The role of web content management in an exploding marketing technology landscape

Scott Brinker recently published the third version of his incredibly useful Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic plotting 947 vendors in 43 categories across six classes in a single infographic (pictured below).


Scott, who blogs at, has been an influential thinker (if not the influential thinker) and writer on the rise of technology in marketing.

Beyond what has to be one of the most tedious copy and paste jobs ever completed, Scott has organized an invaluable resource for anyone responsible for making heads or tails of this fast moving space.

While there are many takeaways, I’d like to focus on observations most relevant to the role of web content management.

Web content management as a marketing backbone

It’s easy to get distracted by the gaggle of logos, but in my opinion the structure of the model is the most meaningful part. In Scott’s words, his epiphany on how to organize the vendors is “the reason he came out of retirement” to produce a third version of the graphic.

martec_landscape_sectionsHis six classes (pictured here) provide some much needed clarity to the marketplace noise and serve as guideposts for marketers thinking about organizing their own technology portfolios. This is not a literal systems diagram, but starts to organize the front stage “marketing experience” providers separately from the “marketing middleware” and “marketing backbone platforms” that play a broader role in enabling digital experiences.

Notably, the role of web content management is included as a “marketing backbone platform” which I love as a distinct category. Scott writes that these “[backbone] platforms and marketing middleware make it increasingly manageable to orchestrate diverse marketing software products into a cohesive stack”

This is a fantastic description of the role that web content management is playing today – or should be playing in most organizations. WCM truly serves as a hub of content delivery and digital experiences – often the central player in orchestrating customer-facing technologies.

In serving as this hub, the content management system helps ensure consistent digital experiences across sites, devices and channels and is beginning to stretch into more digital marketing and customer engagement functions.

This is the reason why getting content management right is a prerequisite for sustainable digital success, and also what keeps us up at night thinking and blogging on the CMS Myth.

WCM’s place alongside CRM and eCommerce in the marketing backbone category is appropriate. These are significant platforms and systems of record, and areas we’re seeing deeper integrations with WCM.

While marketing automation is hot and growing rapidly in B2B, it’s still not widely used across all businesses. I personally don’t see it as a backbone platform, but understand the reasoning and can see it growing into that role more consistently.

Delivering digital experience means getting outside of your WCM comfort zone

The downside of publishing a graphic with 900+ logos is that the complexity can scare people from even trying to comprehend. Others will think it encourages chasing shiny objects.

The reality is the categories and capabilities of the vendors on this landscape matter a lot to marketers assembling a competent digital platform. While CMS is important, our perspective at the CMS Myth is organizations usually put a disproportionate focus on CMS selection at the expense of defining an overall strategy supported by a broader technology ecosystem.

WCM providers now make claims in many of these categories (and most don’t even even call themselves WCM vendors anymore). I’m sure their CMO’s are recoiling in horror at the sight of being boxed into the Scott’s cramped WCM rectangle (nobody puts WCM in a corner!).

While many of them can and do cross categories, the onus is on the marketer (and his/her technology peers) to get beyond WCM and understand how these technologies fit together. Making decisions where to invest in best of breed versus integrated offerings is a key part of aligning technology to business and experience goals (a topic Scott also digs into in his defense of point solutions).

All 43 categories on this landscape aren’t relevant for every organization and it’s almost certain your CMS vendor won’t be (or shouldn’t be) providing solutions for all of them. Specifically, e-mail, testing & optimization, video, and web analytics are reliable staples in the “marketing stack” often provided by separate vendors. Tag management, personalization, and content marketing are emerging as three additional must-have solutions for 2014.

While technology shouldn’t be the first consideration in putting together your strategy, understanding how the technology enables customer experiences should significantly inform your plan. Organizations that have a deep and diverse understanding of marketing technology capabilities have a significant competitive advantage over those that don’t.

Experience is the lens through which we (should) view technology

For someone who blogs a lot about technology, Scott has an uncanny ability to see the big picture. I enjoy how he connects his thinking to broader customer experience themes.

In a wonderful follow-up post to releasing the graphic, he explores how strategy, marketing, and technology are intertwined and how “marketing technology is the interface by which marketing sees and touches the digital world.“

Most people agree a strategy is necessary to fully realize the benefits of any technology or process. However, this often results in splintered strategies organized by platform, solution or function (think e-mail strategy, social strategy, SEO strategy, eCommerce strategy).

While each strategy can be valid in its own right, they are by definition silos, and the sum of these plans don’t necessarily lead to a unified, coordinated, and relevant digital experiences (or a scalable technology ecosystem).

Our point of view is that experience is the ring that rules them all. As my colleague Dave Wieneke writes, “the channels need a plan to rationalize and rule them all. The ‘ad hocracy’ of channel focused departments can frustrate customers, sap resources and silo customer relationships and data in ways that hold companies back.”

Putting together a digital experience strategy can align the organization, imagine new experiences and map a plan for what to prioritize and how to execute. It’s something we’ve seen very few organizations define, let alone put in place, and a key focus in our consulting work with clients. We’ll be exploring this topic more this year and sharing some of the frameworks we use in our agency.

A big thank you to Scott Brinker for putting together this landscape as a model for everyone to discuss and learn from. What are your takeaways from his model and the future of web content management, marketing technology, and customer experience?

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


One response… read them below or add one.

  1. Julia says:

    Nice infographic and just tons of information here. I’ll use it as a resource, thanks for all the time put into your posts, Jeff!

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