Thom Robbins, Chief Evangelist for Kentico, a mid market customer experience management provider, dishes on marketing automation and the struggle for customer experience management.

Kentico's Approach to Marketing Automation

Version 7 of Kentico released in September 2012. Prior to this version, Kentico did have digital marketing capabilities, but version 7 introduced marketing automation capabilities directly into the platform. Robbins told me that Kentico found that its customers wanted to do two things: do more with less (shrinking budgets) and they wanted to nurture leads, supporting sales at the right time and also providing self-service capabilities to users.

With several customers using it, version 7 now, it is also seeing interest around personalization, not just on the website itself but also through the automation process, providing the "right content for the right people."

Why did Kentico build the functionality in-house? Robbins said that it has a very heavy tech partner program and while it did look around at what was available on the market, it was decided it made more sense to build it then partner, choosing to rely on partners to fill in the gaps.

Kentico Marketing Capabilities

The platform offers email marketing, on-line forms, web analytics, newsletters and lead scoring. With Kentico's marketing automation component you get drag & drop web automation, with a set of decision matrices you drop on a grid. While Kentico covered what it believes are the most important elements, it has a full API for partners to extend as necessary.

Kentico's Marketing Automation capabilities

With over 1200 partners worldwide, Kentico tends to drive functionality through partner feedback and it has repeatedly heard that marketing automation is required for larger projects, especially with to help manage processes.

Defining the Customer Experience Isn't Easy

In the future, Robbins says they are seeing a move towards mobile. Version 7 provides additional mobile features with a hook into marketing automation -- as an example, responsive design emails.

Personalization in another thing many of Kentico's partners are getting into, as well as A/B Testing. It isn't seeing as much demand for multivariate testing, except where organizations are looking at "the big data person". This is a new marketing persona that is interested in the multvariate testing approach and building the data warehouse. Kentico does have data stored in SQL, and although it doesn't offer a data warehouse at this time, it does have clients building big data content repositories.

Personalization is the component that customers are asking for now. Marketing automation is another one, but it's for simple things like email and not so much complex lead management processes.

Robbins believes organizations are struggling. They are seeing boilerplate RFPs which look for a checklist of functionality. But when Kentico talks to customers, things are broken down into phases with later phases far out. Mobile has shifted to a phase one priority, marketing automation has moved from a phase three to a phase two requirement.

The reality is that organizations are still trying to figure out their customer experience strategies and get a handle on the analytics that go with that strategy. The good news is that there is more discussion between the CMO and Sales. They are more collaborative and working to define personas that support both lead scoring and nurturing.

Who's leading the CXM charge? Some are led by IT, some by the CMO. Time to market is a critical element as is moving to the cloud. But some CIOs still tend to approach it in the waterfall model where things happen in a step by step sequential manner. However, with a collaborative discussion between the CIO and CMO, it becomes more about the customer and their needs, which takes them down different paths (think customer journeys).

Successful organizations have created a holistic relationship with the client. It's a life time satisfaction index which makes an organization consider what additional things can they do to bring the customer back again. This is a much different approach than we saw ten years ago where things were thrown over the fence between departments (marketing, sales and customer service) -- Robbins says the success stories focus on working together in a collaborative environment.


Three years ago, Robbins would have said it's about managing pages, but that's a core commodity today. Now it must include customer experience management components as a core requirement. He sees marketing automation as an add-on right now, but could see it being a core component in another three years.

To support customers, Kentico has two different SKUs: one focused on web experience specifically -- page management, micro-sites, etc; the other focused on customer experience management with additional marketing capabilities, analytics, testing, marketing automation. As new functionality is developed Kentico decides where it best fits.

Is it hard to keep up? It can be, but being partner driven is a great asset for Kentico, because it means it is always bringing forth the functionality that customers are looking for. Version 8 of Kentico is due out next year and we should expect to see significant changes with a continued focus on CXM.

Robbins believes that WEM has now been replaced by CXM. Web content management (which is the core element of WEM) is fairly mainstream and relatively easy to do. Most of the conversations Kentico is having today focus on CXM, but it's a phased approach.

It probably doesn't really matter what you decide to call it, the key idea is that you are focused on the customer and their needs. It does seem like Kentico is working hard to meet these needs head on. Where will it be in three years? Let's focus on version 8 right now, no need to get to far ahead.