Inbound Marketing Strategy: Single Vendor or Multi-Vendor?
61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.
It’s an exciting time to talk about inbound marketing, as content strategies and distribution are becoming more sophisticated and producing better results. As the long-term effects of an inbound marketing strategy have become more evident, it’s no wonder that businesses are focusing more on their inbound marketing than ever before. The advancements in technology mean that more companies can now find that all-important ROI with inbound marketing techniques.
In a recent seminar produced by FMG Suite, “Growing AUM Through Digital Marketing,” our VP of Corporate Development, Rick Fox, explored some of the marketing challenges facing the financial services industry. As expected, the seminar resulted in some critical insights from a variety of participants, including senior executives, marketing specialists, and others. In the first part of this series, we summarized a discussion about technology adoption, and today we’re going to talk about how technology solution choices impact inbound marketing strategy and marketing in general.
Is it preferable to have software that provides all the complete solutions, or software that can be mixed and matched through integration?
Inbound Marketing Strategy Solutions: Mix and Match or Multi-Functional?
“I think having something that fits all of our needs is most important because we are so busy doing other things that we don’t want to have to learn new systems and figure out how they all work together. I think having one thing solves a lot of our issues, and knowing that technology is going to keep up.”
Robert Fross, CEO & Co-founder, Fross & Fross Wealth Managment
Inbound marketing is rife with great opportunities, but it also comes with some significant challenges, including overall effectiveness, cost, and training. Investing in the best technology solutions for marketing typically consists of two choices: Multi-vendor, a hodge-podge of single, specialized solutions designed to each handle one specific task that is mixed and matched, and single-vendor, a suite of fully integrated, multi-functional solutions that are interconnected and compatible.
Regardless of the marketing tools, as the technology and consumer demands become more complex, effective marketing means prioritizing which marketing efforts will get the spotlight.
There should be no doubt that inbound marketing strategy, and the technology tools behind it, must pull their weight as a part of a successful marketing package.
“I think that there is a lot of momentum about buying an ecosystem versus just buying a website or marketing automation tools and then trying to connect those together.”
Andy Barksdale, Senior V.P. of Marketing at LPL Financial
Single-Vendor Marketing Solutions
Single vendor solutions, also referred to as “fully integrated” and “one-stop shop” solutions, offer a comprehensive suite of marketing tools for the financial services industry. Perhaps one of the most obvious advantages is in the term itself: single-vendor. The idea of working with one vendor for all marketing solutions, or any other solutions for that matter, can be very appealing to busy firms. Of course, there are many other factors to consider as well.
As Thomas Fross, President of Fross & Fross Wealth Management says, “You had to go to all these places to get the right tool, and if you can have all those tools in one bag it would be a lot better.” Here’s why single-vendor options are viable:
- Administration: The purchasing process, support, and other administrative tasks typically require a one-time setup and stay in place.
- Relationships: A single-vendor is in a position to better understand overall marketing requirements because of the range of marketing elements involved. This in-depth understanding typically leads to a well-established relationship between the vendor, the client, and the end users.
- Integration: The single vendor solution means a single integration process with pre-existing applications and solutions. While still challenging, this integration is typically less complex than integrating multiple solutions from different vendors.
- Reliability: Established vendors with a proven track record and industry recognition are likely to have more longevity, and offer more reliability, than the single solution vendors.
- Training: From upper-management to end-users, training should be more focused and less time-consuming because the team is learning a single solution package. In addition, a single solution provider often provides more training overall.
As Leah Alter, Director of Marketing and Consulting of Kestra Financial explains, “Having a solution where an advisor or a firm has [the] ability to grow through marketing…to have a platform that can serve all those different levels as they grow, I believe is super important.”
- Cost: An all-in-one solution will typically mean greater up-front costs compared to multiple solutions from different vendors.
- Functionality Over-Kill: Single-vendor solutions can sometimes feature “bloatware,” the typically unneeded and unwanted features that can complicate usage, impact storage limitations, and more.
- Compromise: A one-stop-shop solution usually comes with a trade-off. While the whole package may serve an organization well, not every component is going to be as advanced or as effective as some individual, more specialized solutions.
- Advances in Technology: New advances in technology might not be supported, or they might be supported later than preferred or, worse, inadequately. A comprehensive suite of tools is inherently more difficult to update than individual tools.
Multi-Vendor Marketing Solutions
A multi-vendor solution is like having a tool box of technology tools from separate vendors that individually address a specific task or process. These specialized tools can be more advanced and feature-rich than their counterparts that are typically more foundational components of an all-in-one solution. While the more specialized tools from multiple vendors can be more effective for a specific use, the trade-offs must be considered.
- Best-of-Breed: Experts acknowledge a best-of-breed product as the best solution for a specific need. A suite of products is much less likely to contain individual components that are considered best-of-breed than single-function products. (This is the primary reason many businesses cobble together solutions.)
- Upgrades: A single solution is by nature more agile and less complicated than a bundle of solutions, so updates should occur more often. This ability to enhance the single solution more often should lead to greater functionality and efficiency.
- Back-End: Due to the smaller amount of program data found in single-function applications, back-up and recovery requirements are minimal.
- Cost: Single solutions typically require less investment up-front simply because the cost involves one tool for one job as opposed to the “toolbox” provided with fully integrated solutions.
- Administration: Every single-function marketing solution will have its own vendor, contract, and other proprietary elements. Multiple vendors mean more time-consuming interactions and more complex logistics.
- Limited Function: The specialized nature of single solutions means that they are typically very efficient and offer superior effectiveness. But this specialization also means that the technology is limited to a sole purpose.
- Integration: The chances of a smooth integration of different solutions from different vendors is far less likely than with a single-vendor option.
- Training: It would seem that a single solution would require less training than a multi-faceted product. But a single solution product needs users to learn not only the new product, but also how that product integrates with all of the pre-existing solutions and other single-function solutions in the future.
A Note About Pricing
Although you can positively impact the bottom line initially when selecting the multi-vendor approach, there are less apparent costs than the initial front-end investment. Operational fees, staff training costs, systems management, and other “running expenses” for each individual solution can quickly put a strain on even the most robust marketing budgets. Also, since the multi-vendor approach is time-consuming, managing multiple marketing workstreams may take time away from tasks that more directly result in revenue, further amplifying the costs.
“As long as that one-stop shop is going to meet the requirement of your users, meet them really well, then, by all means, having the single place is the key.”
Brian Cody, V.P. of Digital Media, Waddell & Reed
On the surface, Cody seems to sum up the optimal scenario of using a fully integrated solution for marketing. If a single-vendor solution meets the expectations of the end-user across the entire bundle of solutions, how could that possibly have any drawbacks?
In a perfect marketing world, that’s exactly how it should be: One useful tool that is user-friendly and able to handle a variety of tasks effectively and efficiently. But of course, no marketing world is perfect, and neither are the multi-vendor or single-vendor solutions.
Armed with the pros and cons of the marketing options available, the best way to determine the right option for your marketing needs is to assess your marketing goals and objectively weigh the options of multi-vendor vs. single-vendor solutions.