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 and it can be perfectly adequate for your needs. But more often than not, it seems like it takes way more effort than you expected, has hidden costs you didn’t anticipate, and just doesn’t work as well as you wanted it to.
I am seeing this a lot in marketing tech as companies and their products try to respond to changing market dynamics or perceived greenfield opportunity by retrofitting their technology for that new objective. Again, I get why. If other vendors 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 in fact better than retrofitted when it comes to marketing technology.
- Complexity: any single point solution is an intricate entity based on specific decisions about the functionality it needs to deliver – and, importantly, not So any significant deviation from those core decisions often proves challenging.
- Audience: specialists fluent in their particular technology have learned a core competency that doesn’t necessarily translate to new modules or solutions that are just stapled onto the tool they know 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 vendor in a different category.
An example, if you’ll permit me. An insurance company client of ours uses a leading tag management solution that shall go unnamed, which recently began repositioning as a customer data platform and offering a new solution in that category. The client says the 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 types of integrations the insurer needs to achieve their objectives of eliminating the 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-becomes-customer data platform offering implemented are well above the threshold for this company.
Tag management is great – it’s just not a CDP. Email service providers are terrific – they just aren’t personalization engines. A DMP is terrific – it’s just not a customer journey mapper. In reality, it’s a competitive advantage to be built-for-purpose in marketing tech. For marketers, be wary of the up-sell from your vendor partners who are trying to retrofit their tech to new needs. For vendors, have the patience and commitment to relentlessly focus on delivering a certain type of value and to know the difference between a logical adjacency and the temptation of a shiny object. And for everyone, if you’re going to do something, do it right.