A surprising number of companies in B2B SaaS have multiple marketing automation platforms. In fact, I’ve personally worked with several companies which have more than a dozen marketing automation platforms, and one that’s using seventeen! This can often be traced back to a handful of reasons including mergers and acquisitions, division or country level purchases, outsourced demand generation efforts, and/or the need to do transactional combinations alongside lifecycle nurturing. Regardless of the reasons, the question remains: What are the challenges and drawbacks of having multiple marketing automation platforms and what are the benefits of having multiple marketing automation platforms in place? Below are eight challenges and four benefits (that I’ve personally experienced) in using two or more marketing automation platforms.
Challenges in having multiple marketing automation platforms
As you’d expect, there are a large number of issues to grapple with when you have more than one marketing automation platform. The key challenges I’ve noted include
- Opt-out management. Email opt-outs can occur in more than one application, which means that a process or integration between these applications needs to be implemented to share opt-outs for compliance with legal regulations. Beyond opt-out management is preference management. Assuming your organization has preference management in place (which it really should), this also needs to be managed between the systems.
- Bounced emails. Bounced emails decrease a company’s email deliverability (it drives more of your emails into spam filters) and, given enough of them, can put your company on a black-list, meaning that none of your emails will go through. When using multiple marketing automation platforms to send emails it’s more likely that an email address which bounces will be emailed by your company again (and possibly again). As a result, your organization’s overall bounce rate increases. So, like opt-out management, a process or integration to share bounced email addresses needs to be in place.
- Touch governance. Emailing people way more than is appropriate isn’t a good thing. Neither is emailing a person multiple times in the same day. When you use multiple applications to send emails out, managing the frequency to an individual contact becomes more difficult as does your organization’s ability to report on it.
- Reporting/Insight. Aggregate marketing reporting on number of emails sent, number of contacts engaged, average response rates, etc. becomes more difficult to create. Consequently, organizations that use multiple marketing automation platforms tend not to ever, or only very infrequently, look at aggregate level reporting on contact responses. Companies tend to look at reports for individual applications too. As a result, the organization never has a complete, holistic view when making business decisions about what marketing is working, how contacts are engaging, etc.
- Data management. Contacts enter new (or updated) details about themselves via online registration forms and organizations also use data vendors too. When multiple marketing automaton platforms are at play, sharing the most up-to-date and accurate data between them, and managing that process, becomes challenging.
- Segmentation and filters. Contact and account fields like department, level, industry, revenue size, etc., frequently are used to make a segment or filter, but so are a contact’s activities such as email clicks, submissions of forms, etc. When multiple marketing automation platforms are used activity data is spread out in multiple places. As a result, when activity data is used to create a segment or a filter, it’s only the activity information in the marketing automation platform that the person is using, which is applied to the segmentation/filter and not the activity data from the other applications. As such, contacts are excluded or included that should not be.
- Best practice syndication. When a program, individual tactic, or process works very well, and everyone is on one platform it’s easy to syndicate that best practice into the rest of marketing. However, when multiple marketing automation platforms are in use this takes more time as they need to be replicated. If different vendors are used more than a simple copy and paste is required.
- Cost. Marketing automation platforms are not inexpensive, and the administrators that manage these systems don’t come cheap either. When you add up the license and service costs across multiple instances the total budget for multiple redundant applications can be high – very high – and could be better spent elsewhere.
Benefits in having multiple marketing automation platforms
Given the challenges I just listed, why on earth would any (sane) person ever chose to use more multiple marketing automation platforms? Here are the key reasons I’ve seen multiple platforms used in B2B SaaS.
- Frankensteinism. Originally, I called this bullet “advanced customization,” however it didn’t clearly denote what I wanted to highlight, which is too much customization. Frequently, this is seen when a larger company has two (or more) distinct divisions or organizations under it, each with very different lead management, marketing, and sales processes. As a result, complexity and convoluted processes can enter into the equation as two distinctly different processes need to be managed in the same platform, in the same instance. Having two separate platforms (especially if there is little account or contact overlap) reduces the need for conflicting, confusing rigmarole and consequently drives ease of use.
- Cost allocation. Cost centers and cost allocation become easier when there are multiple marketing automation platforms as one can more easily denote what group or groups are using each platform versus driving forward with a shared allocation of one marketing automation platform. Is this a reason to have multiple platforms? Absolutely not. But if different regions have their own or different divisions, etc. cost allocation is more straight-line.
- Cost. Above I noted cost as a challenge when a company has multiple systems – and that is still true. However, using a lower cost (and less feature rich) marketing automation platform (or email service provider, which is more typical) in conjunction with a marketing automation platform which the organization uses for all of its nurture can significantly reduce spending when only a small portion of contacts are eligible for (or should receive) nurture programs. For example, if a company is legally obligated to send an email or if transactional emails required for product use go to tens of thousands of contacts, but the company only needs to engage with 10% of them via lead nurturing, this drops the number of contacts necessary in the marketing automation platform. Since most platforms charge by contact bands, this can save a significant amount of money
- Platform to user expertise. Marketing automation platforms vary in features, capabilities, and usability. Having more than one allows a basic marketing automation platform to be used by one group and a more advanced marketing automation platform to be used by a different (more advanced) marketing team. As an example, a technology savvy marketing team in one division uses the “Ferrari” and the less sophisticated marketing team in a different division uses the less sophisticated, bare bones “Yugo.” This also frequently occurs in acquisitions when a smaller, nimbler organization is doing amazing things in its marketing automation platform and the acquiring company has very basic processes and engagement programs in place. Frequently in these cases, the acquiring company opts to allow the acquired company to keep and continue using its own platform (while the acquiring company catches up).
*Note, while I centered this blog post on marketing automation platforms, what is outlined above is also applicable for organizations using multiple ESPs or ESPs and marketing automation platforms, too.
Prior to co-founding Capstone Insights, Jay led SiriusDecisions’ Technology and Services practice, where he oversaw SiriusDecisions’marketing and sales technology and service coverage. He also launched and chaired the SiriusDecisions Technology Exchange (TechX). He is a widely regarded expert on marketing automation technologies, and how to rationalize an ever-growing martech stack into a competitive differentiator.