to 15 different software modules: "You have to go to Oracle university," he said. Individual solutions tend to be "built with a consumerization mentality from day one." With Optimizely, for example, or Unbounce, there's no training program. "These types of companies know their customers don't have an army of tech folks."

With Shopify, the eCommerce platform, a plug-in can automatically integrate customer details with existing Campaign Monitor email lists, creating a foundation for audience segmentation and personalized re-targeting. Similarly, Salesforce CRM data can easily be integrated with Campaign Monitor lists: "You don't need a developer to code against an API."

This made me want to ask why highly sophisticated software vendors like Oracle would make things so difficult. "It's deeply ingrained in the type of product organizations enterprise software companies have," said Swensrud. "From being inside them," he said, "the way in which software is developed has a different mind set." It's about checking boxes to make sure everything is covered; it's as if the development takes place on paper rather than in the software itself.

MA For the Rest of Us

Timed to coincide with the report's release, Campaign Monitor is announcing its own contribution to MA "for the rest of us," Visual Journey Designer. One of the original group of email marketing companies (founded in 2004), Campaign Monitor "remains focused," Swensrud said, "on providing email marketing solutions to SMBs." The new offering expands the brand's do-it-yourself approach to the creation of personalized customer journeys, based on real-time data, and deployed across any device.

Visual Journey Designer is available free today for Campaign Monitor customers.  More advanced automation capabilities, including conditional branching and journeys triggered by segments, are available in Unlimited and Premier plans.

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