The integration model gets it right.
The integration model gets it right.

Remember the days when you couldn’t get certain TV channels without buying a cable package from Comcast, Time Warner or AT&T? We’re still transitioning to a world free of cable networks — standalone HBO comes out this April — but the entertainment industry’s shift to the subscription model is encouraging. There’s no reason consumers should pay for 250 channels if they only watch 10.

As more companies move from selling products to delivering services, new business models will come to resemble that of Netflix: consumers choose the content they want and create their custom service offering. It’s only a matter of time before this idea of “building your own” service transcends streaming content and becomes more commonplace in the business world. I would especially like to see this model applied to the marketing cloud. Here are two reasons why.

1. Market consolidation doesn’t put the marketer first:

Large software vendors are focused on dominating in the “battle of the marketing clouds” at the risk of losing sight of marketers’ needs. These software giants promise to deliver every tool enterprises need in order to track, automate and optimize their marketing. That’s why they’re busy acquiring companies like Omniture, ExactTarget, Responsys and Silverpop to bring new functionality to their marketing suites.

And while consolidation might sound convenient, this acquisition-based approach is flawed; for these big software companies, whose legacy is on-premise software, integrating new technologies can take years — an eternity in today’s cloud-based marketing software world. Unfortunately, these M&A-driven companies will always be a step behind. Once they recognize the need for a solution, do their due diligence, acquire a company, and integrate the technology, too much time has passed.

2. The marketing cloud isn’t one size fits all:

There isn’t a single marketing suite that can fulfill all the marketing needs of all companies. The marketing cloud of the future will need to accommodate more choice and flexibility given the rate at which technology is changing. Peers at other companies often ask my advice on what marketing technologies they should be buying, but unfortunately, there’s no right answer. Every company has its own marketing challenges and the needs of a B2B company in an established market look very different than those of an emerging B2C company. For some, social will dominate; for others, inbound phone calls are their best source of leads. As purchasing behavior changes and channels evolve, marketers need the ability to monitor results as they happen, quickly integrate standalone applications into their marketing cloud, and phase out technologies that are no longer useful.

One way to address this is by building a technology platform that supports integrations and fosters partnerships, like Salesforce’s AppExchange. That said, building a thriving partner ecosystem takes years and needs to be a huge strategic focus. Salesforce got it right with the AppExchange — but they launched it nine years ago. New ecosystems from Oracle and others are just getting off the ground.

Less Comcast, more Roku

A promising approach for the future of the marketing cloud is exemplified by integration companies like MuleSoft, Scribe, and Zapier — along with marketing apps that invest in keeping their platforms compatible with an open ecosystem. By having a third party doing integrations, marketers get the best-of-breed apps they want and need, in a more reasonable timeframe. They have the choice to integrate into their existing platform, maximizing current investments and hopefully simplifying the management of their marketing tools. The flexibility that companies like this offer will change how future marketing clouds are structured and allow them to change over time, in real-time.

The marketing cloud needs to evolve as rapidly as consumer preferences, while allowing for flexibility and customization. I’m looking forward to adopting new technologies at the pace of innovation in order to create the future marketing cloud — stocked with the connected, best-in-class tools that we need in order to give customers the best possible experience.

Image by Flickr user Daniel Hoherd