As B2B web marketing comes of age, a battle is brewing between some pretty big players (and a few upstarts) over who will become the primary dashboard for marketers. The three combatants:
CRM – the first app to automate some of what marketers do (and a lot more of what salespeople do).
Content Management Systems – the coal face of web marketing and, increasingly, the platform for all kinds of digital campaigns.
Marketing Automation tools – email, lead nurturing, analytics, campaign management, digital asset management… each with its own dashboard and workflow.
As B2B marketers get more sophisticated, the tools they use are starting to merge. CRM is adding rudimentary marketing automation. CMSs are adding campaign and automation. And the automation apps are filling out into proper ‘suites’.
Who will win? Well, all three will be around for a long time but for my money, the CMS is the best place for marketing functionality — as long as the CMS vendors can get their acts together and realise they’re not just in the web editing business.*
More and more B2B marketers are learning to plan, execute and analyse their own campaigns with very little help from the techies. Part of this will always be generating emails and landing pages; designing the campaign logic that strings them together; and analysing the results to keep improving.
The natural home for CRM is really the sales department. And, however valuable its contribution to the whole revenue cycle, CRM doesn’t really DO anything. It just holds all the information so others can do things better.
Marketing automation tools are preferable now because they can each focus on one discipline and do it better than any generalist. But as the platform players watch and learn, they’ll be able to replicate almost anything the automators can do (after all, it’s not rocket science). Then, the benefit sof integration will outweigh even ‘best of breed’ tools.
The CMS will always be central to the marketing department. It’s easily extended with modules and plug-ins (especially if it’s based on an open platform). And it actually lets the market DO things like build landing pages, HTML emails and whole campaigns.
* We know one CMS vendors that’s way out in front on this stuff but they’re a client so we can’t ethically mention their name here. Oh bugger it: EPiServer.
(photo by chandlerparker, flickr creative commons)