StevepowersBy Stephen Powers

I recently attended Vignette’s annual analyst day, which turned out to be pretty enlightening, although perhaps not for the reasons I would have originally thought. For those of you who are unfamiliar with analyst days: vendors regularly hold what – to put it inelegantly – are essentially dog-and-pony shows that give their executives the opportunity to communicate their vision, their strategy, and their roadmaps to the analyst community. The buzzword du jour for WCM vendors is "customer experience," and Vignette’s management team dutifully spoke about how their products can help companies create rich, contextual online experiences using Vignette’s new recommendation engine, video offering, and community products. Vignette also included as part of its analyst day schedule two customer panels, where customers spoke about their experiences with Vignette and participated in Q&A with the audience. In analyst-speak, these customer panels were the real differentiators for Vignette’s analyst day.

While WCM vendors are busy announcing all kinds of bells and whistles, the fact is that the true functionality differentiators among the top WCM vendors are few and far between. These days, most of the WCM vendors are hopping on the customer experience bandwagon, and they are adjusting functionality and messaging accordingly. And they truly need to.

But functionality aside, what is really compelling is when a high-visibility, high-volume content provider like Fox News participates in a customer panel, and stands up and praises a vendor (Vignette, in this case), talking about how valuable their products are in creating those customer experiences and how those products have helped them become more competitive in the marketplace. Others on the panel had similar success stories. Another customer, when asked about what made his company stay with Vignette, didn’t answer functionality, but simply stated, "It’s the people." Vignette has had its well-publicized share of issues with customers who moved from V6 to V7, but I recently spoke with another customer who went through that upgrade, and she stated that she never considered bringing in another vendor, because she was happy with the customer service and support people she had regular contact with.

There is no subsistute for positive word-of-mouth generated by customers speaking publicly about their success stories and about their satisfaction with the vendor’s employees; that’s more effective than anything marketing can come up with. It seems like Vignette may be starting to make some progress in this area. It’s certainly worth keeping your ear to the ground for stories like this about the WCM vendors you may be considering.