Are CMS vendors selling to marketers or building for marketers?

Folks in the world of web content management can likely agree that marketers are taking more ownership of the web – if not total ownership in many cases.

CMS vendors have largely made the shift to speak more directly to the needs of a marketer.This is happening with the website messaging, marketing-friendly feature lists and solution-selling scenarios developed within the sales teams.

This shift is both smart for business and absolutely necessary to meet the changing needs of the web-driven organization. However, it’s critical to take a closer look at specific vendor offerings to see if they can walk the walk that their marketing speak talks. 

After all, CMS vendors have historically been very IT focused. It’s simply not in the DNA of most CMS product management types to think like a marketer.  Some will be able to effectively turn the boat around and some will attempt to keep putting lipstick on a pig. We’re still in the early stages of determining the winners and losers.

While we’re not here to evaluate the marketing merits of individual CMS vendors (yet), we are noticing that the messaging is shifting faster than the product development. Extra features are being bolted on to satisfy a few tactical marketing needs, when in fact a more complete product overhaul is often needed. It’s unclear if this effort is truly underway behind the scenes.

This all poses a real risk for marketing-centric buyers that don’t understand the technical complexity of a CMS.  Buyers need to deep dive into marketing specific scenarios during the evaluation process, ask more specific questions and talk to marketing focused references. 

There is a difference between selling to marketers and building for marketers.  My money is on the vendors that choose the later.

About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

More articles from Jeff Cram


4 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. Tom says:

    At Interwoven we’ve historically had great relationships with IT.  1nd and 2nd generation CMS platforms were most often deployed by IT as a productivity tool.  Over the last few years Web Marketers have realized that content drives business and are now looking at CMS as a revenue generation tool.  CMS decisions are now most often made through a partnership between IT and the business.

    Your comment about vendors lacking Marketing DNA is spot on.  Marketers don’t care about traditional CMS functions like versioning and workflow.  Instead, they care about how content drives and improves key site metrics (conversions, engagement, lead gen, customer sat, etc).  We acquired a lot of our Marketing DNA through our Optimost acquisition a year ago.  The Optimost team helped us shape our product roadmap especially as it applies to supporting persuasive web marketing.  We’ve got some great releases on tap for later this year based on these learnings.

    These days it’s not enough just to manage the content, you have to help customers monetize it.  To me, the M in WCM now stands for monetization, not management.  

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks.  Keep up the great work.  You are (by far) my favorite CMS blogger!

  3. Jeff Cram Jeff Cram says:

    Great comments Tom – Thanks! That last sentence sounds like a blog post in the works to me!

  4. I agree the WCM (and CMS for that matter) should have monetize in the acronym – nice one!

    One thing though; the biggest aspect of building for marketers is giving them productivity and ability. This means the CMS has to provide a non technical means to devise, lay out (visually), and publish information. This must be through a rich and intuitive use interface that (a) is more or less out of the box so that they improve as the CMS product matures and (b) is able to be customised by the (thinking of) business analysts and (the coding by) developers who implement the CMS.

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