I've been building websites for a long time. Developers would probably want me to qualify that statement. I am a brand and content strategist by trade, so I don't write code. But I have guided dozens of clients through the web design process, done the hard work of structuring content to appeal to both search engines and audiences, and built numerous sites that dramatically increased lead quantities and website-sourced revenue. One thing that I've learned through all of these projects is this: the platform you choose to build your site on matters.
Choosing a platform seems like it should be simple, but that's only because everyone typically defaults to WordPress (which is a great platform!). In my experience, it pays to take a little bit more time and effort to evaluate what platform choice to make and why.
In this post I'd like to make the case that Hubspot CMS Hub should be included as one of the leading contenders in your website platform evaluation. But, before waxing poetic about the reasons I love CMS Hub, I'd like to walk you through the three decision points I'm thinking about during any website platform evaluation.
Decision Point 1: Open Source vs. Proprietary
Do you want to go with an open source platform or with a proprietary one? This is the first question to answer in any tech evaluation.
There are benefits to each approach:
- Open source CMS solutions like WordPress offer you complete ownership of your site at no cost (except for hosting and third-party plugin costs), an near infinite amount of flexibility and configurability, and a developer community numbering in the thousands who you can work with to build your site.
- Proprietary CMS solutions like Hubspot CMS Hub or Adobe Experience Manager offer the benefit of continual improvement for the price of your subscription (teams of developers are working behind the scenes to improve the product), greater integration with your customer data, significant coding and configuration shortcuts, and built in functionality like A/B testing.
There are also drawbacks to each:
- Open source CMS solutions require constant upkeep. Although they offer infinite flexibility, that flexibility means that sites can be configured using custom templates or cheap off-the-shelf templates. The huge variance in code quality can lead to vastly different levels of performance. Significant functionality can be added via 3rd-party plugins, but overuse of plugins can lead to additionally reduced performance.
- Proprietary CMS solutions have less flexibility than an open source CMS because they are developed by a team that is opinionated about how their platform should work. This means you may not be able to do everything you want, although you likely can achieve 95% of your hopes and dreams with a good platform. The other drawback is that you don't own your entire website with a proprietary CMS (although you do own your data). You're paying for a subscription to the CMS just like do for marketing software like MailChimp, Marketo or Hubspot.
Understanding these pros and cons, it's time to get out my favorite tool, the whiteboard. Make a pro and con list. Weigh your options. Reassure yourself that there's no perfect solution. Then make a choice and move on to decision point 2.
Decision Point 2: Best Of Breed vs. All-In-One
Regardless of whether you choose to go with an open source or proprietary platform, your next decision is whether you want to integrate together a number of best of breed solutions or go with an all-in-one system.
A best of breed system does one thing well, like hosting a website, but it may not also provide a CRM or email functionality. An all-in-one system provides all the functionality for marketing in a single platform. Most all-in-one platforms also integrate with numerous third-party software through pre-built integrations.
So, how do you choose between the two approaches? My recommendations for clients typically hinge on three key factors: expertise, data integration needs, and necessary configuration speed.
- Expertise: Integrating together numerous best of breed solutions requires significant technical expertise. If you don't have it in house, or don't have the budget to pay for it on an ongoing basis, the needle bends towards a more contained system.
- Data Integration Needs: Data integration is possible in all systems, but most all-in-one systems with a CRM component offer it out of the box. You'll probably lean this direction if personalization and contact-level reporting is a core requirement for your site.
- Necessary Configuration Speed: Most of the time in the marketing world, speed is of the essence. But if you're smart, you've planned ahead for your web design project. If you're on an accelerated timeframe an all-in-one platform that is likely to work better out-of-the-box may be something to consider. If you have a luxurious timeframe, this bullet point becomes less of a consideration than the other two.
Once you've thought through this decision point, the picture is getting clearer. You have a better idea of what's best for you. And now it's on two decision point 3, evaluating actual platforms.
Decision Point 3: Choosing A Platform
Congrats! You've now narrowed down your options from dozens or hundreds of platforms to probably 3-5 front runners. Now it's time to evaluate solutions that land in the category you've chosen by:
- Desired functionality
- Level of technical expertise needed
- Integrations with other key systems
This final evaluation will give you the basis to make a confident decision and know that you've thought deep and long about the best platform. Make your choice. Be confident. Move forward and build a great website.
IF You Want All-In-One, Consider Hubspot CMS HUB
If you've gone through this entire process and landed on wanting a proprietary CMS that offers all-in-one functionality, we think that Hubspot CMS Hub should be one of your finalists. Why? Because it provides significant value as an enterprise website platform (G2 Crowd agrees with this reco, so don't just take our word for it). And it's cost is significantly lower than other comparable platforms.
There are a ton of under-the-hood benefits to making the choice to go with CMS Hub as your website platform. Check out the video below to learn more.
It's great to no longer have to worry about servers and hosting, security, and access levels for your team, but there are significant benefits to your day-to-day marketing efforts as well. Here are 4 of our favorite features that we'll be leaning into more and more with our clients in the coming year.
1. Easy To Use Drag & Drop Modules
Hubspot CMS Hub offers an amazingly simple drag and drop interface that allows marketers with no code experience to build pages using pre-built modules within their theme without any technical support.
This front-end editing experience means that the pages needed for campaigns and initiatives can be created rapidly, reducing the time from campaign ideation to execution. All this results in creating value faster for your enterprise.
2. One-To-One Marketing On Your Website
CMS Hub seamlessly integrates with their CRM product and Hubspot's Marketing Hub. This makes one-to-one marketing possible on your site in a number of ways:
- Personalization Through Smart Content: Any rich content module can be personalized using the data you know about your customers and prospects. This means that you can provide an entirely different site experience to someone who is halfway through your sales cycle. They don't have to see the same content first time visitors see. All of this can be accomplished with no technical expertise.
- Triggered Workflows Based On Site Interactions: Anyone known to your CRM can receive specific follow ups based on the content they interact with on the site, allowing you to increase the value you provide to prospects with even more specific, relevant, and helpful content.
- Progressive Data Capture: Because your website will know who your prospects are when they return to the site, you can skip asking them the same questions whenever they're filling out a form and instead ask them to provide additional information that will further qualify them.
3. Powerful Attribution Reporting
The long-standing problem for digital marketers has been how to attribute the success of the specific tactics we employ. CMS Hub allows you to finally make the connection between specific content, pages, and revenue. Using attribution reporting, you'll be able to see what content types, messages, and campaigns are driving leads and which leads are converting.
4. Built-In Optimization
I've spent significant time over the last decade building and executing optimization tests within Optimizely. This third-party tool is definitely valuable and allowed us to drive some amazing results, but it doesn't compare to having optimization tools built into the site. CMS Hub allows you to throw up an A/B quickly, but that's only the beginning. The CMS offers also what is called adaptive tests where you can test 5 versions of creative against each other. Once the system determines the winner, it will automatically show the winning version. A simple and easy way to constantly improve your site.
We're bullish about the capabilities that Hubspot CMS Hub offers to you to grow the effectiveness of your marketing. It offers rich and powerful functionality at an affordable price ($300/month). It has the power to transform sites that are fairly static brochures into living and breathing marketing tools that will drive value for your business.
We're also excited any time businesses think critically about what website platform will push their business the furthest forward, regardless of whether it's CMS Hub or another platform. We also know that the decision can be challenging to navigate on your own. If you're looking for a partner to help you navigate that challenge, please schedule some time with me, I'd love to chat.