Darren Guarnaccia’s Blog

My thoughts on Sitecore, WCM and doing business on the web

Posts Tagged ‘Sitecore’

A look ahead at 2010 for Sitecore and the WCM industry

Posted by dguarnaccia on February 1, 2010

Now that I’ve looked back at 2009, lets turn towards the future and forecast what I think is in store for us for 2010. I mentioned in my review post that Web Content Management as an industry has gotten cool and fun again, and we’re seeing lots of bursty innovation. The geek in me loves that, but the business guy demands to know the value all this arm waving will bring. What I’ve pointed out several times in the past is that WCM technologies are starting to incorporate key business functionality into their products that help improve business impacting results a website has on an organization. On other words, WCM isn’t about publishing content anymore. WCM has now become an application turn websites into high performance marketing and services applications.  And like other applications in the enterprise, these websites should generate measurable, tangible business value and results.

So with that in mind, I see 2010 as the year that Sitecore and others in the WCM industry start to deliver technology that makes this easier and easier to build, deploy, manage and measure marketing centric web initiatives.  My colleague Paul Markun mentioned in his 2010 predictions blog that 2010 is a lot like 2000, only now the stuff is reality. That’s so true.  I can remember pitching all these wonderful concepts to customers in 2000, and it was really really expensive, and would take a long time, but it sure was amazing stuff. The concepts in many ways are still the same, the only difference now is that more of the “vision” we painted in 2000 is now packaged functionality and out of the box today.  What we’re going to see this year is that what Rogers and Peppers and Patricial Seybold’s vision for one to one marketing and customer centric experiences will start to also be incorporated into WCM products.

So what’s different this time?  Well, for starters, the hardware has come a long way. What used to require millions of dollars in hardware can now be purchased from Dell for less than $10,000.  Database technology has also improved dramatically, and the software vendor technology has finally caught up with our vision.  The other thing that is really different this time is the emergence of what I call “operational analytics”.   When Sitecore decided to develop our own analytics technology in Sitecore Online Marketing Suite, people thought we were nuts.  Why build it when there are so many good web analytics packages out there.  But we realized back then that we needed to own that data from an operational point of view. We needed to be able to collect, analyze and operate on the customer behavior data in real-time, and that just wasn’t viable with hosted analytics solutions. They also didn’t capture the level of detail we wanted, nor were they as accurate as we thought they needed to be, so we developed our own. I go into more detail on the problems with tools like Google Analytics on my guest commentary spot on ZDNET.  So the idea of having an operational set of analytics that you can execute on locally was born.  We realized we still needed to be able to integrate upstream with more enterprise analytics packages for multichannel integration, and other needs, but we felt that we could achieve so much more if we could store and operate on the data locally.  Back to my prediction, I think you see more and more software vendors embrace this operational analytics concept.  In a lot of ways, this is exactly what Andrew Bartels of Forrester predicted with his Smart Computing Drives the new era of IT Growth paper.  Andrew talks about the fact that the next generation application will have it’s own onboard analytics capability, and that they smart computing applications will be highly adaptive based on its analytics data.  I think we’ll see far more of this trend in the WCM space.  Now, before you get concerned that we’ll see more fragmentation in the analytics space, I think we’ll also see some strong interoperability standards on how to exchange this analytics data. Webrend’s Open Exchange is a great example of this today, and I think we’ll see vendors start to even upload their operational analytics data into these types of aggregator solutions.  (shameless plug alert: Webtrends Open Exchange runs on Sitecore) 

Now that WCM vendors have embraced analytics directly, I think this opens up a whole set of opportunities for us all.  As Scott Liewer bloged so eloquently in his 2010 predictions blog post, websites can’t possibly persaude anyone until they can learn to perceive or understand their visitors.  This concept of operational analytics will allow WCM vendors to build perception engines or customer intelligence engines that are tied right into the web authoring environment.  While the web analytics vendors have a nice lead in terms of capability, I predict that the WCM vendors will quickly outstrip their capabilities. Maybe not 2010, but I think 2011 we could see some upsets. Why?  Because analytics vendors have to build a one size fits all technology, and the WCM vendors can build stuff that works really well for their platform.  What this means is that Analytics vendors will start to become aggregator and multichannel integration points, and will be able to deliver the macro trends, whereas the WCM vendor technology will give you highly actionable data embedded in tools designed to implement those analyses.

Lastly, I think coming out of this recession, we’re going to see a land grab for customers in every industry on the planet.  This is going to lead to a lot of customer centric business transformations.  Social media started this, and it’s only going to continue. Companies and organizations will need to aggressively implement customer centric strategies on the web, and will start to use their websites as their primary interaction channels to their customers.  Ok, perhaps this is a bit more of a hope than a prediction, but all the signs are there, we’ll see if we finally will turn the corner and embrace what Patricia Seybold so brilliantly wrote in her book Customers.com many years ago.

What do you think?  Agree? Disagree?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Posted in Sitecore, WCM Marketplace | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Continuing the conversation – The 7 Habits for Maximizing Website Conversions

Posted by dguarnaccia on January 29, 2010

I recently spoke on a double header webinar with several other organizations including the Online Marketing Institute, Jive Software, WOMMA and of course Sitecore.  We had record breaking attendance that day, for me personally, as well as the other organizations on the webinar.  As you can imagine, we had way more questions that we could answer, so I’ve copied the list of questions that were asked of me on that webinar, I’ve and tried to answer the questions as best I could without writing a novel. So, here goes….

 How do you optimize landing pages offering free products and services beyond highlighting the benefit of “FREE”?

By offering the customer expertise, and solutions to their problems or needs.  Customers, whether B2B or B2C want solutions to their problem. Build credibility by helping your customer understand how they benefit from your product, solution or service in a customer centric way.

Darren: To what do you attribute the decline of marketer credibility? What can marketers do to counteract this trend?

Let’s be honest, no one has believe marketing and sales people for a very long time. The only difference was that we were the only game in town. We had the biggest megaphone, and we shouted our brands out there and people eventually believed us through repetition. Nowadays, everyone has a voice, and can be heard. Everyone has a megaphone. So we as marketers, have less comparative credibility compared to everyone else who has nothing else to gain in their opinions.

What is a ‘good’ conversion rate? (b2b)

This is so dependent on market really.  I think it’s more important to think about quality.  Of course, you want to benchmark your conversion rate and work towards improving it, but I think it’s equally important to measure conversion quality and to work to improve that as well.

what type of advertising is dead? TV, Radio or print?

I think most mass media advertising is slowly dying. People are not watching TV ads anymore. The majority of us watch shows on our DVR and fast forward through the commercials,  we switch the radio when the commercials come on, and who exactly is reading papers anymore?  A week goes by and we head yet another paper is going out of business?  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this: http://www.newspaperdeathwatch.com/

 Could you define convert?

Conversions are anything you find meaningful to moving prospect or customer closer to what you want them to do.  It could be signing up for a webinar, buying something from your site, downloading a whitepaper, etc. Not all conversion are equal, either.  You should think about applying some scoring to them so you can weight them in terms of value. We at Sitecore think of conversions in terms of points, as an engagement score, or lead score.  We measure the amount of points a customer accrues through their visits with us, and divide that by the cost of the advertisement to get a metric that helps us evaluate which advertisements perform better than others.

what are meaningful website response measures?

I like to tie thing to money when I can. Cost per lead, cost per Ad. Cost per dollar revenue acquired. All these things are possible with your website with the right infrastructure.

Where is the most effective place on your site (i.e., that leads to highest conversion) when asking for registration information?

Stephen Covey calls this “value for value”.  It’s not a place, it’s a time. It’s when you’ve demonstrated enough value to your customer, built enough credibility. And you’re asking for their information, so make sure you are giving that customer value right back.  So measure your customers interaction in real time, an d wait for the right pitch to convert them into a signup, while selling them on the value of what they’ll receive for that signup.

How does this apply to a service business? I am a communications consultant…I don’t have hotel rooms to take pics of…I don’t have a product to order…

Services are even better than products for this sort of thing. In the service businesses, you are even harder pressed to help the customer understand how you can help them, and what problems you solve for them. It’s even more important to build credibility, and help them understand your value from their perspective.

how can we add lead generation and conversion forms on our website if we use sitecore as our cms? can we link with our crm software?

Sitecore has a tool we call Web Forms for Marketers.  This allows you to build forms that can track user behavior on the forms (even when they don’t hit the submit button), trigger conversion goals, update user profiles, and automatically create accounts and contacts in a CRM system (MS Dynamics, and Salesforce currently).   Once this is done, all the data you collect about that customer, including their onsite behavior can be view from within the CRM system.

Does this segmentation drill down to individuals? I.E., storing CRM-like data (hotel room preferences, average length of stay, complaints) for use when you identify a repeat customer/user?

It does. In fact, you can view a specific visitors onsite behavior right from within a CRM system, and actually affect website behavior based on customer preferences from within that CRM system.

what is lead scoring and how do I install and measure on w web site?

There are tons of tools that can do leadscoring , including Sitecore. Lead scoring is simply measuring the activity of a prospect on a given channel, in this case your website.  You assign points to everything they do, such as searching for terms like pricing, downloading whitepapers, attending a webinar.  It can show you your prospects readiness to engage, or even their propensity to buy if done right. Here is a more exhaustive definition on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_scoring

 If you wait too long before making an offer tere is a risk of losing him. Am i right?

A small risk, certainly. You have to ask yourself if you are more interested in quality or quantity though. We know what most interested buyers are going to spend 5-7 pages with us in general. We can spend the first 3-4 pages learning, and building credibility, then start to sell on the last few pages. If someone is going to bounce after page 2, it’s unlikely a call to action would have worked anyway.

Darren, What is MVT?

MVT stands for Multi-variate testing. It’s the big brother to A/B split testing, and allows you to test more variables. Here’s the Wikipedia page on MVT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivariate_testing

What are some of the ways to overcome objections and/or barriers to using social media with Agents and/or vendors for an insurance-based company

It of course depends on the objection, and the emotional motivation behind it. Ask yourself this question: How does my own sales force/call center/dealers/agents overcome this objection. Get a bunch of them in a room and ask them what stories they tell, what materials they use, and what counters they use in their own selling process. In many cases, you can use the same types of materials. In the insurance industry, it’s a matter of building trust. Trust they’ll be there when they need you. Trust that this is a good value. Trust that you understand their needs. Community based content is wonderful for this. Surface those community stories where your company came through for it’s customers.  Marshal your champions to echo your best stories. In a I talk about this in depth in a recent whitepaper I co-authored about molding the customer experience, and how to understand your customer and shape their experience to fit their needs. You can find it here: http://www.sitecore.net/Products/Resources/whitepapers/Molding-Your-Customer-Experience.aspx

can you please elaborate on habit 5 again? Wasn’t clear how community content is used

Habit number 5 was Overcome objections and barriers using community content and engagement. I talked a little about this in the question above.   The idea is that once you understand your customer’s objects in the sale process, you can start to offer expertise, content and advice through a combination of site content and community content. Community content is generally perceieved as highly credible, since it’s not comming from your company directly. It’s a great way to overcome fear and risk concerns.

Can you clarify what you mean by community content? Give an example? Thank you!

Community content is really anything that was end user generated in your community.  It can be comments on one of your company blogs where they talk about how great your product is, or a conversation in a customer support forum where a customer shares a success story.

What are the top tools related to content scoring?

There are so many tools you can use today. Certainly the major web analytics vendors have some capabilities here. An example of this is Webtrends Score product. Many of the WCM vendors are including this into their products. Sitecore’s Online Marketing Suite does this today.

I agree with everything you’re saying. Having challenges with cross-functional buy-in. Perhaps we can do something for my sales ops team and product marketing team along this vein?

Absolutely. One of the most compelling things about this is the impact for sales enablement.  Once you start to score and meansure your visitor sessions, you can also start distributing lead tracking and score information to sales. Imagine if you could automatically notify your sales teams when visitors from a company your sales rep is working with is showing strong buying behavior.  Likewise, imagine being able to route visitor information on the most tracked features and most asked questions on your website to the appropriate product manager or marketer.  Allowing your product marketing team to understand what features are most relevant to which segments can give amazing insights. (believe me, I find it very useful 🙂 )  Likewise, being able to track press and analyst behavior will make your PR and AR teams dance the snoopy dance.

How relevant are all these tactics for the average small business with a small web site used to market their business? Wouldn’t this be really time-consuming for a small biz?

I think we’re starting to see a lot of this capabiliy come together now in packaged, preintegrated suites which finally make these capabilites accessible to the SMB market. In the past, only the largest companies had the budgets to weave all of this together. Now, the technologies are getting pre-integrated, and are starting to offer more and more out of the box. In a lot of ways, small businesses can benefit from these concepts more. Having smaller organizations, they can react faster to the insights gained from these integrated suites.

Will we be talking tools?

I really tried to stay away from technology about a lot of technology. You can find a lot of these capabilities in web analytics tools, marketing automation tools, and of course web content management tools. I think it’s important to get the strategy right first, then pick the tool that enables the strategy.

As a rookie marketer and admirer of fashion magazines, I’m curious to understand if the magazine industry is truly dying?

Magazines are changing. More and more of them are transitioning more gracefully to the web than their newspaper counterparts. Sitecore has a variety magizine brands as our customers, and we’re seeing them migrate most of their magazine brands into the online space quite successfully.

What is a proper time frame for responding to comments online?

The golden rule for most social media is no more than 24 hours. Ideally, less than 4 hours, and of course the faster the better. In many cases, it’s a good idea to set up rules that automatically publish comments as long as they pass some filters (vulgar language, spam, etc) and then give the community the ability to report abuse.  If you feel you need to explictly approve, then setup strong alerting mechanisms that handle it quickly.

how much time should an individual with their own firm spend on their site content? What is the time budget that should be spent? What about financial budget–and what do yo spend money on?

This is a tricky one.  I’ll turn it around and ask this question: at what point does your site have enough content to satisfy your potential buyer, overcome objections, and improve revenue.  I think it’s important to start to think about your web site as an very important channel, just like a brick and mortar store is.   How much time would you spend maintaining other channels?  As a technology company, we spend roughly 20-30% of our time and money creating and maintaining content and material. It’s important for our business.  Your mileage will vary, but try to think about your website as a channel, and give it the equal consideration you would other channels. 

We have a big problem. We recently invested in SEO recommendations for our website, and our demo registration to our products decreased by 80% at the same time we launched a commercial video and most people have viewed it. However the web demo requests did not augment. So we re-added the buttons to attend a live demo on all pages and we still did not see a pick up. Should we remove our promotional video at all?

I’d need some more details to answer this one.  You could be seeing several things happening. You could be driving a lot of unqualified tracking through your new SEO efforts.  Do you have a way to track the quality of each visitor by lead scoring them?  Do you know what keywords these visitors are arriving from?  Are there any patterns to where they drop off your site?  We at Sitecore had a similar experience with some keyword buys where we drove a ton of additional traffic to our site, but our bounce rate went through the roof. We found out that our advertising was driving the wrong traffic. After looking at some of our reporting, we realized our efforts were catching the wrong kind of fish.   The other question I’d ask is what kind of calls to action that promotional video is driving. Is it the right one?  Is it qualifying out visitors that aren’t really prospects?  If so, perhaps that’s ok.   Remember, it’s not about quantity always, you want to start measuring and tracking quality as well.

Well, that’s all of the questions pointed my way. Please let me know if I missed your question, or didn’t answer what you were looking for. Feel free to comment on any of the answers, and even add new questions. I’ll endeavor to answer as them as best as I can. 

Thanks for reading!

Posted in General | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

A look back at 2009 and the Web Content Management Industry

Posted by dguarnaccia on January 15, 2010

It’s a new year, indeed a new decade, so it seems only appropriate to take a look back at how we got here, in the field of Web Content Management and here at Sitecore.  2009 was a tough year for a lot of companies, and I’m often asked the question “How is Sitecore doing in this economy?” and questions to that effect.  They always seem surprised then I tell them that we’re doing great financially, and while we’re not growing at the breakneck 100% yoy rates that we’ve seen in the past, it’s still healthy, sustainable growth. 

While I think a lot of companies would like to forget about 2009, or in fact the entire decade (we industry vets that survived the first .COM crash wouldn’t mind forgetting it for sure), I’m of a different opinion. To me, 2009 was the year that Web Content management because cool and fun again.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought WCM was a great industry. It consistently grows faster than the rest of the Content management industry by a ratio of 2 to 1, and it’s the technology that refused to be swallowed by the big Enterprise content management suite in the sky.  I remember listening to Gartner Analysts not so long ago predict that Web Content Management would cease to exist as a stand-alone software market. In 2009, Gartner finally reversed their opinion, and promoted Web Content management market back to Magic Quadrant status.  You can read what Gartner has to say about the market in their 2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management report.  To me, this was validation of two things: WCM as a category was here to stay and WCM was about to move into its next stage of evolution.  

This next evolution I’m referring to is of course the rise of Online Marketing Suites in Web Content Management platforms. Sitecore shook up the industry by being one of the first movers in the field, but we were quickly followed by a great many vendors who are all trying to catch up.  To me, it only validates our direction. But the real value to me though is that we’re finally focusing on what I’ve always thought really matters.  Instead of fixating on managing, massaging and organization content, we’re now focusing on the business benefits of websites to the organizations that deploy them. Of course you must have good content, but we’ve been stuck in that rut for over 5 years.  In 2009, the Web Content Management Industry has collectively pulled ourselves out of that rut.  In many ways, I feel like the .COM bust set us all back 10 years, and we’re finally moving forward again.

Other trends that I noticed in 2009 was the continued dominance of marketing teams in WCM acquisitions.  Not so long ago, buying a WCM was dominated by the IT group in an organization. Now, I’d wager that the Marketing group has over 60% of the decision-making power in web projects. And this is as it should be.  An organizations website is a business application no different than a CRM system, and should be owned and managed by the business users.  I’ve also noticed that more and more organizations are starting to really see their websites as customer acquisition technologies, not just passive collateral pieces. I’ll talk more about this in my next blog where I discuss future trends, but the economic meltdown has made every company reevaluate everything they do. As someone once said, “Never waste a good crisis”, it’s a great time to reinvent and renew what’s not working well.

So that’s my take on 2009, what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  I’d like to hear from you.

Posted in Sitecore, WCM Marketplace | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Reading the tea leaves of recent WCM Analyst reports

Posted by dguarnaccia on August 19, 2009


It’s been quite an exciting couple of weeks in the WCM world with 2 major analyst firms releasing  reports that rate key vendors in the market. Both Gartner and Forrester published new reports, and the reaction and debate on the Gartner report has been spirited to say the least.  Gartner released their Magic Quadrant for the Web Content Management market, an upgrade from last years Market Scope.  The reason they felt they needed a Magic Quadrant was because they felt that WCM marketplace as a whole was starting to reinvent itself, and was starting to shake loose of the commoditization that had gripped that marketplace for last few years. Gartner explains it this way “In the past year, the market has experienced dynamic, evolutionary trends that once again warrant its coverage in a Gartner Magic Quadrant” You can see the entire report here: http://sitecore.net/en/Products/Resources/whitepapers/Gartner-Magic-Quadrant-2009.aspx

 Overall, I think a lot of the confusion stems from what the 2 Axes mean. You can read of official definition in the MQ report, but in my experience, the two different measures come down to this: Ability to execute means company size and financial backing and Completeness of vision is more tied to product strategy and current offering. When taken with that perspective, then the MQ chart starts to make a lot more sense.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for WCM Aug 2009

Gartner Magic Quadrant for WCM Aug 2009

In a nutshell, you have Opentext, Autonomy and Oracle positioned vertically higher than the rest of the pack due to their size and weight in the marketplace and a relatively decent track record, while some of the more capable offerings like Sitecore and Tridion (Tridion being ranked higher vertically than Sitecore due to being owned by SDL, a publicly traded company) are postioned furthest to the right as leaders in terms of product capabilities and strategy.  In the challenger quadrant, we have IBM, EMC and Microsoft all postioned moderately vertically high, but very low on the product capability front, which aligns to what most of us know about the WCM capabilities of MOSS, IBM’s LWCM, and the Documentum WCM components.   Companies in the niche quadrant are just that, emerging new vendors that are small, and have a very tight focus instead of broad appeal.  As a marketer for Sitecore, I’m very happy with this positioning. It validates our direction, particularly with our Online Marketing Suite and I see this as confirmation from Gartner that Sitecore is delivering what they feel is the future of our marketplace.

I also mentioned that Forrester recently published a report. This week, Forrester released their new report entitled “Five Additional Options To Consider For Web Content Management” that can be found on the Sitecore site here:  http://www.sitecore.net/en/Products/Resources/whitepapers/Forrester-5-Additional-Options-for-WCM.aspx  As you might know, Forrester has a strict rule about how many vendors they’ll cover in their evaluation reports, called “waves”. They limit those reports to a maximum of 10 vendors.  In June, Forrester released the Wave report titled “The Forrester Wave™: Web Content Management For External Sites, Q2 2009” and Sitecore wasn’t included in that Wave due to missing the revenue requirements by the smallest of margins.  The 5 Additional Options report was created largely to cover a few key vendors that Forrester wanted to include in the Wave, but couldn’t due to Wave Methodology restrictions.  What is interesting about this report is that it talks about the new emerging vendors (Sitecore and 4 others) that are starting to challenge the larger, more established vendors.  While I would argue that we are a large, established player already, and are easily larger than Tridion and Day (who are covered in the Wave) in terms of WCM Sofware sales, it’s still think the report is a good one.  Sitecore again does very well, being highly ranked in all categories, and outscores all the other vendors in the report. 

So what does this all mean? I think the bigest complaint that everyone has about these reports is that they aren’t really helping you select a short list at first glance, and they are mixing apples and oranges in some ways.  I think there are a few things you can take away from these two reports in general.  First, that vendors on the right side of the MQ are in most cases are a better bet than ones on the left side.  My arguement here is that the further to the right the vendor is, the more in touch that vendor is with the marketplace and future direction. Remember, WCM investments are 3-5 year investments. Its’ important to find a vendor that will keep investing and growing the platform you purchase.  Vertically speaking, you can get a feel for the organizations abilty to deliver what they said they will. What kind of war chest they have at their disposal.  Is it fool proof?  Of course not. Some people call the challenger quadrant the “quadrant of death” because those vendors have the resources to execute but choose not to execute strongly in the given space.   Should you use these charts and reports to pick a WCM vendor?  No, you shouldn’t. These reports are conversation starters. They help you figure out who to talk to, and help you build a list that gets you to a short list, but not necessarily to provide you one ready made. 

My suggestion is this: If you have access to analysts firms such as Gartner or Forrester, setup an inquiry and tell them what your goals and requirements are, and let them guide you.  Both organization do 1000’s of inquiries on WCM selection and can give you some excellent advice. There are also a lot of excellent selection consultants that can guide you through the process (for a fee of course 🙂 ). 

Good luck reading your own personal tea leaves.

Posted in Sitecore, WCM Marketplace | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The thinking behind Sitecore’s Online Marketing Suite (OMS)

Posted by dguarnaccia on June 3, 2009

Over the last several months, as we’ve been preparing to launch the new version of Sitecore CMS 6.1 and the new Online Marketing Suite (OMS), I’ve talked a lot about the “why” behind the direction we’ve taken our products. In speaking with analysts, partners and customers, some of the same questions came up over and over again, and I’d like to share some of those questions and their answers with you, and give you a idea of why we’re taking the direction we’re taking. Firstly, for those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, see the Siteore Press Release about Sitecore’s new Online Marketing Suite.   In a nutshell, we’re bringing together 3 distinct software categories into a single, integrated platform.  Now, the first question I get is  “Why build your own analytics technology when there are some very good technologies out in the market”.   I promise I’ll answer that one a bit later. I suggest, that’s the wrong question to ask.  The right question we should all be asking is “What are the business results that companies trying to achieve with their websites today?”  This is the primary questions we should be asking, everyone of us.  I started to try to answer that question in a previous blog post a while back called Whither goes WCM. When you step back and ask yourself that question for your organization, it starts to clarify what you need to be successful.  As I started to ask myself that question on how WCM technology could impact the success of companies getting better business results from their websites, the answer, in the past has pretty marginal. Because at the end of the day, WCM was a glorified editor for pages and sites. It was a tool at best, a framework in some cases. Sure, you could build some amazing things with the tool, with some blood sweat and tears, but when is the last time someone credited the development tool when they built an amazing application. WCM can only really help with productivity of developers and editors. Important, sure, but bottom line, WCM by itself doesn’t help companies improve their business results on the web.

So what can be done to help companies improve their business results online. Well, that depends on what you want out of your website. For organization that want to increase customer acquisition, grow revenue, and serve and expand their existing customer relationships, the answer is to enable organizations to use their websites to proactively engage customers (b2b or b2c) throughout the entire the sales process, tie into their all of their marketing and sales channels and help organizations understand their customers’ experience and behavior to improve the way they engage their customers.  How do you do that?  Online customer engagement happens in serveral places: Your website, emails, advertisements, microsites, landing pages and community sites to name a few.  Web content management has always owned this part of the process. Sitecore as a technology been doing this for years, and  has had some email newsletter capabilies that leveraged WCM-base content as well  but it wasn’t enough. To do this right, we needed to add full fledged campaign management, and email campaign tools that could do nurture marketing.  We needed to tie the email experience tightly to the web experience. How you react to emails should inform the website experience, and visa versa.  Adding personalization to the mix was also important, so consistent experience could be delivered, regardless of channel (email, web, rss, mobile).   We wanted to be able to do episodic email and web campaigns as well, so each time you recieve a new message, it would be a new message, or call to action, and it would move you further into the sales or consideration process. Lastly, we needed to add in website optimization technology into the product for message testing. A/B split testing and multivariate testing were important features to add because marketing organizations need the ability to try different messages and see what works and what doesn’t. The marketplace is constantly evolving, and segments are constantly shifting, so it’s important to be able to do this continously.  

 Now, I promised I’d answer why we created our own analytics technology instead of just leveraging a 3rd party technology like Omniture, Webtrends or Coremetrics.  There are a few parts to this answer. First, we wanted to own the data. Why?  So you could use it. I don’t mean in some nice looking reports, I mean actually use it. On your site, to affect user experience.  It’s your data afterall, shouldn’t it be working for you?  CMS Watch has a great article about data ownership, and I tend to agree with them.  It turns out though, that an even bigger benefit to capturing analytics information locally is that we can record all sorts or rich context about the visitor and their session that we can use to target and deliver content to user, as well as other users. Amazon does a great job of this sort of thing with their collaborative filtering technology.  Once you own the data, you can start to do some very intersting things with it, some that require no human intervention (non-deterministic rules for the geeks reading this). On top of that, there is the data quality arguments. While some don’t care about this, argueing that it’s statistically insignificant, today’s web analytics misses a great deal of information due to the nature of how “page tagging” or “web bugs” work.  There is also the issue that analytics systems don’t understand how your site is built, or how the technology works.  So you get lots of extraneous data; double pages from postbacks, fragemented data from the same page having multiple URLS, etc. Sure, there are mechanisms in most web analytics system to try to rationalize this, but it’s a lot of work, and it’s not often done.  The net effect is that most organization still don’t get a lot of value out of web analytics applications. So by implementing an embedded analytics engine inside of Sitecore, we’ve overcome these issues.  Sitecore reports the exact user experience a person receives.  No extra pages, no fragemented page counts across languages, and since we capture page requests at the server, privacy aware browser aren’t hidden.  While we were at it, we also layered in a content profiling system, so as users are consuming content and engageing on a Sitecore site, the analytics is also capturing the kinds of content the user is consuming, actions they are taking (searching for certain keywords, rating pages, answering a blog post) and building out a comprehenive profile of that user.  All of this data can of course be used to deliver content to users, and Sitecore analytics can capture that as well. If a user gets a page because of a personalization rule, that too is noted. If a user receives a piece of content due to a multivariate test, the analytics records that as well. Having the context of the users session, and full understanding of the user experience being delivered is very valuable for web analytics.  So that’s why we needed to build our own. It allowed us to create much more meaningful, and actionable analtics that site owners could use to improve their website’s ability to engage users.

Beyond the web engagement story, we also knew that to increase customer acquisition and revenue, websites needed to tackle the notion of lead generation directly.  In the WCM world, we often dance around this notion of “conversion” and how that’s creating leads.  Ask any salesperson about webleads and they’ll often mutter words like “unqualified”, “tire-kickers”, or other words of endearment.   Why is that?  Because in most cases, the leads are just too early in the funnel for a sales person to engage with. This is where we looked at the Marketing Automation space and realized that most of what these companies do is dance around the edges of the web. These vendors can often only manage landing pages, or microsites at best, but the don’t really own the real web experience of the site itself.  However,  they do some very interesting things. They do lead scoring, to make sure leads are actually ready to engage with your company based on their visitor behavior.  They also do a nice job of managing your campaigns (advertising, email, etc) and tracking conversion.  Some can even can track the company names of their web visitors for B2B companies, which gives an organization’s sales team valuable insight into customer behavior durring the sales process.  We realize that there would be tremendous value if we could bring all these capabilites right into the WCM, the very place where we could manage the customer experience on the web and in email. We were already doing campaign management, and adding in GeoIP loopup and getting prospect data on the fly was a no brainer.  So now we’re getting close to that goal of increasing revenue and customer acquisition. We can start to improve lead quality, and start to do nurture marketing across web and email.  Let’s add in CRM connectors so we can take all this information also syncronize it with an organization’s customer records.  Once we realized we could allow an organization to tie their web visitor’s session to CRM contacts and accounts, it meant that we could start to map campaigns and web leads to revenue. This would be a marketer’s (and sales vp’s) dream. 

The last bit of the equation here came from bridging the action chasm as Forrester likes to call it.  While a lot of organizations are using analytics and even optimization and marketing automation tools, it’s a ton of work to get them integrated. In fact, most organizations don’t bother. In truth, a lot of these tools are little islands of customer experience data, never to be integrated with the rest of the customer experience data set.  Our goal with OMS was to bring everything together in one package, in a pre-integrated fashion that give marketers the tools to understand and improve user experience, run campaigns that improve lead generation results in terms of volume and quality, marry online and offline customer experiences from a marketing and sales perspective and provide sales with deeper customer insight and understanding.   In a nutshell, we built an solution that will help organization “move the needle” more directly.  

One of my favorite quotes is that “Customers don’t buy products, they buy business outcomes”. Well folks, with Sitecore’s OMS, we’re all about the better business outcomes and improved business rules.

You can learn more about Sitecore OMS on the Sitecore website at http://www.sitecore.net/en/Products/Sitecore-Online-Marketing-Suite.aspx

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