Before you upgrade your web CMS (or any technology, for that matter) ask yourself: what's my strategy? PHOTO: Ian Muttoo

It’s not surprising when you look at the current landscape of content management systems that many companies are reevaluating their use of web CMS technologies and experience platforms. 

That’s because many of their systems were probably put in place during the last five to seven years when web CMS was just starting to hit maturity and companies were just beginning to focus on the web’s potential as a lead generation engine. 

The Challenge of Meshing Disconnected Technologies

As the introduction of new technologies has enhanced marketing capabilities however, companies still using those legacy CMS systems have adopted newer best-of-breed technologies and incorporated them into their marketing technology stacks. 

But now, as many marketing organizations face increasing pressure to demonstrate value from their marketing efforts, relying on a disconnected ecosystem of technology to prove that value has grown increasingly difficult.

Tech Upgrades Need Digital Strategies 

For example, in my work as a digital strategist, I’ve found that nearly two-thirds of CMS installs are at least one major version behind the current release. Yet simply upgrading a company’s CMS technology without a strategy behind the initiative won’t be enough to compete in today’s digital market. 

Instead, to realize the full value of their investments and enhance their customer experiences, companies must pair their CMS technology upgrades with digital engagement strategies.

Creating a Single View of the Customer 

Today’s advanced customer experience platforms combine web content management, omnichannel digital delivery, customer insights and opportunities for engagement with analytics to create single-platform customer experiences. 

Not only do those platforms give marketers the benefits of managing content in one place, they wrap all the data from testing, personalization and email activities into a single view of customers and prospects that adds tremendous value. 

As an added bonus, upgrading may also provide an opportunity to eliminate redundant marketing technologies and provide a more streamlined approach to developing and deploying digital content and marketing campaigns. 

6 Ways to Align Strategy With Upgrades

But how do you develop a digital engagement strategy that aligns with your customer experience upgrades? Here are six ways to optimize your digital platform to create a true competitive edge:

1. Determine a vision for the future

More than 68 percent of organizations expect marketing to be their primary growth driver by 2020, according to a recent joint study by Deloitte and The CMO Council.

To power and plan for that kind of growth, marketers will increasingly rely on technology. So start by asking what the future will look like for your organization. Assess the current state of your CMS and visualize the ideal configuration to support your people, processes, customers and data. 

Articulate how and why a customer experience platform will create more value for your organization. Ask if you’ll be able to reduce redundancies, save time, remove costs, streamline processes — and improve revenue.

2. Check your personas

Nearly 85 percent of companies use buyer personas incorrectly according to a study by ITSMA, the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (fee charged). Often, it’s because companies don’t put in enough upfront time getting to know what makes their customers tick.

Companies must know not only who their customers are demographically, but what their motivations are, what governs their decision-making about your product or service, and what their information consumption habits look like throughout the buying cycle. 

Generating your own data can be one of the best ways to understand who your customers are, especially since customer surveys are often inexpensive and invaluable tools for getting to the root of customer purchase decisions. 

3. Understand your acquisition model

High performing marketing leaders are 9.7X more likely to actively map customer journeys, according to Salesforce’s 2016 State of Marketing Report. Relevant content can be one of the most effective ways for marketers to gather deeper insight into what channels to leverage to acquire new customers and nurture prospects.

In addition, know where you’re getting data from, how you’re getting it and be clear-eyed about assessing the quality of the data that you currently have. Understand what content is influencing your decision makers so that you can identify relevant personas and produce content that will encourage engagement. Keep in mind that studies show there is a 59 percent increase in engagement when organizations produce relevant content. 

4. Align your marketing stack

According to Walker’s Customers 2020: The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience study, by 2020 the customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. In the last five years, your company may have invested in multiple emerging marketing technologies, but this has likely created an ecosystem of disparate systems, all managing various types of content through separate interfaces. 

It’s possible — even likely — that these multiple systems are expensive, difficult to manage and tough to corral into a cohesive whole for reporting purposes. Incorporating personalization, multivariate testing, email marketing and integrated analytics into a single system could represent a huge cost savings if you can find a way to align your legacy applications by eliminating non-productive elements. 

5. Set goals and measure them

You can have the world’s best processes and systems, but they won’t mean anything unless you can thoughtfully extract data from them to increase revenue-producing engagement with your customers.

Regardless of how you end up measuring your success, make sure everyone from the C-Suite on down is aligned with your project’s objectives. Setting goals around conversion and the appropriate KPIs is a logical place to begin for campaigns, while web analytics can help you determine basic pathing, fall-off points and abandonment rates throughout buying cycles.

6. Personalize your customer experiences

Personalization can show an increase of 10 percent in conversion rates according to BrightTALK’s CMO Priorities and Predictions for 2017 webinar (registration required). There are many levels of personalization, and marketers must prioritize the right personalization strategy based on organizational goals and data.

Personalization may require a hefty investment in either time or money to pull customer data together in a meaningful way. This information will be critical to the success of your personalization strategy, but committing to the resources required often looms as the greatest single roadblock your organization must overcome.

Many organizations don’t know where to start this journey and when that happens, it may be wise to have an impartial third party run a series of workshops across the organization to help define the challenge and facilitate buy-in.