Shot overlooking the convention center floor at HubSpot Inbound in Boston in September of 2019.
PHOTO: Dom Nicastro

HubSpot launched a new Content Management System offering, calling it CMS Hub. It comes with HubSpot’s CRM and Conversations and integrates with Marketing Hub, Sales Hub and Service Hub, company officials say. 

What does that mean in the larger context of the marketing technology ecosystem? Does this make HubSpot a player among the larger marketing clouds? Does HubSpot envision itself in the same breath as the branded Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) that Forrester and Gartner analyze in closely-watched industry reports?

That depends on who you ask. HubSpot officials told CMSWire that CMS Hub is not targeting a penetration into the DXP conversation nor does this release mean it's targeting big marketing clouds. It is, though, touting an “all-in-one connected platform.” “As of right now we're really focused on making sure those mid-market companies and their marketers just have a really good CMS that allows them to build websites that create a digital experience,” said Angela DeFranco, director of product management for Cambridge, Mass.-based HubSpot.

Web Building Experiences for Marketers, Developers

CMS Hub composes two tiers: enterprise and professional. HubSpot offered a CMS before. The new CMS Hub differs in that it provides distinct experiences: developers can get started and build sites with local development, and GitHub integration. And marketers can carve out their own experience path, using drag-and-drop editing and themes, for instance. “We've really kind of pulled apart the different workflows that marketers and developers have, and we've built tooling that suits them, tools that they want to use the way that they want to use them,” DeFranco said.

The professional tier of the SaaS CMS Hub ($240 per month) includes:

  • A globally hosted CDN, 24/7 threat monitoring and a web application firewall built-in.
  • Multi-language support, drag-and-drop and website themes and modules.
  • A/B testing, SEO recommendations and contact attribution reporting.
  • Built-in CRM and Conversations tools that integrate with Marketing Hub, Sales Hub and Service Hub.

The enterprise tier of CMS Hub ($900 per month) includes:

  • Activity logging, content partitioning, and permissioning functionality.
  • the ability to build membership websites fueled by customer data in the HubSpot CRM.
  • Management of different domains and creation of microsites for specific campaigns; and management and reporting on multiple websites within the same CMS portal.

The Promise of Integration Needs Execution

That integration promise is a lofty one, of course. And an easily criticized one, too. Truth is, integrations are always challenging for any technology, and marketing isn’t immune. In December 2018, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Winterberry Group estimated that US marketers spent nearly $5 billion on data management and integration products in 2018, a 25% increase from 2017 according to a report by eMarketer last May. 

Tony White, CEO of Ars Logica, which analyzes and researches CMS technologies, said the vision of the CMS Hub offering integrating with HubSpot’s other hubs bodes well for those looking for a suite-based platform. It could make HubSpot a competitor in the suite-based digital experience software class, White added, because they have respectable marketing automation and CRM capabilities along with sales and service offerings. “But those suites all come with same caveats,” White said. “And that's that creating a digital experience for certain visitors or customers is always integration. Integration. Integration. Integration. So the release and announcement and all of the buzz is about how it's seamless and it works together and it’s all part of one platform, and there are some benefits, absolutely, to that. But I’ve also seen failed implementations because customers bought too strongly into that and really didn’t understand what’s involved in creating optimized customer experiences.”

Still, White called HubSpot CMS a positive development for the CMS community, and with the right product strategy and marketing execution it should make significant inroads quickly. He’s also heard the CMS Hub is built cleanly and has high marks from an implementation and maintenance perspective.

Related Article: What's Behind the Vision for the Salesforce CMS?

Managing the Art of the Unknown

SJ Hood, client success manager for ClientsFirst, a HubSpot platinum partner, said the best thing about HubSpot’s platform is that every hub works together. “Their holistic approach enables all areas of the business to feed into one another and enhance each other’s capabilities,” said Hood, a HubSpot certified trainer. “In particular, the HubSpot CMS is at its most powerful for marketers when paired with the free CRM. One of the most exciting parts of the HubSpot CMS from a marketing perspective is the ability to create Smart Content and CTAs. Using existing contact data, you can serve content that is more specific and more relevant to the needs of different visitors to your site.”

HubSpot seems to really embrace what Hood’s company has been calling “The Art of the Unknown.” “What they have managed to do by creating this fully connected platform with an enormous ecosystem of integrations,” she added, “is develop a system that has infinite possibilities in terms of functionality.”

Where Customer Data Meets Content Management

HubSpot’s DeFranco, when discussing integration, said websites, perhaps more so than ever now, are becoming less of a vanity thing and more an integral part of business and how companies operate. “It's acting like a CRM in that way that it's the system of content, and then your CRM is your system of record,” DeFranco said. “And these two things interplay like crazy.”

She added that having multiple hubs in the same suite means all the design patterns on the UX interactions are the same, taking off the “cognitive load” that forces marketers and other suite users to think about jumping back and forth between systems. “As you go down deeper and you start to think about what these companies are asking for when they want to do this tech consolidation and when they want to transform the digital experience, then you start to see some of the smarter features come into play like Smart Content,” said DeFranco.

Smart Content allows targeting for website pages, landing pages, emails, CTAs, and forms based on specific criteria stored about contacts. It leads to a “digital experience for these cohorts of people without really having to dig really deep or spend a lot of time, resources and energy,” according to DeFranco.

Related Article: HubSpot Unveils New CMS

What Is the Product Target?

HubSpot has been making a play as a mid-market suite for some time, according to Tony Byrne, CEO and founder of Real Story Group. Byrne said the HubSpot CMS Hub is likely to be of interest only to existing Hubspot licensees and not the market more broadly. “Even then,” he added, “RSG always counsels never defaulting to a solution just because it comes from an incumbent vendor. Other WCM platforms can integrate with HubSpot's CRM and MAP (marketing automation platform) offerings as well."

Kipp Bodnar, chief marketing officer for HubSpot, told CMSWire his company’s CMS Hub can “stand on its own two feet,” but naturally believes it’s better if the product is used in tandem with other HubSpot hubs. He calls HubSpot CMS a standout in the midmarket space. One site — crowdsource site G2 Crowd — agrees, putting HubSpot on top of the midmarket CMS space ahead of a couple dozen others.

“In building the CMS Hub product, we wanted to create an awesome CMS product because we thought there's just a big gap in the market,” Bodnar said. “You’re either using WordPress which is a good product but requires a ton of customization and a ton of development work and a lot of maintenance and security challenges. Or you're using Adobe or something at the very high end of the market. There's nothing really in the middle that could really be a great compelling SaaS CMS for both marketers and developers. When we built this product we were thinking there is going to be a lot of people who just come in and buy this product right away. We saw that on the first day. We had a couple companies come in and buy this without talking to us and they weren't a customer of any of our other products.”

Vision of a DXP?

When asked if HubSpot is moving toward creating a digital experience platform, DeFranco said that while that kind of product line makes sense from a branding and analyst perspective, it doesn’t so much jive with HubSpot’s product trajectory for now. “We asked customers if they knew what a digital experience platform is or are they using one, and we didn't get a lot of customers that recognize that term,” DeFranco said. Customers, she said, simply want to create and craft a digital experience so that consumers can have a “unified feeling of walking through everything.” With that, DeFranco said she can see why some vendors go with the DXP branding.

“However, from our branding aspect of it, we distinctly chose to call the enterprise version of this a CMS, because at the end of the day, that's what it is: it's an enterprise CMS that's for scaling companies that are tired of being held back by website management.”

DeFranco did say HubSpot won’t stop exploring the DXP storyline but now is focused on helping organizations build great digital experiences through its product hubs, no matter what you call it.

Related Article: Is it Time We Declutter CMS?

Content Hubs and CDPs in HubSpot’s Future?

White of Ars Logica says he wouldn't be surprised if HubSpot feels that “content hubs” is the next iteration of DXPs and digital experience management. He’s heard of a “number of leading” DXP vendors working toward a rebranding as “Content Hubs,” or "something similar." HubSpot, he said, would “buy into it 110%.”

White even sees HubSpot throwing its hat into the customer data platform ring, like other marketing technology have; Acquia acquired CDP AgilOne in December. “They have many of the pieces,” White said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they submit a response for a Wave or Magic Quadrant for CDPs.”