The Case Against All-In-One Tools

"Why can't we have just one tool?"

"Why can't we have just one tool?" is the rallying-cry Marketers will hear in almost every MarTech strategy meeting with other teams and partners. With CMSs, email platforms, site optimization, and more, a modern Marketing tech stack can easily balloon into dozens of tools. 

It's easy to see the desire to keep that number smaller- after all, training folks on a new tool can be time-consuming and draining. But in the long run, having more tools (or I should say, feature-specific tools) can be a much more effective route. To be clear, I'm not advocating that more tools is always better, but rather that having a handful of tools, each with their own specialty, can be a tremendously powerful thing. 

Sum Greater than the whole

You can't be everything to everyone, and there’s the idea that trying to do so actually makes you worse off. Think back to some of the most notable tech flops of the last decade (everything from looking at you Google+) and you see a trend of a company whose perfect at one thing trying to do something entirely different. For example, Apple is the king of premium personal devices because they basically gutted their business devices years back. 

This is especially true for SMB's, which make up a large chunk of the MarTech vendor space. Time that's spent on email marketing features can't be spent on onboarding toolage; a company can try to do both, but the end product feels split. It's why my favorite onboarding tool (Chameleon) for example only does onboarding. 

Closed Systems

There are a handful of all-in-one solutions in the space (Intercom comes to mind) that promote being able to do email, in-app chat, support, and more- all with one tool, one invoice, and a dev’s team favorite- one integration. This can be a massive boost for small businesses or apps that are just getting their feet wet, but it can lock you in long term. Most providers offer integrations with other tools, but they're all complementary, ie they let you coordinate on copy you have in Basecamp or create tasks in Slack. They rarely let you replace features, meaning if you decide the all-in-one route isn't fitting your email needs, you now have a new email platform that won't talk to your support suite and onboarding tools. Over time, it leads to teams feeling like a square in a round hole as they’re forced to use a tool they don't like, simply because the cost to replace it is too damn high.  


The other kicker is that the pricing models often have quite a ramp at higher tiers- if your team aspires to be servicing 10k users a month or more, that affordable all-in-one solution can quickly bloat in cost. It's a great problem to have, but because the increase can feel gradual, it can lead to teams “falling into” their tech stack, rather than being intentional about their needs. It's all-to easy for a team to begrudgingly keep using a platform they used during their series A, only to find that their new DAU would put them in a growth tier at a competing service; one with significant cost savings and muuuuch better features. 

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Robbie Ashton

I help early and mid-stage B2C marketing teams make sense of their technology stack, and get the metrics they need to fuel growth.