Choose Your Own Adventure: By Digital Strategists >

Growing up as a kid in the late 80’s and early 90’s, one of my favorite things to do was to go to our library and pick out a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. I’d often read them, picking a route, and then re-read, going on another path. Even today, I enjoy listening (and sometimes participating) with my kids as they go on their own adventures with our smart-home device. 

Thinking of my past favorite books, it’s not surprising that I’ve chosen a digital strategy professional career. As a strategist, I’m often creating my own version of Choose Your Own Adventure novels for my clients. I look at the whole picture, know the destination I want people to get to and then pick the different paths that customers get to go through, optimizing their stories along the way. In the end, the right tactics lead to the conversion that marketers are anticipating from the beginning. Want to think of yourself as an author of your company’s Choose Your Own Adventure series? Read on! 


Knowing the Final Destination:

A book can seem daunting, just like a multichannel campaign or major marketing automation. The trick about writing a book is, it’s easier if you can visualize the destination, major plot twists and key stops along the way before you start writing. As a marketer, we all know the end of our story as well: conversion. Conversion is not always a sale, sometimes conversion is a site visit, sometimes conversion is an RSVP to an event. So long as the goal is clear, the paths can be created. 


Knowing the Characters:

Just like characters in a book, the customers in your database all have their own backgrounds, motivations and tendencies. As a digital marketer, it is important to understand how to best give options for your characters and digital tactics. Knowing your characters well will help you understand when the right time to introduce new messages and marketing touches that will produce the highest conversion. Partner with your analytics team to help define segments and trends within these segments. 

Understanding that a customer who opts-in from a paid media campaign is different than a customer who opts-in by landing on your website organically can help position the messages and tactics for each that will help lead to a conversion. The paid-media opt-in may need more brand messaging and engagement tactics to learn more about what interests them, whereas the web history of the organically obtained opt-in can provide a more personalized context for their messages right away. 


Defining the Paths:

Now that you know your character, it’s time to think about their story. Think to yourself, “If I was this person, what would I want next?” If the answer isn’t clear, go through some decision tree methods for yourself. Do you want more information? Do you want an easy way to book or buy? Writing answers for each of these possibilities is the start of your “novel.” The channel is also important. The “where” of the next message is almost as important as the “what.” While email is a channel that customers opt-in form, many may also have your company’s App at their disposal or be able to talk to customers on your social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. 

For example, a new product launches that can be ordered through the App, it is more likely to get a quick conversion if a message is sent through the app then only sending an email. However, customers who are not users of the app will miss the message if it’s only announced in that one channel but, not all customers need to know the message on both channels. A smart “choose your own adventure” writer will think about the cadence of the message and make a consideration a) for those that don’t have the app b) those who have the app but don’t have messages enabled, c) those who have the app but don’t see the message and d) those who see the message on the app but don’t convert. 

Knowing your goal (here, announcing a new product), and identifying your characters (in this case, different audiences within your app and email database) the tactics themselves almost fall into place. Next, it’s time to write the story. 


Writing the Stories:

Be sure to clearly outline the different touches customers can, or will, receive from the beginning. It’s easier to budget for time and effort if you can lay everything out at the beginning. Also, by thinking through everything from the start, you will probably find more holes to plug and different messages that could be combined within tactics. 

Partner with a developer or platform engineer to take advantage of the tools your ESP has to offer. If you have a tool that lets you connect if-then statements together, building the logic will be easier. If you don’t, it’s not impossible, but it will be more manual. One big piece to consider with manual deployments is suppression. Automated campaigns can let you write rules for taking the audience down by each touch whereas the audiences will need to be refreshed with the manual versions after each touch so as not to over-message. 

And that’s it! You’re only five steps away from visualizing, identifying and planning your own choose your own adventure novel. I mean, multi-channel or multi-touch marketing campaigns.


5 Takeaways and Steps:

  1. Know your final location: Without knowing your goal, it will be harder to create the book because you’ll become diverged as you plan.
  2. Know your characters: Identify your different audiences and what they need
  3. Define the paths: Identify the channels that will be utilized within the campaign and how customers can go in and out of them during the campaign.
  4. Write the Stories: Execute the tactics
  5. Analyze and optimize
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