Customers are searching for ways to solve their problems and help their own customers in new ways in the digital age. Companies that focus on those customers will be able to create the best Web experiences for them, and marketing automation is a key tool to accomplish this.

CMSWire hosted a recent Google+ Hangout on the intersection of Web experience and marketing automation, and in spite of some debate, the panelists mostly agreed that existing technology is sufficient to build great Web experiences. What it comes down to most often is simply company strategy, so it ends up being less about the technology than it is about how or why it's implemented.

Marketers and WEM Vendors Sharing the Same Space

Clearly, there is a certain amount of overlap in the marketing automation and Web experience management spaces, and our panel of experts discussed this at length. As to how to best integrate them, that can be a bit of a religious debate, Brennan Carlson, vice president of product and strategy at Lyris said in the session:

Companies need to think more about the lifetime of customer interaction rather than optimizing for a single transaction." 

Whether companies are looking for an integrated, all in one system or are more interested in using more agile choices for a particular job, more time needs to be spent figuring out the best practices for that approach.

That's why it's more important to focus on the customer than on channels, Carlson added. Companies often spend too much time trying to decide what mix of technologies to use when they should be worrying more about how best to use them.

Standards Not the Answer

There is an ongoing attempt to try to standardize some of the marketing automation and WEM technology to help with this problem. Perhaps companies would have less trouble choosing a platform if there were more widespread agreement about what those systems do and how they work?

Not so fast, our panel agreed. While standards have indeed helped in the content management space, think CMIS, it likely wouldn't be as helpful in marketing. The Web Experience Management Interoperability standard has been a work in progress for nearly a year now, but our panelists didn't sound too excited about how much it could help vendors or customers.

The standard focuses on the technology, obviously, but for marketing automation systems in particular, they aren't that hard to integrate in the first place, said Tom Wentworth, CMO at Acquia. A standard in that area wouldn't really be that helpful because these are modern systems that live in the cloud, and most are made specifically to be integrated with, he added.

Furthermore, standards don't just get implemented right away, Tom O'Brien, VP of product management at Ektron pointed out. "Technology simply innovates so fast, standards tend to lag behind," he said.

For the most part, vendors need to make allowances for that, and that is why focusing on the customer is more important than focusing on channels. Creating optimized content and delivering unique experiences is the goal, so think about the process, Roland Benedetti, VP of product services at eZ Systems.

Don't be afraid to choose a marketing automation vendor, for example, only to end up changing that system in a year. It might be a good way to iterate those best practices, and the innovation that comes with challenging the original product choice might just be best lesson learned. However, note that switching may not be easy you think once you have processes defined and customer data stored in a particular MAP.

This was our largest and most in depth Google+ Hangout yet, and the hour long session is below for your viewing enjoyment. Tell us in the comments or on our Google Plus or YouTube pages if you have any questions about the session or for one of the panelists individually.