In the last ten years brands have made major changes to the way they approach marketing and the change is driven by the web and modern media — brands, more than ever, are focused on content. Brands are now publishing information and entertainment that customers value and their websites are the core platform for this. Suddenly, the weight of a brand's marketing success rests firmly on the content management system behind their web presence. That CMS is having to evolve faster than ever to support these shifts in needs, and so the evaluation of CMS platforms is also changing.
More than any other category of business tool, your CMS can shape the way your business communicates with customers. Any project requiring more than a simple blog will need a customized tool to help you connect your content to the technology. The tough thing about it, content management systems have to cover a huge range of functionality and require lots of customization, so shopping for your CMS is a daunting task, because you aren't buying the final product, you are picking out the raw materials. When you build a new website, about 25% of the work is customizing the content management system. In this post I hope to provide an approach for planning your content management needs prior to choosing a content management system.
Having an understanding of your content workflows ahead of time will help you communicate your needs and think about how you might scale your web presence on a new CMS or upgrade your existing one.
CMS User Experience
Unfortunately the CMS is not just a technology that can be forgotten, it is your marketing team's portal to its audience. That's why the content management user experience for those marketers is so key. That UX choice goes far beyond the choice of platform, resting primarily in the hands of the team responsible for the implementation.
The team that manages and publishes to the website has their own methods of planning those changes. That team will have a solid idea of the deficits in their current system and maybe some ideas of how their needs may change in the future. Get as much input as possible from those internal stakeholders.
A Content Strategy
Understanding how your brand's needs are evolving is the other key component to choosing the right platform. The content strategy work you do in planning a new site is the perfect framework to support your CMS decision. A content strategy is an architecture for how your team works together and how you use content to drive business.
If you are serious about getting your CMS selection right, we suggest the following to do a thorough job of identifying your needs first. Here are the components to a successful content strategy:
- Perform a content analysis or content audit, including capturing any taxonomies (categorization) in use on your existing site,
- devise a workflow or an editorial calendar that can be implemented now and carry you into the future,
- collect any wireframes or information documents, new copywriting, or formal marketing copy.
Together these documents will give you a solid window into your content management needs and how they may scale in the future. I really try to do a deep dive into my client's existing content because often there is enough already there to generate new traffic and leads but it isn't presented well. Digging through your existing assets should be an excercise in considering how content can be used by customers and how customers might find it. Some novel ideas for presenting existing content can include:
- Providing product documentation to users who are considering your product
- Regulations in your industry
- Databases or catalogs that aren't beyond ecommerce
These alternative types of content, beyond text documents, can be the most productive pages of a website. So easy management and presentation of that content becomes paramount to your investment.
Many marketers confuse the end user experience and design of a website with something tied to the content management system. Generally, this is not something that's linked. Modern content management systems do a great job of separating presentation from the properties of the tools themselves. The design, navigation, and user experience of your website are mostly independent of the CMS chosen.
More on Content Management
With your content strategy, the importance of your content management system selection may be much more clear. That long list of needs may seem insurmountable. Next time we will be digging into the changing demands on modern content management systems and how content marketing is pushing this category of technology forward.