“The devil is in the details.” That never rang any truer for me than when I needed to document a marketing campaign for the first time. Indeed, the devil is in those many, many details, and I learned a lot about not letting anything slip through the cracks.
Last month we launched some redesigned campaigns for our marketing automation tools. There’s more advanced content on Landing Pages, Automated Campaigns, and Web Tracking, and the individual campaigns interconnect with one another. This means there was a lot more complexity involved.
When the new campaigns successfully launched, I was relieved and overjoyed to be done with the project. Then Peter Nelson, our Director of Product Management, reminded me that I was celebrating prematurely, because I was definitely not done. He needed me to document what I had created in these campaigns.
I popped the cork back into my celebratory bottle of champagne and sat down to “throw together a few pages of notes” for him. I estimated it would take me about one hour. One week and 40+ pages later, and I’m only just about done with the project.
I learned the hard way that documentation is vital, and those devilish details are incredibly important.
First, why is it important to document a campaign? Not every campaign may feel like it needs its own instruction manual, but all campaigns, especially those designed for long-term or recurring use, merit a little documentation. These campaigns are important resources for your organization – documenting everything can preserve these assets and gear them towards longevity.
You don’t want a staffing change to jeopardize the future of that asset. Peter hates when I use the “if I get hit by a bus tomorrow” analogy, so we’ll pretend that I won the lottery instead. If I were to leave and take all the knowledge of how the campaigns were built and how they function with me, there are definitely enough capable minds here to figure out how it works, but specific troubleshooting may take longer time and waste resources.
These campaigns also go out to clients every week. If any of them call with questions about the campaign, it’s important all our advisors can locate the answer for them quickly. Or if the campaign needs to be edited, the documentation is the only thing readily available to point out concerns for updating certain components.
So, I definitely understand now why this documentation was important for knowledge transfer purposes, but I also had to figure out what I actually needed to include in it.
Here are ten categories I deemed important for documentation:
I first created a campaign inventory. This section simply listed the six individual campaigns and gave summaries for each one. It summarized things like the activation type, the activation list, campaign start and end dates, other campaigns branching to or from each individual campaign, and an overview of the purpose of the campaign.
Next, I took an inventory of all the mailings (i.e. emails) in the campaign. I listed how many mailings were in each campaign, and I provided the subject line and template used for each individual mailing. If any content needs to be edited, the mailing can be easily found, and there’s no question about which template might need to be updated to reflect the change.
I took inventory of the Landing Pages that were used in the campaign. These pages and how subscribers interact with them are imperative to the progress of the campaign. If a page is removed, it’s important to know which mailings it appears in so they can be updated. In my documentation, I included the name of the page, the type of landing page, the list of mailings that it appears in, and a URL for the page for quick testing purposes.
Then I created an inventory of linked content. In this case, the campaign heavily links to articles in the customer community for our marketing automation tool. Sometimes links to the articles can change, which breaks the old URL. By listing the links for each article and detailing which mailings they are found in, if an article is ever moved, we can search the document to find out if it appears anywhere in the campaign. Then it’s just a matter of quickly updating the link, versus spending hours going through each mailing until the link in question is found.
I also created a section for Unique Campaign Elements. I added features like our “Monday Resend, ” which allows subscribers to receive the mailing on Saturday, and then click a link to have the content resent to them on a Monday morning. This isn’t a built-in feature of automated campaigns, so it was important to explain what the feature did and how I executed it in the campaign work flow. More than anything, this was a place for me to outline anything atypical, so if other people needed to explain it or edit it, they wouldn’t have to scratch their heads wondering how this was done in the first place. In other words: outline anything you think might confuse people.
There are six main campaigns that all flow together. I made sure to create something to visually represent the flow between the campaigns, and then wrote a summary on how the campaigns hand-off to one another. If anyone ever needs to find out how someone could have entered a specific campaign, this will be a quick way to find out the possible pathways.
I included screen shots of all the campaign work flows. There’s no need to log into the system to see what a specific work flow entails. This is great for a quick reference.
I have yet to include an FAQ section, but that is next on my to-do list. I’ll be wracking my brain to think of anything that could possibly go wrong when editing a campaign, or answer common questions I expect from people who receive the campaign. This should be helpful to our advisors on a support level.
Another section I would like to add outlines the anatomy of my activation lists. I used mostly compound lists, so if parts of those lists ever change, it’s important to know which lists are affected.
Lastly, while I didn’t use any lists from an integrated database for these campaigns, I would take a separate inventory of those as well. Whether the list was used to activate or exclude, anyone managing the campaign needs to know where and how the list was used to make sure the proper subscribers are entering and leaving the campaign.
I’m still not the biggest fan of technical writing, but I’m definitely a believer in the need for campaign documentation. My team is prepared to manage these campaigns in the event I finally pick those winning lottery numbers, and our support staff will be armed and ready to answer questions about the campaign quickly. These ten categories set the campaigns up to be easily editable assets for a long time to come, and that benefits us as well as our clients!