In order to influence someone’s behavior you need them to make a choice. Choice involves someone feeling the affects of their current situation, assessing the options and choosing to do something different. If you force behavior change, you may have the same outcome, however you’ll likely be met with resistance and negativity. It’s important to consider this carefully when implementing changes to your software, especially when removing functionality previously available. Our Elastic Grid Customer Experience approach is to ensure we deliver a constant message throughout our customer touch-points and we do that through collaborative teams seeking a common goal (our vision). I want to give an example of how this approach helped us address a simple, yet delicate, problem by addressing concerns of the mind (think), gut (know) and heart (feel) altogether.
In true agile fashion, our platform has looked at addressing needs with a “simplest thing that works” approach. By solving problems as they arise rather than assuming, we know everything upfront has been very effective in overcoming user pain-points. But sometimes it can catch you off guard. In this case, as our user base rapidly grew over the past few years, we’ve seen some behavior change in how our email automation tools have been used. Notably, a number of companies recently began using a scattergun approach to target potential customers. The result; a vast amount of emails being sent and, as expected, very few generating leads (or even being opened at all).
The business problems for us were the high volumes of unsolicited (likely purchased list) emails going out, clogging up the queue and impacting schedules, as well as our rating as a bulk mail provider. It hadn’t been a problem in the past as B2B contact lists are generally quite small (when our users were targeting their actual customers or new, marketing qualified, leads).
From a user’s point of view, it may seem like a good thing that our platform wasn’t restrictive on the number of emails allowed to go out in a particular batch. However, we weren’t really protecting time poor marketers from themselves without the restriction (now very common in email automation tools). I won’t get into whether or not purchased lists are a good idea in the first place, but the issue we wanted to address was whether you are targeting your own customers or a purchased list. Blasting large numbers of emails at the same time is a sure way to waste good content.
Ultimately, the above two issues are affecting both parties. If Elastic Grid’s reputation as a bulk mail solution is comprised, it’s not good for our users and if our user’s aren’t following good email marketing practices, it affects our reputation. Understanding this and helping the user understand in order to make a conscientious decision regarding their targeting efforts was our primary goal, rather than a hard and sudden limitation.
First steps first. We wanted to get the facts before making any decisions or assumptions. We reviewed our user’s email executions from the previous six months to identify exactly what was going on and found there were blasts being sent to over 25,000 recipients. This was our immediate concern, however by doing data analysis, we also identified some interesting connections between leads generated and the size of the list. And it was the opposite of the belief that more emails equaled more leads. In fact, smaller (more targeted) batches were generating many more leads on average. With this validation, we decided to create a best practice guide and had ourselves a nice little piece on thought leadership about list segmentation.
We decided the simplest and best way to get the numbers down was to place a simple restriction on how many emails can be scheduled in one campaign execution. However, we were also mindful that simply doing so could be very abrupt from a user point of view. One of our company values is “Ask Why” and therefore we needed to give our users a “Why” if we were all of a sudden changing a policy. By leveraging the data we collected, we took the following, softer approach.
Leveraging an article validating this research, we informed users who were targeting a high number of recipients that they were likely to undermine their campaign performance. Any list over 2000 contacts would bring up a warning with a call-to-action to check out why we believe their list could use some segmenting. To address our first target of stopping the really big executions we’d witnessed in the data, we did a hard stop at 25,000 recipients. This will soon be further reduced to 10,000.
Warning which appears to users when they add over 2000 contacts to their campaign execution
Hard error which appears to users who add over 25,000 recipients to their campaign blast
On reviewing the results of this soft approach, we saw a drop in the number of emails going out per execution and even though the limit was 25,000, only a few went over 10,000. In the same time frame a number of views on the list segmentation guide in our Partner Resource Center increased substantially. Overall the bounce rate dropped 3% with 94% of emails being delivered as opposed to 91% from previous months.
Importantly, this was achieved with no user escalation or complaints about the functionality change. So, a little bit of the “why” had gone a long way and we didn’t have to implement a more complex solution into the workflow.
There is some way to go to where we want to be on this. However, after our first reduction and warning, we can repeat the process and approach until we get it down to a number that we feel is right for B2B demand generation campaigns.
Focus on all behavior influencing areas; mind, gut and heart. Get the whole team together, (the marketing expert, the support representative, the developer, the designer, etc) and solve problems with the entire Customer Experience in mind. Had we tackled this purely from a Tech/UI point of view, we would have simply put a hard restriction of 5000 and not been prepared for any user feedback on the matter.
So, think about how the software will be perceived in the context that it is representing your entire company. We ended up finishing what, on face value, seems purely a technical project with a piece of thought leadership the marketing team could use, a new piece of training material the support representative could use and an improved user experience wrapped up in a piece of functionality we could be build on later. Not a bad little bit of cross-functional collaboration.
Lead UX designer and Design Team Lead at Elastic Grid, responsible for the user experience of the platform and the products visual brand. Lorenzo has extensive experience designing simple digital solutions for large, complex commercial projects, including e-Commerce, marketing campaigns and content management platforms.