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Is your marketing technology strategy sole source or best-in-class?

I am more and more frequently being asked by companies to take a look at their choices for their marketing technology. Because these are large companies, they usually have a mishmosh of platforms that they have mixed and matched to create some semblance of order. Often they have multiple content management systems in different parts of the business. They all have a strategy. But I often don’t see clarity within that strategy.

With few exceptions, your goal should be to have a sole source strategy or a best-in-class strategy.

A sole source strategy says that, wherever possible, you will use the marketing stack components from a single vendor. Adobe is the one that usually wins these shoot-outs, at least at the moment, but you can pick whichever vendor seems to work for you. The benefits are that the vendor does the integration work between the components. The best vendors provide functions that are difficult or impossible when you roll your own stack.

A best-in-class strategy, on the other hand, means that you will always choose the best component for each part of the stack, no matter where it is from. Yes, your integration costs are higher, but the advantage is that you are always able to move to the next big thing and you are not held hostage by a single vendor on pricing.

Which strategy is better? I am a consultant, so it depends. That’s one of the reasons they ask me to take a look. But the point I am making is that it makes sense to pick one of these strategies or the other.

So far, so good. The problem is that I rarely see that kind of strategic clarity. What I usually see is that one vendor has a few components and you’ve mixed and matched the rest. Each time, you have a really good reason. It could be that you have been using a component for years and it works fine. It could be that you tried to have a best-in-class strategy but that your components got bought up by sole source vendors. It could bet that you haven’t really paid attention to either strategy, and just send out an RFP when a component gets long in the tooth.

Whatever the reason, it makes it hard to execute when you don’t have a strategy. Or when you don’t execute it. But I see lots of folks spending the time and money to integrate components that aren’t really best-in-class, and using most of the components for one vendor while missing the few key ones that actually make the single source approach worth it.

Taking the time to think through your approach makes all the difference, and execution of that approach is what delivers the return on investment.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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