The Question Behind the Question is ‘Why?’

Uncover opportunities by asking why.

by Michael Sciano

posted on 02-04-2019

If you’ve been around a toddler, or have kids of your own, you’re likely familiar with the “why” stage. You know, that phase in linguistic development where the two- or three-year-old replies to anything said with a simple, “Why?” No matter what someone says, the response is always, “Why?”

For the last six months or so, my daughter has been stuck in the “why” stage. It can be cute and infuriating, all at the same time.

It’s also a vitally important step in the development of a young human, as children are starting to try and understand the world around them. Think of each of those “why” questions as another neuron gaining strength and wisdom in their brain.

Ironically, my older kids hate “why” questions in their schoolwork. They can be difficult and challenging. They take more time to answer. They take thought and reflection. You can almost feel the tension with my two tweens and their homework.

As adults in the workplace, we often avoid “why” questions unless that’s our primary function or role. Many, though, are just focused on getting through the task list of the day.

The power of why

What, though, does this have to do with digital marketing? Having worked with hundreds of brands over the last decade, one recurring theme has emerged numerous times, across industries, sizes of teams and organizations, and complexities of strategy — marketing teams often don’t take time to really ask, “Why?”

As marketers, we get comfortable with the status quo. We are also guilty of making assumptions. We assume we know what our customers want and need. We assume our messaging is clear and inspiring. We assume customers will take the prescribed journey we want them to. We assume that our email marketing program is highly effective because we continue to make our goals.

Even when we do research on a given topic, it’s often clouded by our assumptions and own perspectives.

How can we assess our strategy and the decisions we make in a new way? How can we assure ourselves, our stakeholders, and our executive sponsors that, indeed, the course we have set is the right one?

By asking, “Why?” — repeatedly.

Assess and ask why

As the provider of Adobe Campaign, a powerful cross-channel campaign management and email marketing software tool, you should rely on us to help you ask “why” questions of your own program. By doing the hard work, you’ll help make your strategy more effective and drive more results.

Adobe Campaign offers an online Email Marketing Maturity Assessment to help brands evolve their email program in sophistication. The assessment poses 20 questions in four key areas of email marketing: strategy, data, content, and delivery.

The questions in the assessment are straightforward and collectively touch on all the areas and functions to deliver a highly performing email marketing program. While we’ve provided the framework, it’s up to you to ask the “why” questions for deeper understanding into your operations, strategy, and delivery.

For example, one of the questions focuses on the accessibility and usefulness of various data sources to supplement customer profiles to do more effective segmentation and content targeting. At face value, this question is asking if you tie in data from other sources (like purchase data, booking data, web behavioral data, etc.) to your customer data. Someone might answer this with a quick “yes” or “no” or even “a little, but we want to use more.”

The power, though, is in asking, “Why?” Why have you chosen the specific data sources to use so far? Why do these help your strategy? Why are there other sources to align with existing customers? Why will using these new data source(s) further your strategy? Why will it benefit the customer in the end? Why will it help you achieve success? Or if you are lacking access to data, the question will be, “Why is it so hard for us to access the right data?”

Marketing on any channel is more than checking off boxes. For email marketing, understanding the why behind your strategy and decisions is key to uncovering more opportunities to strengthen your program.

Asking “why” helps you get to the root of a problem, as well as to the insights you need to make incremental changes in your program.

Why are we doing it this way?

Asking “why” doesn’t stop with strategy, though. As marketers, we need to ask “why” in each area, including how our teams are organized for operations.

Why do we have particular roles in place? Why are various teams set up the way they are? Why would considering changes to the organization help us be more successful?

One of my favorite client stories comes from Marlies Roberts at Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). Marlies and OAT have been Adobe clients for several years, but their approach to personalized marketing and marketing operations has evolved over the years.

When they first started, their audience development team and their content development team were separate and using different platforms. Over time, they brought these teams together and unified them on Adobe Campaign.

But their evolution didn’t stop there. Marlies and her team continued to ask “why” and other questions to help them scale and grow their team. Their next efforts focused on executing ad-hoc campaigns versus recurring campaigns, all of which are personalized.

Asking the hard questions throughout your digital marketing programs can uncover opportunities to really transform your business. Rob McLaughlin and team at Sky UK, an international media and entertainment company, did just that when they started paying closer attention to the data right in front of them about their customers. They realized 71 percent of their customers were using more than three channels to interact with Sky, but the company was not delivering a coordinated experience. Learn more about their story in this video and how asking “why” drove their success.

It’s your turn

Now, it’s time for you to act. I’m sure you’ve caught yourself asking, “Why?” in your mind as you work through a common challenge. Rather than shaking it off, dive in and take on the hard questions. Challenge your peers and leadership to tackle the “why” questions with you.

Use the Email Marketing Maturity Assessment, or listen to one of our webinars on Adobe Campaign Growth & Adoption as a way to start asking questions about your own program.

Whatever you do next, don’t let the status quo live on.

My three-year-old is never satisfied — you shouldn’t be, either.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Campaign Management, Email Marketing

Products: Campaign, Experience Cloud