Marketers, does your CMS fit your needs?

This article has been published on on February 25th, 2013.

A Content Management System (CMS) is a useful tool to manage your website texts and images. This new era of online marketing brings you multichannel campaigning, social content, email marketing and content personalization.

Multiply these by the number of devices like smartphones and tablets and you’ll have quite a challenge on your hands. The CMS as we know it doesn’t cut it anymore. You need a robust e-business platform that facilitates both content and marketing management. Enter CMS 2.0: the Customer Experience Platform (CXP).

Let’s say you are the online marketing manager of a car brand. At a motor show, you have screens set up that show car characteristics including a QR code. Interested visitors could scan the QR code using their phones, which directs them to the car configurator on your website. Your prospect can play around with all kinds of options and features to create the custom and personalized car of his dreams. After he finished configuring the car, the engaged prospect can select a nearby dealership online to book a test drive. The dealership sends your prospect an invitation email, based on the address information in your CRM.

Nurturing with a personal touch

The next time your hot lead visits one of your touch points you can use the preferences from the car configurator and the CRM to show him personalized web content to increase his desire to buy the car. This content can be hero shots of the desired car model on the homepage or interesting cross- and upsells related to the car or residential area of the prospect.

A Customer Experience Platform enables you to do all of the above, whereas a classic CMS would stick only to the copy and assets. A CXP like Sitecore is the nervous system of your online marketing- and content efforts. It can empower your websites, mobile (web)apps, social channels, emails, blogs and campaigns with personalized content. It also makes it possible to harvest user data and share it with your CRM and analytics tools. It can even orchestrate your customer life cycle management. A very powerful concept.

Every oak starts as an acorn

As intoxicating as this concept may feel, it also imposes some serious challenges on you and your marketing department.

It implies that you comprehend your user groups and their customer journeys. That you create customized content for different channels for all of the steps in the customer journeys. And that you know what content you serve to what user at what exact time. This calls for a serious investment in time and budget.

This, off course, will not happen overnight. Nor should it. Implementing and maintaining a CXP is a process where you take small steps while keeping the big picture in mind. You cannot go the whole nine yards from the start.

Understanding customer journeys

You need to understand your audiences’ interests in the different stages of their decision making process. What information do they expect in their orientation, validation, buying and after sales phases? To create rich and personalized content you need to dive even deeper into your customers’ heads. What do they do within the phases of their customer journey? What do they need and feel when they make a test drive appointment or use a car configurator? And what added value can you give them to improve their experience?

These little stories about your visitors are called user scenarios and give you great insights for creating compelling personalized content. The more personal you get the better and more relevant the content will be that you can provide them. At Redhotminute, this is the domain of our User Experience designers. They help our clients to get personal with their prospects and clients.

Mapping touch points to customer journeys

After you discovered the customer journeys and user scenarios you can start connecting all of your touch points to the customer journeys and the user scenarios within. What device or channel helps best in the different phases of the customer journeys?

Most likely, searching functionality will be important in the orientation phase, as will campaigning be. The personal account environment of your website will certainly be important in the after sales phase.

By mapping all of the present and future touch points to your customer journeys you’ll get a very detailed overview of the framework that you need to build to orchestrate all of your content and marketing activities. It’s based on your customers’ needs and not on technical considerations though. This is what is called user centered design. And it is the future of the web.

Designing the framework

Having this holistic concept makes you ready to start thinking about the CXP itself. The work that you have done will be the guiding light while talking to management, stakeholders, team members, technologists and creatives. They can all relate to your customers’ needs. And by visualizing the customer journeys they become great starting points for high level decision making on planning, technology, staffing and roadmapping.

What content goes where?

One very fundamental choice you will have to make is in what part of the platform you store your content.

Do you store your product data in the CMS or in a separate product database? In the case of our client Kia Motors Europe, all the hard data is stored in a master product database. This involves for instance product codes, engine types, specs, color variations and product images. “Soft” marketing data like video’s, campaigns, promotional photography and web copy is stored in the Sitecore CXP.

By using a simple selection of a model in Sitecore, a connection is established between the web CXP and the master data. This gives editors and marketers the focus on their marketing activities, while product managers can be very keen on the product information.

Can your content evolve?

Times have changed. The majority of your users have a (smart)phone. Use social media to get to know your brand. No longer could you concentrate solely on your desktop website: your content needs to be flexible. Optimized for a responsive or native mobile design. Capable of displaying page copy properly on Facebook through Social Graph. From there it keeps evolving: it might be used in campaigns, apps or reused by blogs through RSS feeds.

What if you are organizing a music festival and you’d like to create a Spotify app for brand exposure. As you have a corporate website, it seems only logical to combine that content with the content of Spotify. Would your content be ready for that transition? Would your CMS allow a different app to easily retrieve that content and reuse it?

Should you start tailoring or buy a best of breed solution?

Representing a brand, you need to be unique and provide your customers added value that cannot be found anywhere else. There is where your focus should be. That is what your core business is.

It is a misconception that doing things different would always require tailor made software development. When you build a new platform fully from scratch, you’ll need to build much basic, but very important functionality. Scalability through multiple websites and languages, user management and security to name a few.

There are best of breed systems out there that do that for you. The time you will spend on product- and software development is otherwise going to be substantial. And an online marketing specialist has better things to do.

In my opinion you should collaborate closely with your online agency. Let them inform you on possible products and choose a CXP that covers your needs, based on the requirements mentioned earlier.  This will give you a good foundation for practicing your online activities.

To create your added value – to do things differently – thát would require something custom made. Have a CXP that can deliver content to multiple channels, add the Spotify API to the mix and let your agency create the magic that ties them together.

Flexibility is key in a CXP

A CXP like Sitecore offers out of the box software packages that give you the content and marketing tools mentioned in this post. Most importantly, it has an open technical architecture so that you can create unique features right on top of all the standard features that this CXP has to offer.

The open architecture allows us to use that native functionality and combine that with for instance e-mail marketing software. As the CXP keeps track of user click path on the website itself, it can send a person’s interests to the e-mail marketing software. This will allow it – possibly combined with other personalization factors – to send e-mails with subjects that are fully based on that person’s interests.

So does it?

How does your current platform fit for you? Is it facilitating your ideas or is merely a subject for your coworkers to complain about at the coffee corner?

Because there is not a software platform out there that you will install and will instantly do wonders for you, you need to really consider it all.  Using this post could help you map your requirements and be more prepared at the start of creating a website or even a web platform.