Mitron! Here’s a story about the many mistakes I made while adopting a Customer Data Platform (CDP) tool. We were victims of that not-so-obvious but necessary strategic decision that needs to be made before even selecting such a tool — who owns the CDP tool at your company? Enjoy the candid blog and sincerely hope you don’t make the same mistakes. Comments are welcome.
By Sep 2022, it had been over a year since we signed up with WebEngage as our go-to customer engagement tool. And finally, after postponing the discussion several times, I sat with their team and gave them my inputs on the #ImpactStory they wanted to publish to showcase the impact WebEngage had had on my startup @GlideInvest. Quantifying this turned out to be much harder than I anticipated, which led me to pen down this experience, and be totally honest to myself. And thus the title to this blog!
In early 2021, after having spent a good 3 months learning and deploying Mixpanel into our product architecture, we realized that while it was the best product analytics tool we had used, it did not provide the capabilities to engage with customers. Hence started the search for a tool to solve this problem. After some primary research, vendor conversations with the likes of MoEngage Inc, CleverTap and Netcore Solutions, product demos to both the Product and Marketing teams at GlideInvest, and reference checks with other startups and friends, we selected @WebEngage. The whole process took about 3 months, and I was happy to move on towards implementing and using it. I must claim that at this point, neither my Product team (of 3) nor I had any experience using such a tool.
The final contract was signed and closed by the Marketing team in April 2021. Product and Tech started the integration with the mobile app, and checked all the events and params being captured from the app. Marketing integrated an SMS provider and sent out some test messages by July 2021. We were all set to get this going, or so we thought...
Mistake #1: Who owns the CDP tool at Glide Invest?
WebEngage is considered a MarTech tool, and hence negotiated and onboarded by the Marketing team. But Marketing needed tech support. And Tech teams don’t use WebEngage other than integrating it and enabling events, so Product needed to step in to help them enable the tool for customer engagement. But most of the engagement happens post-login when we know who the customer is via their mobile number or email, whereas Marketing team’s KPIs are focused on top of the funnel and pre-login to sign-up. So who own WebEngage? Who is taking the responsibility of the customer engagement through WebEngage? As part of Product, we thought Marketing owned it, so let them run with it for a while. Our Customer Success Manager (CSM) was constantly following up with Marketing to help us get the most out of the tool, but we weren’t responding in a timely manner. Finally, when we, at a management level, did not see any journeys going live on the CDP tool, Product needed to get involved full-time. This lack of clear ownership right from the start went on for 6 months from the time we signed up, only after which we realized that Product and Marketing have to jointly own WebEngage — the former primarily for journeys and nudges, and the latter primarily for all kinds of campaigns.
Product and Marketing have to jointly own, engage and work together to make this tool successful for the company, else its bound to be a disaster!
Mistake #2: Who owns the content for the communication through the CDP tool?
Product took over curating the journeys, but it was decided that Marketing would give the final content for the journeys. But the content writer did not have WebEngage on her priority list, so my Product Manager kept going back and forth hoping the content would come. Product knows the app and its features inside out, while Marketing writes better content and has to keep it consistent with what’s on the website and in Social Media channels. Product kept following up for content, which came at infrequent intervals from Marketing, and that too not at a quality we were willing to publish. Marketing made the content for Push Notifications, but Product knew how those messages would appear on Android and iOS and did not share that feedback of optimizing the messages. As Product, we kept bringing this up in monthly reviews, and Marketing kept promising that content would be provided, but weeks went by and no new journeys were going live. Its only after my Product Manager left the firm that I had no choice but to take ownership of this. That’s when I saw that nobody owned responsibility for the content for WebEngage, which does not stop at only creating the content.
Product and Marketing have to jointly work on the messaging right from drafting it, visualizing the drafts on WebEngage, understanding what the customer will experience through the journeys, mapping the timeline and frequencies of the messages, and ensuring that there is a logical flow to the what is being shared with the customers to win them over.
Mistake #3: How many non-engineers would it take to fix this light bulb?
We thought managing a CDP tool like WebEngage could be part of someone’s KRA. So there was no single owner for WebEngage, neither from Product nor from Marketing. But WebEngage is a quintessential build-measure-learn tool, and it takes a lot of time and energy to make this work for you. When I took over the tool in late January 2022, I thought I could manage it with all the work that I had on my plate as Head of Product. But I just couldn’t give it the time and effort, especially being new to it. I did not have another resource I could pass this on to, and wanted to make sure it was successful this time around. But re-arranging all the content in a coherent form was very time consuming. Registering and getting the DLT IDs approved for all the SMS message was even more time consuming, testing them was an add-on. So it took me another two whole months before the first 10 journeys could go live. And that’s when I also learned through references and friends that their companies have teams of people, typically divided into Activation, Engagement and Retention teams, to manage WebEngage, and not just 1 person. And at Glide Invest, for a short while, I was practically all of them, and that slowed us down tremendously.
Working with a tool like WebEngage is a full time job, and having dedicated resources who fullfill the role of Product-Marketing would be ideal. They would have the KPI and drive to get this to work for both Product and Marketing.
The Final Realization and the Change
Just like the best client for a gym is the one who pays monthly and never shows up, we were the best client for WebEngage — one who pays monthly and hardly uses the tool.
Post Apr 2022, when the first detailed customer engagement journeys started to go live, and once I had hired a new Product Manager and a new Product Analyst to my team, and I got Marketing to commit to provide content on time, things finally started moving. From a very low base, we started increasing the quantity of engagement by 30% M-O-M, and once there was sufficient volumes, we also started measuring efficacy of our engagement across channels. Our real journey with WebEngage had finally started, and five months later, as I put together the metrics for the #ImpactStory, I realized how we were under-utilizing a very powerful tool. But all this was finally changing for the good, and with a lot of support and consistent follow-ups from the WebEngage team too.
There was a time when Marketing thought the CSM we were engaged with was the problem, and Product considered migrating to another competing tool altogether. But a more rational review clearly indicated that the problem was not with the #Process, or the #Technology, but with the #People at @GlideInvest who were making it fail. Even if we changed our CSM, or migrated to another tool, how would that solve the root cause of the issue we had with how the Glide Invest team was owning and managing this. It would not!!! And hence our key takeaway:
Its NOT the tool STOOOPID!!! Its you!