For a very long time, we were experiencing the rise of "the suite" across the enterprise software landscape, end-to-end solutions that covered a wide breadth of needs.
The only problem with those monolithic solutions is that they were built during a different era for both software buyers and vendors, when it was harder to integrate technologies. So, building and buying a suite was key for many CIOs.
A recent report from Forrester, however, identifies a disconnect in regards to purchasing marketing tech. Marketers want vendors that offer multiple products as part of a suite, but marketers are skeptical one vendor can actually offer everything they need. That lack of confidence marks a change in the way we're choosing our marketing tools.
Today's technology landscape is an integrated one, with a variety of solutions connecting with and passing information between each other. The winners in this space seem to be those that build niche solutions and APIs that let the software play well with others.
Nowhere is this more evident than with marketing software. The CMO—now the key buyer of marketing technology instead of the CIO—knows that to make all the different parts of the puzzle fit together, software that "wears many hats" isn't needed. Instead, we need several specialized solutions with the ability to speak to each other really well.
And when you consider a function as diverse and broad as content marketing, the notion of a suite just doesn't work.
Content marketing will never have a suite
Content marketing involves several interconnected processes, even as one cog in a larger marketing machine. We're looking at separate-but-connected workflows at every stage, from content production to planning and managing content to optimization to distribution to measurement, and more.
Moreover, solutions are now being built to become top dog in a specific niche—not to own content marketing but to become the best-in-breed for content distribution, content creation, or content experiences.
Any software vendor that goes too thin across all these functions won't survive. The real opportunities exist in marketing solutions that focus on specialization and integration.
There won't be a single app where you spend all your time. The old-school notion that people even want to work in a single environment is dated.
Within the category of content marketing tools, we're seeing a diverse landscape of niche solutions dedicated to specific functions, like curation or analytics, that often complement rather than compete with each other. Usability, especially when bypassing IT to get things done sooner, is something many organizations consider in regards to investing in a solution that streamlines all the daily activities inherent in content marketing.
A closed suite makes swapping out solutions if your needs change or something better enters the market difficult. In fact, a quarter of enterprise marketing software customers aren't adding capabilities beyond the vendor's original offering. The reasons cited range from "high costs, extensive customization, and tight integrations with existing tech" as barriers that keep them from switching out.
That's a problem when less than half of those companies using enterprise marketing software suites say they’re "totally satisfied" with them, according to Forrester. That won't work when every organization has unique needs around content. There's no one-size-fits-all strategy with content, and that also means there's no single suite we can prescribe.
Marketers buy solutions, not software
You can throw out a solution in an open ecosystem of integrated tools as easily as you can add one in. This creates a leaner network of tools with less fluff and more of the right stuff.
Many marketing automation platforms, for example, let you build landing pages to generate leads. But they're typically not as robust or easy to use as a specialized solution like Unbounce, which you can connect with a variety of email marketing, CRM, analytics, and marketing automation solutions to make sure you can properly cover the lead gen piece of the puzzle without compromising the bigger picture.
When we take a step back, we see the overarching ecosystem of software that exists across an entire organization.
At Uberflip, for example, we use dozens of tools from marketing to sales to accounting to customer success. Between marketing and sales, two departments that work closely together, you can see what this looks like, where they connect and communicate, and how each tool has its own part to play.
"Who's going to own the suite?" was (and still is) a question many venture capitalists asked when evaluating technology. But the real question now is "who's going to be the market leader of that specialized solution?" because what we're seeing now is the end of the suite and the rise of "the stack."
Open, integrated ecosystems will reign supreme
"One suite to do it all" won't cut it in regards to the complicated processes and programs that exist across marketing today, especially with content. The very notion of a single suite suggests a closed ecosystem. The Internet's growth is fueled by its openness. Marketing technology is an extension of this, and therefore openness and cross-platform communication is critical to its continued growth.
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We're witnessing the inevitable rise of the stack—integrated ecosystems of marketing technology where information can be transferred easily between providers, forming infinite permutations, or "stacks," that genuinely meet the needs of their buyers.