Legacy marketing software is becoming incapable of handling the quantity and quality of work that is required today for serving unpredictable customer bases. Businesses are seeking flexible and modern solutions/tools that scale and can stand with the test of time without incurring huge costs.

The idea of buying proprietary software is arguably questionable. Still, the choice to acquire it could be driven by the lack of a talent pool to customize or integrate non-proprietary software, or peer pressure to go for bigger, bulkier proprietary applications.

But not every company may need the frills and otherwise clutter of functionalities of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, nor will the cost of investing in one ensure an ROI. Which is where open-source software comes in.

The premise of open source is complete visibility and transparency. The company buying the software has full access to the code. Its software engineers can make changes to the source code, stack up more features, or even decouple a few, however they see fit.

Open-source software is not necessarily synonymous with a global IT community having access to the source code of enterprise software. In most cases, where the open-source software is developed by a vendor, the code never leaves the solution provider's development team.

How Open Source Can Power Your Marketing Teams

Massive Flexibility for Marketing Innovation

Open-source software offers marketers more leeway to experiment with new ideas and push innovative lead-nurturing campaigns. Often, this elasticity to operate spontaneously is something lacking in the case of proprietary applications. More flexibility means marketers can confidently integrate new tools and technology within quick turnaround times to initiate new, productive, and revenue-bearing conversions before the competition.

More Data, More Prospects

From store traffic to buyers' browser behavior, the insights inherent in the information contained in a marketer's database are practically a breeding ground for more business. However, that involves creating a single source of truth for customer experiences across all channels—be it, brick-and-mortar, online, or mobile. The issue of proprietary lock-in is mitigated with open source, and there is greater interoperability, seamless data flow, and easier integration among multiple data streams.

Transparent Teams

Early market adopters of open source certainly gain that much-needed edge. There is greater efficiency in internal operations. Onboarding open-source marketing software is easier and demands less training (at lower cost), thus empowering teams to work smarter and encouraging cross-functional collaboration. Driven by transparent work culture, marketing teams can perform and deliver better.

Low-Cost Alternative

Often, the terms "open source" and "free" go hand-in-hand. Businesses can acquire the code free of cost or purchase the license for the software at substantially lower prices if not free. And owing to open source's transparent nature, marketing departments can take that leap of faith when procuring technology. Ultimately, there is less of a dent in the marketing budget.

Going Open Source, and Then What?

Companies that have plans for an open-source architecture in their future need to begin with analyzing their KPIs and studying which of those need improvements. What are the roadblocks? Which of those will open source improve or resolve?

Once all stakeholders, including Operations, Development, Security, and Legal are brought in, a consensus can be established. Post buy-in, the procurement team can analyze the scores of open-source marketing applications available in the market. By matching them against the previously established requirements, they can narrow the choice down to the product that fits the bill.

Most businesses stop there, which prevents them from realizing the full benefits of open source. The real-world impact of going open source needs to be established in order to assess future investment initiatives.

For a full-fledged open-source management strategy, consider the following:

  • Open innovation—exploiting new ideas at lower cost. By identifying internal champions to lead these projects, companies can benefit from the collective intelligence of open-source communities for scaling and operationalizing them.
  • A defense-first governance program. The idea is to minimize the likelihood and impact of catastrophic failures.
  • Training. Marketing teams should be trained around open-source governance and operational management.

The Security Issue

There is also a lot of skepticism around the security aspect of using an open-source application. This is where open-source's all-hands-on-deck approach wins again. With the collaborative effort of both the vendor development team and the business users, gaps in the security framework are identified and fixed effectively, ensuring a battle-tested software is rolled out.

Around 29% of open-source enterprise software IT leaders cite improved security as one of the top benefits of open source, according to The State of Enterprise Open Source—2019 report by Red Hat; security as an advantage cedes only the lower total cost of ownership, cited by 33%.

The Future

There's a reason that many of the frontrunners in the marketing software marketplace are open source. And many leaders that are not are in the process of undertaking M&A efforts to join the club, as others have already done.

Marketing is no longer a "let's hope for the best" effort. Personalized and targeted campaigns are what differentiate marketers from their competitors. Engaging, contextual, and dynamic messaging not only produces a higher conversion rate but also goes a long way in customer retention and loyalty.

To be able to make the best out of evolving technologies, it is essential to stay agile, flexible, and open to change. And in that regard, open-source software hits the marketing technology bull's eye.

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Marketing Is Becoming Technology-Driven, and the Future Is Open Source

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image of Dietmar Rietsch

Dietmar Rietsch is CEO of Pimcore, an open source data and experience management platform.

LinkedIn: Dietmar Rietsch