I’ve been reading quite a bit in the last few months comparing Point Solutions and Stack Solutions, with rankings for which is a better overall solution. While there are advantages and disadvantages to each, I'd say the real answer to the question "Which type of solution does my business need?" is: It depends.
For a refresher, a single point solution is a platform that is entirely dedicated to a single task within the marketing automation ecosystem. A CRM, Analytics Package, or Email Management platform would all be examples of single point solutions.
On the flip side, a stack solution attempts to incorporate most or all of the leading marketing automation features into a single platform. An example of this would be a web content management system such as Kentico EMS, which incorporates a full suite of marketing automation features directly into a single platform that also manages your website’s content.
More Affordability or More Depth?
There are certainly pros and cons to each solution. I think it goes without saying that a dedicated point solution is going to be deeper and more robust in its single area of expertise than a stack solution could ever hope to be. For instance, a dedicated email management system is going to have more robust features, more detailed and thorough reporting, and likely more efficient user experience than any email feature set integrated into a larger platform.
However, a stack solution is quite often an easier entry point into marketing automation and marketing technology in general, particularly for marketing teams with limited resources. Investing in a single stack will undoubtedly be more affordable than buying an entire ecosystem of individual pieces of software. Additionally, choosing one platform with a multitude of features eliminates the costly need to integrate disparate systems with each other.
Cost and feature set are significant considerations, but even more importantly, I think it’s a mistake to treat this investment as a one-time decision. If MarTech is working as advertised, it will help grow the company, which will inevitably increase the available resources of the company to further leverage and invest in MarTech. If not planned correctly, it is this gradual adoption and increased investment into increasingly sophisticated uses of marketing technologies that can become costly and painful over time.
From the very beginning, the adoption of marketing technology should be seen as an ongoing strategy, rather than a single-point decision. I have often seen clients spend a two- to three-year period on a serious platform adoption, only to let their planning and funding for growth and ongoing adoption after the initial launch all but dry up completely. The very point of closed-loop marketing is that your marketing efforts are providing you valuable data that can then be used to further improve your marketing efforts. (Explaining this strategy even makes my sentences sound like loops.)
I worked in SEO for a number of years, and while a business may be able to jump-start its SEO efforts with a full-site audit and a nice big initiative, I was continually reminding my clients that SEO is an incremental and ongoing effort. You’re constantly seeing what works (and what doesn't) and as a result making further adjustments over time.
The same is true for marketing in general. Any company will tell you that of course you don’t run one commercial and then sit back and do nothing for the next 3 to 5 years. I feel like the adoption of MarTech can be seen as a marriage of the two disciplines of marketing and technology. You’ll always be marketing, and you’ll always be improving the way you make use of technology to deliver those marketing messages. Be prepared to be in this for the long haul.
Creating a Roadmap for the Future
In this light, there are often phases of a company’s growth that require different solutions over time, and it takes an intelligent strategy of MarTech adoption to make this process of ongoing adoption go as smoothly as possible. Simply because a particular Point Solution is the right fit for your business needs now, does not mean it will always be so. Conversely, a stack solution that may seem perfect at the moment may eventually become far too limiting several years down the road.
To return to the original question "Which type of MarTech solution does my business need?": It depends…not simply on your existing budget and requirements, but on what the future holds for your company. To be truly successful, you'll need to create a cohesive marketing technology adoption plan.
In my next post, I'll be providing a Smart Growth Roadmap. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Point Solutions vs. Stack Solutions. Have you had greater success with one over the other? How have you been able to implement different types of platforms, while still planning for your marketing team's growth over time?
Read Part 2: "A Smart Growth Roadmap for MarTech Adoption."