Digital Marketing Hubs Need Content

Gartner recently announced a new Magic Quadrant report covering what they describe as Digital Marketing Hubs. The premise from their summary is that “…CMOs and digital marketing leaders are under pressure to engage individuals on increasingly fragmented and unpredictable terms, driving the need for a common pool of profile data, analytics, workflow and content resources enabled by a digital marketing hub.”

The rational for the new category is customer empowerment, channel proliferation and the increased responsibility of marketing for the customer experience.

Forrester coined the term “The Age of the Customer” which has brought with it “pervasive, deeply rooted change in consumer buying habits.” The three factors that Forrester says put customers on top map very closely to the digital marketing hub category rational:

1) Ubiquitous information about products, services, and prices
2) Technologies that make them visible and powerful critics
3) The ability to purchase from anyone at any time

What do Digital Marketing Hubs and The Age of the Customer have to do with Enterprise Dynamic Publishing?
I was excited to read the term “content resources” in Gartner’s description. While there has been much coverage of big data and analytics, very few organizations have solved the puzzle of content as a critical component of the customer experience and how it can be efficiently created, reviewed and intelligently assembled, delivered and reused across devices and channels.

Even though marketers have access to advanced technology platforms in categories such as marketing automation, social media, digital marketing, campaign management and content marketing, the glue that typically binds these systems together is still copy and paste!

The reason for this antiquated and highly inefficient approach to content resources is how that content is initially created. Organizations typically create documents where content is locked into specific formatting and even locked into specific design layouts very early in the content creation process. This makes reviews and collaboration inefficient and it’s impossible to reuse content in any way apart from through copy and paste or rekeying of content.

Enter Smart Content
Smart Content (sometimes called intelligent content) involves creating reusable content components where the content knows what it is, where it should be used, where it’s already been used, which is the latest version and who can update it. The content is stored in an open format and not locked into specific formatting, designs or systems.

So why isn’t all marketing content created to be easily updated and reused? One of the primary reasons is that up until recently the tools available for creating Smart Content have been highly technical such as XML editing software. Marketing and business professionals are used to Microsoft Word and Google Docs and are not going to switch to XML software for content creation no matter how large the benefits. So marketing and business content has continued to be created the same way it has for the past 20 years.

Realizing the Full Potential of Content
However, something exciting is happening. There are new tools on the market built specifically for business users, such as Quark Author, that provide the familiarity of a word processor combined with the power to create reusable content components. And we’re not just talking text but images, video and other interactive media. When you combine this with the capability to manage, track, and version these content components and serve them up through standard Web technologies to other systems, you have true ‘content resources’ as part of your digital marketing hub.

So do such solutions exist that can be ‘content resources’ and even deliver that content through intelligent orchestration to end customers? The answer is an over-whelming yes, but you might need to look beyond some of the more data-centric vendors included in the Gartner Magic Quadrant in order to find them.

In defense of the report, Gartner states that this is an early market and even the leaders don’t offer true hubs yet but rather a “collections of disparate applications.” So as you start to think about your digital marketing hub, in the rush for audience profiles, social media and deep analytics, don’t forget about your content. Make sure the creation and production of content doesn’t become the bottleneck that prevents you delivering that differentiated customer experience.

To find out more about Smart Content, download the free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Smart Content.