Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

What do content strategists do?

It’s a question being asked a lot these days.  By clients, the industry, fellow colleagues, creatives, technologists; the list goes on. So in June I attended an EConsultancy course on Digital Content Strategy delivered by Catherine Toole, CEO of Sticky Content to find out from a seasoned content strategist.  It was a great one-day overview that provoked a lot of lively discussion.  Then I got the slide that listed just some of the things a content strategist does.  Take a look:

brand strategy
messaging strategy
competitor content audit
format development
tone of voice
content style guide
copy deck
idea generation
editorial calendar
editorial strategy
SEO/PPC strategy
language guidelines
message map
content production schedule
terms of use
page tables
content licensing
style guide
content approval workflow
migration strategy
content analysis
content audit
content inventory
content assessment
content gap analysis
content model
editorial workflow
content types
quality assurance tools
metadata strategy
cms architecture
content migration plan
metadata framework

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Online CXM Solutions – CMS In The Middle

A recently published Forrester Wave report on Web Content Management for Online Customer Experience evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of some of the leading WCM vendors, observing that:

  1. The WCM market is growing rapidly to accommodate Customer Experience Management needs (CXM).
  2. The most effective way to do this is for WCM to integrate with a large array of CXM technologies.

What is an Online CXM Solution?


A set of solutions that enable the management and delivery of dynamic, targeted, consistent content, offers, products, and services interactions across digitally enabled consumer touchpoints – Forrester Wave

WCM, Analytics and Commerce are converging. Marketing Automation, Search and Customer Service Management are the latest technologies making up the online CXM ecosystem.  Forrester clearly positions WCM as a key technology that all the others within the CXM ecosystem need to better integrate with.

Earlier this year I gave a presentation on Building a Marketing Technology Platform to Engage with Global Brands at the Adobe Solutions Partner Conference in Barcelona.  It too positioned content management at the centre of any progressive marketing technology platform.

cms-in-the-middleWhy is the CMS in the middle?  Well, people engage with companies through relevant and useful content.  The CMS ties all this together. However, delivering enchanting online customer experiences still presents mind numbing content challenges.  Mind numbing! Today, creating, managing and publishing up-to-date, engaging and relevant content is too much like hard work.  Yet the key to customer loyalty is by making CXM seriously low effort.   That makes CMS both front and centre in online CXM solutions.

Strategy needs Execution (and vice-versa)

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. – Sun Tzu

If you fast forward to the end of the presentation I had time for one question.  It came from Ed Van Siclen, VP of Technology and Partner Solutions at Adobe, who asked the following about the CMS-In-The-Middle slide above:

What drops into the middle next?

Ed, six months on here’s my evolution of that slide:

Content Strategy is the glaring omission.  Content strategy is required both to guide and course correct execution (and execution to validate the strategy).  Whilst all these tectonic shifts are taking place within marketing technology and online CXM solutions, similar kinds and possible even more disruptive forces are at play within the content strategy community.

Aligning both content strategy and online CXM execution is like walking through treacle. Maddening difficult but align them we must. Content strategists are the ones with both hands in your client’s content. Shaping it.  Adapting it.  Managing it. Everyday.  They are an ideal source of requirements (e.g. a content audit tool) for CXM solution professionals.  They are also the early adopters / refuters / seeders for future CXM technologies.

Make, Manage, Mobilise and Measure CXM Solutions

Forrester broke CXM Solutions down into three categories:

  1. Process-based solutions enable businesses users to create experiences (Make).
  2. Delivery solutions bring interactive experiences to customers. (Manage & Mobilise).
  3. Customer intelligence solutions enable businesses to gauge the success of experiences (Measure).

Rob Tarkoff, SVP of Digital Enterprise Solutions, another Adobe guy, described by Ed as wickedly smart, first recognised that we need to:

Make, Manage, Measure and Mobilise CXM solutions.

Forrester’s second category, Delivery, combines both Manage and Mobilise, but these are really two very distinct activities.  Manage focuses upon the curation, staging and governance of content, where Mobilise is more about the execution of planned and ready-to-go marketing activities.  It is not uncommon for Manage and Mobilise to have different yet collaborating teams of people.

So, what lies ahead?

There are number of players in the CXM market at the moment:

  • ECM vendors (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle)
  • CXM Stack Providers (Adobe, Autonomy, IBM)
  • WCM Specialists (Sitecore, Clickability)
  • Open source offerings (Alfresco, Drupal)

Yet, no one player or product has all the online CXM pieces.  Truth be told, neither should there be.  Would you put/transfer all their technology eggs into one vendor basket?  Unlikely.  Instead, the practical route to an online CXM solution lies through integration.

At the moment, the key areas of integration activity are with CRM, Web Analytics and Digital Asset Management.   Which makes sense when you consider that the focus at the moment is to Make, Manage and Measure customer experiences across the enterprise.  When that’s figured out, the Mobilise (Execution) piece and its smart connections with rich marketing automation solutions will be next interesting story to play out.

Low Effort increases Customer Loyalty

Back in July 2010, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) told businesses to Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers. HBR challenged conventional marketing wisdom and declared that satisfied customers are NOT loyal customers.

Delighting customers does not build loyalty. However, reducing the amount of effort required to get things done – does.  From a survey of more than 75,000 service-based personnel, HBR found that to really win customer loyalty forget the bells and whistles and just solve their problems.

Make it easy for your Internal Customers

These findings talk directly to the challenges faced by those managing content across multiple channels today. For example, below is a list of common problems internal customers encounter when trying to create and publish content:

  • The copywriter who struggles to edit an article.
  • The compliance officer who cannot preview content before it goes live.
  • The system administrator who cannot police the infrastructure.
  • The product manager who cannot change prices in real-time.
  • The brand manager who needs tighter control over digital assets.
  • The optimisation specialist trying to figure out cart abandonment issues.

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Baked in Analytics

The old adage, you can’t control what you can’t measure, resonates loud and clear with marketers. If you don’t measure, you just don’t know, and businesses today cannot afford to be ignorant of their customer needs.

Technology has played a vital role in removing barriers to online measurement. Web analytics enable marketers to better measure and monitor digital campaigns. However, as marketing strives to reach more diverse audiences at the moments that most influence their decisions, the challenge is for businesses to have immediate access to ‘A’ class data (automated, accurate, aggregated, accessible, auditable, available) at every digital touchpoint along the consumer decision journey. That challenge is made even more difficult by the disconnect between those responsible for creating campaign content and those interested in measuring digital success. So what steps are being taken to close this gap?

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What is a Marketing Technology Platform

Last month I gave a presentation on building a marketing technology platform. A few people have been in touch to share their ideas around customer engagement platforms and marketing automation. It comes as no surprise that there are numerous marketing technology platforms already in use today. But where are they and how are they being used?

What is a marketing technology platform?

Marketing technology are tools that make life simpler for marketers to market. They automate difficult, time-consuming and repetitive manual tasks to surface customer insight. Built by technologists, used by marketers. Marketing technology should aim to remove or significantly reduce the need for IT involvement. In short, to keep marketing in marketing.

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Two marketing views of your website

Where do you think your website sits on the Web?

The folks over at Hubspot and have been quite vocal when advocating the benefits of inbound marketing over outbound marketing. They are not alone. Real-world marketing experiences reported by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) demonstrate how companies that have embraced inbound marketing are enjoying greater digital successes with less investment. The CMI have also highlighted how marketing failures are being made by those organisations that do not understand the new conversation rules and/or the lay of the “social” land. But why?

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Web Standard Template

A Web Standard is both a guide and a measure. I believe that Web Teams that invest enough time and the enough effort into Web Standards, will reap the benefits. We covered this in a previous post. Today, we dive straight in with a concrete example: URL Naming Web Standard. Note, just to keep this post to a reasonable length, I’ve had to trim it down. Rest assured it does have enough meat in there to illustrate what is a Web Standard.

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Web Standards

northern lightsNot many web sites today are launched with clearly defined and/or enforceable Web Standards. For larger organisations, looking to execute efficiently on the Web, this is a major stumbling block.

Confession. Having worked in and for large organisations for over 25 years, I was never a Web Standards fan boy. They were always out-of-date. They were written by non-practitioners. Their format was dry and verbose. Their purpose unclear but just obey. Effecting change or providing feedback was actively discouraged.  In short, information flowed one way: down! There was not much to like about Web Standards.

However, if you can get past all, there were little gems of insight locked away in these Web Standards. Looking back through older eyes I realise that I never really hated Web Standards. I just didn’t like the way they were enforced. So I rejected them and promptly falling foul of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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Fix WCM? But what’s broken?

I’ve been delivering web content management solutions for a while now and like a lot of folks out there I still find it extremely challenging. It’s never a walk in the park. No two are the same. And the results lie between the two extremes of weird and wonderful. The bigger the customer, the more intriguing the experience. Customers definitely come with baggage, others with wild expectations. So when a couple weeks back, at the Janus Boye Conference Jon Marks crowd sourced opinions using the twitter hashtag fixwcm on the “How to Fix WCM” track I followed with keen interest. Firstly because I didn’t think for one moment that WCM was broken. And secondly, I thought it was just a distraction from the underlying fact that we are broken!

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Crossing the Great Content Model Divide

What happens today?

Delivering and maintaining large web sites is hard. It requires the business team to communicate what they want and for the technology team to deliver what they need. The two groups are known for not getting on. For a web project to succeed, they must eat from the same table, talk the same language and reach consensus. Communication is the key differentiator between success and failure here. It’s essential that when someone in the business says product that a developer not only understands what a product is but can implement it. Now, business and technology folks don’t share the same view of the world (which is a plus). However, not enough effort is invested to align these two views during the project(which is a minus). Think about it. The business is entrusting their most valuable assets, their content, to software developers that may or may not get it! We don’t have to live with great content divide.


What can be done?

I’ve found the best way for the business and technology teams to reach a common understanding of the subject matter is for them to collaborate on a shared view of the business domain. Have meetings, discuss stuff, card sort, write documents, role play, build prototypes, and so on. All important stuff. Keep doing that. But there needs to be something that captures the single source of truth that is a shared and mutually agreed upon representation of the business. The essential communication link between the business and technology team. That something is the content model.


How can we get better?

I’ve already spoken about content modelling and your essential first steps. I won’t go over that again. If you takeaway anything from this post, takeaway this.

Every CMS product implements its own content model that its developers understand. On your web sites, Your developers are translating your requirements into this content model, and rightly or wrongly, filling in your missing gaps.

Are you happy to hand over your business decisions around your content to them? How do you know if they have got it right? How do you know if its wrong? We all know the cost of fixing problems is prohibitively more expensive downstream. A short conversation upstream could have completely avoided the creation of major problems that tend to arise downstream.




Parking the details for now, the content model needs to be started upstream (analysis phase) and extend into downstream (development and testing phases) activities. The content model empowers the business, provides a common vocabulary for your content, and hooks in a number of downstream folks with a vested interest in managing your content going forwards. Maybe then we can start crossing the great content model divide.



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About Cleve Gibbon

I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently doing.

This year I plan attend a number of events. Hopefully I'll see you there. I'm easy to find as I'm always laughing. Find out more about me and get in touch!
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