Narrow & Deep Or Wide & Shallow: How Does Your Tech Partner Roll?

If you’ve ever eyeballed a LUMAscape, you know there’s no shortage of digital advertising technology providers. And if you’ve ever had to evaluate the various players within the ecosystem, you know they can be difficult to differentiate. To make sense of the options, I’ve found it helpful to bucket companies into two types of, well, buckets: 1) narrow and deep and 2) wide and shallow.

(Disclosure: my company is a digital marketing technology provider -- so, in the Passover tradition, you may wish to dip a grain of salt in these buckets.)

Narrow and Deep

The narrow and deep bucket consists of companies that focus on a few specific channels, often referred to as point-solutions. The “channels” or “points” that these organizations solve for can be media channels such as search, social, or display. They can also be delivery platforms like email, mobile, or affiliate.



This bucket also includes companies that provide solutions for certain aspects of digital marketing campaign management like ad creation (e.g., keyword generation tools), tracking (e.g., tag management solutions), optimization (e.g., bid management tools), or reporting (e.g., attribution solutions).

There are three key benefits of rolling in the deep and narrow:

1.  Advanced functionality. A more narrow focus begets a deeper understanding of specific customer needs. It also allows a company to put all its resources into solving those specific sets of problems. The result is usually more sophisticated functionality for the particular “channel” or “point” at hand -- and in turn, stronger campaign performance.

2.  Speed to market. The path from idea to release is often shorter when a product is tightly wound around a particular segment than when it’s spread thin and requires multiple points of integration across channels and platforms. Overall, it’s easier to identify opportunities and be first-to-market with meaningful innovation when you’re laser-focused on specific verticals.

3.  More personalservice. Generally speaking, companies that go narrow and deep with their tech do so as well with their staff. When working with these organizations, you’re more likely to encounter people highly skilled within their particular craft than the generalists who are likely to service your account at broader providers. It’s a matter of working with masters of domains vs. jacks-of-all.

Wide and Shallow

The wide and shallow bucket is made up of companies that have assembled (either by buying or building) complete technology stacks, allowing marketers to manage multiple channels, points, and platforms in one place.

By and large, rolling wide and shallow delivers three clear value propositions:

1.  Single sign-on. In today’s attention-span-starved world, there’s no bigger PITA than having to log out and log in to multiple systems throughout the day. Beyond that, having one central platform to complete a full range of campaign management tasks can deliver huge time savings, especially when it comes to fluidly reallocating budgets across channels.

2.  True North for data. With one system serving as “technology of record” across all your programs, you can reduce data discrepancies and avoid the inefficient process of multiple providers staking claim to the same conversion event.

3.  Lower blended costs. Typically, companies that bundle multiple channels and products into one solution charge less for the whole than the sum of parts. In some cases, they can even afford to give away some of the components for free as a value-add when customers purchase the entire offering. 

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bucket

To be sure, it’s not always an “either/or” choice when selecting tech partners. There are some companies that can give you the best of both worlds by rolling narrow, deep, wide, and shallow -- stopping just short of Rickrolling.

Point solutions providers that integrate with broader tech stacks can deliver best-in-class functionality within specific channels while providing single-source truth for tracking, reporting and attribution across them all. Conversely, all-in-one stacks that create opportunities for niche players to deliver full functionality within their environment -- and/or acquire point solutions and allow them to operate independently -- can also deliver the full range of benefits.

Bucket List

So, which tech partner is right for you? Of course, right is relative. The only way to answer this question is with some more questions:

What are your goals? Are you focused on top-line revenue or bottom-line profit? Is it more important that you maximize sales or minimize resources?   

Which channels are most important to your business? Do a few channels account for a majority of your spend and revenue? Are you willing to sacrifice performance in a few channels to gain the time-savings benefit of having everything in one place?

What is your team equipped to manage? What combination of skills and bandwidth do you have available for various campaign management tasks? Are you staffed with channel specialists or marketing generalists?

Drop in the Bucket

Clearly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so don’t obsess over whether your bucket is half-full, half-empty or just plain hole-y. As long as you’re real with yourself about business requirements and recognize the tradeoffs involved, you can forge ahead with your partner(s) and earn buckethead status.

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