Back in clumsier times, a "content management system" (CMS) was the back-end preoccupation of tech virtuosos, who would geek up a CMS that required savvy super-users to handle. As long as your site content eventually showed up somewhere, the CMS was at least an improvement over hand-coding every page.
But at Hippo Connect 2016 in Boston, customer use cases showed a drastically different view of the CMS - one where content management is tied into customer-facing systems. Now you're talking about linking content consumption directly to lead generation. You're heading towards superior visitor analytics and personalization.
A sharp presentation by Izaac Carlisle, Head of Digital Marketing Platform at Unit4, showed this use case in action, with Hippo serving as a content hub linked to email automation (Marketo) and CRM/lead management (Salesforce). Jerry Hill, CTO of AuthX, a Hippo partner and Unit4's go-to-resource during this project, added context.
Carlisle didn't dive into a technical go-live. Instead, he told a story of marketing making a necessary - and not necessarily easy - shift. After his presentation, Carlisle and I grabbed a quietish spot and dug further.
Digital isn't fun and games - marketing faces higher expectations
Unit4's business leaders place a high value on digital. That casts marketing in a new light. It also brings new pressure:
The digital identity is very important to our stakeholders. Unfortunately, as we become more [important] for the business, they also demand more from our lead gen.
Carlisle warned customers to be prepared:
All the [attendees[ here might be thinking - "That’s great! More leads - now! Better ones - more money! We really want more impact on the pipeline." But that means sales wants more support from the marketing team. They don't just want you to put a lead in their lap anymore. They want your support throughout the cycle, until they’re a customer after they’re a customer, reducing attrition - I'm sure these are all words that you all know, and maybe hate.
And it's not just sales that wants more. Stakeholders expect better information:
Stakeholders want more analytics; they want to know when a customer is on their site, they want to know what that customer has done.
Carlisle sees marketing as serving four business needs: branding, lead generation, stakeholders and innovation. Stakeholders count on marketing to use that much-hyped "marketing tech" to tell a better story - and deepen customer intimacy.
Unit4 web presence - "our custom CMS wasn't adequate"
Carlisle needed to bring marketing in line with Unit4's philosophy:
We are a business software company. Our mantra is that we are business for people - we help people do more with their everyday lives. We build solutions that help them focus on high-value tasks and remove the mundane nature of their days.
That means supporting operations in 26 countries. Web visitors include analysts, employees, and customers - all with unique agendas and vertical needs. The goal is to build "self-driving" solutions:
We need a web presence that can meet that demand for change. What happened this week is different than what happened last week or two years ago or five years ago.
If your solution can't adapt, you're in trouble:
But how do we do it? The business might speak to you and say, "That’s fantastic what you're doing, but tomorrow we need something new."
Two years ago, Carlisle decided Unit4's web presence wasn't up for this challenge:
We didn’t have a consistent web site. We had 26 countries, but we didn't have a consistent [experience] across channels. We didn't have effective lead gen. Our custom CMS wasn't adequate.
The project launch - advancing through four stages of digital maturity
Carlisle's team embarked on a multi-year journey. Each stage would advance the cause:
- One platform - this phase would unite the web sites in a consistent presence, with cost benefits derived from central administration. A brand-consistent mobile presence was part of the mix.
- The integrated ecosystem - a digital infrastructure should include "seamless integration" with the cloud solutions Unit4 relies on.
- Decision management - Carlisle defines this phase as "improving usability to power lead generation," as well as the analytics piece: consolidated views of content performance across the enterprise. It's also about "connecting users to customers."
- Personalization - "increasing automation through timely output" is the hallmark, easing the admin burden while building deeper user traction.
Hippo's CMS (now branded as DX) was selected. The rollout began with multi-country functionality: "Hippo's ability to put one template out to many different regions has reduced the overhead." Over the course of seven weeks, regional web sites went live across multiple languages, and all regional marketers were trained - all on a single instance of Hippo.
Integrating Unit4's cloud marketing ecosystem
Integration factored heavily in the ecosystem phase. Carlisle shared a screen shot of the live setup:
(My pic of the slide isn't great due to lighting/detail, but if you click on it, you'll see more detail)
- The lead process starts on LinkedIn, with Unit4 doing sponsored placements targeting their buying demographic, which Carlisle defined as CFOs of professional services companies in the $100 million-plus revenue range.
- Hippo pushes consumption data into Marketo and Salesforce, giving the sales team better-qualified leads and better insight into which prospects are real. To obtain new opt-ins from LinkedIn, Unit4 shares "gated" sign-up content relevant to their CFO audience ("10 books every CFO should read" is a recent popular example). Those leads go into Marketo for email "nurturance" and also into Salesforce, with the content activity from Hippo served into both.
This has pushed Carlisle's team beyond integration into analytics/decision support. Now they can help salespeople in ways they couldn't prior. He told the assembled marketers:
If a salesperson comes to you - which I’m sure they do - "I need more leads, and more leads faster," You're able to say, "Let’s sit down and see what’s already in the system - let’s see who’s been active, and if you’ve been able to reach out to them."
Looking at the data from Hippo within Salesforce, Carlisle's team can work with sales to define an "acceleration scheme" that moves beyond a white paper download. They serve up relevant content based on vertical/region/role, and track the engagement. That pays off:
This whole ecosystem really supports our business, and we've seen a dramatic increase in our lead gen [power] because if it. We can build a dashboard, put it in front of our salespeople, [and show them] per vertical, per customer, or per region, the people who are interested in our content.
Carlisle provided a screen shot of a sales dashboard:
(click on the screen shot for a bigger view)
The wrap - hurdles of personalization lie ahead
Empower your salespeople, and they'll sing your praises:
The core of any enterprise team is making sure the salespeople can go out there and do their job. If the salespeople say, "We are able to do more" - that’s where the business knows we were able to make the difference.
The Hippo integrations did the job. Carlisle reports that "Marketo sales insight has had a really big impact on our salespeople." But, as he was quick to point out: "We're not finished yet." He still sees Unit4 in the middle of those maturity stages. There's still too much manual reporting which needs to be automated. But it's not just automating reports - it's about harnessing analytics to for predictive trends.
And then there's personalization. Hill sang the praises of Hippo's "relevance model" and its ties to Elastic Search, a popular open source enterprise search tool. But Carlisle told the audience they are just tiptoeing into personalization: "Personalization is the tip of that maturity model, you have to make sure you're doing the third one first."
Utlimately, Carlisle wants show the business exactly how much-increased business they can expect per marketing investment percentage:
The business loves that, you can they love the predictive nature of this, it turns marketing into more of a science.
Carlisle told the audience he was excited to "to build this sort of ecosystem with Hippo at the center." But he quickly put himself in check:
Look, this is only the start - this is a continuous journey; we have to be better. That’s why we say to the business: "Yes at the moment you’re getting great value, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We’re not there yet." But it’s a vision.
Hippo is now moving through a big rebranding from Hippo CMS to Hippo DX. I'm not crazy about rebranding hype. But if they compile enough of these use cases, Hippo just might justify how a CMS deserves a "digital experience" monicker.
End note: for more context on Hippo, check Barb Mosher Zinck's Hippo CMS – can a hybrid content platform be effective? from last February, which includes a short editor's note on our own prior Hippo evaluation.