Now driving CMS adoption: Customer experience

In those annual surveys about business technology purchasing plans, “web content management” invariably appears at or near the top of the “gonna buy” list. And so it appears to be the same again in 2009. One indicator: A recent Forrester report says web content management purchases will continue to grow this year despite a bad economy as companies seek ways to remain competitive.

But what’s really insightful is the top reason why CMS is a target for investment in 2009.

According to Forrester’s survey data, “improving the customer experience” is the primary reason (64%) buyers want to invest in CMS technology, far ahead of streamlining the web publishing process, cited by just 25% of survey takers. (Hat tip to Fierce Content Management for the data citations.)

This trend stands for a drastic shift in favor of the marketer. In a similar survey about two years ago,  a much lower percentage of respondents (around 37% as I recall) told Forrester that “customer experience” was the motivator to adopt CMS.

Broadly speaking, CMS adoption has frequently revolved around “streamlining” process: solving the dreaded webmaster bottleneck, allowing non-technical folks (read: marketers) to update the website, giving IT a break — that sort of thing. The decision to buy or not to buy CMS was driven by ROI, as if it were just another CRM application or accounting software package: “So this CMS thing, how long ‘til I make my money back?” the CFO would ask the IT director.

Here at CMS Myth we’ve long advocated a view that says CMS is an important, strategic tool whose investment (and success) is measured in many ways.  At the core, we believe it has everything to do with supporting successful web marketing strategies, as well as promoting strong engagement and interaction with your users. CMS is the tech glue that holds together the strategy and tactics that comprise your online initiatives. It’s not just a tool to manage the nuts and bolts of content. It’s a lot more.

Thankfully, CMS vendors have evolved since the days when hot features like WYSIWYG editors and workflow were in big, bold letters on their websites. Today, many CMS vendors are developing (and selling based on) built-in tools to promote engagement, like blogs, social networking applications, landing page testing, and other marketing-savvy widgets. Other vendors are making it easier to integrate their CMS with best-of-breed tools like email marketing applications.

Now that marketers are increasingly driving the CMS discussion and adoption, the conversation is rightly shifting toward ideas like customer engagement and content optimization – how to make the most of your website and your content to drive home a message, convince and persuade visitors, prompt them to take an action, buy a product, or become more deeply engaged with your brand. That a CMS distributes your content workload and supports a bunch of website widgets is a given.

For CMS buyers with ‘marketing’ in their job description, this evolution is great. For one, you have a better chance to influence vendor selection and demos based on the criteria that really matter to you. Ask to see and hear all the ways a CMS product supports user experience – and how one vendor does it better than the next guy.

As for CMS vendors, there are a lot of lessons here too. Here’s one: if you want to find the fastest way to a buyer’s heart (and wallet), trying asking first about what your customers are concerned about relative to their business and their website – we’d their first questions will be more around their strategic business goals, their marketing imperatives, their need for better visitor engagement and connections. Put away the technical smoke-and-mirrors around the latest point release. Instead, show customers how you’ll make their website a better place to visit and support your customer-facing goals.

Buy the Forrester report here.

About the Author
David Aponovich

A former 'CMS Insider,' David is relentlessly focused on the gap between vendor speak and customer adoption. In addition to keeping a keen eye on industry trends, he works with clients on the cultural and process implications of CMS that are so often overlooked. David wrote for the CMS Myth during his time working at Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design).

More articles from David Aponovich


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  1. As I’ve been saying, it’s not just how you manage content- it’s how you monetize it.…/redefining-the-m-in-cms-and-wcm

    The traditional CMS benefits derived from distributed publishing, workflow, versioning,  etc. are still important but now it’s about how the content helps businesses meet their business goals.  In the new world, analytics and multivariable testing have entered the CMS ecosystem.  Analytics to help clearly identify where the problems exist and multivariable testing to fix them.  Analytics and testing are now CMS problems.

    The definition of content itself has evolved.  It’s not longer just about the management of well defined content types (press releases, news articles, product details page, etc) where the separation of content from presentation was the primary requirement.  Now it’s about empowering the business to rapidly create persuasive content, think landing pages and microsites, without the need for IT.  

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