Seven Differentiators of Success for Your Strategic Marketing Initiatives (Part I)

In over twenty years of Marketing, I worked on many large cross-functional projects. Multiple CLM, CRM and Marketing Automation implementations; restructuring of a lead program responsible for millions of leads per year; Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction initiatives; Product Line launches; fully Integrated Marketing Campaigns; you get the idea. These projects tend to be critical. With regard to CRM, my friends at Merkle have identified 50% of high growth companies are more likely to see CRM as a key driver of success. In addition these high growth companies are 2.4x more likely than low-growth companies to have built/implemented excellent CRM capability. So successful implementation of these large scale projects can be the difference between high growth companies and low growth companies

It has been my experience that senior leadership in high-growth organizations truly understand the value these these initiatives bring to their organizations. They see them, and treat them, as strategic initiatives, critical to their organization’s success. Those that are less successful treat them more tactically. Which is a shame, because they fail to optimize the investment.

So what differentiates the successes from the failures? Why do large CRM implementations only meet CIO/CTO expectations half the time, according to Gartner, or only succeed about a third of the time according to Merkle? Why are so many disappointed by Marketing Automation, CLM, CE and other projects requiring a solid foundation in marketing technology?

Large cross-functional strategic initiatives often led by Marketing (e.g.- CLM, CE, CRM, Marketing Automation) lack:

  1. Executive buy-in and C-level commitment. There needs to be a champion (usually the CMO) supporting these initiatives at the senior level, with the champion’s peers in agreement on the key objectives and deliverables. The objectives of the initiative needs to align with corporate strategy as well. Everyone must agree that this initiative gets their support, and that roadblocks will be dealt with quickly and easily. Since these projects often require IT resources, the CMO needs to partner with the CIO/CTO. The CIO/CTO needs to champion the project within her organization. Each impacted senior leader needs to be actively engaged during discussion at the C-level, commit the resources, communicate down through their organization, empower their internal champion, and hold their team accountable for achieving initiative goals and objectives. Probably the single biggest predictor of success, in my experience.
  2. Management bandwidth. With executive buy-in comes the need for executive leaders to ensure there is management bandwidth. It is not prudent to simply add a large initiative to the plate of your manager or director without taking another commitment off their plate, either by reallocating other projects they own or are involved with, or potentially delaying implementation of other projects. You can only roll one giant boulder up a hill at a time successfully, add more and you risk more than one crashing down on the innocent bystanders below.
  3. Benefit realization. The project champion and project team need to define success. Identify the benefits a major initiative will bring to your organization. Work with your financial team to quantify the benefits. Communicate, and continually communicate the benefits across your organization. Show them the benefits, and then show them again. You can never overcommunicate. And then measure against those benefits so you can manage your progress. Have respected champions in your organization validate the benefits and offer testimonials as proof the benefits are real. Underperforming? Then figure out where you need to make adjustments. Overperforming, then check your initial forecasts to make sure they are real; see how else you can apply the initiative to amplify success further, or bring in the necessary resources or create the environment to make gains sustainable. And don’t forget to communicate when you overperform (did I mention communication is important?). Celebrate successes when you meet your objectives or KPIs.
  4. Process knowledge. Do you have good processes in place? If you have good process, and its well-documented, then you will have an easier time building your detailed requirements and matching to the technology which will best enable your process. Or, if the technology supports a different process, then you will have a better understanding of how your process needs to change to accommodate the technology. May or may not be worth the investment, but you can do the analysis (or I could help). Or similarly you can think about how to customize the technology solution to fit your process, and do that cost-benefit analysis to determine if the gains are worth the investment. Again, its all about taking a more strategic approach to your initiative.

These are just a few keys that apply to successful implementation. In the next post, I will touch on the impact of poor needs assessment, data availability and failing to plan/build a roadmap.

As always, I welcome your comments below. And if you want to talk to me about your strategic initiative in Marketing strategy, operations and technology, contact me at smintz@tds.net.

5 Considerations to Growing Your Welcome Program Revenue

As a Marketer, you are always looking to engage your customers and grow revenue and retention. You have many touch points and channels to leverage. One of the first actions your customers will undertake with you is to subscribe to your email list. They may be at the top of the funnel, considering making a purchase and doing some research. They may be aware of your brand and consider it a viable option to meet their needs. Or they may already be a customer, having purchased via an offline channel.

1) Before you begin, be sure to outline the goals and objectives of your Welcome Program. Are you looking to drive first purchase? Are you trying to obtain more information so that you can better segment and service your customers?

2) Based on your goals and objectives, be sure you can measure your results appropriately to know if you have succeeded. Too many companies move straight to implementation without thinking about how they will measure results. This is particularly important when it comes to measuring results by segment or as part of testing. It makes implementing more challenging and time-consuming if you have to go back to change your implementation to incorporate a last minute need for reporting/analysis that you could have included in your requirements up-front with some forethought.

3) Consider how you will be segmenting your Welcome Campaign. Do you wish to treat large potential customers different from smaller ones? Are you effectively segmenting prospective customers from existing customers? Do you have other large segments of customers that might fit into a Welcome Campaign, like recently reactivated subscribers?

You may wish to segregate your new subscribers from the rest of your email program until they have worked though the Welcome progression. Of course, the wise Marketer will test different approaches, applying the best approach and constantly retesting against different approaches.

4) Do not make process a secondary consideration. Make sure you have process nailed down. The key is to get that first email into your customer’s inbox as quickly as possible from the initial sign-up. You want to reinforce the customer’s decision to subscribe to your program, and get them used to seeing email from you. Do you need to send this email from the same IP address as your other campaigns, or should you bundle this as part of a transactional IP? If you have a lot of volume from new subscribers, sending from the same IP address as your other campaigns can help to improve overall IP address deliverability as engagement with Welcome campaigns tends to be significantly higher than other non-triggered campaigns. However, if you already have deliverability issues on a regular basis, then sending from a transactional IP is a better way to go to ensure these messages get into your subscribers inboxes. Talk to your email service provider to select the best option for your program.

Another overlooked process component is the “From” and subject line. Please do not use a name of someone the average person would not recognize in the “From” line. Maybe Microsoft could get away with a “From” name of “Bill Gates” or the Cleveland Cavaliers with “LeBron James” (and believe me, the celebrity should have widespread international recognition and not be just the owners or Marketing-VPs own perception of themselves); instead use the name of the brand that the subscriber is seeking to learn more about, like “Banana Republic” or “Toyota Prius.” You can even add a modifier like “eNews” or “Information” or “Offers”, depending upon the Segment or type of content that is being sought. Bottom line, make it appropriate and descriptive.

As for the subject line, keep it short and sweet and include the brand name. Repetition of the brand in the subject line and From lines is good and helps your brand stand out in the inbox for those readers who scan both. Some readers will be From line dominant and others subject line dominant, so by repeating the brand in both, you have a better chance of standing out with either segment. Include some variant of Welcome in the subject line tied to your brand, like “Welcome from Banana Republic”. And if you are tying an offer to the subscription, then include a mention in the subject line. Just be careful of those marketing words that may cause an ISP to consider your email SPAM. You should always test into your most beneficial subject lines at the onset of the campaign, and continue to test variants over time.

5) Provide value added content. Some Welcome Campaigns could be multi-part, providing valuable information about how to order, tips regarding

You can provide special benefits to your email subscribers as an inducement to sign up. These special or gated offers can increase revenue from new subscribers by as much as 3X, while also increasing the speed at which your email subscription list books its first revenue for your company. In addition you can communicate the many ways your customer can interact with your brand and gain the most value out of their relationship with you. Typically a Welcome program will drive greater engagement too, helping the deliverability of all your emails with ISPs.

A Welcome Campaign is a beneficial component to any Customer Lifecycle Management Program, helping you to generate revenue and keep your customers engaged. Let me know in the comment section your thoughts and successes/learnings with regards to your Welcome Program, or others you have seen.

Strategy: What you need to build an effective strategy.

It’s never too early for an organization to establish its strategic direction. You would not take a trip with your family without knowing your destination, time of arrival, and how much it will cost you to get there (at least a ski trip to the Alps has a significantly different cost associated with it than a weekend camping trip to your local state park). So you should not embark on your journey with your business without some idea of what your final destination is, or at least what you hope to accomplish along the way.

The process of understanding your target market (who you serve, who you don’t, and why), organizational strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, your position relative to the competition, your unique selling proposition, and how you should be allocating resources should be done as soon as possible. The process should define an organization’s mission and vision, principles of doing business, and key goals. The process should establish what the organization defines as success. These are crucial considerations for any business. Making them sooner ensures you have a path to success. Failure to do so will leave you floundering in a sea of failure.

Strategic planning ensures that you can allocate resources effectively, make the proper investments in infrastructure or people, and get the entire organization on the same page moving forward. Strategic planning is not a one and done process either. Effective organizations constantly revisit their strategic plans to adjust to emerging competitive, regulatory threats, or other changes in the environment.

A good strategic planning framework should include:
1) Analysis: an assessment of the internal and external factors/environment facing the business. Should include demographic, social, economic, legal, political, and competitive factors, position in the market place, and target customer, to name a few. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis is often a popular deliverable in this context, too.

2) Following analysis, a high level strategic plan should be developed. The plan could include mission and vision, principles of doing business and key business objectives and the strategies employed to achieve them. This strategic plan should guide the organization in the long-term.

3) Execution: Now you are ready to execute strategy. The high level plan can be broken down into more specific operational plans and tactics that support each one of the strategies.

4) Finally no plan is complete without the evaluation process. Here is where many businesses fail. The organization needs to assess whether or not it is heading in the right direction and then adjust the course appropriately. Often, they need to validate that the investment decisions they are making are having the intended results. Is the strategic direction sustainable in the long-term? Is the culture you are establishing valid to achieve the results you intend? Are we performing adequately to achieve the results we expect? What additional investments do we need to make? Are there other opportunities we need to go after or businesses we need to divest?  If you are not heading in the right direction, the evaluation phase will help you to get back on track.

Have you developed a strategic plan for your business? If not now would be a good time to commit to starting one. Contact me today. I would be happy to discuss your particular situation at no expense to you.