Originally printed on the Only Influencers blog.

Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to help build out an entirely new attrition program. An attrition program tries to get customers who have left your product or service to come back – and it goes by a different name in every organization I’ve ever worked with.

Attrition programs are hard to build, just like any other program, and our fabulous team has had our fair share of stumbling blocks. List fails, organizational oddities, you name it, we’ve dealt with it. Along the way, I realized our approach would help build just about any program.

Here are 6 steps to success, no matter the obstacles, when you need to build a new marketing program:

  1. Set goals
    Goals are pretty important, mostly because you can’t tell everyone how well you did without a goal to hold up against your results. You definitely can’t turn your spectacular fails into hard-won learning opportunities if you don’t have a goal to point to. So it’s a good idea to have a goal.Pick a metric that is easy to agree on and which you know you can measure. Then set a target that you know you can hit. Businesses are more impressed by teams that can blow away low targets than they are by teams that barely miss (or make) a tough target. Set the bar low. This is probably the last time you’ll be able to do that. Set it as low as you can, the better to exceed it by a wide margin.It is also a good idea to try to get alignment around your goal, but frankly if you wait for alignment you are setting yourself up to fail. Announce your goal loudly, express willingness to refine the goal, and then go get some work done while everyone else talks about the goal. You will probably have time to accomplish something before the arguments settle down.

     

  2. Do something fast
    You can definitely point to the goal you just set as your first accomplishment, but if you don’t have a follow-up on the next page of your powerpoint presentation, you’re not setting yourself up for success.Decide on something simple and easy to accomplish and then go do it. At the very least, you should be able to get a baseline measure or benchmark out of any test you can dream up. Don’t focus on accomplishing something amazing. Five separate email tests with a single email in each is better than a single test that includes a five-email series. Focus on the basics, the smallest action you can accomplish in 30 days or less.* It’s more important to get something done than it is to get anything done well at this point.At the 90 day mark, a complete, utter, total failure is worth more than a work-in-progress. At least you’ve learned something with your fail.

    *This does not mean you should do a subject line test. Those don’t count. Subject line testing should be held for later, when you’ve eked out all the massive low-hanging fruit you can by switching up your list, your offer, and the copy and the calls to action in your creative. “Do something fast” doesn’t mean you get to punt on an accomplishment. It just means you pick something simpler to accomplish than a fully automated extrapolation of your end goal.

     

  3. Communicate often30H_web
    No one knows how amazing your team is until you tell them, so you might as well tell everyone what to think of your team. This is why you do many simple things quickly – those quick wins give you something to talk about.Create a presentation that swiftly takes people through your timeline, your goals, what you’ve learned, and what you’ve accomplished so that you can watch it walk around the organization. Good news travels, so make sure you sound like good news.Make a goal of communicating about once every 4-6 weeks with some form of results to share. It will create a perception of success and constant motion which will serve you well at budgeting time. And don’t forget to share the credit for success with every team that has helped you. Good will is gold in any organization, even more so when you’re trying to build something new.

     

  4. Analyze on the go
    Ideally, we would all know how well our tests worked before we go out and conduct the next round of testing. Unfortunately, waiting costs time, and prevents your team from creating more success.Work with the results you can get within a week after launching any program. If that means you have nothing, so be it. It’s better to change plans on the fly than it is to have no plans.What happens if your test is an abject failure and you’ve planned a massive campaign based on the same creative? Change the list (if you still can) and blame the prior fail on that. Or swap out other creative last-minute. Or add an offer. Marketing is all about testing, and retesting, and testing some more, so you can justify just about anything you had already planned.

    The most common complaint in marketing is not being able to get a read on results. Don’t let that slow you down. Accept it, work around it, and move on.

     

  5. Build tools
    Once you’ve done a bunch of little tests that you can point to with pride, you can take a little more time for a next step. Pick one that involves building a tool, so you can point to milestones along the way as accomplishments toward your goal.A tool might be a segmentation model, a cluster analysis, or even a set of personas. The point is that you’re building your program foundation so that you can move fast and smart going forward. And you get to talk about the awesome tool you’re building at the same time.

     

  6. Acknowledge failure
    No one likes failure, but if you’ve done a bunch of little tests to start with then a small failure amidst a bunch of little successes is hardly anything to worry about. In fact, so long as you set up your tests to match your goals, a failure is a learning opportunity that you can promote to show how fantastic your team is. Really.Spin it well as you communicate through the organization, and you can get brownie points for being willing to try things. The important thing is to agree up front that it didn’t work. That way, you can try again later, with a different approach that avoids the reason for the failure in the first place.

Pulling together an entirely new program is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. These six steps can help you and your team succeed no matter what your company (and the marketplace) throws your way.