One of my favorite sayings is from the greatest hockey player of all-time, Wayne Gretzky. In response to a question about what he attributed his success to, he answered in a very straightforward, modest manner and said: "I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has already been."
At Mediacurrent, we have been gradually rolling out a new strategic direction. To preface, "no", we are not abandoning Drupal, the open-source CMS that we have predicated our business model around the last 6+ years. While we believe positioning is critical for the success of any company, so is being able to continuously innovate and offer unique value differentiators.
Recently, we conducted a third-party, independently conducted survey with some of our active clients. A key take-away was that our customers now "get" Drupal and the basic commands needed to administer their site. What they truly desire is more strategic guidance. Our customers are demanding more from us. Enter marketing automation.
The Value of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation allows organizations to consolidate, streamline, and better manage campaigns that were once cumbersome to track and administer. A chief marketing officer (CMO) is now capable of viewing a centralized dashboard to measure the ROI of various strategies via a marketing automation product. Marketing automation though is still in the early adoption stages, as ex-Pardot founder David Cummings rightfully pointed out in a recent blog post. For Mediacurrent, this is where we believe an opportunity to fill a void exists.
It is almost a foregone conclusion that CMS purchasing decisions, especially at the enterprise-level, are now being driven by the CMO and more sophisticated marketing departments. There are many in the web space who are predicting that this paradigm shift from technology to marketing is a major disruptor. They are coining phrases like "web experience management " or "online channel optimization." The challenge is coming up with a platform to standaridize various web tools and properties. This is where Drupal really shines.
You might think this focus on marketing automation would drive us to develop our own product. After all, many digital agencies reach a "tipping point" (my antecedotcal analysis is that this happens after 4 - 7 years). At this stage, a decision needs to be made on investing in research and development (R&D) to build a product or continue down a professional services model. One of the more famous examples is 37 Signals out of Chicago. 37 Signals are the creators of popular web-based software products like Basecamp. However, many forget they were in the website-building business for over 5 years before they launched their first product.
For Mediacurrent, we certainly thought about building our own Drupal distribution or even marketing automation product. In the end, we decided to "stick with what we know", which in our case was professional services (PS). Yes, I get it - PS is not as glamourous and usually does not involve an exit with as many zeros. Please allow me to allow explain our rationale:
- By continuing to focus on PS, we have direct autonomy over our culture, which is our #1 priority; if we wanted to take our own product to market this would have been extremely difficult. Admittedly, there are already serious players in the space. Essentially, our destiny would have been in the hands of VCs or those with motives that did not fully align with Mediacurrent.
- We desire to fill a gap. We are seeing a tremendous uptick with organizations that need to create a lead-generating content strategy and integrate existing marketing automation products with Drupal. However, there are very few agencies that have the bandwidth, processes, and general capabilities to execute against these integration needs.
- We want to play our part to take our region to the next level in the websphere. Open-source software adoption is exploding in Georgia. We firmly believe that Atlanta has all the ingredients to compete with our more established "tech/start-up" cities. We want to continue to make sure organizations like The Weather Channel (weather.com) not only have a positive on-boarding to Drupal, but make sure marketing initiatives are enhanced as a result.
Where do we go from here?
Our road-map includes initiatives like:
- Forming strategic alliances with the thought leaders in the marketing automation space.
- Maintaining orphaned Drupal marketing automation modules or pushing forward ones that have already been initiated to ensure they are stable and production ready.
- Our Marketing Director, Adam Waid, is mobilizing a dedicated marketing automation team that will include the skills needed to add value to our customers such as: content strategy, SEO, Analytics, conversation path optimization, and Drupal module development for marketing automation.
- Advancing the marketing automation movement in our region, especially Atlanta, by speaking and generating relevant content.
- Conducting workshops for our customers on how to leverage and integrate marketing automation tools with Drupal.
Finally, Drupal is reaching an inflection point. In order to stay relevant and thrive the Drupal community must grow and recruit all types of skills and talent. In order to accomplish this, the Drupal community must take a vested interest in the success of other technologies—think Symfony and Drupal 8. By getting involved in the marketing automaton arena, we expose a whole new set of people to how Drupal can be effectively leveraged to solve problems.
What are your thoughts? I would welcome your feedback.