Content management systems (CMS) are a lot like the office coffee maker; a good CMS allows you to update content – brew coffee) – easily and with a minimum of steps. The result is something that’s hot, tasty, and relevant to your needs – whether that’s a content marketing strategy or that pesky need to be alert at the office.

Because of this utilitarian nature, it’s easy to ignore the lowly CMS, but be warned: you ignore your content management software at your peril. While a good CMS is one that gets out of your way and allows you to get about the business of managing your site, a bad one results in difficult updates, mismanaged content, and a website that could be little more than a glossy brochure parked on the web. While pretty, a site with poor functionality will limit your ability to post, update, and optimize content, as well as track and measure your content’s impact.

Your CMS is the one of the critical foundations for your content marketing efforts – without an effective one, you’re setting yourself up for an un-scalable, unmanageable content marketing plan that can’t support your strategy and won’t achieve your goals.

It’s important to keep your content strategy in mind when choosing a CMS; your selection has to be able to support your vision, or else the system’s constraints will also impact your content’s effectiveness. Hilary Marsh, Chief Content and Digital Strategist of Content Company, has experienced this first hand. One client of hers had a system where all the content dates needed to be input manually because the system didn’t automatically generate them; this caused the content to appear fresh, even though in reality it was very old.

Marsh also worked on a website for another client where the content would only update every hour. Another system, chosen by IT, was unable to generate user-friendly URLs – something Marsh and the client only discovered after the system had already been implemented.

The first step in selecting a CMS must be defining your organizational goals. Whether these are to produce content for the hidden sales cycle, as part of a nurture-based marketing campaign, or even improving the targeting of your existing content operations, you must have your content strategy and goals clearly outlined before you can choose a CMS that best fits your needs.

The content management system you select should also integrate well with other marketing tools, such as search-engine optimization software. “Firms should carefully consider how these (marketing) solutions integrate and work with each other,” wrote Trip Kucera, VP of Client Strategy and CMO in Residence of Aberdeen Group, in an August 2013 content marketing report. This goes back to the content management system as a critical part of your content marketing strategy; an effective tool should tie back to other systems as well.

Keep in mind that a CMS is the workhorse of your content marketing efforts. As more and more interactions take place in the hidden sales cycle, your website turns into an interaction or engagement platform. To recognize this, many vendors, such as Adobe and OpenText, now position their content management tools as web experience management (WEM) platforms.

information graph
Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2013

High-performing companies in Aberdeen Group’s recent content marketing ROI research also share this view, with 64% of them capturing web activity in the marketing automation platform and 56% using this information for lead or customer scoring. High performers are also 45% more likely than low performers to give marketing the ability to post directly to the website without IT involvement; this is a critical capability to allow marketing – or whoever’s creating your content – to update the website with high frequency and to pivot quickly based on engagement signals from site visitors.

Keep in mind too that there are a lot of content management systems on the market today. Most of these systems are highly configurable, which in Marsh’s view is a double-edged sword. “Sure, it can do anything you want it to do,” Marsh said, “but at what cost?”

The lowly content management system, so much a staple of the internet, takes on that much greater importance when examined in the context of the larger strategy. The one that you end up choosing – or building, should it come to that – can make the difference between a content marketing strategy that succeeds and one that fails.

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