Digital Marketing - An Emerging Role for Integrators

  • 18-Sep-2012

As major enterprises invest ever-larger resources in digital marketing technology, I think a gap is emerging at the upper end of the market in terms of the talent required to make these tools work at an enterprise level.

Where Are the Systems Integrators?

Digital Marketers looking to exploit marketing automation and social media monitoring/intelligence/marketing platforms are increasingly challenged by data: there's more of it, it's more complicated, and it needs to integrate better with other enterprise systems. For larger enterprises looking to put some order to their digital marketing chaos, these challenges can prove overwhelming.

When this happens in other enterprise technology domains (say, supply chain management), customers can typically turn to systems integrators to come in and do the heavy lifting: modernizing outdated systems, sorting out data models, gluing disparate platforms together, and so on. However, I don't see many traditional integrators active in the digital marketing technology segment.

Most of the incumbent consultants and gurus in this space tend to focus on advising small to mid-sized enterprises. (Our evaluations found that nearly every vendor focusing on the mid-tier, too, but that's a post for another day...) Meanwhile, bigger customers need more than advice; they need complex and increasingly integration-oriented implementation support.

The other part of the challenge is that most digital marketing platforms are SaaS-based and not always conducive to integrator partnerships, let alone novel integration approaches. I think this environment will change, though. There's an evolving integration need around stitching together disparate monitoring, intelligence, campaign, and optimization services.

The Integrator Opportunity

Integrators need to make the same investment in "Marketing IT" that their customers are undertaking. Marketing IT is partly about new technical skills, but mostly about business understanding.

As an integrator you may need to change your approach. You can't just blow in touting your error-free, CMMI Level 5, ISO 9001 certified development methodologies. Marketing directors need to know that you understand their world. It's different than working with other enterprise departments.

For one thing, the pace of change that digital marketers face is nearly unprecedented. In the months that it took you to code a social media API, a new Pinterest will have emerged.

Also, marketers have become much more interested in outbound marketing and social engagement. Translation: they care deeply about the world beyond their website. That's why integrators can't claim to address digital marketing needs solely through offering new Web Content & Experience Management or Portal platforms. The scope of digital marketing -- and attendant technical expertise -- has expanded broadly.

The Customer Perspective

To be sure, the availability of integrator support is no panacea, and certainly no replacement for building solid internal capacity. In digital marketing technology, there has always been a gap between putative technical capabilities and available enterprise resources to fully exploit that functionality. (Have you ever seen an Omniture implementation that truly lived up to its potential? Me neither.) As an enterprise customer there's no shortcut to building a solid internal team.

Going forward, however, I suspect that most larger digital marketing customers will want to lean on seasoned teams of outside integrators to help. The question is, who will step up to address their needs?