While social media continues to gain headway, continuity, or drip campaigns (email, direct mail or a combination) still remain a highly effective approach for nurturing prospects towards increased engagement and interaction with your brand. When coupled with an online element, such as URLs, PURLs or QR codes, measurement tools offered through marketing resource management (MRM) systems can deliver powerful analytics to optimize the sales cycle – providing a wealth of data to improve customer segmentation and content personalization.
Continuity campaigns are a series of simple, timely, and relevant communications ‘dripped’ over the life of your customer relationships, at various stages in the customer decision journey. Because the objective is to nurture and develop prospects over time, content is key. Customer communication through drip campaigns should not feel like a sales pitch: Instead, drip campaigns should utilize customer data to deliver highly personalized content demonstrating thought leadership in the customer’s area(s) of interest. Because continuity campaigns are ongoing, they offer the unique benefit of testing various sets of brand imagery and messaging throughout the active lifecycle of the campaign – meaning that campaign results can, and should, be monitored and improved over time.
There are several email marketing measures (varying by industry) marketers should track. Some of the traditional metrics for emailed drip campaigns include:
- Open rates – percentage of campaign participants opening the email
- Click-through rates – number of unique clicks on embedded links as a percentage of number of opens
- Unsubscribe/opt-out rates – percentage of campaign participants indicating they do not wish to be included in future communications
Direct mail campaigns have been historically harder to measure, garnering response rates of up to 3 percent in some industries, but incorporating online elements such as URL’s, PURL’s and QR codes provides rich data sets that can be analyzed on the back-end while campaigns are still active. With QR codes, it is even possible within some MRM systems to track detailed geographic data, such as GPS location of the QR scan if the customer is opted-in (if not a scan will provide an estimated GPS location based on IP address). Additionally, QR scans can be identified by device/OS where the scan originated. Finally, if the QR code scanned was unique to an individual sales representative and/or territory, this data can be captured as well.
Evaluating campaign effectiveness: Measure often, adjust accordingly
Coupled with the above channels and measures, A/B testing is an important component of any continuity campaign that enables marketers to identify (1) which messaging and imagery resonates most with customers and (2) is most likely to generate a customer response. While early on in the campaign you may want to ascertain which email formats (headline, colors, body text, call to action, or images) will generate the best open rates, as the campaign runs over time, you should also be looking at conversions. In a B2C environment, for example, is there a certain mix of campaign elements that is most likely to result in an online sale or new customer acquisition? A/B testing can help you to hone in on these subtleties.
A/B message testing entails using two versions of messaging and imagery in each active campaign. A is the ‘control’ version – the messaging and imagery you would typically use. In version B, one copy or design element is changed from the control version to test which version performs better. In an email test, for example, version A could display your typical email subject, while version B could use a more provocative email subject. Run both tests, and adjust your standard (control) to the version that generates the best response rates. Then move onto manipulating another variable, such as color or call to action. Don’t forget that the key to controlling your A/B testing so that the data sets are reliable is to only change one element at a time. You might also consider the champion-challenger approach (see link point 5) in your A/B testing.
Close the loop: Customer segmentation and the sales cycle
No discussion of continuity campaigns would be complete without addressing the bigger picture of closed loop marketing and the role of continuity campaigns in nurturing leads over time. The best marketers use data-driven marketing to segment and target different customer groups, and to track results and sales conversions from lead generation activities over time. When customers are segmented based on their stage in the sales funnel, the more effective continuity and drip campaigns become, because the type of communication can gradually change as the prospect progresses through the sales cycle. For example, in a B2B environment, educational messages can evolve into case studies and eventually product demonstrations. Additionally, sales forces can be engaged in the personalization of responses via MRM systems to further automate customization in the lead nurturing process.
As new marketing technologies proliferate, marketers should capitalize on the wealth of customer data these new tools provide to maximize their campaign effectiveness and ROI. Continuity campaigns should be continually measured and adjusted to improve response rates and conversions over time and to build a working knowledge of which tactics and messages are most successful at nurturing prospects at various stages of the sales cycle. Finally, the more customer data that can be integrated into one resource, such as an MRM system, from multiple sources, the more targeted, relevant and effective your continuity campaigns will become.
With the above steps, we’ve given you a head start at some ideas to improve your marketing measurement. Have you tried A/B testing yet? If so, did the results surprise you?
* For more information about Continuity Campaigns, download The ABC’s of a Successful Continuity Campaign flipbook.