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A 12-step guide for implementing a digital asset management system



A 12-step guide for implementing a digital asset management system

Launching an enterprise-wide digital asset management (DAM) program is no easy thing. W.L. Gore and Associates, best known for its Gore-Tex fabric and products, found itself having to do just that. At The MarTech Conference, Rachel Edwards, the company’s Enterprise DAM librarian, walked us through how they did it. She also explained why the minimum viable product (MVP) strategy they chose was key to its successful launch. (There’s a video of her talk at the end of this article.)

The problem. Gore needed a DAM because its assets were all over the place. Shared drives, external hard drives, SharePoint sites, folders on individual PCs. There was no centralized repository of assets, no standardized process for finding assets and no content governance. Each division, and even in some cases, smaller subdivisions within those primary divisions, had their own way of doing things. There was no consistency. This was especially painful for users who worked across multiple divisions.

What is MVP? “It’s the version of a product that has just enough features to attract and be usable by early adopters,” said Edwards. “Those early adopters can then validate the product and provide feedback and ideas for future enhancements and development. Using the MVP approach to launch your DAM has many benefits, especially if your company has never had a DAM before.”

1: Find out the requirements

Edwards says don’t ask stakeholders what they want, ask what they need. The fact is they may not have any idea about what they want. “They may not have any context for framing the question if they just found out what a DAM is and have only a high level understanding of how it might benefit them in the long term,” she said.

When that’s the case, they often tend to err on the side of wanting everything they think a DAM  system can possibly do, just in case, regardless of what they actually need the DAM to do in order to meet business requirements. “This can quickly lead you down the dangerous path of over-customization,” she said. “Over-customization can not only negatively affect your site performance, but it can significantly hinder your ability to upgrade and enhance your DAM further down the road.” 

2: Separate the needs from the wants

Begin with filtering the requirements down to the needs versus the wants. The MVP is essentially the smallest unit of delivery that provides value to someone. And who is that someone? “Focus your energy in creating your DAM on pleasing the innovators and the early adopters of technology who will be your noisy minority and your pool of end users,” she said. “Please your noisy minority and let them gradually pull in the others with their enthusiasm for the success of the DAM. They’ll be your biggest cheerleaders and one of your biggest PR assets.” 

The minimum for a DAM. At its core, a basic DAM is a repository to store assets that have metadata attached to them. That metadata allows you to find the assets through a search mechanism once they’re in the DAM, so you can get them back out when you need them for use. “If you have these three basic functions – upload, search and download – you have your starter DAM,” Edwards said. “You also have the option of installing the straight out of the box version of whatever DAM system you’ve purchased. See what the system can do right out of the gate without worrying about customizations.”

It took about six months to pick the right DAM vendor and platform. Much of that time was spent analyzing the overall business needs the DAM must meet. Because this was an enterprise-level effort, the solution had to be robust enough to accommodate the requirements of the company’s four diverse divisions: Fabric, Apparel, Medical and Performance Solutions.


Read next: 20 questions to ask digital asset management platform vendors during the demo

3: Define the stakeholders’ role

Next, the team determined who the stakeholders were in each division. It was essential that they understood their roles on the project and the time commitment involved. “We needed to make sure that they could and would remain fully engaged for the duration of the work,” Edwards said. “The participation of your stakeholders can significantly help or hurt the progress and timeline of your project. So set clear expectations right from the start. And don’t be afraid to remove or replace stakeholders who are not meeting your expectations.”

The focus of the kickoff meeting with the stakeholders was assessing the specific needs of each division. “We knew that our user base was not sophisticated when it came to using DAM systems, so we kept the conversation relatively high level,” she said. “We also used this as an opportunity to explain the MVP process and set expectations. We were very clear that the product they would receive on day one was not the final product.” 

2022 MarTech replacement survey2022 MarTech replacement survey

MVP wasn’t the only new thing being tried on this project. This was also the company’s first time using the agile methodology of breaking tasks up into multiple short phases and delivering work in frequent smaller increments. “The DAM project is now frequently commended as Gore’s first agile success,” Edwards said. “It ultimately encouraged other project teams at the company to adopt the agile style of working.”

Key to success: Clear communication right from the kickoff meeting was a major factor in that success. Edwards said it got the stakeholders thinking in terms of smaller deliverables.  explaining that we would be delivering updated functionality faster but in smaller packages. 

  • TIP: Creating a communication plan is vital. Define how you’ll be informing stakeholders of both progress and blockers.

4: Determine which needs are enterprise-wide

Once you have the requirements, split them into two groups, those specific to one division and those which apply to all divisions. 

The Gore team decided to do a phased rollout starting with the Medical division. There were two reasons for this. One was because Medical had the best grasp of where their assets were located and had already begun using some naming conventions for them. The other was that  they had very specific legal and regulatory compliance requirements around their content that had to be accounted for right from the start. “We realized that if we accounted for the strictest rights management case right from the beginning,” said Edwards. “We could be confident moving forward that if it worked for Medical it would work for everyone else.” This determined the baseline asset management tool that the other divisions could use and build on later. 

5: Prioritize time, money or output

Edward’s team set a 13 week time frame for building this first version of the DAM. They budgeted $25,000 a week for each week’s work. “Taking into consideration time, money and output, we knew that we couldn’t maximize all three,” Edwards said. So, having set the time and the budget, they then pared the output down to what they absolutely needed.

  • TIP: Get advice from early adopters. “Out of our 10,000 employees, we had a noisy minority of 13 engaged early adopters in the Medical division, and we leaned on them for defining must haves versus nice to haves for the MVP.” 

6: Meet with stakeholders during the build

Throughout these 13 weeks, the team met regularly with the stakeholders in order to continually adjust, recalibrate, and agree on changing priorities. That meant

  • Daily stand-up meetings with the core project team and implementation partner.
  • Weekly status meetings with stakeholders. 
  • Demos displaying progress and updates were held about every two weeks.

Because requirements, plans and results were reevaluated frequently, this allowed the team to respond to changes and blockers quickly. 

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7: Start training as soon as you launch

Once they officially launched the MVP DAM, the team began end-user training. “In each of those sessions, we not only explained what exactly a DAM is for those who maybe hadn’t been exposed to one before, but we also stress the fact that this was the MVP version,” said Edwards.


8: Do everything you can to get user feedback

It was essential for users to understand that the DAM was a work in progress. Its functionality would continue to grow and expand overtime. The team also emphasized users would help determine this through their feedback. The team made it clear who users could reach out to with questions and suggestions and provided several methods for them to do so. They made it clear they wanted any and all feedback, big or small, good or bad.

9: Let it simmer

“Once your MVP DAM is live, have users live with it for a while and not just for a few weeks,” said Edwards. “It takes months for users to really dig in and for you to gather usage statistics that are giving you an accurate enough picture of how the DAM is being used to be useful. Have your users see how it fits into their work and how it fills their needs and then they can start thinking about how it could do those things better.”

Questions to ask users. As they’re using the DAM, check in with your users regularly. Your initial questions:

  • What’s working? 
  • What’s not working? 
  • What features would you love to have that aren’t currently available? 

10: Find out what users aren’t doing

A good DAM system will provide you with data about what your users are doing with it. That will also tell you what they’re not doing that they could be. Ask them about that.

  • TIP: “When your users are being actively encouraged to provide feedback when they know that their feedback is being listened to, and that they’re a valuable piece in the improvement planning process, it really helps to drive user engagement and happy, engaged users can help bring in more happy, engaged users.” 

11: Find out where else they’re getting assets

Your DAM is your central repository for all of your company’s assets. For it to be successful, it needs to be the single source of truth for all of your content. If your users aren’t getting their assets from the DAM, find out where they are getting them from. How can those other systems integrate with your DAM? Can the DAM replace those systems? If there was a system they were using as a pseudo-DAM before, turn it off. If turning it off isn’t possible, make sure all the assets that are now in the DAM have been removed from it. 

“There are likely more places out there where users are obtaining assets than you realize,” said Edwards. “Keep asking the questions. The answers they give you today about how the DAM is or is not working for them may not be the answer they give you next week, next month, or even next year. At Gore I stay in regular contact with our stakeholders and we have monthly meetings with our super users.”

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12: Have business units do surveys

In the year following the MVP DAM’s launch, divisions sent quarterly surveys to their users, asking them what they liked and didn’t like about the DAM, when they used it and when they didn’t, but should have. That feedback was used to both enhance the DAM’s functionality and to assist the divisions with streamlining and improving their content and metadata. “We have an analytics dashboard that enables us to measure asset usage and effectiveness so we can continually improve the asset production process,” said Edwards. “We can see what’s working and get rid of what isn’t.”

Information your system’s dashboard should provide:

  • How are each business units’ users searching?
  • Are they just using the free text search box, only the search filters provided for them, or a combination of both to find their assets? “If they’re not utilizing the search filters, we can discuss how we might be able to improve them.”
  • Downloads by asset type and a list of the most frequently downloaded assets in each unit. 
  • Search terms that were entered by users that returned 0 results. This helps determine if metadata needs adjusting, or if there are new assets could be created to meet users’ needs. 


A DAM isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it system. New users will bring new questions and new needs. Your work is never done. Keep your eyes on your metrics and remain actively engaged with your users to make sure that your DAM remains successful as that single source of truth for all of your companies assets today, tomorrow and beyond. 

“The DAM program is ongoing and sustained,” said Edwards. “There’s always something you can do to improve the way people work. What content they need and how they obtain that content is always evolving.”


About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them



8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.


As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.


Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”


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