Mixed results in managing content

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Web content management solutions have been generating a lot of interest among marketers who want to bring structure to their Web site content and easily repurpose it to suit their needs. Yet the results of these technology implementations have been mixed.

In fact, according to a recent report from Jupiter Research, more than 60% of companies that have deployed Web content management solutions still find themselves manually updating their sites.

"The breadth of many vendors’ all-too-inclusive ‘silver bullet solution’ vision has left these companies struggling with platform lock-in, overengineered site infrastructures, exorbitant technical maintenance costs and per-business-user costs of as much as $25,000 per year," the report said.

"Unfortunately, when we looked at Web content management, we found that most companies overspent on the technology and underdeployed it," said Matthew Berk, senior analyst at Jupiter Research, New York. He added that many marketers have unrealistic expectations for content management systems.

In theory, Web content management should allow marketers to post material to their Web sites easily and without the help of a Webmaster or other technical support. But, Berk said, "At the end of the day, you always need the intervention of tech folks to make that work."

According to the Jupiter report, in 2003, only 27% of companies using Web content management will continue to use their systems as-is. Forty-six percent will attempt to expand the use of their existing solutions, while 27% are "so pained" they will begin again from scratch.

As a result, many companies are turning to do-it-yourself options, Berk said. He also forecasted that vendors who sell midmarket, tactically oriented solutions that focus on the basics are likeliest to succeed.

Some successes

Still, some marketers have been successful in using content management to organize content, to walk customers through sophisticated product purchases and to share detailed, customized product information with partners.

For instance, National Semiconductor has used Vignette Corp.’s core content management system since 1998. The product acts as a repository for all Web site content, including data such as product specifications and pricing information. It also has allowed National Semiconductor to begin to store data natively in foreign languages, a capability that it did not have previously.

In the past, content in languages such as kanji—a Japanese system of writing—had to be stored on a non-native, static basis, which prevented National from developing content and applications once and then deploying them in other languages.

By summer’s end, the company will be able to deliver a consistent, time-synchronized marketing message worldwide, said Phil Gibson, VP-Web business at National Semiconductor.

Last year, National Semiconductor added another Vignette application, called Dialog, to manage how customers interact with its online content.

The application manages the delivery and presentation of content to analog design engineers who use the company’s online design environment, called Webench. Dialog prompts users with various questions to guide them through the design and decision-making process. All information is delivered from Vignette’s flagship content management product.

"Vignette Dialog allows us to stage marketing dialogues and have very complex one-on-one dialogues with a person about things that are important to that person at that moment," Gibson said.

In an effort to attract design engineers to use National’s online simulation tools, the company hosted a series of online and offline seminars about its Webench environment. The company engaged 30,000 prospects through these seminars and was able to draw 9,000 prospects to a simulation on the Web. About 2,300—better than 7% of the 30,000—purchased prototype kits or boards on the company’s Web site.

While those transactions, averaging about $40 each, were not a huge revenue producer, Gibson said the system and the campaign transcend simple revenue analysis. It’s vital to building better relations with business customers by helping them speed products to market.

"They want to get on [the Web site], find information, build a prototype and get through that process to production," Gibson said. "The faster we get them through that, the faster they start ordering product. Dialog allows us to keep escorting them to the next stage."

National did not disclose its investment in its content management system.

The key to success, Jupiter’s Berk said, is to seek out and implement the basics. These include lending structure to site content, supporting the process (with a workflow that mirrors the process already in use by content owners) and separating content from presentation (in other words, marketers should not plan to use a content management system to actually publish Web pages).

"Do not overcomplicate your needs," Berk said.

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