Have you ever tried to retrofit something, because what you had stopped working or wasn’t exactly what you needed any more or the newer version was too expensive to fully replace?
It’s not a bad play. It can even can be a perfectly adequate solution for your particular needs.
But, more often than not, it takes way more effort than you expected, has several hidden costs you didn’t anticipate, and — in the end — simply just doesn’t work as well as you wanted.
I see this a lot with organizations and their marketing technology (martech) selections today.
3 compelling reasons not to retrofit your in-house martech
Companies and their products try to respond to changing market dynamics or perceived greenfield opportunity by retrofitting their existing technology for that new objective.
Again, I completely get why: If other vendors in or adjacent to your space are capitalizing on the apparent demand for “Capability XYZ,” it’s an easy revenue train to try and jump on.
But I’d like to make a case that built-for-purpose is better than retrofitted when it comes to martech:
- Complexity: Any single-point marketing solution is an intricate entity based on highly specific decisions about the functionality it needs to deliver — and, just as importantly, any not-so-significant deviation from those core decisions often proves challenging.
- Audience: Specialists fluent in their particular martech have learned a core competency that doesn’t necessarily translate to new modules or solutions that are just stapled onto the current tool they know so well — especially when those additional pieces are acquisitions.
- Method: The unanticipated workarounds, costs, and time that typically accompany the implementation of a “new/old” solution should raise red flags for marketers when it’s a “we-do-that-now-too” offering from a well-established martech vendor in a different category.
Here’s an example of a BlueConic customer who attempted a martech retro-fitting project:
- An insurance company uses a leading tag management solution (that shall go unnamed) which recently began repositioning as a CDP and offering a new solution in that category.
- Our customer noted the martech vendor is “great at tag management” but not so much for marketers looking to get their technology and data communicating with one another.
- The tag offering is too technical, not user-friendly, and too slow at building the integrations the insurer needed to achieve eliminate data silos and fragmentation between different systems.
Any of those issues weren’t necessarily flaws for a tag solution. But as a CDP, they are.
The resources required to get this retrofitted tag-management-platform-becomes-CDP-offering off the ground were well above the threshold for this company.
When it comes to modern martech, each system has handled data in very unique ways.
Just think about how in advertising a group of people are an “audience,” but in the context of email marketing campaigns, those very same people constitute a “list.”
That’s linguistically dumb.
But it’s also a direct byproduct of the fact that each of these adtech systems literally treats data associated with these individuals differently, making unifying them all into one record particularly challenging — which is a prime reason why CDP hit the scene.
The role of the marketing technologist with martech
Generally speaking, marketing technologists understand these martech nuances as well as the differences between these different solutions and can suss them out.
Case in point: Practically every marketing technologist understands that:
- Tag management solutions are great — they’re just not customer data platforms.
- Email service providers are terrific — they just aren’t personalization engines.
- Data management platforms are helpful — they’re just not customer journey mappers.
In reality, it’s a competitive advantage to have built-for-purpose martech — and most marketing technologists worth their salt understand this (or are coming around).
In fact, many are realizing there’s one specific type of martech that can solve many of their needs.
“Most companies now have marketing technologists who are formally charged with creating a coherent martech plan — and once people start doing that, the need for a CDP becomes obvious,” Scott Brinker of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog wrote. “Underlying it all are customer expectations for relevant, coordinated treatments, which is why the unified data is needed in first place.”
The concept of unified data was once an abstract one. But martech has come a long way in the past decade — and the customer data platform is leading the data unification charge.
Gone are the days of gradually (and manually) consolidating first-party data (and, dare we say, third-party data?) into a single source of truth on an ongoing, seemingly never-ending basis.
Now, with the right CDP — and, yes, there are pretenders in the CDP space — brands in all niches and industries can not only collect customer data in a central location, but also activate said data with amazing ease across their principle marketing channels.
And today’s marketing technologists are starting to recognize this.
What makes the CDP stand out from other martech today
In a guest piece for CMSWire, I noted the steadfast growth of the CDP market is the “direct result of brands recognizing the competitive advantage of tapping into first-party data, while also recognizing that their existing technology infrastructure and processes are ill-suited to take full advantage of the opportunity.”
As a professional who not only (and obviously) works closely with their brand’s marketing team to gather, clean, organize, and structure data sets for eventual activation, marketing technologists also often work side by side with other departments, like sales and customer support.
This means the modern marketing technologist has to answer to many teams and their many tech-oriented requests. Thankfully, the CDP can help with most of said requests:
- “We need to understand what the end goal looks like and what it means for the marketers to have access to the data rather than current alternatives.”
A marketing technologist mentioned this in passing recently, and it stuck with me.
This person gets it. They understand the impact streamlined, constant data access can have on their company day-to-day digital marketing pros and their immediate efforts (real-time marketing based on customer behavior) and long-term strategy (integrated campaigns to to target segments).
The option to adjust, modify, clean up — whatever term you want to use — your existing, in-house, owned martech is an appealing one.
But with CDPs continuing to occupy a sizable space in the martech landscape today (and that space only continues to expand), it’s worth considering if the platform is the answer you’ve been searching for all along.
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