In the not-so-distant past all brands were broadcasters of information. The most aspirational brands sold us dreams and visions through advertising of how our life could be. The more functional or mundane companies conveyed the practical benefits or time and cost savings of their product. Fast forward to the present day and times have changed. Brands now have multiple routes to reach the consumer; the rise of social media, mobile, and content publishing have opened a wealth of new opportunities, but at the same time the consumer has become savvier, more selective, and much harder to please.
In the new age of omni-channel commerce and hyper-connectivity, brands must engage with their current and prospective customers in ever-changing, ever-more sophisticated ways. Across the C-Suite – from CEO, to CMO, to CIO – enterprise brands must embrace a world where they are “publishers” of content and where technology decisions are vital to customer engagement; and it starts with the website. Get this wrong and it can be an expensive and time consuming mistake to rectify.
A brief history of content
The rise of the Internet in the late 90s caused every brand to move to the web, even though no one quite knew what it all meant. “This is just another brochure,” people said, but it wasn’t just that. The digital natives knew “this is big,” but even they couldn’t articulate exactly why, and in what form. But they were right.
For brands, the shift in the subsequent 10 years wasn’t to create new form-factors for brochures and other traditional marketing material, but rather it represented a fundamental shift in what the brand is, how it is consumed by consumers. Today, the website is sometimes the first interaction a brand has with a new customer, and often the thing existing customers interact with most often. It’s not just another form of billboard, it is the brand.
Ten years after the rise of “brand is the website,” there has been a new shift, driven by social media, mobile, and content publishing. This shift is often articulated as “brands are publishers,” which is literally true, but it’s deeper than that. Just as the website isn’t just another form-factor, being a brand-publisher isn’t just another form-factor, but rather it’s a fundamental shift in how the brand is defined.
Now a customer’s first interaction with a brand might be a re-tweet, or an infographic hosted on that brand’s publishing page, or an ebook being passed around an office, or a teaser on Facebook that leads to a long-form article, or a viral video. The diversity of content formats and ability to target persona groups is crucial in the shift to publisher. So too is the technology that underpins it. Technology needs the power to measure user engagement analysing success and performance and the freedom to react accordingly.
CMOs need help with strategic thinking as well as tactical results measuring. And everyone needs to appreciate that in this new world job boundaries are rapidly blurring – the CMO has to understand technical web build functionality, just the CIO needs to display creative vision.
The website is where the customer journey is centered. Whether it’s the main corporate web domain, an internal intranet, campaign site, or microsite, a call to action will nearly always drive the user to a dedicated web page where they can learn more, conduct research, be entertained, or hopefully buy. So the choice of web platform is crucial.
Is your CMS super-charged for fast growth?
As the industry’s leading managed hosting and services provider for WordPress, we’ve always known that WordPress offers unparalleled ease of use and flexibility for users – it’s ideally placed to facilitate the move from broadcaster to publisher.
For companies where agility and speed to market are key, WordPress is a solution that matches those ideals. So is stands to reason then, that fast growth and start-up companies build their websites and other web assets on the WordPress platform.
WP Engine recently did some research of its own to understand how UK and European companies are building their websites. Using publicly available third party tools, WP Engine set out to review the current state of play from a cross-section of innovative, exciting, and trend-setting groups of companies.
We analysed the content management systems of 290 UK and European companies identified as either fast growth or innovative start-ups. The purpose of the research was to understand what tools organisations were using and to see what insight could be drawn from these web development habits. Three independent lists of companies, (Top 100 startups 2014, Wired.co.uk, and 100 Best small companies) all produced within the last 12 months, were selected.
In total 26 percent (75) of companies use WordPress as the primary website CMS. No other third-party CMS comes close. The next nearest competitors were Magento at 2 percent (7), Joomla at 3 percent (9) Drupal at 1 percent (4).
This number is certainly encouraging. It shows that a significant proportion of organisations are embracing WordPress as a vital technology provider to their business. WordPress is successfully making the shift from famous blog platform to trusted web platform and third-party CMS of choice for many of Europe’s most exciting companies. There is definitely a lesson for enterprise organisations to learn here about how to embrace the nimbleness and agility that characterises start-up and fast growth companies.
However, the highest stat across all three lists was for custom build sites, this accounted for 63 percent (183) of companies. Whilst WordPress is emphatically winning the battle against its competitors, there is still clearly much work to be done to persuade organisations that they can receive the same level of functionality and personalisation through WordPress as they can through a custom web build. A crucial difference of course, is that organisations using WordPress can build and launch their site in a fraction of the time, and a fraction of the cost of a custom build site. But more importantly, they are able to genuinely democratise the creation of content within their company allowing additional content to be created and published quickly. With custom build sites the developer is often the bottleneck. With WordPress anybody you choose to can be given access to create content. Of course you can create workflows to authorise new content so it can be controlled, but almost anybody in the company with minimal training can use WordPress and create content. Finally, with the WordPress community at your fingertips, companies can seamlessly add business-critical plug-ins and innovative new themes. Development and innovation is open source and freely available.
In this new world of “brand is publishing,” enterprise brands need to plan for an uncertain future in a shifting world. Next year will be different from this year, and three years from now it will be different again. Just as the purpose and implementation details of “brand is website” changed over the subsequent decade, so will “brand is publishing.” You can’t learn the playbook and then execute it blindly. But you can deploy flexible, future-proof technology and processes that allow you to adapt and quickly pivot when the market dictates. There are lessons we can all learn from how fast growth and start-up companies are planning for future growth.
Fabio Torlini is Managing Director for WP Engine. Based in London’s Tech City, his main role is helping WP Engine launch their services into Europe. With over 15 years’ experience in the hosting and cloud industry, he has a thorough understanding of all aspects of IT B2B marketing, branding, PR, channel and management. Most notably in his career, Fabio helped build Rackspace to what it has become today – a leader in the cloud industry with revenues of $1.5 billion.