Bridging the Chasm Between Marketing Automation and Content Management


If you are in B2B, then you’re probably familiar with at least one marketing automation platform and CMS. Or several (you lucky few).


By choice or by chance, you’ve fiddled with settings and plugins, experienced sales people and demos that promise complete integration, and have found yourself running two systems with support on speed dial.

Separate yet Equally Frustrating

On the one hand, your marketing automation platform contains great information about your prospects. Who they are, what they’ve done with your site or emails—juicy customer intelligence you need to do your job.  You can automate campaigns to your heart’s content, yet when your customers visit your website, they're treated like complete strangers. None of that data transfers to the website and your prospects end up being treated like everyone else.

Likewise, none of that great content you’re creating and publishing with your CMS is getting to customers when they need it. It’s still a manual process (aka YOU) to get the content to right people. This was supposed to be automated marketing, right?

It’s like when you call a customer support line, entering every detail about yourself as a customer with your phone, only to have the rep ask you the same questions again when you finally get off hold. 

Defining the Chasm

There is a true rift between marketing automation platforms and B2B, cms-driven websites. Marketing automation and CRM platforms were designed to manage people. CMSs were designed to manage content. Neither were designed to talk to one another, ye with the rise of content marketing, branded content and brand journalism, it’s more important than ever.

Although most products tout “integration,” there are very few that can pull it off completely. In my experience, most have been marginally successful at best. But not to fault marketing automation providers or CMS platforms out there. The combination of CMS platforms and marketing automation tools out there is astounding, and most SaaS providers don’t want to take on the all-in-one development approach.

Obligatory Top 5 List

There quite a few common problems with the current integration between cost marketing automation platforms and CMS websites. 

1) Key content lives in two places

A common frustration is content living in separate places. The CMS host its own. and other marketing tactics like landing pages and email typically gate the content within the marketing automation platform. You’re left managing content  in two places, and good luck trying to correlate usage.

2) Two authoring methods

Along the same lines, creating landing pages and CMS pages are typically two entirely different publishing experiences. One allows you to drag and drop, but the other lets you choose related content. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one user interface?

3) Customer intelligence is a black box

As I said before, marketing automation platforms are kind of a closed network system with very limited access points. Sure, you can manually get your data out of there, but that’s defeating the purpose. When it comes to websites that can respond to customer behavior, the “solution” is often an iframe widget that does something dynamically. Not really cutting it when we talk about consistent user experiences.

4) Websites aren’t built to adapt on the fly

On the other hand, if websites had access to customer data, most wouldn’t know what to do with it. Think about how your homepage is currently built. Even if it knew who as looking at it, could it simultaneously serve specialized messages to new customers, returning customers, or those in specific verticals? Most websites are build for two types of people: known and unknown.

5) Ongoing personalization

As in our support call example, the more you know about a customer, the more you should adapt their ongoing experience. Your website should present the relevant information you have that would be of interest to that customer. You probably have customers in multiple lists and segmentation, but they hit the homepage they still see a big “what we do” message.

The Bridge Builders

Solutions to the chasm problem vary. Most enterprise solutions operate on an all-inclusive platform model. They’ve built the CMS, CRMS and marketing automation system to work together, natively. A provider like Hubspot is using the all-in-one model, similar to Adobe Experience Manager or Ektron. While enticing, features are sometimes lacking, especially with an often larger price tag. When you try to do it all, you’ll never have enough time to actually pull it off. These days, the all-in-one pitch is a tough pill for marketers to swallow.

As more and more organizations are migrating to open source, the all-in one simply isn’t an option, either by mandate, desire to reduce overhead, or because of an understanding of the power of community-driven development. With the SaaS platforms off the table, options become even more limited. Open-source providers are finding innovative ways to tie things together.

Automatr, for example is a product developed for Drupal to synchronize email and streamline the process. Integrating NetResults technology, it helps Drupal sites tap into email marketing. A solid first step, yet the gap between personalized adaptive content remains.

Drupal giant Acquia is currently experimenting with Lift, a product designed to manage customer intelligence, a/b testing, measurement and personalization all from within the CMS. Built on TruCentric technology, Lift is a promising next step for personalization for a variety of uses, including enterprise B2B.

As for our own agency, we’ve tapped into the customer intelligence features of SharpSpring, a marketing automation tool for agencies and smaller organizations. Our Drupal developers have built our own personalization module to let our CMS make decisions based on your actions on our site.