Despite turning mainstream from being esoteric, this is one of those functions that have been adopted widely but have varying success levels.
You have brands that leverage this well on the one end of the spectrum and then there are those at the other end that are struggling to get marketing velocity or decent responses on campaigns.
The reason is because of misconceptions and the misguided utilization of marketing automation / Campaign Management platforms.
I’m sure that most of our readers run multi-channel campaigns using marketing clouds / marketing automation platforms, albeit at varying maturity levels.
It’s good that you are doing it. But the question is, are you doing it right? Are you getting enough bang for the buck invested?
This article will help you evaluate whether your Campaign Management function performs the way it should or if it needs transformation.
Let’s get started.
#1. Your campaigns are focused only on acquisition
Almost every marketer would agree that nothing turns them on more than acquiring a new customer.
This is evident in the way marketing budgets are utilized.
Source: Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2020
It’s both shocking and surprising to note that less than 9% of marketing budgets is allocated for marketing to existing customers (Percentage of budget spent on Email Marketing in the above graph)
The growth of Facebook and Google over the past decade clearly shows how obsessed marketers are with acquisition.
After all, these are the big daddy channels for acquiring new customers or for generating leads.
Similarly, the usage of marketing automation platforms clearly reveals where the focus is on. 61% of marketers use it for lead generation.
Another example. As marketers, we all use analytics. But how many of us use analytics in our transaction portals vis-à-vis marketing portals and use the insights to market to our existing customers?
May be just a few.
This clearly shows that a majority of marketers are obsessed only with acquisition and very little attention goes into marketing to existing customers.
However, Marketing DOES NOT EQUAL acquisition.
While there is no doubt that new customer acquisition is the life blood for any organization, you shouldn’t forget that your existing customers are a gold mine.
There are several studies similar to the ones below that demonstrate the importance of marketing to existing customers.
Despite this, there are only a few industries such as SaaS and Telcos that inherently focus on metrics beyond acquisition such as Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) respectively.
It is very apparent that new customer acquisition alone won’t influence these metrics and brands in these industries naturally tend to market to existing customers.
Great and successful marketers in other industries inter-connect Acquisition, Renewal, Activation, Retention, Usage, Adoption, Profile Enrichment and many other goals to achieve marketing outcomes.
And while superficially it may seem like these objectives are de-focusing them from core revenue objectives, the truth is quite the opposite.
A Dubai-based retail bank was using a leading marketing automation platform as an email platform with automation capabilities in a way that nurtured leads that they generated from their digital properties, offline events and financial awareness camps and turned them into customers. When they outsourced this activity to us, we realized the platform was used to run campaigns targeted only at prospects. We pointed out the benefits and the need for marketing to existing customers. Since there was no need for any additional investment, we got a buy in.
In addition to the prospect campaigns, we conceptualized and developed over 200 campaigns across the lifecycle covering all of the client’s retail banking products. In just over three quarters, we were able to demonstrate a significant impact on overall portfolio through our campaigns.
Each one of these metrics directly impacts or influences revenue.
If you want to truly leverage your investments on marketing automation / campaign management platforms, here’s what you need to do.
- Arrive at a blend of marketing campaigns targeting new customer acquisition, and the retention and growth of existing customers
- Develop a campaign calendar that ensures there is no clash between the schedules of all these campaigns
- Create separate campaign workflows within the platform for each of them
- Optimize the speed of ‘campaign planning to execution’ to ensure that one doesn’t impact the other.
#2. You see campaigns as a way of selling, even to your customers
When someone is not a customer and has no relationship with you, then you need to "sell" to them, to acquire them and make them into customers.
Acquisition is pretty straight forward.
But customers are different from prospects.
Prospects expect you to know little about them. In fact, prospects find it creepy when brands they don't know about, target them with too much personal information.
Source: Data Privacy Manager
That’s why you are dependent on brands like Facebook and Google, who know a lot about your prospects.
Whereas once prospects become customers, they suddenly expect you to know them and target them better - to understand their needs and wants and states and actions and behaviors, and target them accurately.
Remember this doesn’t mean you just "sell" to them indiscriminately, as you do to prospects.
However, most marketers end up selling to existing customers all the time. This is true for even marketers from mature industries like banks, insurance etc.
Isn’t it evident that no one needs a banking product or an insurance policy every month?
If you still focus on just selling to your customers, isn’t it a spray and pray marketing technique that spoils the whole purpose of why you invest on analytics, campaign management and marketing automation platforms?
In fact, as Steve Jobs puts it, “Your customers don’t know what they want”. There are so many offerings you can give your customers that are perfectly aligned to customer lifestage objectives - such as retention, activation, usage, reactivation, winback, loyalty, advocacy etc.
When you align their unstated needs and your customer lifestage objectives, you will end up winning your customers’ hearts and keep them loyal to your brand.
One of India’s largest private banks who we helped pioneer campaign management was able to maximize campaign velocity more than what they targeted. Over time, the bank started receiving complaints from customers that they are constantly getting bombarded with multiple offerings and they had a surplus of choice. We had to take a step back and find out why this happened. We realized our main objective was to sell as many products to customers and had created segments accordingly. Since the bank had over 40 products / product variants, it resulted in the same customers getting mapped to multiple products and we ended up over-contacting them.
To arrest this, we built a customer lifestage model and added more marketing objectives such as activation, usage, retention, up-sell and advocacy. Apart from this, we set up a contact governance policy to prevent customers from getting campaign communication more than twice a week. We also ensured a customer is not reached with more than one product offer in one entire month. Upon deployment, not only did customer dissonance reduce, our campaigns also started getting a 2.3X lift.
You know this is not rocket science. You know this is what you should be doing. However, business pressures force you to sell more to your customers. To overcome this, here’s what you need to do.
- Define relevant customer lifestages for your brand and map a possible list of recommendations that can be made to each customer at each lifestage
- Classify recommendations into revenue-impacting or revenue-influencing
- Arrive at the revenue impact of each recommendation. For example, arrive at the revenue impact of activating a customer, increasing the usage frequency of a customer, winning back a customer, and so on.
- Use analytics to project campaign responses and conversion rates, and proactively determine the overall impact your campaigns can make on portfolio and build business case for customer-needs-driven marketing rather than business-pressure-driven marketing.
#3. You are too obsessed with creating fancy flowcharts
Every marketer today is obsessed with customer journeys.
We understand that creating complex multi-channel drip campaigns is cool and we all feel gratified after completing a super cool complex flowchart.
The flowchart-based drip campaigns work well in B2B marketing.
And it works well when you are targeting your prospects. The more you expose your brand and communication to them, greater the chances of conversion.
Even with your existing customers, the customer journeys are fine where you absolutely know the boundaries.
For instance, after acquiring a customer you definitely need to have a welcome journey, where a series of communications go to a customer.
It’s obvious you should plan a logical response based on your customers’ response or non-response to a campaign.
But, applying the same flowchart-based multi-wave communication to your existing customers may not actually help you achieve your targets as you intended.
Things go out of hand when complexities grow beyond our ability to comprehend, thanks to growing possibilities for customer communication driven by a proliferation of products, offers, channels, behaviors etc.
Here’s a shocking fact / trend that we found in the campaigns of one of our telecom clients.
It’s not just true for this client. When we did the same study on the response trends of other clients, the findings were almost similar with one-off exceptions.
The logic is quite simple.
When you send a communication out, customers either respond to it or ignore it.
Logically, your customers move further into the sale funnel. Non-respondents have let you know that they are not interested. Or they just ignored your message.
It could be that your mail was lost in a sea of spam mails.
Hence, it definitely makes you try a couple more times to reach them with your attractive offer.
But when they don't respond to say three of your continuous communications, it’s safe to assume that they are not interested.
When someone, especially a hard-earned customer doesn’t need something from you and if you are continuously spamming them in the name of follow-up, how different is your email from one where a Nigerian prince promises you a million dollars?
Instead, isn’t it better to spend your energy trying to understand if you are targeting the wrong person, or if they have a different need or want?
Nonetheless, your can certainly try reaching your customers with the same offering after a
While working for the same client, a Singapore-based telco, we realized that both of us were obsessed with multi-wave and lights out campaigns with complex flowcharts. So we decided to limit decision points in campaigns and capped the maximum number of waves at 5, which is the tipping point of response rates, after which they drop drastically.
This transformation resulted in a shorter, yet ideal length of campaign cycles. This also resulted in more agility in campaign objectives as it opened up possibilities to reach customers with a diverse range of offerings as against the same offer that would be sent to them throughout the campaign period.
few months, when their circumstances and needs may have changed.
We know it’s difficult to change habits and that you have been working on campaign flowcharts for a long time.
We don’t want to stop you from doing that. Our recommendation is only to keep each campaign as simple as possible and focus on maximizing its relevance.
Here are our recommendations to achieve this.
- Limit the number of exposures of each campaign to between 3 and 5 a month.
- If your customers don’t respond to an offer, change the communication after a month
- Optimize future campaigns by modifying campaign objectives for segments
- Ensure each customer is sent communication at least once a month by way of campaigns
#4. You are struggling with marketing velocity
It’s an irony that you subscribe to or implement a marketing automation / campaign management platform thinking you can automate repetitive processes and maximize velocity.
But that doesn’t seem to happen.
Implementing the platform is only one part of the solution. One size doesn’t fit all and the same holds true for marketing automation platforms as well.
As you know, every business does marketing differently and the processes differ too.
Only when you implement the marketing automation / campaign management platform from your marketing processes perspective, you will be able to achieve velocity.
There are several factors that determine its success. Given below are some of the questions for which you need to have answers that would ensure you achieve the intended velocity.
- How does your marketing automation platform consume input data? Are you going to set up a data lake / data warehouse / customer data platform? Or are you going to let the platform talk to individual systems directly? What would be the data refresh frequency?
- How do various business units prioritize and run campaigns without conflict?
- How would you reuse campaigns and segments?
- How would you develop creatives at scale to match targeted marketing velocity?
- How are you going to involve various stakeholders from Data / IT / Product / Operations / Sales / Marketing etc. such that approvals don’t take much time?
- How do you check the feasibility of a campaign before going through the whole process of campaign management?
- How do you define campaign complexity, SLAs and the adherence to it?
- What are the standard inclusion and exclusion criteria?
- What nomenclature process will you use for the easy identification of campaigns?
- How many channels will you use and how will they seamlessly fit into the platform?
Our client, a large loyalty management company did 2500 campaigns annually with a 217-member campaign team against a target of 5000 campaigns. We saw that there were too many manual processes hampering campaign velocity - manual calculation of bonus points, dependence on 17 teams to get the right data, error-prone offer to channel mapping etc.
We first integrated the data sources into a data warehouse with automated handshakes and implemented the campaign management platform. This was followed by a re-jigging of the entire campaign operations, standardization of campaign artefacts, automation of data collection and bonus point calculation and integration of offer mapping within the campaign workflow. In 6 months’ time, the client was able to increase the campaign velocity by 100% with ZERO addition in headcount, thereby achieving the intended marketing campaign velocity..
This isn’t a challenge only for smaller brands. Even highly successful brands of today have gone through this trough. We have helped customers that were not able to run more than 25 campaigns a month, despite million dollar investments on campaign management platforms.
So, if you want to save yourself from the ignominy of a potential marketing automation failure, here’s what you need to do.
- Break down campaign activities into smaller tasks and assign SLAs for each
- Standardize briefing templates such as BRD, Campaign Requirements Document / Campaign Docket and Campaign Quality Checklist
- Define the roles and responsibilities of resources involved and develop an interaction model with details on who does what at each stage along with SLA
- Track SLA vs Actual of every campaign and continuously optimize the TAT of campaigns on an ongoing basis
- Create every campaign in such a way that they can be cloned / reused for further reduction of TAT in future.
#5. Your campaign response rates aren’t great
It’s ok if you get 1% response rate on your campaigns targeted at prospects.
Because, you don’t know much about them and you have to rely on third party sources to know more about them.
However, if your campaigns that are targeted at existing customers are also generating response rates in the range of 1%, then you should be worried.
It means that you did not target your message correctly.
When you get a 1% response rate and a subsequent 10% conversion rate from your campaigns, it is not a success.
It effectively means that 99.9% don't find your campaign relevant or useful. That's a big fail.
When you have a 99.9% failure rate with your campaigns, it means you are spamming your customers.
Don't be a spammer, masquerading as a marketer.
Here’s what I found in my LinkedIn feed this morning. Exactly what we are talking about -
If this is what a prospect does to a brand to which she had shown interest, imagine how disappointed your existing customers must be – customers who expect highly relevant communication that would add value to their lives.
When your customers keep receiving irrelevant communication from you, they will eventually unsubscribe, the cost of which will be too high for your brand.
You won’t be able to send any communication to your customers in the future and you lose being able to sell a product through campaigns.
If you don’t get a response rate of at least 10% on your campaigns targeted at your existing customers, there is something seriously wrong.
Why is there so much focus on email open rates and response rates?
That’s because email has the potential to give the highest ROI among all channels.
Source: Constant Contact
A leading private bank in India had dwindling responses to campaigns. Most of their campaigns were aimed at selling more credit cards and personal loans to the existing base. The targeting criteria was based on demographic attributes derived from the modelling tool.
Since this was straight forward, we developed a customer lifestage model that covered onboarding, activation, channel usage, up-sell, cross-sell, attrition management and advocacy and started influencing direct deposits through salary, activation and usage of internet banking and mobile app, balance build up, billpay subscriptions, service level upgrades, NPS measurement and referral. Given the wide range of targeted actions, customers started responding more to the campaigns with response rates going as high as 37% on some.
Responses to a marketing function indicate how relevant your campaigns are, how & when you connect with your audience and your audience’s attention span.
Here’s what you need to do elicit responses from audiences with attention deficit.
- Make your campaign relevant and meaningful for the customer.
- Understand the customer’s needs and wants, preferences and states based on transaction behaviour and try different offerings until you elicit responses
- Deliver the same message on multiple channels, 3-5 times to increase the probability of your campaign being exposed at the most favourable moment for the customer to respond
- Continue conventional response optimization techniques like delivery channel optimization and send time optimization for increased efficiency.
Before you implement any of the recommendations in the article, we need to get one thing right.
Let us stop using the word “Customers” to refer to “Prospects”. Although we know the difference between the two, we still call our prospects, customers.
It's essential to label relationships correctly to know how to interact with them.
By using the terms inter-changeably, we sub-consciously assume that the same interactions hold good for everyone and that’s where the challenges arise.
I’m sure you would agree with most of the points mentioned in this article. You don’t need to do anything radically different.
Once we set things right inside our head, everything will seamlessly fall in place.
We aren’t done yet. There is another part to this article. Check it out here