By Steve Wittal
It was a genius idea.
It was 1992, and Pepsi executives were desperate to boost sales in Southeast Asia, where they were lagging behind Coca-Cola by a long shot.
They decided to give away 1 million pesos to one lucky customer who had the winning number printed on their bottlecap. The campaign known as “Number Fever” was on.
What could go wrong?
Well, the consulting firm hired to pick the winning number was given clear instructions not to consider certain numbers because they were printed on so many bottlecaps. One of those numbers was 349. Somehow, the firm didn’t get the memo and chose that very number—a number that had been printed on about 800,000 bottlecaps.
Those who thought they had won only to have their hopes crushed reacted in anger, rioting and bombing Pepsi bottling plants with Molotov cocktails.
In all, three people died, 40 company trucks were burned and Pepsi paid $10 million in restitution and legal fees as a result of facing more than 1,000 lawsuits.
It was an honest mistake, but one with devastating and expensive consequences.
The story strikes fear in the hearts of marketers everywhere, illustrating how much can go wrong when great ideas aren’t executed properly. Although it doesn’t always make the headlines, it happens every day.
The store signs are ordered in the wrong sizes, and the launch of a seasonal promotion is delayed by two weeks.
A sales catalogue goes out with incorrect pricing.
A call center hired to help customers place orders quickly and easily becomes a bottleneck that causes frustration.
Marketing campaign execution isn’t sexy; it’s the marketing creative’s practical, curmudgeonly uncle. It’s where most marketers I know will admit they struggle the most. But it’s also essential to get it right. After all, this is an age where Uber has become the standard business model, and everything is on demand. Customers expect constant, personalized communication. To meet these expectations, marketers are using more vendors to pull off complex, multi-channel marketing campaigns. With so many points of contact and moving parts, it’s more difficult—yet more important than ever—to get it all right.
As you plan your next campaign, remember that your job isn’t over once you have a great idea, a budget and some launch dates you shared in a company memo. You need to anticipate potential problems from the very beginning and have a plan for mitigating them. In many ways, you need to go back to the basics.
Here are six best practices to get you started.
1. Align Key Stakeholders From the Beginning
In more than two decades of working with both the marketing and operations functions of multinational financial services companies, I’ve found that when something falls through the cracks, it’s often due to a lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities. Colleagues and customers alike have told me one of their biggest challenges in the beginning of a campaign is aligning marketing, sales, customer service and technology (IT).
This can be particularly difficult within large matrix organizations when it’s not always clear who should report to whom. Work gets done in project-based teams consisting of leaders from various departments or regions, and there may be a lack of ownership (or clarity as to who owns what) from any one person or group.
That’s why it’s critical to get buy-in from the very beginning so everyone feels invested in its success. Today, Campaign Management Software often helps to clarify who is responsible for what tasks on a particular campaign, but doesn’t always make it clear who has the ultimate decision authority and who merely needs to be consulted.
One important step you can take to reach alignment between key departments is to create service-level agreements and key performance indicators that all align with the same shared goals.
Marketing, for example, could commit to monthly KPIs such as:
- Number of website visits
- Number of conversions
- Number of sales qualified leads
Sales KPIs might include:
- Number of opportunities from sales qualified leads
- Number of sales closed (or amount of revenue) from opportunities
Customer service KPIs might include:
- Percentage of free trials that convert into paying customers
- Number of positive reviews received
- Customer satisfaction rating
Members of each team should meet regularly to review progress and address any issues as they arise.
2. Increase Document Visibility
For marketers, focusing on multiple channels typically means multiple assets … and multiple rounds of reviews. Relying on email to manage reviews and approvals is inefficient and makes your campaign prone to errors.
Consider the process for creating promotional flyers that are customized for each store location. All it takes is one person copied on the email thread to inadvertently pass along the original version he downloaded instead of the most recently revised version.
With a shared workflow management system, these documents can be updated easily, with all revision history saved and tracked. Sales reps and other key stakeholders can upload a single document and easily see who has reviewed it and what changes have been made. You can even assign tasks and set up notifications to keep team members on track.
3. Automate Manual Processes
Are you still enlisting interns to send follow-up emails or call everyone who fills out a form? Still requiring each location to create and re-order new marketing materials every month? Not only are these tasks a waste of time, they’re annoying to both your staff and your customers on the receiving end.
Take steps to move as many manual processes as you can to digital, automated workflows. There’s no excuse not to have marketing automation software to manage emails and schedule automatic follow-up messages triggered by certain actions, such as filling out a form or making a purchase. You can also use a digital platform to automate essential operations like customer payments and invoices.
4. Clean Up Your Data
A customer who took advantage of a one-time sale last year isn’t necessarily interested in receiving emails and catalogues for the rest of her life. In fact, about one-fourth of your contact list will likely be outdated by the end of this year, according to marketing automation provider HubSpot. If you haven’t cleaned up your mailing list lately, you could be wasting a fourth of your direct mail budget marketing to people who have no interest in buying anything.
To avoid waste and ensure you’re only focusing on your best prospects, take time to review and segment your customer data before your next campaign.
Segment by demographic details and spending patterns, but also dig deeper into your customers’ engagement and behaviours. If you’re using marketing automation software that’s integrated with your website, CRM and other sources of data, you’ll easily see not only who your customers are, but what they’re doing. That way you’ll be able to deliver more relevant, personalized messages to them.
Here are a few examples that are easy to implement:
- Segment your customers by birthdate so you can surprise them with coupons and a personalized card.
- If you notice a number of them visited a page with your latest sales but didn’t buy anything, remind them what they’re missing out on with some Facebook retargeting ads.
- If you’ve learned from a recent survey that your youngest customers prefer to stream music and prefer Netflix to cable, skip the TV spots and advertise on Spotify.
5. Experience It From Your Customers’ Perspective
Marketer Jim Joseph recalls visiting his favorite coffee shop and noticing smudges, fingerprints and dust all over the front display case. Meanwhile, the area where employees worked was spotless. It occurred to him that the employees were so focused on serving customers from behind the counter that they had not been to the other side to actually see what they were seeing. Whether you’re setting up a new display or launching a contest, his suggestion is one we all should follow:
“Pretend you're a customer one day and walk through your front door. Experience your brand the way they do, and see how you feel,” Joseph said in an Entrepreneur article. “Ask yourself if you are delivering the kind of experience you think you are, from front to back.”
Here are a few practical ways to apply this to your marketing campaign:
- Before you launch, enlist a number of employees to go through the process themselves. Let them fill out the forms, open the emails and test the links to make sure everything works properly and makes sense.
- Hire “mystery shoppers” to provide feedback about your marketing campaign initiatives as well as your customer service experience. How visible are the signs advertising your latest promotion? Are they displayed correctly and in an attractive manner? How easy is it to sign up or take advantage of the new deals?
- Continue seeking customer feedback through a variety of channels. Monitor comments on social media. Conduct surveys. Use net promoter scores to determine whether customers would recommend your company to a friend.
With every new initiative, take the time to think through every step from the customer’s perspective. Set aside time to review results and feedback immediately after the launch, then revisit them at least once a month afterward.
6. Vet Your Vendors … and Consolidate When Possible
Your next campaign is only as strong as the vendors you choose to execute it.
And each new vendor adds a layer of complexity and risk potential to the process. By contrast, relying on a single provider to manage everything, from document creation to printing and fulfillment, reduces the potential for error. How can you ensure you’re choosing the right vendor?
Here are a few factors to consider:
- Established history and credibility
- Expertise in your industry
- Efficient workflows
- Documented policies
- A collaborative approach
Every marketing campaign is a team effort requiring careful planning and strong partnerships. Unfortunately, when something goes wrong, your customers will look to you, not your vendor. They won’t care which of your team members dropped the ball; they’re just going to ask what your company is doing to fix it. They may go straight to you or straight to your CEO.
Before you launch your next campaign, make sure you’re doing your due diligence by ensuring transparency among internal and external partners. Use digital systems to update documents, manage approvals and automate tasks whenever possible.
Great ideas only go so far on their own. As Henry Ford once said, vision without execution is just hallucination. And hallucination usually doesn’t pay the bills—unless it’s the series finale of “Mad Men,” and your vision is to buy the world a Coke.
Steve Wittal is the senior vice president of sales for DATA Communications Management, an Ontario-based company that specializes in executing print and digital business communications and marketing campaigns for midsize to large companies in Canada and the United States. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.