Content Marketing used to be a buzzword for a few evangelists. Today, it’s going mainstream faster than Twitter.

Today, most marketers have already experimented with their first few content marketing pieces and campaigns. This year and next, they’ll be ramping up their content machines and re-engineering their marketing departments to support the continuous generation of the kind of content that buyers care about.

They’ll be cranking out e-Books and videos and infographics. They’ll be producing webinars, surveys, white papers and Slideshares. And at the center of it all, they’ll be blogging. And tweeting. And sharing.

If you’re involved with Web Content Management Systems, this is going to change your world -- in a big way.

First a Definition

Here’s a definition of content marketing to begin with:

Content Marketing is capturing your company’s expertise and packaging it up to help your prospects do their jobs, so that you earn people’s attention instead of simply assuming you’ll get it.“

This simple approach turns old-school, ‘me-me-me’ marketing on its head and starts with your prospects and what they care about.

It’s becoming critical to all marketing because it powers the three main weapons in the marketing arsenal:

  • Content powers search -- relevant content is what Google loves; it’s what makes you climb up the rankings on your most important key phrases.
  • Content fuels social media -- it gives you something of value to bring to the conversations you need to be a part of.
  • Content drives outbound marketing -- whether you’re using email campaigns, web banners or pay-per-click ads, content offers out-perform product offers.

So that’s why content marketing is so hot -- and why it will stay hot for the foreseeable future. But what does this have to do with the role of the CMS?

Clash of the Marketing Platforms

As content marketing, search, social and outbound all zoom up the marketing agenda, marketers are choosing the technologies that will help them rise to these new challenges.

As you’re reading this, three major platforms are competing for the central, controlling role for tomorrow’s content marketers. And all three have a valid claim to be the likely winner:

Customer Relationship Management

It makes sense to run all campaigns around the central customer database. So far, CRM systems have addressed the marketing function mainly through partnerships. But that won’t last for too much longer. Expect the big Web CMS players to start buying up their chosen marketing app partners and delivering the whole enchilada.

Marketing Automation

The demand generation, ‘revenue performance management’ and lead nurturing players (like Marketo and Eloqua) have made a bold move to seize the heart of the marketing department -- at least in B2B companies. Again, it makes sense that these tools will grow to manage more and more of the content marketing process.

Web Content Management Systems

Web CMS is great at content, so it ought to be great at content marketing. And you can really see how a powerful CMS could be the heart of the new marketing department. But any Web CMS that wants to win here has to grow up. Fast.

Who will win the battle? I imagine there will be a winner or two from each category before the lines start to blur and consolidation sets in. Ultimately, marketers want a single platform to do everything. And customers tend to get what they want.

Time for Web CMS to Emerge

So what does any Web CMS have to do to rise to the challenges of the new marketing?
It has to support these important things:

Rich, integrated blogging -- a no-brainer but the new blogs have to be better integrated with the rest of the content a marketer produces, so each can promote the other. Today’s Web CMSs still create content silos and the blog is an island.

Content syndication -- so marketers can publish once into many channels, re-purposing for each.

Social publishing -- pushing the right content in the right formats into the brand’s own social pages and feeds, then tracking the impact.

Content sharing -- not just enabling social shares but actively promoting and rewarding it for every piece of content. Built-in gamification?

Content creation -- Web CMS is great for web pages and posts; it needs to support the creation and editing of more kinds of publishing media -- slide decks, audio, video, webinars, pdf and e-reader e-books … Supporting it all, there needs to be more agile asset management.

Content processes -- Web CMS platforms are pretty good at workflow around web editing; the same skills need to be applied to content creation processes, from creation to editing, approvals, versions and re-purposing. Maybe even editorial calendars, time and budget tracking for the content team.

Content analytics – analytics has always been important to a Web CMS, but content analytics is a bit more specific; marketers need to track the impact of every piece of content including source traffic, engagement metrics and social shares.

Content promotion – the Web CMS has to help marketers promote content through social, email, PPC, banner ads, online PR and influencer relations. Then track these promotions.

Lead nurturing – the marketing automation vendors are getting better at content creation (landing pages and forms are a staple); so Web CMSs need to get good at nurturing leads until they’re sales-ready, then handing them over to sales and, ultimately, tracking the revenue.

Tracking customer engagements – any Web CMS worth its place at the top table needs to be able to associate web visits to prospects and customers, then integrate this data with all other customer engagements.

The Fork in the Road is Here

Some of the things on this list are already handled well by a lot of the more advanced Web CMSs. Others could be achieved with a bit of effort. And some are a real stretch. But every single one of them will be a part of the new, unified content marketing platform.

The only question is whether today’s Web CMS players will seize the opportunity or get pushed to the periphery and demoted to the role of a digital printing press.

Editor's Note: To read more from our Content Marketing focus this month:

-- The Customer Journey: Content Marketing for B2B Software Buyers