The Three Circles

There are some that prefer a blank canvas, some that can paint looking at a replica, and some that simply need lines, numbers and paint.   

The challenges with painting by colors are somewhat similar to the old consulting triangle.  The consultant walks in, listens to your business problems and draws three circles on the whiteboard.  One has a dollar sign, representing budget and how much you can spend; the second has a big “S” in it, representing scope/quality of the project. The last is a “T,” representing time to complete.   The consultant then says, you get to control two of these and I get the other one — which do you choose?

You may want a perfect program and have six weeks to build it, yet will not likely have the budget control to do it to your liking.  Inversely, you can define the budget and timeline, but the quality of the deliverable might suffer.  

Never have I seen anyone get all three without sacrificing the other two.

Some things in our industry you can’t cheat.  As you think about “new,” remember these five elements, as they are really difficult to do with small budgets and short timelines.

Switch ESPs:  We’ve also found more and more  companies are operating with multiple ESPs for different things, since one solution doesn’t always fit all.  We are in a world of point solutions, and when pain is overbearing, it shouldn’t take surgery to improve your world by adding capabilities.  Think of the world as a capability model vs. a technology stack, and how you look at “new” will change dramatically.

Anything real-time: Real-time content, real-time personalization, real-time analytics are all hard to do at scale with  hort timelines, and the scope almost always gets out of whack, as aspirations can get misguided.  Most rely on dumping data and paying someone to mine it, but the real expense comes in operational consistency.

Cross-channel: While it may seem simple to send an email on day 1, a text message on day 3,  and serve a personalized message at login, all are synched to the same stream.  While each channel offers unique advantages, it can be quite the task to coordinate and measure any stacking effect.   So, if this is urgent, do it to very specific heuristics you hope to optimize  — and remember this is usually temporary.

Normalize data: Web behavior, purchase, email behavior, social activity, mobile app behavior, customer service data, product data.  Getting and using data are two different layers of difficulty where you just can’t cut corners.  Most important here is to get the “scope” right. This is one you’ll have to work on year-around, 24/7.

Testing/aptimization: To do testing right, you just can’t skimp, outside of subject line testing that anyone can do. To set up tests, develop many variants, and test over time and with cross segments. This can be limiting to many, primarily due to the time constraints, lack of understanding of the math in tests, and making decisions on bad tests.

While nothing is finite, it’s critical at the onset of anything “new” that you think hard about the circles you control and the end result at whatever point in time.  Not everyone’s a great abstract artist, or has the time and discipline for paint-by-numbers, yet if you can get the things you control in check, the expectations gap will shorten.

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