March 11, 2016
Marketing  |  9 min read

Three Commandments For Building Effective and Understandable Campaigns

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Paul Sokol

As humans, we have this natural urge to ask "Why?" We want to understand things around us. It connects us to the human experience. As you are surely aware, certain things are easier to understand than others. Why is the sky blue? Because sun light refracts through the water molecules in the air and the light just happens to come out blue. Why does your mother-in-law hate you? Probably not as simple of an answer; although I like you fellow reader.

When it comes to creating automated experiences using Infusionsoft's campaign builder, they can definitely be challenging to understand. However, more often than not they do not HAVE to be difficult to grasp. Rather, it is the hand of the campaign designer that controls how spaghetti-like a campaign model looks. The whole purpose of this post is to give you three rules to follow to ensure your campaigns are visually as simple to consume as possible. I want you to do something for me really quick. Look at these two campaigns: Campaign Commandment Knee Jerk 1


Campaign Commandment Knee Jerk 2

Which of these two campaigns are easier to consume visually?

Would you believe that both of those campaign models function the exact same way? They do. I just took the top version and moved stuff around to create the bottom one. They are functionally equivalent.

Here is the $64,000 question: How many times have you seen a campaign that looks like the one on the bottom? Personally, I've seen more than I'd like to admit. Which is why I've decided to write this post because it is my duty to be an ambassador of good campaign design!

A messy campaign manifests muddy comprehension

Sometimes there is just no getting around a messy layout for certain functionality. However, in most cases a campaign is visually messy without a true need for it. As a result, understanding the strategic implications is much harder. So are making any tweaks or changes. And good luck trying to explain to someone else what is going on the first time around. Conversely...

A clean campaign creates clear comprehension

The top campaign model above is very easy to consume and understand. Someone signs up for a newsletter and after the initial welcome, if they have not already purchased a particular product, they begin a promotional series for it. Could you have decoded that from the bottom model? Possibly but definitely not as easily.

As mentioned above, this post is intended to share with you three commandments I've discovered through my years of building hundreds (possibly thousands) of campaigns. It is mostly a philosophical take on the trade because, as seen above, functionality doesn't have to be pretty, but it helps!

Let's intentionally build a thought process

Time only moves in one direction; at least, at the human macro-atomic level we can only go in one direction. (wink)

Now, what is a goal in a campaign? It is an event. A moment in time. And time only goes in one direction, right?

So, because time is linear for us humans and goals in a campaign are nothing more than a moment in time, the goal layout for a campaign can ALWAYS be linear.

Campaign commandment No. 1: The ideal desired goal path is a straight line

Take a look at this simple product launch campaign model:

Simple Product Launch Campaign


There are lots of things happening here but look at the center line. The ideal behavior for this campaign is for someone to fill out a webform, download the free module, click on the order form, and then place an order for the full product.

What happens if they never download the free module they requested? No worries, the "No Download Follow-Up" sequence kicks into gear. However, that is not the ideal behavior. It is actually a less-than-desired behavior so we place it below the ideal path.

What about if they click to the order form but abandon the purchase? Again, this is not the ideal behavior but we are offering them the chance to provide their phone number which (I feel) is a positive step in the right direction. Hence, we put that little path above the ideal path in the center.

Are you starting to see what I meant earlier when I said this is a philosophical take on campaign building?

Speaking of philosophical stuff, I've said the following in person so many times it truly makes me happy to leave it forever in the digital domain:

"A sequence exists for the SOLE PURPOSE of getting someone to the next immediate goal"

This one concept right here can totally change up your campaign game. It makes sense if you think about it: if someone doesn't make it to the next immediate goal, the other sequences don't even matter. However, I've seen so many campaigns where people are trying to do too many things with a single sequence, which I'll address in the third commandment at the end.

Campaign commandment No. 2: A sequence supports the next immediate goal

Take a look back at the product launch model above, what is the only objective of the "Full Purchase Promotion" sequence?

To get a click to the order form.

Yes, ultimately we want them to place an order and we shouldn't ignore this in our messaging but the bottom line is we want them to click to the order form in the first place. Every single step in that 'Full Purchase Promotion' sequence should be driving for that simple indicator of purchase interest (e.g the click to an order form).

Now, to be fair, symbiotic goals can exist. Look at the 'Provide Phone' web form. The general idea is that if someone does a cart abandon, we want to offer them a chance to give us a phone number for an outbound call to answer their questions. Of course, the ultimate goal is to close the sale on that call. At this point, you may be confused, so let's get back to the heart of this commandment. If the sequence is designed to explicitly support the next goal, but then you have a symbiotic goal like a phone collection, how can you structure the model to be easy to understand?

Campaign commandment No. 3: Run sequences in parallel for added clarity, if necessary

The whole point of this post is to give you some "rules" to follow for making campaigns that are easy to understand. In the campaign example above, there is an advanced concept of asking for a phone number on a cart abandon while also trying to close the sale. If it helps, break apart a sequence into multiple parallel sequences to aid in easy consumption. If you need to break sequences out, go for it.



Doesn't that feel a little better?

As far as the sequence objects themselves, you do need to take the timing of the experience into consideration. Here is what those sequences could look like:


 Now let's analyze this a bit. In the original model, there was a single email basically saying, "Hey here is the cart link again and by the way give me your phone number if you have questions". In the parallel version, they receive the "Here is the cart link again" email 20 minutes after the cart abandon. Then, the next day, we don't even address the cart abandon but drive for them to provide a phone number for an outbound call. Not only will breaking out parallel sequences streamline the visual consumption of a campaign, but it will also help you focus on targeting the message correctly. Remember commandment #2, each sequence should be explicitly pushing for that next immediate goal.

To sum it up

Your campaigns should be designed with the ideal path as a straight line right through the middle. And every sequence should be pushing for that next immediate goal (breaking out into parallel sequences when necessary). If you do this on every single campaign you create, you will be able to:

  • Share "under the hood" mechanics much easier
  • Make modifications much faster
  • Look at the historical reporting and see where the holes exist in your process quicker

If you build a campaign by following these commandments, is it guaranteed to be successful? Absolutely not! That is 100 percent based on your messaging and strategy. However, when you start creating clean campaigns, you'll be able to focus your messaging much tighter and implement your strategies and ideas much quicker. 

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