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Why are Mid-Market Companies Still Looking at Adobe CQ?

Since joining Acquia, I’ve been taking a close look at opportunities where Drupal is competing against proprietary content management systems, often Adobe CQ (aka Experience Manager) and sometimes Sitecore.

While Acquia competes with Adobe and Sitecore across a variety of companies - from the largest in the world to smaller higher education institutions and non-profits - I’m most surprised when I see so-called “mid-market” prospects looking at Adobe CQ. Defining mid-market is a bit tricky, but I’ll default to Wikipedia, which defines it as companies between $10m and $1b in annual revenue. There are more than 200,000 companies and institutions that fall into the mid-market in the United States.

It’s no secret that Adobe CQ is the most expensive CMS. Adobe said during their recent partner summit that the average CQ deal is $450,000 in license with the total implementation cost of over $2m USD. Adobe’s focus is squarely on the largest companies who value their entire Marketing Cloud, with experience manager (CQ), analytics, targeting, social. These are often multi-million dollar transactions for Adobe and their implementation partners.

What about the companies who don’t need all the bells + whistles of the Adobe Marketing Cloud? I won’t argue whether or not Adobe CQ is a good product or not. It seems to be working well for many large companies, who can afford both its high license cost and more importantly, the significant investment it takes to implement and maintain a CQ site.

(Although we’ve seen an interesting trend where CQ customers are looking at Acquia Cloud Site Factory to spin up agile marketing campaigns… more on that in a future post).

But still, I wonder why many mid-market companies look at CQ? I suspect it’s because the Adobe brand carries a cachet with marketers, and CQ has been well received by industry analysts like Gartner and Forrester. Adobe is keenly aware of the value of its brand, and that some customers will pay a premium for it.

No One Ever Got Fired for Buying IBM? Or Did They?

This reminds me of how companies like IBM used to sell to CIOs back in the 80's and 90's. IBM obtained such a dominant market position that it was once said "No One Got Fired for Buying IBM". That mentality led to failed IT projects with out-of-control costs and complexity. I wonder if we're repeating that same thinking with Adobe? Here’s my take:

Adobe CQ and the Adobe Marketing Cloud are probably overkill for all but the largest companies with the most complex requirements.

That doesn’t make CQ a bad product. But it does mean that Adobe CQ is probably not the right fit for the mid-market. Don’t buy Adobe CQ because of an analyst report, or a flashy sales demo, or because some company 1000x the size of your company successfully uses it. Instead, look closely at your requirements and evaluate products that best match your needs.

And when mid-market companies take an honest look at their requirements, Drupal almost always wins against Adobe CQ because it’s simply a better fit for the mid-market.

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