Assessing the maturity of your organization’s messaging program
Are you able to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of your messaging program? Columnist Jose Cebrian lays out key questions to ask to help you better understand the state of your organization's messaging strategy.
In the digital marketing world, the concept of messaging largely revolves around email, SMS and push.
And no matter how far we’ve come in our messaging proficiency, there’s always room for improvement as markets and capabilities continue to evolve.
To remain at the forefront of this evolution, it’s important for you to understand and address your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. You must step back and assess your organization’s maturity in the art of messaging. Herein, I have laid out a set of key dimensions to consider in gauging the state of your messaging strategy.
The core components of a messaging program include: data capture, measurement, automation and connectivity. There are other important components that matter, such as content, landing page optimization, deliverability (in email) and so on, but they are generally well understood.
These questions of self-reflection aren’t a comprehensive list, but instead, they are meant to be provocative and make you think.
Permission data capture
In a customer relationship marketing (CRM) program, you can’t send a personalized message if you don’t know who the individual is. You need to proactively get in front of people, get to know them, and ask for their permission to send them emails, SMS or in-app messages.
To understand your organization’s maturity and identify possible gaps, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I setting consistent expectations across all collection points about what I am going to send to people who sign up?
- Do I have a mechanism to capture permission for inbound events, such as customer service calls, in-store/branch/office visits?
- Do I have the appropriate validation at all of my collection points, including syntax checking, cleansing and CAPTCHA?
- Is my permission capture held in a channel-specific silo, or is it going back to a centralized marketing database?
- Am I capturing the appropriate related information, such as IP address, page/source when signed up, time stamp and so on and storing that data in a way that I can check for history if overwritten?
One of the great things about messaging is that it is direct marketing. And that means it is measurable. But not all measurement is equal. Maturity around measurement means measuring beyond “engagement.” Questions to ask yourself:
- Am I measuring absolute numbers (e.g., impressions, site visits) or only ratios (e.g., open rates), which are open to manipulation and interpretation?
- Am I looking at program-level information or just campaign-level information? Examples of program-level information are the inflows and outflows of contactable addresses, total reach and total audience size.
- If revenue is available, does my measurement approach measure only revenue or average order value, or does it include key metrics such as repeat purchase rate?
- If revenue isn’t immediately available, have I identified leading indicators to revenue, such as leads, app downloads, event registrations, and am I optimizing based on those key metrics?
- Can I properly define lift achieved by a change in a single channel? What about lift from combining two or more channels? How are control groups defined?
Automation can mean many things. In this context, it refers to automation of basic tasks, targeting people who take certain actions and matching content with those actions. In the realm of basic tasks, automation maturity can be assessed with questions like the following:
- Am I still importing files for every campaign?
- Is my list cleansing automated (email)?
- Do I have to create basic reports, or are they generated in real time and sent to me?
- Can I pull content from a content management system (CMS) or open web, or do I have to load it each time?
In terms of targeting, ask:
- Do I have to re-create common suppression rules for nearly every campaign?
- Are my active segments (email) automatically generated?
- Can I automatically generate a test matrix for dynamic content campaigns? Am I collecting site behavior data, and can I trigger a message based on that behavior?
From an assessment perspective, connectivity means coordinating two or more channels in the same campaign or communication stream. For many companies, channels are loosely coordinated in CRM campaigns at best. Questions to consider:
- Can I execute a campaign across multiple channels to the same audience? Can I do it in the same tool?
- Do I have retargeting capabilities across email and display?
- Do I have a clear PII (personally identifiable information) to onboarding path that is updated frequently?
- Am I creating connections between my email service provider (ESP) and my data management platform (DMP) so that I can create segments in a DMP and leverage those segments in my ESP?
- Do I leverage search info to power content in email?
- Are my KPIs channel-specific or enterprise-specific?
- Do I know the lift associated with connecting two or more channels? Common connections are email + SMS, email + display, search + display, and direct mail + email. Is the connectivity worth it?
All of the above questions are meant to be provocative and help us all push the envelope of what we are doing today. Of course, not every marketer or company has to be able to answer “yes” to all of the questions. What we do need is to focus on improving our programs in a meaningful way.
All improvements undertaken should result in either an increase in revenue/ROI or removal of costs and stress. Too many times, we focus on small items because we can control them. We need to consider the materiality of program improvements, and go after larger changes with more substantial returns.