In a June 12th announcement that seemed to fly under the radar, Salesforce released an “end of life announcement” for the connectors between Pardot and SugarCRM, NetSuite, and Microsoft CRM. Your options are to 1) manually upload data, 2) build your own integration, or 3) pay a partner to build the integration; a fairly textbook case of Hobson’s choice if I’ve ever seen one. The company’s explanation for the decision is:
As Pardot is now the fastest-growing and most deployed marketing automation application for Salesforce customers, we are retiring the SugarCRM, NetSuite, and Microsoft CRM connectors to focus our development and service efforts on features that improve the overall marketing automation experience.
Allow me to re-write that less opaquely:
As Salesforce has cross-and-up-sold Pardot into our existing Salesforce CRM base and the CRM into the Pardot base, we are taking away options to use other CRM systems so that we can devote resources to making the Pardot/Salesforce integration actually work as customers would expect it to, while also making it easier to disintermediate competitive CRM solutions.
This move strikes me as a bad one for a few reasons, including that:
- Customers won’t be served as well as they claim. When this was first announced in December 2016, Salesforce warned that “You will lose functionality if you move from Salesforce to a different CRM connector.” Now, the connection between Salesforce CRM and Pardot isn’t nearly as tight as it could (or arguably should) be and dedicating resources to solving that is entirely wise. But this assumes that the majority of customers, today and in the future, prefer to use Pardot+Salesforce more than Pardot+another CRM. And by informing customers that they will lose functionality in their existing setup, Salesforce makes a choice that is better for them – not for customers.
- The trend in the martech market is toward platformization, not consolidation. Scott Brinker’s MarTech 5000 supergraphic from this year includes his observation that, “Instead of choosing suite or best-of-breed, many marketers are now taking a suite and best-of-breed approach.” A few years ago, this vision wasn’t much of an option because the tech just wasn’t available or cost/resource effective to try and bring to life. But now, thanks to CDPs and other platforms, companies don’t have to lock-in with technology vendors. This decision by Salesforce would have been logical and even expected 18 months ago, but now? Now it just seems to blithely ignore the trend.
- It’s really short-sighted. If you’re craving an ice cream sundae and instead, you’re offered a low-cal scoop with freezer burn, you’re likely to be pretty underwhelmed. Similarly, if you’re trying to build a modern, streamlined tech stack to power real-time, intelligent marketing programs, this announcement will be met with derision. Let’s review the options Salesforce has left you with (sarcasm free of charge):
- Manual uploads. Because aren’t you excited about having more CSV files lying around your desktop? And come on; I know you have so much time on your hands to do these frequently.
- Build your own. I’m sure your company is just swimming in un-used development resources.
- Pay someone to build it. I’ve heard budgets are pretty loose these days; just add that line item in. No big deal.
And that’s just to connect one system to one other system. What if you want to add in another one or two? (BTW: This is a mathematical concept our CTO wrote about called “triangular numbers” which, when applied to marketing tech, is how you end up with a nasty web of integrations with varying depth and ability and oversight.)
Customer data platforms are an increasingly important counter-balance to the “marketing cloud” vendors’ desire to lock in and control bigger pieces of the marketing tech budget, rather than provide requisite plug-ability that lets them be the foundation. Warning, I’m about to take an analogy too far but: be the ice cream willing to have whatever the customer wants for toppings on there or you’re going to be the one collecting freezer burn.