A version of this post originally appeared on the Marketo blog. If you’re in B2C marketing — especially email marketing — you’ve likely seen an incredibly complex decision tree at some point. You know decision trees: the complex web of interconnected steps that define how buyers receive email marketing messages. If this, then that. If this other option, then that other option. The more complex the decision tree — the thinking goes — the more “personalized” your marketing strategy.
A “simple” decision treeHowever, decision trees and flow charts can quickly become overwhelming, confusing, and make it tough to gauge the performance of your B2C marketing. Most decision trees are built on incomplete or inaccurate assumptions that aren’t backed by data, impacting your ability to measure the success of campaigns. Even worse, these ineffective workflow diagrams are almost impossible to integrate into a full omnichannel marketing strategy. The many branches only apply to emails, leaving out your paid ads, push notifications, and other interconnected marketing channels in the process. Decision trees have been the bane of marketers’ lives for years but, for lack of any other tools, we’ve all continued to use them. Thankfully, there is a better way to manage your B2C marketing flow that is simpler, easier, and even helps you measure your omnichannel marketing campaigns. It’s time to ditch the decision tree and move on to a better marketing process — no branches required.
Out-of-control complexityEvery marketer remembers their first decision tree. You probably initially created it as a simple flowchart with a few branches you could easily use and decipher. But then, as you considered each option and all the different outcomes, the flowchart slowly became bigger, more complex, and unwieldy. For example, here’s the logic you might think through as your create a decision tree for your buyers:
- If a buyer hasn’t opened an email in a month you’ll add them to the 3-touch re-engage flow
- If they still don’t respond to those emails you add them to your “last ditch promotion” event
- If they respond to that message you add them to a re-engaged customer flow that lasts for one month
- …and so on
Lack of cross-channel visibilityNot only can complex decision trees be tough to manage, they’re also incredibly limited. Every B2C marketer today realizes that email alone is not enough to engage buyers and drive sales. You have to be where your buyers are — including on social media, Google search, and more. If you want to implement a true omnichannel marketing strategy, you need to manage campaigns across channels so you can deliver a seamless experience with consistent messaging. Unfortunately, decision trees don’t provide the necessary visibility for omnichannel. With decision trees, you’re often restricted to email alone and have little visibility into outside campaigns. While your email campaigns may be doing well, maybe they’d perform even better if you swapped out a transactional email for a push notification or a message on Facebook messenger instead. But if you’re relying on a decision tree, you’ll probably never be able to test that hypothesis. Without cross-channel visibility, decision trees can’t help you experiment
Less accurate analyticsExperimentation and testing is also a huge part of B2C marketing and a huge miss for decision trees. Because you can’t create campaigns across channels, you also can’t quickly measure and A/B test those campaigns. And as a marketer, you want to make informed decisions about which channels are performing well, which campaigns you should focus on, and which need a change of strategy. For example, you can’t understand:
- What is the conversion rate of that push notification message?
- What is the open rate of the latest email campaign?
- How does that conversion rate change if you swap the order of the two steps?