An effective digital marketing strategy is one that is always relevant, up-to-date, and ready to evolve with the pace of industry change. Your website (and its CMS) is no different. A Content Management System, or CMS, is a software-based platform that enables you to create and manage your website’s design, content, code and so on. But like the content on your site, which requires regular updates to stay fresh, it’s important you keep your CMS up-to-date as part of routine website maintenance.
In this episode of The Marketing Remix, Ron Hadler, Sr. Director of Marketing Technology, and Candice Wyatt, Director of Project Management, discuss the role of the CMS, the benefits of updates (as well as upgrades) and more.
What is a Content Management System (CMS)?
Ron: Sure, sure. So content management system, as it indicates by the name, is a platform to manage your content, and in this sense really about managing the content on your website. So there are lots and lots of flavors of content management systems out there, Drupal, Wordpress, Kentico, Sitecore, just to name a few. Why it's important is that back in the early days of the web, when somebody wanted to update their website, they had to update single pages of content and code. Content management system allows content editors to update the website and updating that code and without IT involvement, hopefully.
Reid: Yeah, and I think that to a lot of marketer's ears is probably a little refreshing to kind of keep IT out of it, though I think where marketers heads are at now is recognizing how critical a partner IT really is at this point because marketing is buying so much technology at this point. So I think that's the big part of being a modern marketer at this point is truly embracing technology, and CMS is such a big part of it.
Ron: Oh, absolutely agree. And then as far as selecting a CMS, making sure the CMS is up and running effectively. And what I was mentioning is that the idea of publishing content without IT involvement is really the difference there.
Reid: Yeah, they have other things to do I think at this point.
Ron: Frictionless publishing.
Candice: Yeah, and speed to market, making sure that your website isn't a hindrance for you being able to evolve at the speed of technology and evolve with your customers and what their expectations are when using your website.
Reid: Yeah. Well, so with that then is keeping things up to date, what are the benefits of keeping not just... In this case we're talking about keeping the content up to date, but what are the benefits of keeping the CMS up to date?
What are the benefits of keeping your CMS up-to-date? What are the risks if you don’t?
Candice: Yeah, and so me and Ron, we may have a little bit different perspectives there. He's probably going to talk a little bit about security. From the standpoint of features and functionalities, when you are utilizing an enterprise content management system, for example, that platform is constantly evolving. They're releasing features and functionalities and those features are nine times out of 10 solving some problem. Either their customers are requesting it, users of websites, they're seeing behaviors evolve. So staying up-to-date, being involved in the conversation of what features and functionalities is really important. So I always recommend if you are a user of a particular platform, be signed up for their email updates, know what's on that platform's roadmap so that you can adopt those features and functionalities when they're available.
Reid: And you brought up the clarification of enterprise CMS. Obviously, those that are not enterprise, it's kind of like a WordPress or something like that. And I think there are bigger companies in cases do use something like that. But in the case of enterprise, that's where you get more and more features and functionalities and stuff, that effectively, while are things that make it better and allow you to do more stuff, it also can create risks because there's more stuff you can do. What are some of the risks with some of the modern content management systems if we don't keep it updated?
Ron: Absolutely. And as Candice mentioned, really the security is really what that main point is. You've got several content management systems were built on kind of a plugin architecture. So what that means is that instead of coding all the features or the content management system at baseline or out-of-the-box coming with all these features of functionalities, you actually have to add plugins in order to get that functionality. So to name a few, Wordpress and Drupal are both very plugin architecture heavy. So the risk associated with that is the plugins are developed by third parties. Now, that means that they may not be a company that is three or four people, or it maybe somebody alone in their bedroom in Bangkok. It's just one of those things. So you are starting relationships with that person in Bangkok and they may not have things like bug releases or anything like that, and all they're doing is fielding an email address to understand if something's going wrong. And so you don't necessarily know that all of a sudden their life changes and they stop actually supporting that plugin. So, not keeping up to date on those is an issue. Plugin architecture in my opinion is a security risk as it is, just because you're not just committing a relationship with a single vendor such as a Kentico, but with a Drupal you're commuting a relationship with probably on the average 40 different companies.
Reid: Yeah. So you brought up Drupal and WordPress. What are some of the other more popular content management platforms, kind of thinking from if you're listening, you're like, "Okay, well, do I have one or what are some ones I should be considering, particularly as it relates to the enterprise?"
What are some popular content management platforms? How are they different from each other?
Ron: Sitefinity, Sitecore, Kentico, Drupal WordPress are really kind of the big ones and there's...
Candice: Shopify if you're e-commerce.
Ron: Oh, yeah. Could definitely be a content management system. Demandware also. You can manage content.
Reid: Yeah. And they all come from different perspectives, some probably from a publishing standpoint, some come from a retail standpoint, some come from in that case commerce standpoint. So what are some of the key features that distinguish certain CMS from others, you feel like?
Ron: So let's just talk about maybe enterprise versus non-enterprise. I mean, something like a WordPress, it grew up as a blog. So the blog is a single content type. So I've got a header, I've got the body of my blog, and then maybe the ability to add images. So they've grown on top of that and they call themselves a content management system, but it's very, very difficult. Content management systems allows you to manage all different types of content, not just a single form factor. So whether that's news articles, products, services, blogs, news releases, all those things can be done very, very tightly so that when you go to update it, it could be done by an intern. So the ability to manage that content specifically, enterprise kind of separates itself. Now, that's just basic. Now, on top of that, the ability to have campaigns or landing pages, integration, have marketing automation in there, even AI and personalization are some of the things that your more enterprise content management systems will bring to the table.
Candice: And the other thing too with enterprise is how they handle cross-channel requirements, too. I think when you get into enterprise, you tend to have a company really focused on backing, constantly evolving that platform, whereas some of the open source ones really rely, as you said, on that plugin architecture for their features and functionality. So with some of the enterprise content management systems, we're seeing that they are addressing things like the SEO needs, building in features and functionalities that really support that, and I think that's what distinguishes the open source from a lot of the proprietary CMSs.
Reid: And that what you're talking about related to cross-channel. So you have SEO, you've got paid media, you talk about features such as personalization, which... That goes into CRO, so conversion rate optimization, are you optimizing conversion via the different audiences, segue to email, CRM, a lot of different dimensions there, and you're saying basically, enterprise, that's the level at which you start to have features that support that effort.
Ron: Sure. So your content management system really is your digital marketing hub. And there's a couple of ways to go about that: Get one platform that handles all that. Kentico does a lot of all those things we just talked about. So it comes with all those features and functionalities with their EMS version. Or you kind of do best of breed, so you bring in a Marketo or HubSpot for your marketing automation, you have an external Exact Target or something for your email service. So you can do both of those ways at an enterprise manner. It's probably cheaper to do it all in one and then just maybe fill in a hole that something's not a strength.
Reid: Yeah. And I think one of the things that stands out for me typically when we talk about it too is you kind of have some of the ones that are sort of that "everything you need nothing you don't" sort of. You got most of what you need out of it, then you've got some that like if you're super big in a particular tactic or something, maybe you do look at something that's deeper, stronger in a particular area, for example account-based marketing. There are probably some CMSs and platforms that are stronger than others in that area. It is that kind of what you're saying?
Ron: Yeah, and absolutely, some will have those strengths, and you can absolutely use them for that, and then they'll have other weak spots where you might want to bring in a third party platform to take over.
Reid: Yeah, that makes sense. And I think that as it relates to then the upgrade roadmap, so I think some of the buzz words that probably people need to start listening to as it relates to then thinking about the content management system as the hub and where they want to go, personalization comes up obviously quite a lot. Another one like serverless and some of those. What are some of the other things that people need to start thinking about when we're saying... At what point is there the tipping point to say, "I really need to make that change?" What are the buzzwords and trends and things that people need to really keep their eye on that's going to say, "That's the point I need to prepare myself for."
How do you know when it's time to upgrade your CMS?
Ron: So a couple things. You mentioned serverless and I'd really switch that out with headless CMS. So headless CMS means that the CMS is not attached to a front end. It's just really about the content. And that's getting a lot of popularity because you need a place just to manage our content, a pure content management system, and really kind of what's evolved today is it's gotten away from that. You've got all these features and functionalities coming on, and that may constrict the front end or anything like that. But when you have a pure content management system, that's all it does. It's just there for entering content.
Ron: It also helps you separate that front-end display from what is the content. Because that's what happens so often in a content management system is that content is entered because they're worried about how it looks on the front end, how it's ordered on the content. And that really doesn't matter when you're talking about content if you do have something separated in content like a headless content management system. I push content out to the web, I push content out to voice, I push content out to my glasses, to my watch, etcetera, right? You can take your content and mold it to whatever the need is. Do I need to put it as a feed because another machine or robot is consuming that? Personalization, AI, etcetera. So really, serverless... I mean, a headless content management system is really where things are going as far as future. So if you're feeling that your content is stuck in your content management system and that all you can do is publish to the web, that's a good sign that maybe you should be looking at a headless content management system.
Reid: So when you say, "All you can do is publish to the web," as the point at which someone feels stuck, you talked about these opportunities, right? So voice is a major opportunity now. You talked about watch and serving at this point the right content for the right situation, so the right situation being there's something very different that you're going to want on a watch than something the way you're going to want to engage with a can in your kitchen called the Echo, Alexa, or something like that. And that's where people I think forgot about that as it relates to the content management system is that piece, it's content, and the fact that it's managed. Despite that being the name of it, I think people saw it as a piece of software and it handles a lot of what it looks like and things like that. So what are some of the other things that people need to be considering? You talked about the devices, you've talked about now some of the trends. Anything else people need to be thinking about in terms of the impetus for making this change, making this upgrade?
Ron: So really, personalization is the next big thing. And so personalization and being able to have that content whether using third party or within that is really where you want to... Here again, if your content management system is very integrated with the way it look or there's a layout or styles intermixed with content, then being able to personalize that content doesn't really come in well. It's really kind of... Being able to separate content from the way it's laid out is very, very important. Personalization comes into factor there because then you understand what content needs to be replaced very easily. It's just an image or a paragraph that relates to that person's persona or click behavior that you are personalized the content for.
Candice: And I would say if getting content on to your website, making updates to your website as Ron mentioned earlier, if you have to go through your IT team, that's a pretty good indication that you're not really set up to move at the speed of the space that we're in and meet the needs of your website visitors and users. And that's probably a good indication that it's time to do an upgrade in your CMS, to redesign it, whatever it may be. But that's one thing I would say.
Ron: I'll swing once more back to security and upgrades and things like that. The ability to make sure that you have a cadence for upgrading, and if you don't have that cadence or your content management system doesn't provide a release schedule for new versions and bug fixes, that's a really good indicator that you're probably in the wrong thing to take you and itself into the future.
Reid: Yeah, and I would imagine that's what... I don't think always people are planning ahead in that way. You talk about the cadence. From a financial standpoint, people know you have your quarters, you have your month close, you have all that stuff, but now, if we talk about the speed of business and how technology is so interwoven into that, if you don't have that plan, don't have, one, the roadmap from a partner who's doing this for you, but then the roadmap on your side to make sure you're upgrading and staying on par with all of that, you're not operating at that point, as you mentioned earlier, at the speed of business. And that's when you have IT's involvement and you've got these multiple layers going through. You're definitely slowed down at that point and not operating the way maybe a competitor is operating or something like that. So definitely at a disadvantage at that point. So one of the other things to talk about, when you talk about security and some of this stuff, there's also the compliance part of this stuff, and obviously we've had episodes now about WCAG, about some of the security and privacy stuff, things like that. That's probably also a component of all of this stuff. It's not just security in that, it's actual compliance at this point with the law, right?
Ron: Absolutely. And for those not aware, the California Consumer Protection law, CCPA, is coming in January, and that's going to be a requirement that folks in California are going to have to comply with. And it has to do around the users who are coming to your website, the privacy of their data. So those things need to be met, and that's a big compliance thing. We meet with lots and lots of brands that are coming to us saying, "I received a letter from my lawyer," and...
Reid: No one likes that.
Ron: And that's a problem because they're not meeting these requirements, and WCAG being a big part of that. And so of course, folks who are operating international also have to follow the ones from Europe.
Reid: Yeah, so if you're there still kind of operating in what feels like a static kind of world, which... Because even then I see that was, some content management systems, if you haven't really updated in a while, even if it's an enterprise one but it's not been updated, people are treating it as it's fairly static, right? It's difficult to upgrade, things like that... Or update, I should say, content because they're just behind. It's not even the software's fault at that point, it's just if you haven't upgraded in a while. It's like driving an old car or something like that.
Candice: Yeah, three years ago, the last time they did that update, it was meeting standards and expectations. But you have to stay up to date on it for sure.
Ron: What's that saying? Ignorance doesn't mean you're innocent?
Reid: Yeah, that's fair. So from a marketing standpoint, we talked a little bit about futurism, we've got our personalization, you got privacy, you've got all these things, the different devices. But one of the things I think is such a significant takeaway is personalization as it relates to what devices are people using, what kind of content that's relevant to the device. Also then on the inside is when people are updating content and trying to put the right stuff out, in a large enough organization, they need to tell the right story at the right time with the compliance part of it. Because there's different parties in all of this too that really care about what's being said. The lawyers care about what's being said, the product manager of a particular product cares about it, the CEO, the CFO, that kind of stuff. Maybe kind of wrap this up a little bit about that side is the governance part of this. What are some things that you're missing out on if you're not upgrading from a governance standpoint? Because otherwise it's just saying, "Is this is content good? Thumbs up, thumbs down," but I think there's a process for a lot of bigger companies.
Ron: Absolutely. And the bigger platforms will have that sort of compliance baked in. Generally, the key words you should look out for when you're examining content management systems is workflow. So workflow and roles in security allow for you to say that a Candice can edit the blog but a Reid can't, or...
Reid: That's probably appropriate. They won't let me update much anyway. [chuckle]
Ron: Or Candice can update the Reid's Corner blog, but Reid has to approve it before she can publish it. All of those things, and there are split decisions, and there's all types of integrations that can happen with workflow, but workflow and then security roles allow you to do governance of content. You can segment which users have access to which types of content. And then when content is either edited, added or published, there's a workflow to how it actually gets to production, who needs to check mark it off. All of that can be logged for security purposes and then auditing.
Reid: Yeah. And that's a big part of it is to make sure after the fact you can look back and see what happened and that you're compliant as best the workflow allowed you to because you have to plan that ahead, too.
Ron: Digital world leaves fingerprints.
Candice: So we talked a lot about workflow, personalization, a lot of these other things that are really prompting us to upgrade our CMS, but I want to call out that there's a really important next step after you've made the decision to upgrade, and that's planning for your website upgrade. Because at the end of the day, if you make the decision, move forward without the proper planning, you're going to end up in a very similar place you were that really led you to the decision to upgrade it in the first place.
Ron: I would even say that... I could sneak in there and say there's one step, and that is if you made the decision to upgrade, maybe you need to do a platform evaluation and do go through multiple of those. And there's a process of how you can evaluate that and arrive at the right place and right platform to go with.
Candice: Totally agree.
Reid: Yeah, and as part of that too, that's where you go through what devices and what content needs to go to what devices, and the compliance stuff that we talked about, and who needs to approve what. That's the major shift that people have to start thinking through, and that then evolves into what cadence do you need to take in terms of re-evaluating this stuff on an ongoing basis because this is perpetually changing even more now than ever before.
Ron: Absolutely. Requirements is... The first thing you do is gather all those requirements.
Candice: And that's going to be the distinction between whether you have to upgrade again in two years or if that website takes you five, six, seven years into the future.
Reid: Right. And that's a major value. People forget about that part of value, is if they feel like, "Oh my God, my website is so out of date and it's only been a few years," it means you just haven't been keeping it up as you go because there are sites at this point and we work on that go for many, many years. It was expensive on the front end of it for sure, but as you amortize that over how long you've had it, if you've got a strong gate upgrade and update plan, and you've kind of worked within the guidelines of the CMS as it is, because I know sometimes people try to do workarounds and that starts to really screw some things up, but then you have something that lasts a really long time and be valuable.
Ron: Completely agree.
Reid: Yeah. Well, guys, really appreciate it. Hopefully, with our listeners, you got a few good buzz words and such to see as triggers to go back and talk to folks about whether or not you need to upgrade your CMS. Ron, Candice, thanks for joining us today guys, and we'll see you next time.
Ron: Thank you.
Candice: Thank you.
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