Percolate is the System of Record for Marketing, specializing in the planning, execution, distribution, and analytics of marketing initiatives.
During my time at Percolate I lead the research, strategy, and design for Percolate’s core Planning and Collaboration Tool: Campaigns.
Campaigns are a tool that provide marketers with a structured environment to plan out, and organize, and the production of marketing content (social content, digital advertising, ect.) and to provide visibility into these processes. When a user views a campaign - they know what the marketing goals are, have access to relevant assets, and the ability to see what content is being distributed across their marketing channels.
Where we Started.
When I began my journey working on this leg of Percolate’s toolset, Campaigns were just a young MVP trying to make it's way in the world. The tool had recently evolved from another Percolate tool: the Marketing Calendar.
At the time, the Marketing Calendar was a tool that would allow Marketing Managers or Community managers to visualize any marketing projects or social content to provide visibility at a high level of what the marketing team was doing. This type of visualization is invaluable in large marketing orgs, where planning is typically done within a spread sheet, pdfs distributed and lost via email or it just isn’t…
Via the Calendar, Marketing managers could add campaigns to represent a marketing initiative. Within a campaign a marketing team could elaborate more about what was going on, write a “Brief” to inform team members of what they needed to do and ultimately make content to distribute.
Campaign creation and general product adoption started out pretty low.
From some lightweight live testing, sales renewal reports and field reports, as well as anecdotal data from our customer support/customer services team members, there were some noticeable pains we wanted to explore further to better understand our data points:
- Lots of redundant work around setting up campaigns - users were facing a lot of trouble in the configuration of campaigns both generally and from a governance standpoint (standardization).
- Difficulty in tracking conversations - Campaigns are environments that are focused on informing teams on goals and collaborating to make it happen, however, users were having trouble keeping track of conversations they were having.
- “How do I see all of the campaigns that are going on in tandem” - this was a big ask. Customers wanted to easily see the relationships between ongoing campaigns. we didn’t know a whole lot about this at the time.
Who we talked to:
We began our research effort with discovery and empathy in mind. We interviewed a wide array of current and prospective customers and internal experts to garner a better understanding of how marketing teams plan out their initiatives and where the current product was letting them down.
At the end of our discovery Phase I conducted a research synthesis meeting to discuss our learnings and document findings in a collaborative fashion and to get more than just the design and product team involved in the process. Included were members from the product design team, product management team, and customer relationships team. I also conducted a follow up with project stakeholders to let them know what was up and shared documentation.
Together we outlined a series of research themes and grouped them accordingly using the best tool for the job: post its.
What we learned:
First things first: Who Specifically Plans Campaigns?
The main role (on a marketing team) that uses campaigns comes with a myriad of titles from the simple “product marketing manager” to “integrator.” We stuck with a more General “Marketing Manager” for reference.
The Big Problem.
Campaigns had an inherent structural problem: the v1 product reflected a workflow that didn’t take into account planning for complex campaigns that require a strategy or more importantly, the general mental model of someone who is trying to plan out a big marketing initiative:
Marketing Managers take a phased a approach to their planning, and it starts out very high level and then gets more specific:
ex. - thought path 1
“The first thing we need to do is introduce the product, then we want to garner excitement, and then we want to inform people of when the retail experience starts, and then we need to focus on retention.”
ex. - thought path 2
“Ok, so when we are introducing the product we need to run an email campaign to existing subscribers, run banner ads driving potential customers to sign up for our email, and run social to direct people to sign up to learn more.”
Note: Manager interviewees referred to this plan as a “campaign skeleton” - or “shell campaigns.” They don’t know the details around how to run an email campaign yet, they just need to show that they are going to run one, and that get it on paper for visibility.
- Teams developed a workaround to this problem by copying and pasting the URL of other campaigns into the brief of a campaign, but it obviously wasn’t the best solution because there was simply no way to visualize this structure.
- Because there, was no structure to visualize, Marketing managers could not easily get a beat on what was happing in all of the other campaigns that were part of the plan, or the plan itself.
- On top of all of that, when a manager went into Percolate to create a new campaign, The tool would ask for a lot of information that they wouldn’t have yet at the outset of a project. This was described as a barrier to entry. “Why is Percolate asking for all of this stuff?"
At this point the working group felt like we had a pretty good understanding of the problem at hand, so we began to look towards potential solutions by breaking them down into a series of “how might we” statements:
“ How might we allow marketing managers to visualize their plan for a marketing campaign”
“How might we allow marketing managers to create campaigns with greater speed, and ease?”
Sketch it out:
I conducted sketching sessions with project stakeholders, as well as the working group consisting project management, dev leads, and other members of the design team; Doing so allowed all team members to contribute to the direction of the design.
In these sessions, sketches were catalogued and themes were synthesized by the working group to formulate the approaches for our initial prototypes.
Linked campaigns vs. Strategic campaigns (a campaign object that act like a folder for other campaigns)
- allow marketing managers to “link campaigns” together
- parent/child campaigns
- some type of container object that you can put campaigns in.
- campaign as a central hub for everything that is linked together.
- data inheritance/dependancies
Prototyping & Testing
Lofi Prototypes were created and tested with customers to get a sense of which attributes of our sketch session made the most sense and to identify areas we wanted to explore further and iterate on. \
we explored 2 directions:
Direction 1: Allow users to link or associate campaigns (basically what was the current iteration of the tool) to one another, to ultimately build out a tree type of structure.
Direction 2: Create a new type of Strategic/Plan Percolate object that campaigns can be added to (kind of like a folder): we tried called them strategic campaigns, or initiative.
- Creating a new type of campaign (prototype 2) was really confusing test subjects, mostly formed out of an issue with the name “initiative, or strategic campaign.”
- Test subjects described a need to build out multiple levels of hierarchy in their campaigns (about 3 level deep)
Creating a new type of object wasn’t the favorable from a development standpoint and with the stakeholder team so we explored the “linking” path further taking the most favorable attributes and made a few prototype iterations
Iteration 2 - formal “parent /child” relationships we explored…
In this approach, a user could link together existing or new campaigns as children or as a parent allowing a tree structure to be built. Users would be able to navigate to any level of the tree and view the contents of the node in the window to the right.
Although test subjects responded positively to the tree nav, there was still too much up front work when starting out. So we switched gears a bit.
Where We Landed
We wen't back to our initial research and really asked ourselves how can we make it super easy to build out the structure of a complex campaign?
Our approach was to allow marketing managers to visually build out their plan in a simple and visual way. When a user is getting things going and trying to figure out what they need to do, they can just draw it out allowing them to build out really complex structures without the bulky sequential process of making a new object and linking it after the fact over and over again.