CMS, CRM, Marketing Automation: all-in-one or best-of-breed?

Today’s B2B companies use a variety of marketing technology (MarTech) tools to help them drive growth. The essential parts of a MarTech stack include Content Management System (CMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Marketing Automation.

A CMS is the heart and soul of your content marketing strategy, allowing you to build, publish, and manage content that includes blogs, whitepapers, videos, ebooks, infographics, smart site content, and so on. CRM helps run all of the company’s communications and interactions with their clients, as well as prospects. Marketing Automation automatizes marketing and sales elements such as email communication, landing pages, analytics, etc.

Often, businesses are faced with a tough choice – should they go for the best-of-breed tools that cover these individual areas separately or use integrative software that addresses all requirements at the same time. Identifying which of these is right for your business is the first step toward finding the ideal solution to support your marketing strategies.

Many of the companies offering these services started out with just one individual function. For example, the giant HubSpot was originally a Marketing Automation platform that broadened its offering with CRM and Service Hub, turning toward an integrated, all-in-one-model. Salesforce and Adobe both expanded with Marketing Automation. On the other side is ActiveCampaign, a platform with a broad offering but very often used in combination with other solutions and particularly open to integrations.

All-in-one approach – benefits vs. flaws

An integrative or all-in-one solution aims to help you in every area of your marketing efforts, as it covers CMS, CRM, Marketing Automation, and more. One of the perks of such a solution is the wide coverage of multiple marketing areas. In other words, an integrative platform is designed to address your every marketing requirement in one place.

Such a platform can also provide volume purchasing so it appears to be more cost-effective as it comes with fewer licensing costs you would otherwise have to pay separately. With an all-in-one tool, you only pay for one subscription.

Additionally, the integration of the overall system is easier since all the tools are made by the same vendor and are working together in harmony. Typically, there’s one common interface used across the entire product suite, making it user-friendly and easy to navigate.

This approach has its disadvantages as well. One of them is the potentially poorer quality of certain functions that would be performed better by a best-of-breed vendor. An all-in-one platform may also be more at risk to security incidents, as all existing flaws are bound to affect the whole suite.

Since a lot of all-in-one vendors started out with just one product, there’s a risk that subsequent expansions are not up to its standard or may even lack the support for the core solution, despite the advantage of such software doing virtually everything.

There’s also a chance you won’t even need to be taking advantage of the entire suite, resulting in money wasted on unnecessary tools. Speaking of money wasted, there’s also the danger of the so-called lock-in. Namely, if the all-in-one software fails to meet your requirements down the road, it might be exceptionally costly to replace it.

Another potential problem is the steep curve of increasing costs, such as with a growing number of contacts. For instance, HubSpot is a very intuitive and advanced platform but the price of its services rises sharply as the number of your contacts increases.

Best-of-breed approach – benefits vs. flaws

The best-of-breed approach is the polar opposite of the integrative method. It refers to vendors focused on offering a specific service, such as a dedicated Marketing Automation solution, CRM platform, and the like. 

Due to being geared toward only one or two specific purposes, a best-of-breed software may be a lot easier to update, giving companies the advantage of a timely response to demands and changes in the market.

Such a narrow solution may have the upper hand over the integrative one where its functionality may only be one part of the whole ecosystem and not receive the necessary attention. Specifically, a best-of-breed vendor would dedicate its entire team and their expertise to developing a superior solution, possibly better than the one offered by the all-in-one platform.

By creating your own collection of best-of-breed tools, your marketing platform can have each of them perform their role perfectly, and there would be no danger of wasting funds on unused functionalities. Such tools can also be integrated with other systems to create a fully customized platform.

Furthermore, best-of-breed systems are small, which equals a shorter implementation time. All updates, upgrades, and security patches are rolled out separately, so any problems and/or clashes won’t affect the entire marketing platform.

That said, none of this means such solutions are without drawbacks. Since they only offer one of two main functionalities, you will have to purchase multiple services. This will require having to pay separately for each of them, entailing multiple contracts, invoices, license agreements, payments, etc. These all may be difficult to keep track of, may take up additional financial and human resources, as well as too much time.

Some best-of-breed companies use CRM as the core, while others use Marketing Automation, while many combine the two. The former include Freshsales, Sales Creatio, Less Annoying CRM, Insightly, Pipedrive, etc. Vendors using Marketing Automation as the core include ActiveCampaign, Aritic PinPoint, Drip, SendinBlue, GetResponse, ConvertKit, SendLoop, and more.

What will you pick? 

If you’re running a stable, highly centralized organization, you may only require a suite with lots of off-the-shelf tools, as in an all-in-one system. However, if you end up disappointed with it, you may need to invest a substantial amount of money to replace it. 

On the other hand, going for a best-of-breed option might be more suitable for a decentralized organization or one that frequently changes its structure. It is ideal if you want to scale your marketing operations in a certain direction in the next two or three years and don’t want to end up paying for tools you won’t use.

Therefore, the decision will depend strictly on your business’ specific marketing needs, audience size, management style, and plans for the future. Before making any permanent commitments, make sure that you carefully check integrations with your other software.

If you need help with choosing and implementing the best marketing technologies for your business, reach out to us at Comarketers. Our specialized team will tailor and execute a growth marketing program tailored specifically for your business and its stage of growth.

Sead Fadilpasic
Sead is a freelance journalist with more than a decade of experience writing news, bylines, whitepapers, blogs, and ebooks. He focuses most of his efforts on new technologies and content marketing. Based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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