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Can Marketers Achieve the Cross-Channel ‘Swiss Army Knife’?
There might not be a one-size-fits-all solution out there, but that doesn't mean the goal isn't attainable.
Posted Dec 15, 2016
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Gone are the days of marketers going out to predefined audiences at predetermined times with the “one-size-fits-all” message. Today’s consumer demands contextualized content and services across the entire customer journey, on the device and channel of their choice. When it comes to marketing messages, this connected consumer expects personalization with on-demand tailored products and services based on their likes, dislikes, actions and behaviors.

Meeting the expectations of the connected individual will spell long-term success for brands, but where do we start? Take a look at your cross-channel messaging solutions.

Scenario: You’ve signed on to a major marketing cloud and can’t wait to get started testing out its tools on your campaign(s). You bought in for the CRM and found that Marketing Cloud X also provides a whole suite of products, from email marketing to display ads built right into the technology. Well, that is what the sales rep sold your boss, at least. Sounds perfect, right? An out-of-the-box solution from one provider covering each piece of the cross-channel pipeline should check all the relevant boxes simultaneously, right?

Let’s step back for a minute before we answer that one. If you were looking for a marketing cloud, then you are likely struggling with a massive data problem. Does this look familiar?

Your data is spread across so many disparate systems, and Marketing Cloud X sold you on the fact that you could only achieve a singular customer profile and cross-channel messaging if you began using their solutions across all channels. If you migrate all campaigns and data to Marketing Cloud X’s solutions, you may get closer to the elusive single customer profile. But you need to ask your team, and Marketing Cloud X, the following questions:

  • Are all of these solutions really integrated and one “platform” as sold?
  • Are new integrations needed that will require custom development, or new tools to be developed?
  • Do they have all of the solutions you need to service your customers?
  • Are the solutions as robust as the solutions you were using before?
  • How are they compared to best-of-breed providers?

Unfortunately, the “Swiss Army Knife” solution remains a marketer’s dream. When you dig into these questions, you will more than likely find a number of gaps that were sold under the promise of the single customer profile. While these solutions are built to work together effortlessly, large marketing cloud technologies have yet to enable scalable, reliable, and compliant cross-channel products across all of the potential modes of communication. Marketing Cloud X was likely built around an email platform, showing strong expertise in that area, but when you look under the covers at the other channels, you may be disappointed. These other channels include voice, SMS, MMS, social media, chat apps, push or in-app message, beacons, and digital displays.

The old engineering maxim is true: Things that are built to do one specific thing tend to do that one thing really well. The more services and functions you add, inevitably, the less likely a product is to be excellent at any one of those things. When companies buy a Marketing Cloud X system, they are essentially trapping their data inside of that cloud, making it more difficult to be used with other software. That’s great for the marketing clouds, of course, but the walled garden approach to data will limit customer results, choice, and efficacy. Marketing Cloud X will tell you, the brand, that they have open APIs and they are happy to work with any other vendors you want to pull into your MarTech stack. When that “connector” comes with a massive premium fee, how open is it, really?

Every channel, from email to MMS to beacon, has a unique set of requirements—technical, content, location, and regulatory—that need to be expertly maneuvered, at scale, to properly communicate with the connected individual. It’s time to stop looking for the one-provider solution and seek out best-in-class providers for each channel you plan to use and create your own in-house MarTech stack. This seems daunting, I know, but imagine if your No. 1 requirement for any solution provider was to “eagerly” support your data integration needs. Imagine that your data could freely flow between systems and you only paid a reasonable fee for new integrations. If that were the case, then you could use whichever vendor is best for solving your business problems. After all, creating a walled garden and switching off solution providers who have served you well for years is adding work and risk to your brand.

The cross-channel marketer’s “Swiss Army Knife” solution doesn’t exist from a single provider, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an achievable goal. In order to reach the ever-changing connected consumer, marketers need a suite of refined, customized, and channel-specific solutions. It’s time to start building your own marketing cloud—the one that is perfectly suited to achieving your brand’s marketing goals.


As Head of Strategy at Waterfall, Matt Silk drives innovative mobile marketing programs for brands in the retail and restaurant space with the goal of increasing consumer engagement, generating revenue, and expanding the brand’s footprint. Waterfall is a leading provider of mobile marketing SaaS, offering solutions that enable brands to build their existing customer database and drive top-line revenue with targeted, relevant mobile content through SMS, MMS, wallet, rich media, push or beacon solutions. Prior to Waterfall, Silk was director of retail product management at E*TRADE Financial, where he was responsible for web brokerage and core user experience. He began his career at the Wharton Small Business Development Center, where he managed a portfolio of clients and provided one-on-one management consulting to entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia region.

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