Content Marketing

Why I Advise SaaS Companies Against Building Their Own CMS

A respected colleague called me from a marketing agency asking for some advice as she spoke to a business that was building out its own online platform. The organization was composed of highly talented developers and they were resistant to utilizing a content management system (CMS)… instead driving to implement their own home-grown solution.

It’s something that I’ve heard before… and I typically advise against it. Developers often believe a CMS is simply a database table where content is kept and that can be easily updated as needed. But they’re missing hundreds of features that a CMS provides. Not to mention the business priorities for the organization.

Why Shouldn’t You Build A CMS?

  1. Search and Social Media Capabilities – I wrote The Features Every Content Management System Must Have For Search Engine Optimization for one business whose developers wanted to do this. The article walks through everything a content management system truly needs to have – from XML sitemaps, through featured images… necessary to promote and syndicate your content across the web easily. Omitting any one of these features puts your company at a disadvantage against your competitors. Not to mention the ever-changing priorities of both search and social – with new ways to enhance, automate, optimize, and integrate your content to those mediums and channels.
  2. Development Priorities – As you bring an online platform to life, your platform is never done. Bugs, features, integrations… your lifeblood is your online platform. As a result, the rudimentary content management system you’ve built must be put far down your priorities list. As your marketing team looks to optimize and promote content to drive sales, they’re inhibited by the lack of features in your home-grown CMS. As a result, sales and marketing can’t meet their full potential. Implementation of a CMS that’s widely adopted means that there are ongoing support and enhancements that come with it. Those businesses that support the CMS have it as their priority, and your business can keep your platform as your priority.
  3. It’s An Unnecessary Expense – Why would you try to reinvent something that’s already built? A platform like WordPress has incredible capabilities with a ton of flexibility. If your team wants to, it could use WordPress as a headless CMS… where your marketing team can utilize all its capabilities, but your development team can use the WordPress API to publish and integrate it into your platform. WordPress can also utilize Single Sign-On (SSO) capabilities… sharing usernames and passwords with your platform. WordPress can also be hosted in a subdirectory… or your app can be using a reverse proxy.

Think about some of the scenarios that your marketing team may want to implement.

  • Perhaps you wish to expand a page’s content, add sections, and incorporate columns… does your CMS have that flexibility?
  • Perhaps they want to add event registration… does your CMS have the ability to send scheduling links and reminders?
  • Perhaps you want to gate a free ebook, does your marketing team have the capability for a popup with exit intent and to adjust the registration fields?
  • Perhaps you wish to segment your client traffic from your prospect traffic – do you have the means to segment the two types of traffic in analytics to identify your marketing impact?
  • Perhaps you wish to automate your newsletter and integrate your latest blog posts so that you don’t have to build your email each week… do you have an RSS feed that’s customizable for doing that?

There are literally hundreds of scenarios that require flexibility on the part of your CMS to fully leverage your content in your marketing efforts. Your development team is going to have a tough time keeping up with a modern CMS that literally has dozens of full-time developers hardening and supporting their CMS capabilities… and the plethora of themes and plugin developers expanding those capabilities.

And Maybe You Should Integrate A CMS

I’ve provided quite a few reasons against building a CMS. One perspective that’s not mentioned above is the opportunities that come with integrating your core platform with a CMS.

One company that I worked with had a simple script that could be embedded in your site to identify businesses that were arriving at the site. I developed a WordPress plugin that automatically added the script and provided a view in WordPress for them. When the plugin was published in the WordPress repository, their adoption skyrocketed. Why? Because WordPress users were constantly searching for plugins that provided the features that they provided.

If your developers built a great administrative panel integrated it via a WordPress Plugin, you’re significantly expanding your SaaS’ reach. When they have millions of implementations across the globe and you’re looking to increase your visibility… a CMS directory may be a great place to be promoting your platform.

Keep your development resources free to support the lifeline of your company’s revenue – your platform. Implement a content management system to fully leverage your content marketing strategies.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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