Marketers / Marketing Automation / Marketing Ops

Best of Breed vs. Best of Suite: Which is Best for Your Marketing Tech Stack?

By Lucy Mazalon

Marketing Cloud (including Pardot/Account Engagement) offer modules and features that cater to different marketing uses, all from one vendor (Salesforce). However, you don’t necessarily have to solely use tools from the one vendor – instead, you may find that others in your organization would prefer to mix-n-match with third-party tools. 

There’s one question hanging over anyone who is evaluating their apps: should you opt for ‘best of breed’ or ‘best of suite’? Do you opt for the best suite that offers what you need on one platform, or do you select the best tool for each use case from the entire marketing technology market? This is the trade-off you’ll have to make when deciding how to build out your tech stack. 

The reality is that every organization is different. There are pros and cons to each approach. Your choice will be dependent on your use cases’ complexity. Let’s explore the Salesforce and wider landscape, and then cover the considerations for each approach.

The Marketing Technology Landscape

A recent partner conference hosted by Salesforce discussed the proliferation of apps that compete with Salesforce platform offerings. By their estimation, there are approx. 13,000 marketing application competitors (that has risen from 200 over the past 20 years!).

We only need to see the figures in the Marketing Technology Landscape, published annually by Their call out statistic? “The number of solutions is now 9,932 — up 24% from 2020”. Also included in the article is a visual progression from 2011 (~150 solutions) through to 2022.

When it comes to Salesforce, their driving message is consolidation, firstly, to “help any company unlock cost savings and create exceptional customer experiences”, and secondly to, “simplify tech stacks and reduce total cost of ownership” – as opposed to using a range of different vendors and tools (Salesforce News).

Salesforce are in a good position to advocate this. Take Marketing Cloud, for example, with 20+ modules (“Builders” and “Studios”) that cater to almost all marketing channels you could desire.

READ MORE: What is Salesforce Marketing Cloud? [Builders and Studios Overview]

Account Engagement (Pardot) is also a strong contender, with its tight integration with core objects on the Salesforce platform, and more.

Identifying ‘Best of Breed’

‘Best of breed’ solutions can be hard to pinpoint, as there are multiple factors that determine usefulness, which are subjective (i.e. judged differently from one organization to the next). 

Perhaps the best place to start are Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, which “offer visual snapshots, in-depth analyses and actionable advice that provide insight into a market’s direction, maturity and participants”. The Magic Quadrants offer an objective view of solution capabilities, as Gartner compares vendors based on standard criteria and methodology. You’ll find quadrants for each solution category, which are updated annually. 

Salesforce’s products have a stronghold on these quadrants for multiple years. For example, Marketing Cloud has been featured as a leader on the Multichannel Marketing Hubs quadrant for five consecutive years, and Account Engagement (Pardot) for B2B Marketing Automation Platforms.

One could argue that Salesforce’s marketing products offer both ‘best of breed’ and ‘best of suite’ but we’d be remiss to ignore the fact that there are other strong contenders in each marketing technology category. That’s where evaluation comes in – you may be looking at all of the ‘leading’ solutions, or have someone in your team advocating for a product they used in a past role. 

Let’s now break down the pros and cons of each approach.

Best of Suite vs. Best of Breed

Best of Suite: Should you opt for the best suite that offers what you need, on one platform?

Best of Breed: Should you select the best tool for each use case from the entire marketing technology market?

Best of Suite (Pros)

  • Integrated solution: Minimal need for connectors or custom integrations – less risk with data sync.  
  • Cohesive UI: A single/similar user interface that will become very familiar to your user base. Avoids the need to switch between platforms. 
  • One vendor: One contract with one vendor (supplier onboarding can be a pain for many people). Also you’ll have greater leverage to negotiate the price.
  • User adoption: Familiarity with a single/similar user interface will increase the chances of successful adoption. Plus, you can monitor adoption metrics in one place (vs. split insights across multiple platforms).     
  • Security: Authenticate access once (single-sign on). 

Best of Breed (Pros)

  • Functionality: Choose solutions that, collectively, can cater to your use cases – no matter how complex/unique your needs are. One tool may offer the configuration capabilities missing in the other. 
  • Gaps: No single platform offers absolutely every marketing functionality. For example, Account Engagement (Pardot) does not offer fully-blown account-based marketing functionality, compared to the likes of Demandbase.  
  • Intuitive: User affinity to the user interface/experience is not only dependent on using the same platform; other tools will be equally intuitive to use with time. 
  • Exit/downgrade: Single contracts can be easier to exit/downgrade rather than a significant contract with a large vendor. 

Note: The pros of one are inevitably the cons of the other.

Final Thoughts

Which is best for you depends on many factors that are unique to your organization, so there isn’t a single right answer to give you today. What you’ll likely end up with is a mixture of both – to base your marketing stack in one suite, supported by tools from other vendors to extend that functionality. 

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to Saniul Ali, Head of the Marketing Technology practice at BrightGen, who covered this topic in a recent presentation (and got the gears churning in my mind!). Salesforce consulting partners are great sources of information, who can objectively evaluate your needs, current tech stack, and budget, so you can find the best fit for your organization.

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.


    Alex Diamond
    April 11, 2023 10:27 pm
    As someone who has worked across Salesforce, Marketing Cloud and Account Engagement/ Pardot, I don't think the point about having a cohesive UI is accurate. Salesforce looks completely different to Marketing Cloud. Pardot looks similar but quite different to Salesforce. I've also used Salesforce with other applications (Autopilot, Outreach) and found that, while the other platforms tend to be easy to integrate, but come with limitations. These boil down to four areas: 1.) API Calls - Marketing Cloud and Pardot don't use the API call limit from Salesforce, other connected marketing apps do. Companies who are using multiple third party apps need to consider this. 2.) Security and Permissions - Salesforce features a granular permissions system, many other marketing tools do not, so if you want to give access to someone they can do EVERYTHING. Not ideal when a Sales user just wants to see who opened a marketing email. Which brings me to my next point: 3.) Visibility of Marketing activities from within Salesforce - Having the ability to see how customers interact with emails and a webpage is vital information for Sales teams, and is something Account Engagement does very well. 3rd party systems won't necessarily make this information available within Salesforce. 4.) Sandboxes - Larger clients often need to work with Sandboxes, which isn't a feature many third party marketing tools offer. These are still limited for Marketing Cloud and Account Engagement. For instance, Account Engagement's Sandboxes aren't able to be pushed to production, and many enterprise level clients end up using business units in both platforms as substitutes for Sandboxes.
    Ryan Goodman
    April 15, 2023 6:37 pm
    Great article.. I think a lot of leaders like the idea of "best of suite" but something to point out is for most companies, the suite is composed of acquired technologies. History shows us that acquired technologies are no better integrated post acquisition. The smart competitors double down on their integration. For salesforce Marketing cloud and Tableau are prime examples where I see third parties integrated significantly tighter than Salesforce. Marketing cloud is one example and Tableau is a second showing Salesforce.

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