In the ever-expanding, technologically evolving marketing realm, marketers are expected to master more than ever before—multichannel automation, content personalization options, social sharing tools, and analytics, for starters. A marketing Cloud makes it possible to juggle those numerous and necessary tools without dedicating your every waking moment to the job.

But one question remains: Do you take an all-for-one approach and build a marketing Cloud around the specific needs of your business, or do you take a one-for-all approach and invest in a single vendor that meets as many requirements as possible?

Software providers have responded to the demand with "plug and play" marketing solutions that promise to handle everything at the push of a button. It might sound like a dream come true, but nothing's perfect. Those turnkey solutions are typically walled off to at least one key component of your marketing tool kit, which means you must sacrifice your ambitions because of software constraints.

No system will accommodate all your marketing needs—unless you build it yourself.

Turnkey Issues

Numerous advanced Cloud offerings have sprung up in recent years, but each of those turnkey solutions has its own unique issues. Whether it's a failure to integrate sales and customer relationship management functionalities, a lack of native content features, or mediocre analytics and ad tech tools, solutions from Adobe to Salesforce to Oracle haver their shortcomings.

Considering how fluid technology tends to be and how rapidly the marketing world can shift, asking a vendor to offer a definitive solution that evolves with the times is a tall order. Open marketing Clouds, however, allow you to substitute solutions with new technologies that best meet your company's needs on a regular basis, keeping pace with the constantly changing world around you.

Here's another concern with the one-suite-to-rule-them-all approach: Not everything needs to be interconnected. Your marketing automation system should integrate with your customer relationship management tool, and your content personalization, marketing automation, and Web analytics systems should be in sync. But beyond those major elements, you don't need every single piece of software working in tandem. That sort of overkill can unintentionally bog down your operation.

Put Your Head in the Clouds

While building your own marketing Cloud solution probably sounds pretty good right about now, you might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of cobbling one together.

Here are three tips to guide your DIY marketing Cloud efforts:

1. 'Begin with the end in mind'

This oft-cited business advice by Stephen Covey works here, too. Before taking any concrete steps, define your key performance indicators and how they correlate with your desired outcomes.

If lead nurturing is your top priority, what does it mean to increase the velocity of your pipeline? How will you meet this goal?

If your goal is to educate your target audience, start by examining the entire customer journey to find natural conversion points. Being clear on what you're trying to do—and how content personalization would support it—will allow you to develop strategies that should assuage people's fears and get them excited about your solution.

Knowing your end goal from the start will help you craft an effective system.

2. Define your requirements

Once you've established your goals, zero-in on the components that will get you there. Which pieces of your marketing stack are most important? How do they complement one another? What are the shortcomings of the status quo? Which pieces will give you the most bang for your buck?

Look at the content you've produced, considering which content experiences would be most relevant at different points in the customer journey and how content consumption could provide insights into what matters to target audiences. After you've completed that deep dive, examine how automation could facilitate the content strategy while supporting other channels, such as email, search engine optimization, and pay-per-click.

You must carefully consider the various elements and how, ideally, they'd work together. Though you don't have to do everything at once, knowing where you're going will make your journey that much easier.

3. Identify and assign resources

With any tech investment, you'll need specific resources to ensure success. Will you need technical resources internally or externally? Who will need additional training?

If you're automating social, email, or Web-based content personalization, consider how you can avoid duplicate efforts. Many marketing departments use marketing automation to deliver well-timed emails, but how often do they apply the same business rules to personalize content in support of that same email program? Resources aren't only human—they include other assets you might have in place.

Map out exactly what you'll need, including the qualifications team members must possess. Spend some time auditing existing programs for reuse. Thinking through these questions ensures you won't overlook valuable resources while preparing for this new technology.

Your company might have a small team, but that doesn't mean you can't be clever about your organizational structure. Perhaps you dedicate one person to marketing automation, one to content personalization, and a third to the overall strategy. If you want to reap the benefits of your custom Cloud platform, ensure those team members communicate regularly about ways the company can improve.

* * *

In the evolving marketing landscape, turnkey solutions can take you only so far. They might purport to be your one-stop marketing shop, but you'll inevitably bump into restrictions. To be agile, you need a flexible solution that empowers your marketing team to serve the unique needs of your customers and organization.

Building your own marketing Cloud and taking the all-for-one approach is a great way to stay nimble and ensure your evolving needs are satisfied.

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Turnkey Marketing Clouds Fall Short, Here's How You Can Build Your Own

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image of Sean Schroeder

Sean Schroeder is the CCO of Blue River and co-founder of the Mura Experience Platform. Sean's a self-confessed app junkie currently consumed with creating content-driven experiences.

LinkedIn: Sean Schroeder

Twitter: @Sean_Schroeder