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Marketing Cloud: Easy to say but hard to do!

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7th Aug 2013
Managing editor MyCustomer.com
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It has been a big 18 months in the marketing technology world, with some major sums of money being thrown around. Oracle acquired Eloqua for over $800m, Microsoft purchased MarketingPilot, and Salesforce.com swooped for ExactTarget in a multi-billion dollar deal. And in the most recent activity in this space, Adobe sealed a deal to acquire Neolane for $600m.

There are some eye-watering sums of money exchanging hands, but with the CMO increasingly holding IT’s purse strings, the vendors clearly feel these are wise investments. But while momentum is certainly building behind the concept of the ‘Marketing Cloud’, the lack of a uniform blueprint means that offerings vary from vendor to vendor, unsurprisingly leading to some confusion amongst buyers.

Keen to clear up this confusion from an Adobe perspective, is Jamie Brighton, the company’s EMEA product manager.

“We see the Marketing Cloud as an important way of solving some of the issues and challenges that organisations are facing from an internal and external collaborative standpoint, and also unifying all of the different data sources that they have across the different platforms and siloes within the business.”

He continues: “Typically the organisations we work with are facing a number of challenges around siloed data and disparate data sources, and they often have a lot of different tools that are specific for a particular work flow but don’t talk to any of the other solutions that have been deployed. They often also have challenges around creative work flow – just simply being able to reach out and work with an agency, whether an internal design team or an agency working on their behalf, can be hard. And there are also issues beyond tools and solutions, with the people and users within the organisation. There are often disjointed skill sets - people maybe have one or two specific skills but more often than not there is a requirement for them to have skills and expertise across multiple different marketing touchpoints. Those are the obstacles that we see and that is why we feel the Marketing Cloud is becoming increasingly important for organisations to get their arms around.”

Skin in the game

For its part, Adobe insists it’s no Johnny-come-lately in this emerging market, insisting that it has had a Marketing Cloud of sorts for a number of years. Having acquired software-as-a-service analytics player Omniture in 2009, and then purchasing web content management provider Day in 2010, Brighton acknowledges that the decision to then rebrand its Digital Marketing Suite as the Adobe Marketing Cloud was partly motivated by “wanting to let the market recognise that we were in the Cloud game”.

But with a number of other ‘Marketing Clouds’ also available to interested parties, each with distinct offerings, buyers are required to do some leg work if they are to ensure they choose the package that is most appropriate for them. Adobe’s suite consists of Adobe Expe­ri­ence Man­ager (a web content management platform), Adobe Target (boasting test­ing and tar­get­ing func­tion­al­ity, con­tent pro­mo­tion and prod­uct mer­chan­dis­ing), Adobe Social (enabling marketers to measure and manage social marketing campaigns), Adobe Analytics and Adobe Media Optimiser (powering data-optimised advertising). And Brighton is keen to outline the main differences between Adobe’s Marketing Cloud and the rival offerings.

“We see the Marketing Cloud as a response to two challenges – data being in siloes and people being in siloes,” he explains. “It’s all very well putting your data into the same data warehouse repository but if your teams aren’t able to collaborate or understand what their colleagues are doing then you can’t really get any business value or take action from that.

“The idea here is that we’re looking at a shared data set across all of the different solutions and a shared framework for collaboration. At the Adobe Summit we announced the Marketing Cloud collaborative framework, which is a mobile-first touch-based means by which our customers can do a single sign on, have access to all five solutions but do that on whatever device they want to access it on. So they can look at Analytics on the phone on the train, or when they’re in a meeting and they have their iPads they can physically change content on the website directly from this touch-based interface. And they can share information wherever they find it across the Cloud, and know it’s going to be available for all of the other parts of their team and externally with whatever agencies they want to share that with.”

The other key differentiator from other Marketing Clouds, says Brighton, is the open nature of the platform. He continues: “We recognised very early on that it’s not just about the customer data that we’re collecting on the website or mobile app, it’s about being able to incorporate data from whatever other solution our customers might be wanting to use, for instance whatever their email platform is. We have strong partnerships with ExactTarget, Responsys and CheetahMail because we know that people using the Cloud might want to use one of a number of different marketing solutions. So we enable customers to get that data directly into the Cloud so that they can get that true single version of the truth, rather than a single version of the truth which is relevant for 50% of the platforms that our customer is interested in, or 50% of the channels.”

One important data source, of course, is the CRM system. As something that all buyers will be using, there is some question of how CRM will play nicely with Marketing Clouds.

“We don’t isolate CRM specifically as a different data source,” says Brighton. “We have what we call data connectors. We have an integration with Salesforce.com so that our customers can effectively do close loop marketing across all of their activities in Salesforce and use behavioural triggers and web form capture in Salesforce across the Marketing Cloud. We absolutely see CRM as important, but what we want to do is enable our customers to integrate no matter what data sources they have. We provide APIs into all of our solutions for accessing customer interactions.”

Leadership position

When it comes to the comparisons being made between Marketing Clouds, however, as much has been made about what they don’t contain as what they do. For instance, it was noted that in the case of Salesforce.com’s offering, there was a heavy weighting towards social marketing, while it was somewhat lightweight in other areas. Brighton concedes that SFDC’s recent activity has remedied that to an extent: “The acquisition of ExactTarget is certainly a move in the right direction – I’m not sure what they had to offer was a Marketing Cloud until that.”

In Adobe’s case, it has grown accustomed to fielding questions about the lack of a marketing automation aspect to its offering. But fresh from the confirmation of the acquisition of Neloane, Adobe’s vice-president of marketing for EMEA, Mark Phibbs, is confident that his company now provides the most complete Marketing Cloud on the market.

“What Neolane gives us is the whole email marketing, marketing resource management and campaign management side,” he explains. “That is important because many marketers will start off doing email marketing and then they’ll want a search engine and then they’ll want to manage their content and nee their campaign management and so on. So it is important that we have the capability.”

And for Phibbs, this means that Adobe is now ideally placed to capitalise on the growing interest in the Marketing Cloud, carving out a “leadership position versus other players in the market” thanks to its complete suite.

“The term ‘Marketing Cloud’ has become a popular term – but it’s easy to say but difficult to do,” he continues. “From my perspective, you need every element of it. It is not good enough to say you have got a Marketing Cloud and you have only got sales automation and a little bit of social and a little bit of direct marketing and email marketing. You need more than that. You need the analytics. You need the content management. You need the media optimisation and purchasing. You need the whole thing to get it done. And Neolane fills out our offering very nicely, because we were truly online but we didn’t’ have the offline capability which Neolane now gives us.”

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