As more and more companies use websites as the key driver for business, marketers are challenged with aligning a system of tools to deliver. Let's take a look at how Best-in-Class companies are doing this.

Corporate websites have come a long way since Global Network Navigator (GNN), the first commercial website, was introduced in 1993. Today, your site is your business, and often the first reference point for buyers seeking information about products and services, and for customers seeking support or exploring new offerings.

Increasingly, companies are relying on web presence as more than a source of information for buyers -- they’re counting on a web experience that actually drives business. In fact, Aberdeen’s Targeting and Personalization Drives the Marketing Executive’s Agenda for 2013 report shows that between organic search/SEO (11%) and direct/referral traffic (14%), the web accounts for an average of 25 percent of all marketing responses.

To make the most of these interactions, Best-in-Class companies approach their web marketing as an integrated system, including strong integration between the web experience, web content and marketing automation. Let’s look at each of these areas.

Web Experience

As the website becomes an extension of the lead management process, it’s critical that Marketing actually gets control of their site. I don’t necessarily mean control from a technical perspective (though that may make sense), but control from an authoring perspective.

Marketing is able to make site content changes without technical support in 67 percent of Best-in-Class companies, compared with 57 percent of Industry Average and 42 percent of Laggards in Aberdeen’s June 2012 Web Experience Management study. Moreover, these companies (the ones in which Marketing is in direct control of content) report an average nine percent improvement (i.e. reduction) in the production cycle of web content versus no improvement for all other companies. Perhaps more to the point, their website conversion rates are 139 percent higher!

Web Content

If the mantra of modern multi-channel, multi-touch marketing is right message/offer, right person, right time, right channel, then the corollary for web experience as a branch of the multi-channel strategy is right content, right person, right time. In many ways, it’s helpful to think of content as the offer itself. Aberdeen’s October 2012 Content Marketing Comes of Age research shows that Best-in-Class companies are 67 percent more likely than all others to define a content marketing map (35% versus 21%). The idea here is to align marketing content, including web content, with buyer persona and buying stage (i.e. researching, considering, evaluating, etc.).

But defining the map and being able to execute it are different propositions. The ultimate goal and logical conclusion is that site personalization, at either a segment or individual level, is needed to close the last mile.

Our research shows that site personalization is a bit like flossing -- everyone knows it’s good for them, but not many companies are doing it effectively (or at all). This is where systems thinking and integration with marketing automation can help (as well as solutions that make integration more straightforward and demystify personalization to the actionable).

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Marketing Automation

While thinking of marketing automation and web content management as a “system” may not yet mirror the technical reality of your implementations, it’s a helpful mental model. Today, the connection between WCM and marketing automation is largely one-directional: site activity, particularly site activity of “known” visitors, is tracked via JavaScript tags for analysis by marketing automation. Perhaps the most powerful use of this is the ability to “score” a lead based on the web activity of your buyers.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Best-in-Class companies in Aberdeen’s Marketing Lead Management study are doing this, compared with 48 percent of all others, a 40 percent delta. But to get the most from your web experience, bi-directional integration really needs to be the next step. Imagine the power of being able to provide a mid-funnel prospect a completely unique site experience, replacing that “101” whitepaper download offer with a “301” ROI assessment calculator. Call it inbound nurturing.

Integration with marketing automation is also a critical component of measuring the effectiveness of content. Understanding the site-level performance of a piece of content will do doubt be helpful and a key first step in understanding the value of content, closed-loop reporting with the marketing automation system can deliver conversion and even revenue data related to that content.

It Takes a System

The system-level thinking that’s required for the implementation of modern marketing is probably most evident in the discussion of web experience management and marketing automation. Together, these (generally) discrete solution sets form the platform for customer and prospect engagement.

Editor's Note: To read more from Trip, why not check out what he has to say in "Is 'Big Data' Marketing's Next Frontier?