CMP is ready for something big to happen…

About three months ago, Ryan Skinner – the Forrester analyst for B2C marketing professions – wrote a long (25 tweet!) thread about Content Marketing Platforms (CMP):

I won’t repeat the entire thread, because you can read it for yourself directly from Ryan, but it does do a good job breaking down the current state of the industry and the overall need.

When I was at Sitecore, CMP was a big focus of mine and we worked very hard to get that functionality into the overall portfolio as quickly as possible (to the point that Sitecore debuted in Ryan’s report: “The Forrester Wave™: Content Marketing Platforms For B2C Marketers, Q2 2019” with a new offering as a Strong Performer).

However, I think that CMP adoption will accelerate and start to get over that “slow, grinding, unpredictable” growth for the following reasons:

WCM vendors will finally “catch up”

WCM has its roots in a very IT-focused side of the business. Concerns such as tech stack, latency, permissions, etc. were of paramount importance. You need look no further than the fact that Interwoven Teamsite was basically source control for content (complete with branching and merging) – because that was the prime metaphor that most IT people understood. However, the role of WCM has evolved a great deal from an IT-lead enabler of marketing functions to a core part of marketing and customer experience activities. However, this history still causes a split among internal teams and even within vendors – and as a result technical and architectural features still usually dominate the conversation. In light of this, CMP sprung up as a category, largely because WCM vendors were not serving that marketer-led, content strategy function. Two WCM vendors (Sitecore and Bloomreach) have recognized this need directly and appear in the B2C CMP Forrester Wave, and others (Episerver, Adobe, Acquia) have been adding project management functionality. But the need for better collaboration, curation and content performance analytics is becoming more clear (and making this gap in WCM more apparent).

Based on Ryan’s comments about burn rate, it seems very plausible that a number of standalone CMP vendors are ripe for acquisition by WCM vendors where this functionality will simply become table-stakes. Of course, consolidation may go elsewhere; Sprinklr (the only Leader in the CMP wave) is primarily a Social Management platform, and other CMP vendors such as Percolate have been adding Digital Asset Management (DAM) and other capabilities, so this consolidation trend could go in multiple directions.

Multi-channel becomes more important

When WCM “ruled” Customer Experience (CX), it was because web was the primary channel. While it still lays claim to a good part of any martech CX stack, it is clear that more brands are starting to pursue a multi-channel approach to marketing. This does just mean replicating the same content from web and mobile, but also ensuring a consistent voice across social and offline channels (i.e. CRM/support or enablement channels such as Showpad) where content is not created near the web channel. A CMP sitting in front of those channels and teams is key to ensuring alignment of that strategy across the organization.

Marketers will finally start to realize the power of Content Marketing for Customer Experience

According to everybody and their dog, Customer Experience is the next big battleground, and most brands have been investing heavily in technology as their silver bullet. This has gone in waves; WCM, personalization, customer journey, etc. but they are starting to come to the realization there are some diminishing returns to a primarily technology and data-driven approach. This is also combined with the fact that adtech is largely an arms race – both you and your competitors can equally throw money into the machine of Google, Facebook (and lately Amazon) so you are losing any source of differentiation of brand or strategy. This has lead to a bit of a re-think to acknowledge that you still must to have a brand and content strategy to execute successfully, but also that any outreach to customers must be far closer tied to the product than any “ephemeral” brand associations. CMP is an interesting category in that it explicitly acknowledges the role that people and strategy play up-front – but unlike other forms of martech it does not promise quick wins. Which is of course why adoption has been slow, because it takes heavy organizational effort to make that happen. But when it does happen, you get these results; buyers “love their CMPs”, and their NPS score are “really good for enterprise software”

Similarly, one thing smart marketing organizations are starting to realize is that more content is not necessarily better. They need to have clear visibility into what was created and why. Part of “governance” is ensuring that you’ve got a clear audience and demand for what you’re creating – because otherwise you are not just wasting resources, but also adding to the noise that your customers need to wade through to get what they need.

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. There’s a fundamental distinction between strategy and operational effectiveness. Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.

Michael Porter

Skyword, a CMP vendor, has a great article from Liz Alton, entitled: “Good Strategy Is Knowing What Not to Do: The Art of Rejecting Content Ideas” and to me, this really gives a clear example of how tightly related a CMP is to organizational behavior and how it can help focus and drive those hard content marketing decisions.

CMP will start to marry the quantitative and qualitative

Marketing has been very “data-led” lately with adtech eating attention and budgets, but good Customer Experience is much more about ensuring that qualitative concepts like “empathy” and “top-tasks” lead a CX strategy, and CMP platforms are the bridge for aligning these worlds to ensure that you have the metrics in place to proactively help set and monitor that strategy.

To conclude, there are a lot of trends in martech and customer experience, and organizations should get ready for some vendor re-alignment into the spaces you already play in (CMP pulled into WCM or other channels such as Social). But more importantly, doing the hard work around content strategy is key to drive a superior and differentiated customer experience and a proper implementation of a CMP will help to enable this. Hint: The best brands and marketing organizations already are already doing this.

So CMP vendors in a standalone category may still have struggles (the same could be argued for WCM) but the overall need is great and will play a strong role in Customer Experience one way or another in the future.

Post-script. Ryan Skinner linked to my post on LinkedIn and Shafqat Islam the co-founder and CEO of NewsCred made this comment:

In a couple months there will only be one pure play CMP vendor left standing. Everyone else will be acquired, out of business, or a zombie company. Sad truth about the category.

Shafqat Islam

Can’t say I disagree – this is one of those interesting cases where there is a need for the product – but for the issues in uptake I mention above, the standalone vendors are “struggling” (in my words). There is such a thing as being too early for the market (Apple Newton, etc.), but I stand by my statement that the need is there (and will grow) but other segments (WCM, Social) with more heft will take advantage of the functionality in CMP to fill their gaps. Ultimately this is good for marketers, but not so great for those vendors (unless acquisition was Plan A).