Why integrated social suites are failing marketers

The argument for an integrated marketing suite has yet to be made, yet most marketers think a social suite is the way to go.

Most enterprise technology eventually converges into a suite, as it did with ERP. Integration hassles, management headaches and training challenges arising from a mishmash of best-of-breed solutions drive frustrated enterprise software buyers to the suite life -- but not in marketing tech, at least not yet.

Marketing tech suites have come under fire lately for failing to deliver on their promises. Less than half of enterprise marketing software suite customers are "totally satisfied," a Forrester report found. Now Forrester has taken dead aim at a specific kind of marketing tech suite: social suites from Adobe, Salesforce and Sprinklr.

These suites combine social listening, social reach, social depth and social relationship tools. Separately, though, the tools grade out poorly against their best-of-breed rivals. In a Forrester brief, analyst Nate Elliot didn't mince words, saying, "Adobe can scarcely compete in most social technology categories" and "Salesforce's once-impressive social tools have fallen behind" and "Sprinklr's suite contains just as many misses as hits."

In the world of enterprise tech analysis, that's a major slam. Suite vendors will surely counter that the great benefit of a suite is that the sum is greater than the parts. In other words, the benefits of integration outweigh the performance differences between individual tools. But social suites fail to deliver even on this promise, Elliot says.

Three social suites strikes

Elliot points out suite vendors' many integration missteps. He cites Salesforce's inability to integrate Buddy Media with Radian6 successfully, forcing Salesforce to pivot and build Social Studio from the ground up. Adobe customers found Adobe Analytics' integration with Adobe Social so poor that they turned to other analytics programs, he says. And Sprinklr customers complain that Sprinklr still hasn't integrated key features of Dachis Group software even though a year has passed since the acquisition.

Pouring more fuel on the fire, the central argument for an integrated marketing suite hasn't been made.

"Social tools don't benefit from integration with other social tools anyway," Elliot says. "Just because social ads, Facebook pages, and branded communities are all called 'social' doesn't mean they have much in common. Each targets different users on different sites with different messages to drive different behaviors."

The next ERP?

If a social marketer asks technical colleagues for advice, they'll probably get an earful about ERP as a shining example of the benefits of an integrated suite. Should ERP be compared with marketing tech? At this year's MarTech Conference in San Francisco, venture capitalist Neeraj Agrawal at Battery Ventures had this to say about the suite vs. best-of-breed debate:

"Marketing tech is actually a unique segment within all of enterprise software, in my mind. One of the unique aspects is, this market really favors best-of-breed. In all other software segments, there's actually a structural advantage to buying an integrated suite. You wouldn't go buy a general ledger system and an AP system from two different vendors. You wouldn't do that; it wouldn't make any sense; you need an integrated system. But in marketing, you want to buy the best social system, you want to buy the best AB testing. Why? That incremental conversion lift matters. It drives dollars."

Nevertheless, most marketers still think a suite is the way to go.

"More than two-thirds of avid social marketers believe it's more effective for them to buy all their social tools from a single vendor than to buy social point solutions from several different vendors -- but they couldn't be more wrong," Elliot says.

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