In the world of email marketing, the terms "life-cycle messaging" and "triggered messaging" are often used interchangeably. In essence and practice, they are virtually the same thing--the difference is the plan. The promise of what can be achieved through life-cycle email communications is vast: increased conversions, efficiencies, and even customer insight. But the shortest path to achieving success has more to do with how you get there versus how quickly. As you start on this journey (or maybe rethink your current progress), here are a few key areas to focus on to really drive the trajectory appropriately.
1. Defining The Life Cycle
Too often, the life cycle is not necessarily defined by the customer’s interactions with a brand, but rather the channel that the messages will be delivered on. For example, when email marketers talk about a life cycle, they tend to put it in terms of how long the subscriber has been part of their subscriber lists. Unfortunately, that only paints a partial picture. In order to accurately identify the right moments in time to communicate, it is important to understand the customer experience in its totality. The ability to map out the various points of entry, discernable and common behaviors/interactions, innate renewals or refill opportunities, moments or timing of common disengagement or abandonment, and seasonality are the first step in deriving success with your life-cycle communications.
2. Planning The Message
What you are going to say to this audience is just as important as when you are going to say it. Too many marketers are triggering communications to their customers simply because they can. The rush to move to life-cycle-driven interaction can and will deplete the effectiveness of the methodology if not approached correctly. Once you have defined the points in the life cycle that make sense to message against, validate that the message you’d like to convey isn’t redundant and has perceived value, which will help determine whether the life cycle triggers are necessary--or if any can be eliminated. Put on your consumer hat for this exercise, look at your business through their eyes, and then determine what communication points will enhance that experience with your brand. While increased conversion and engagement is often a marketer’s goal, an above-average experience is the customer’s goal. How can your life-cycle message help to achieve that?
3. Finding The Right Cadence.
It is easy to look at your life cycle in a silo, but be careful not to. There are other communications and customer interactions happening outside of these trigger-driven messages that can muddy the playing field. Once you have outlined what the life-cycle points will look like, overlay your standard online and offline marketing plans to determine how often the customer is going to hear from the brand. Often times, the effective implementation of life-cycle messaging will naturally reduce the number of standalone communications sent not only because of frequency implications, but also because you can carry these messages in the triggered campaigns more cohesively than if they stood alone. Be mindful to consider both frequency (how many messages a day, week, or month your customer receives), but also of the cadence (increased or decreased levels of messaging around key time periods or behaviors). Customers are less sensitive to messaging volume around key points in time. For example, they expect a purchase confirmation message, a shipping message, and even a follow-up message for feedback and reviews. Leverage those expected points of messaging to iterate complementary messages.
Another opportune moment that is often overlooked is following a customer service call. Imagine if you could trigger a message from the customer service agent thanking the customer for his time, verifying the reason his called has been addressed to his satisfaction, and even providing a survey for feedback on the experience. Conversely, if the customer called and had a poor experience, then it might be good to have in place a mechanism that flags customer service to allow for temporary suppression from email communications following that exchange. There is nothing worse than having an unfulfilling conversation with customer service only to receive a promotional offer from the brand that same day. Again--put on your consumer hat.
4. Identifying The Triggers.
So you have a plan--now you need to make sure it is executable. And in our multichannel marketing world, you need to have the data and technologies for deploying these communications--and tying them all together. You might find that moments exist where you need to toggle between online and offline messaging. It is perfectly acceptable and expected given the marketing landscape today. But identifying the need and getting it implemented are two different things. If your grand plan is to trigger multichannel life-cycle messages, but today you can only do email and SMS, don’t fret…phase. Work toward your goal, determine what data you have immediately available, and start there; That’s Phase 1. In Phase 2 you can begin exposing other data to your systems to facilitate additional messaging. Then, in Phase 3, it might be necessary to bring additional or complementary systems online to tie it all together. The point here is to not give up on the plan just because it doesn’t come wrapped in a bow.
Life-cycle messaging isn’t a new concept--we’ve been leveraging it for years--but somewhere along the way, we (as marketers) have become distracted by the new and innovative ways we can execute these programs. As a result, the clarity around them has hazed slightly. The win here is that managing these types of programs has, historically, been a very manual process (translation: not real time); having them automated, while daunting for some, can generate the best results.