Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

A Marriage between CMS and CRM?

I try keep up with the latest trends in IT strategy. (Some of my favorite sites are Darwin and IT Business Edge.) You know, the topics that are of interest to CIOs and other top-level business and technology minds. And I have to say that content management comes up sometimes in the trades, but when it comes to major headlines, all the rage these days is CRM—Customer Relationship Management.

It is interesting to me that CMS and CRM seem to have followed similar paths in terms of starting out as not-well-understood concepts and growing into fairly well defined systems with a prescribed set of functionality.

What I haven’t seen a lot of, though, to my surprise, is many people making a connection between CM and CRM—what to me would seem like a perfect marriage.

If you look at the many facets of CRM, you’ll find that it’s often very intricately interwoven (no product plug intended) with content. Take, for example, these aspects of CRM:

  • Sales & Marketing Automation. A key task in the sales and marketing side of CRM is educating the customer (the well-targeted customer) about your products. How do you do that? You arm your sales staff, your Web site, e-mails, you call center teams, and your advertising channels with great content.
  • Customer Care. The support piece of CRM relies heavily upon the discipline that we refer to as knowledge management. Especially in the area of post-sales support or tech support, where organizations are pushing for more self-service. This is a no-brainer. If you’re going to empower the customer to help themselves, how do you do it? With content.
  • Personalization. I’ve long touted the fact that personalized communications with customers is a fabulous idea, but don’t even think about personalization until you have a solid content management foundation. I mean, seriously, it’s one thing to say, hey we’ve been able to divide our customers into these tiny demographic groups so we can send them messages that are right on target. But, guess what? Those targeted messages are content. Where should they live if not in a CMS?.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there’s a potential new wave on the technology horizon. Maybe not tsunami size, but definitely good for surfing. It’s the vendors who start to recognize the powerful link between CMS and CRM.

In my crystal ball, the lines between knowledge management, content management, and customer relationship management will start to blur. As some already have, more CRM vendors will include document management (for things like managing contracts) in their suites. The Web plays a huge role in CRM. Will we see mergers of WCM and CRM companies?

Ironically, it almost seems that we’ve come full-circle back to the birthplace of CM (circa 1996) when Broadvision and Vignette dominated the CM marketplace and it was all about one-to-one customer communications. That (broad) vision was apparently too hard to realize back then! Maybe it’s possible now.

P.S. I’d love to hear your comments if you’ve been involved with any CMS/CRM integrations! Please add a comment or e-mail me at


  1. David Dickenson

    You said:
    “The Web plays a huge role in CRM”
    Agreed. Not only does it level the playing field in terms of the output from the systems, but it helps drastically with interoperability.
    So … even though the functionality is bleeding across lines, you’re going to be able to shuffle the pieces easier.

  2. Rita Warren

    Thanks for your comments. Good point. While CRM and CMS products may not totally converge, I think there will be a growing trend of integration between the systems. Rita

  3. Jeffrey Stewart

    Rita, I think you are right on the mark. We have work with many Web Content Management systems. When we talk with our clients, we talk about how they (CMS) is the hub for many organizations communication activities.
    By marrying the power of content management – dynamic/variable communication (Varibale Data Printing, personalized emial and other media) with CRM data, the promise of both can be realized.
    Integration and mash-ups is the key, not vertical systems that do a lot of things but none of them well.

  4. uaretroublesome

    Thanks to the world of open source, CMS such as Drupal, Joomla! can be easily integrated with products like SugarCRM, CentricCRM and vtiger. Well at least that’s what i’m involved in.

  5. Ben Agyeman

    Very interesting. I have been touting this combination for the last 18 months. What makes it more intersting is the inclusion of BI (business Intelligence). This actually provides a very strong proposition from a client perspective and technically is doable. Having said that, to me the ultimate combination would to be to add a layer of taxonomy and automatic classification that would then bring in the unstructured data, which then can be acted upon by the BI and the CRM. A federated view of an enterprise which has access to data from all market channels. I have spent a month talking to the blue chips in San francisco ,in this particular space. I suppose they are waiting for that one transforming deal before it hits their radar screen.

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