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Unbundled Software and the Golden Age of Marketing The solutions to marketing dilemmas promised by the all-in-one software of decades past are finally here, but they aren't all-in-one.

By Michael Sharkey Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Twenty years ago software sales looked like a conga line of steak dinners and cocktails. Enterprise giants like IBM and Cisco would spend months chumming prospective customers to push suite solutions that promised to solve every problem at a steep markup, only to apologize for its shortcomings six months later.

Those days are long gone.

In today's sales bakeoff, you can bet that old, enterprise salesperson pushing a monolithic "all-in-one" solution and a steak dinner will be beaten by the tech-savvy sales guy with an agile solution that works as advertised. The software has become the steak.

Why wouldn't it? Customer is king. We love Chipotle because we get to choose the exact ingredients that make us salivate. The same holds true for software. It's the reason why right now is the Golden Age for marketers.

There are now thousands of talented software engineers and aspiring technology entrepreneurs turning their attention to marketers' biggest problems. As a marketer, it's tantamount to having unlimited guac at Chipotle - for life.

So why do we roll our eyes every time we hear about a new marketing startup?

Related: To See Results, Entrepreneurs Must Choose the Right Marketing Metrics

Not so suite anymore...

Companies used to invest in an all-in-one monolithic marketing automation "platform." The common thinking was that a "bundle" would solve every problem a marketer encountered. These heavy, all-in-one platforms were designed for enterprise IT buyers and made no consideration towards the customer experience.

Marketers put their careers on the line buying hundreds of bells and whistles they were never going to use, without any opportunity to test or evaluate. The result: marketers experienced the "fog of features," lost sight of their original goals, and produced really, really bad marketing. Like Chipotle offering fortune cookies and spaghetti.

Related: What the Color of Your Logo Says About Your Company (Infographic)

Unbundled is the new bundled.

Every industry has their defining ecosystem player -- except marketing. CRM has Salesforce. Customer service has Zendesk. Since marketing has come online, it has fallen flat trying to be everything to everyone in the form of bundled solutions.

So what's the solution? We're starting to see the rise of beautiful apps that work 10x better than their bundled counterparts. Marketers can now pick and choose the tools that work, so that they can focus on creating great customer journeys: managing social channels with Buffer and Hootsuite, retargeting visitors with Adroll, understanding the audience with Optimizely and MixPanel, interacting via Slack and Zendesk, and building pipeline and deals with Pipedrive and RelateIQ.

The old argument for bundled software was that by living under the same roof, all systems would share information and run seamlessly. And then came the API. Unlike legacy software, today's leading, API-first platforms - like New Relic and Segment - are open and connected, thinner and faster, and play nicely in an exploding app landscape. These platforms are designed with the end user in mind, don't require a skilled operator, and work independently within a larger ecosystem.

Now that APIs have entered the world of marketing, unbundled ecosystems can connect seamlessly. This allows marketers to move at the speed of business, no longer thinking of the customer in terms of isolated sales interactions but instead focusing on their end-to-end experience across all channels. With this new freedom, marketers now have the power to create earthquakes from basements.

The bonus guac? This new breed of marketing technology is affordable and accessible for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Creativity at scale is the future of marketing.

The truth is it's never been a better time to be a marketer. The rise of the app economy has empowered creative thinkers to create personalized customer experiences at the right channel or the right time. The result is that marketing no longer feels like marketing, and instead feels like a 1:1 conversation between two like-minded people.

Related: Lessons From 7 People Who Got Rich and Famous on Social Media

Michael Sharkey

Co-founder and CEO of Autopilot

Michael is co-founder and CEO of Autopilot, a lead nurturing platform for marketers. Michael has been featured on Reuters, StartUpSmart, The Australian, ABC radio, Sydney Morning Herald, and frequently contributes to Flying Solo, ShoeStringStartups and small business events.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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