I’ve always suspected that most marketers don’t have the time or budget to implement mega-vendor marketing clouds.

When I was CMO at a Fortune 500 company, I was sold on the vision of an all-in-one marketing cloud. The pitch sounded perfect – a single suite of technology from one vendor to automate complex tasks, analyze huge amounts of data, and deliver personalized, relevant experiences to customers. The reality was far from perfect. When I actually implemented one of these products from Oracle, it took a million dollars, ten of the best technical people on my team and a year of consulting time to get it up and running. Even then, only one person in the business really knew how to use it. I thought if a Fortune 500 company with a multi-million dollar budget and an army of people had trouble implementing a mega-vendor marketing cloud, how do other businesses do it?

It turns out, most of them simply can’t.

Marketers prefer easy to use, affordable solutions

Campaign Monitor recently surveyed 500 marketers at mid-sized businesses to find out what martech tools they’re using, how they’re using them, and what they like or don’t like about them. These are professionals who want to create marketing campaigns of the same caliber as the big guys, but they don’t have the multi-million dollar budgets or armies of people. We found that these marketers are overwhelmingly embracing self-service tools, not all-in-one marketing clouds. They prefer solutions that are easy to use, affordable and work seamlessly out of the box. They want the flexibility to build powerful stacks of technology, unique to their business needs, that integrate with one click.

When you consider budgets alone, mega-vendor marketing suites immediately break the bank. More than 40% of marketers at mid-market companies we surveyed have less than $50,000 per year to spend on marketing technology. Simplicity is also crucial, whether it’s technology for landing pages, social media, content marketing, SEO, website testing, or analytics. More than 98% of marketers want products that can be set-up and used by people with minimal technical skills.

Marketers using best of breed tech stacks

It makes sense. Marketers are busy and most of us don’t have degrees in computer science. We want to deliver results for the business and look like heroes to the rest of the company without breaking a sweat. Self-service tools are delivering better results than a “master of none” marketing cloud.

Where to start when building your marketing stack

While it can seem overwhelming to build a martech stack from the bottom up (the modern marketer’s stack consists of 17 products or more), there are a few logical places to start:

Focus on setting up a world-class website. A website is the face of your company and critical to the success of many marketing campaigns. Every email campaign you send or Google Adword you buy is done with the intention of driving potential buyers to your web pages. If your business is a house, the website is the front door and it needs to look great and convey the right message. More than 50% of companies that we work with use WordPress to power their websites. I also recommend using Google Analytics for tracking and Optimizely for website testing to make sure it’s performing precisely the way you want.

Put email marketing to work and measure the results. Email marketing is foundational to a great digital marketing strategy. Everyone on the Internet has an email address that they readily share with brands they respect and want to do business with. When asked to rank the technology that delivers the highest ROI, the marketers we surveyed said email marketing topped the list. More than 70% of marketers with a best-of-breed stack and 67% with a mega-vendor marketing cloud rely on email marketing. It remains the number one way companies communicate with their customers and consistently delivers $38 in sales for every $1 invested.

Use real-time customer data as the heart of every campaign. Whether you are a B2B company using Salesforce, or an online retailer using an e-commerce system like Shopify or Magento, it is critical to have a centralized system of customer data that integrates seamlessly with other core marketing technologies. Applying customer data in real time to marketing messages makes them more timely, personalized, and relevant, which boosts customer engagement and ultimately drives sales.

Once you have the right technology to support these core marketing functions, you can augment your ideal marketing stack with other incredible tools. With a small budget and a few days, you might set up Moz for SEO, AdRoll for retargeting, or Unbounce for microsites and landing pages. Integration is the key to success here – each technology must work out of the box and connect in one click to a customer data platform such as Salesforce or Shopify. It’s important to remember that a great DIY marketing solution is less about the specific technologies and more about addressing your company’s unique needs.

Wrap up

There’s no denying that mega-vendor, expensive marketing clouds accessible to the Fortune 500 don’t work for the vast majority of companies. Even people using those single-vendor suites still have a martech stack that includes other CRM systems, advertising tools, website platforms, testing tools, and more. As the marketing landscape evolves, so must our technology – the simpler, the better. The true power of marketing technology is in its ability to meet the specific, individual needs of every organization.