Content Marketing, Lead Nurturing, Customer Experience Management -- there has been no shortage of discussion lately about how “digital content platforms” (e.g. your web environments) can truly be a successful component for marketing success. But what does that mean?

With so many of the larger players such as Oracle, SalesForce.com and Adobe acquiring companies in the content, marketing and customer relationship space – it would seem that it’s these technologies that are a key part.

What defines a “digital content platform” that is built for the purpose of becoming a revenue generating machine. And, what should we expect from the technology platforms that will actually power this machine?

Technology Is Not A Marketing Strategy

One of the myths that we have to dispel right away is that, whether it’s a web content management system (web CMS), a marketing automation system or customer relationship management (CRM) system -- the technology does not make the strategy. Too many times, promises are made that seem to imply that “if we just install XYZ product, then our web content will be optimized and we can start to generate success."

The key here is balance and integration. It’s how these technologies work together in concert with the content creation process that can truly provide a 1+1 = 3 kind of synergy.

What Does Wrong Look Like

It’s still surprising that there are many companies out there still looking at their web content management, their marketing automation platform (MAP) and their CRM system (if they have all three) as separate, siloed systems that have little to do with one another. The following is still the case at many companies:

  1. The website is still operating as a “sales brochure” that is in complete isolation from not only other new content platforms such as social -- but from any other type of communication the business might be having with prospects (e.g., email, phone, physical stores etc.).
  2. The web CMS is still considered really nothing other than a glorified way a marketing person can update static web pages without the assistance of a technical person. What’s sometimes shocking is that the existing CMS in some of these cases is capable of so much more -- but the company just hasn’t implemented the ability to take advantage of these features.
  3. If there is any idea of lead nurturing at all on any of the web content platforms, in many cases it’s still just a simple contact form that emails a contact into an email box that is then manually transferred into a CRM system somewhere.
  4. There are still many companies that are using their CRM system as a slightly easier to use version of Excel. Customer records are just stored statically with no interaction from other systems, save the occasional data export out for an email blast.

In short, these technology systems are working separately from each other, and not only providing little or no value as an integrated solution -- they are actually slowing the organization down. There is a distinct opportunity to change this.

What Does A Revenue Generating Platform Look Like

Let’s look at the opportunities that integrating a good web CMS, a capable MAP and a flexible CRM system can provide.

First let’s look at each one of these separately -- so that even before the team integrates them together, we can see where each provides more value.

1. Your CMS is more than just content updating

Today’s modern web CMS is about much more than just updating content on a set of static pages. Today’s enterprise-class web CMS should have the capability to provide you with useful insight about the various personas that consume your content. It should give you the ability to establish different content across different channels -- depending on the user’s desired experience. It should also give you the ability to create and establish entirely new channels of content (e.g. mobile or social) without the assistance of a technical person.

2. Your marketing automation platform is more than just an email blaster

So many companies still use their marketing tool as just a way to blast out emails to lists that they buy. They can be used for so much more. They can empower the marketer to search, segment and create different types of persona focused campaigns. They can be used to determine which content is most resonant (e.g. converts more) with these different personas. And, in many cases, it can give you the ability to create entire campaign platforms -- like landing pages and microsites -- that can be completely personalized for the different personas that you’re targeting.

3. Your CRM system is more than just a customer database

More than just a simple database, today’s modern CRM system should be providing continual insight to you -- and to your technology platforms as to how to create a deeper relationship with your customer (hence their name). You should know who your most valuable customers are, which campaigns they responded to, what content they prefer and how they like to be communicated with. This is incredibly important information so you can gauge if your expensive marketing is actually creating a less or more valuable customer over time.

Together Is Where The Magic Happens

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Yes, there may be room to improve your singular use of any one of these technologies. But when they are integrated is where the magic happens.

Imagine a world where the following is true:

Your team publishes an article to your website (let’s call it a thought leadership piece). It’s optimized for search engine optimization, and based on other tags you’ve given it – your CMS system presents this article as a “featured” piece on your home page – but reserved for the people that match a certain criteria (e.g., they came from a particular paid campaign, they searched for a matching key phrase or they’re a known frequent visitor).

Then, once the visitor reaches that article -- again because of data known from previous visits -- the visitor has a custom call to action to download a PDF of this article AND simultaneously register for a webinar that will be on the same topic.

The prospect fills out the form, and it simultaneously adds their name to the list of webinar registrants, tags this user as a reader of the article and automatically adds them to the CRM system. An email automatically goes to the appropriate marketer (immediately) with all of this information as well -- indicating that they’ve consumed the content. The system also automatically emails a “thank-you” to the visitor with links for further information. This too is personalized based on the topic of the article they downloaded.

The nurture campaign starts automatically with email drip campaigns. The leadscore is used to personalize the next customer journey the prospects has on any of your web properties. When the prospect (Marketing Qualified lead) is handed over to the CRM (Sales qualified lead) the website can use this information to present a different customer journey (F.E. Show articles which are focused towards closing the deal: how to implement your product, in depth client case study’s).

You get the idea.

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Customer Experience Is A Goal – Not A Solution

In a report called “It’s Time To Redefine Enterprise Software,” Digital Clarity Group analyst Tim Walters says: “the empowerment of consumers by social, mobile and always-on connectivity means that every company is challenged to produce and deliver consistently positive multichannel experiences. Meeting this challenge requires a broad and growing software ecosystem…” He concludes that just because software comes from an “enterprise vendor” doesn’t necessarily mean it works for the enterprise. As he states succinctly: “software becomes enterprise level only when it has been put to work and has successfully supported complex enterprise processes."

Too many times, technology (by itself) is sold by big vendors as a way to create a holistic customer experience. This just isn’t true. Creating compelling, relevant and engaging customer experiences with digital content is more than any one technology. It’s an orchestrated dance that must be integrated in ways that support the complex process that is today’s customer journey. This is what creates a much better chance for us to reach the customer experience goal we have set for ourselves. This is what transforms our web site into a revenue generating machine.

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Title image by Tax Credits (Flickr) via a Creative Commons Attribution License

Editor's Note: Read more from Tjeerd in Ignoring IT May Increase Speed, But Reduces Vision