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B2B web marketing: the platform battle

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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.

Agree?  Disagree?

* 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)

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8 Responses to “B2B web marketing: the platform battle”

  1. Kevin

    you know more than one CMS vendor who is out in front surely?

  2. Doug Kessler

    Kevin: I don’t think of smallworlders as a CMS vendor — far too generic to contain all that you do!
    (anyone out there need a fab intranet for their marketing department or agency… smallworlders.com is your man!)

  3. David Raab

    Doug, I quite agree that both CRM and CMS vendors are threats to marketing automation. See my blog post http://bit.ly/4FUcOQ and related links for a deeper analysis.

    As to whether CRM or CMS vendors will eventually be the winners, it’s hard to say. CMS vendors do control the Web site, but there are other channels to consider. CRM systems already has some marketing automation capabilities and the big ones (Oralce/Siebel, SAP) already sell to marketers too. CMS vendors sell to IT, not marketing, although that may is changing slowly. Perhaps more critically, CRM systems are built on identifiable customer databases (name, address, email) while CMSs are just beginning to add some personalization capabilities that involve tracking simple profiles (often of other-wise anonymous cookies).

    Regarding CMS vendors with marketing automation capabilties: SiteCore and Marqui definitely belong on the list. I’m sure plenty of others are barking up the same tree.

  4. Doug Kessler

    Thanks David — great insights (and an excellent post you refer to).
    I do think CRM will always play a role for marketers and it’s unlikely the CMS will ever take up all of the CRM functionality.
    But I do think the CMS will be where marketers will spend most of their time — as long as it integrates with the CRM!

  5. B2Bento

    Great topic! Here goes my 2 cents.

    Effectiveness of a tool depends on the use of it, rather than it’s feature list. For example, most of the CRM provide a good set of functions for lead nurturing, email campaigns, and other marketing automations. But most of the companies use CRM for list management and management reporting purpose only. May be it’s meant to be like that. More integrated services and products emerge in the marketplace – more we see fragmented, customized use of more than one tools by the companies.

    CMS will be (and should be) the heart of the B2B marketing, but I don’t see other tools loosing out either.

  6. Doug Kessler

    Thanks B2Bento — that was worth more than 2 cents!

    We’ve seen this in other tech markets — lots of ‘best of breed’ innovationsthat ultimately coalesce into integrated suites.

    While I can see all three players existing for a long time, it does feel to me that marketers will want a single interface to learn, a single view of all their online activities and everything integrated to speed automation and share the insight.

    So CMS as the mother dashboard, CRM to hold the profiles & behaviours — and automation tools getting snapped up by one or the other (though, who knows — they may do the consolidating).

    Thanks again for contributing to the conversation..

  7. Menno

    This is an interesting battle, analogue to the ones that have been fought for years in the world of ERP and CRM. I just devoted a blog to it: http://lijkendijk.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/11/

    Bottom line: None will win, many customers will lose if they put too much trust into single platform tool vendors. It looks nice on paper though…

  8. Doug Kessler

    Good comment and post, Menno. As I commented there: knitting together point solutions is fine for the confident, tech-savvy marketer. But the gains in flexibility and reduced lock-in are more than compensated for by an integrated solution — as long as it’s well-integrated and comes close to the best-of-breed point solutions.

    Integration lets one module inform another and makes automation easier. I don’t want to send email in tool A; build the landing pages in tool B; set up analytics in tool C; set up A/B tests in tool D then repeat when I learn things from the results. Life’s too short (and I’ll miss opportunities).

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