I recently read a great article from CMS Wire with the author's reflections about the past two decades of web content and experience management: A Trip Down WCM Memory Lane by Tony Byrne reflects on the players - large and small - who defined the early WCM technology years.
For marketing professionals who weren't around during those early years, some web CMS names have been consigned to the archives - like eGrail, Merant, HotBanana and Marquis. Others - like WordPress, Drupal, Adobe, Sitecore, SDL Web and Joomla! - are today's platforms which we work in daily. As an ECM professional during those years, I tracked Microsoft and Documentum/EMC's activity in the CMS/Web Content Management (WCM) space - and it was almost equally predictable to see them fail due to lack of commitment.
In reminiscing with colleagues about our experiences during this time, we took a step back and instead of reflecting about the WCM platforms, we recalled what it was like from a field marketing and demand generation perspective. Here are our reflections on the most common CMS challenges during the early days (and some of which still remain challenges!):#1: A Fight for Web Real Estate
The content publisher of the corporate web platform was king. In the age before social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. your website was your face to the online world - your digital channel for product visibility, recruiting, corporate identity. For line of business managers - marketing, HR, product management, finance, PR & Comms - there was (and sometimes still is) a land grab for web presence and visibility. Depending upon the approval process, the battle to get as much information as possible on your corporate website often led to confusing and sometimes conflicting information. Rights-based web permissions, landing pages and microsites have been a godsend to those who remember the "content land and grab" days.
#2: Web Developers Held the Keys to the Treasury
If the content publisher was king, the web developer was the gatekeeper. Once your content was approved to be on the website, you needed to interact with the web developer to create pages, format content and upload assets like a video, product demo or pricing calculator. Add even more complexity when linking to a web shop. The web developer held the key to creating your content treasure chest - it could be big and hold many drawers for a king's ransom in jewels. Or it could be the size of a ring box. Cupcakes were often welcome (or Dominos delivery for remote developers) and could make the difference between your content being lost on a third tier webpage or having your own microsite (or appearing on the main menu bar). Today dynamic, flexible web pages enable non-technical content owners to upload web content without the assistance of developers or designers.
#3: Locked Down Like Summer Camp PM Curfew
From a field marketing perspective, websites were anything but dynamic - new or updated content was often added days or weeks too late because the process to change ANYTHING on the website was locked down more securely than a summer camp dorm after curfew. Promotions, campaigns and product launches needed to be planned weeks ahead of time and sometimes down to the day: if dates slipped and you hit a planned web platform update or scheduled maintenance, you were stuck in the marketing mud. This made it extremely hard for marketers to react to dynamic market forces - competition, industry event or consumer trend. Rights-based permissions and automated web content approval workflows have overcome this issue.
#4: DOB, Social Security Number, First Born Child...What Are You Asking Me For?
Pity the marketer who thought it was a good idea to ask for everything plus the kitchen sink on the "contact us" form. I have been there - a company executive REALLY felt our information was valuable and wanted to capture everything there was to know about the web visitor. Cue the 10-field form. With marketing thought leadership now firmly in the camp of lead nurturing and consumer-driven content, web analytics, contact profiling and smart forms make it easier to reach the right people with information they are searching for - and for which they will actually leave their contact details.
#5: Corporate Mergers, Rebranding, Platform Migrations and Other Marketing Apocalypse Moments
Having gone through twelve corporate "events" - plus several web migrations - in the past 15 years, our team was "all hands on deck" to update content, change logos, translate pages and migrate systems. All other marketing activities usually screeched to a halt during these periods. When done properly with flexible, user friendly CMS platforms, we popped open champagne to celebrate a timely website launch. When not, we were reformatting, fixing and editing content all night - for weeks straight.
#6: Disconnected Marketing Channels
Using different and disconnected solutions over the buyer journey - such as separate CMS, email marketing and social media publishing platforms- made it almost impossible to effectively automate and manage the customer journey. People came to your website and left, and they had to be really motivated to leave their contact details. You then started emailing them, and email tracking was the only way to know if they returned to your website. New marketing automation platforms like HubSpot changes all this. You can then manage the customer journey across the different marketing channels and nurturing assets.
#7: Drowning in Data from Analytics, but Thirsting for Knowledge
Disconnected marketing channels also made it difficult to understand the effectiveness of your website. Your analytics software told you the time spent on your website, number of returning visitors, etc, but NOT what marketing activities generated the most traffic and the best conversion.
#8: Everything Takes Forever and Costs a Lot of Money
A custom on-premise website managed by IT took time to build and support. If you wanted changes made after the website was live, you had to plan them well in advance, and IT expertise was still required to plan and implement the changes or improvements. New CMS solutions like HubSpot enable a "self-service" environment, empowering the business to work dynamically in the website without the involvement of IT or contractors when changes are required. Today it is easy to change to edit or deploy new pages with a consistent design or to add new functionality (ie. pop-up messages or windows) to your site. And your web tools can guide you how to improve SEO and mobile responsiveness without the need for CMS or IT experience or knowledge.
Do you have war stories to share from the early CMS days? And what remain your most common CMS challenges today? We would love to hear your stories.