SuperBanker: The making of a gamified conference experience

Compared with traditional training and marketing strategies, gamification – the application of social gaming theories and techniques in commercial contexts – can dramatically increase audience involvement and the degree to which communications actually change audience behavior. Firms across all industries are becoming increasingly aware of the power of gamification for business objectives, such as motivating and training a sales force or connecting with customers.

This week, EMI launched SuperBanker, an online mobile game, at SourceMedia’s 17th Annual Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Symposium. SuperBanker demonstrates the use of gamification for business purposes, and was designed to enhance attendees’ conference experience. Players could create their own superhero alter ego, and earned points for answering questions about the session presentations, networking with other players, or visiting the exhibitors at the conference.

Almost 200 top-level banking executives and service providers played the game, which culminated in an exciting fight for first place in the final hours of play. It wasn’t easy to make SuperBanker the success that it was – a delicate and detailed strategy lies behind the colorful graphics of the game.  Here’s a peek behind the curtain:

  • Fitting the imagery and tone to the audience – can a game be too fun? The theme for the game had to balance fun with seriousness, because conference-goers would be in a professional mindset while playing the game.  Rather than the traditional superhero tights, the game avatars were dressed in business suits; rather than playing through an animated world of villains and crises, players answered conference-related trivia challenges.
  • Walking the thin tightrope between engaging and too involved: A game that is too demanding will discourage participation; too easy, and it won’t be fun to play.  In a conference setting, there is an additional layer to setting the difficulty of a game: the goal of the game is not to engross players, but instead, to allow them to engage with the game and the conference itself simultaneously.  SuperBanker play was designed to be accomplished in between conference  activities; what’s more, it rewarded active participation in the conference with game points.
  •  Bringing the game into the physical world: Because a conference audience is physically located in the same place, it was important to bring the game into the physical setting in which the players were interacting via stickers, life-sized cutouts, and other things, in order to connect the game experience with the conference itself and generate continued participation.  Perhaps the most important example was a large leaderboard screen that displayed the top ten players’ scores – even though players could instantly access the leaderboard from their own devices, many walked back over to the screen to see it displayed there.
  • Creating a sense of progress and the attainability of winning: At the conference, one player pulled ahead early and maintained a solid lead throughout.  This could have discouraged others from signing up or continuing to play, but SuperBanker was designed to create a sense of accomplishment for everyone playing the game.  Players could win smaller prizes throughout the conference; every member of the team with the best average score was awarded a prize; and for the highly engaged group, there were also prizes for second and third up for grabs.  And indeed, attendees played the game to the bitter end – resulting in a last minute upset!

Say “No” to the Third Helping of Meatballs: The Strategy and Pursuit of Trigger Campaigns

Launching a trigger email is a little like going back for seconds and thirds at an all-you-can eat buffet: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The temptation to launch a trigger campaign becomes stronger in light of the steady drum beat of email marketing experts who tell you it’s the right thing to do. However, what all this talk of email marketing “best practices” loses sight of is that, like any marketing tactic, trigger campaigns should be a logical response to a strategic problem.

The good news is that there are trigger campaign approaches that align with many common issues — you just need to figure out which campaign matches your strategic need. For example, let’s say you are a company that has made or will be making a commitment to content marketing as a driver of customer and prospect engagement. Your business model requires you to nurture contacts over a period of time until they are ready/have the need to buy. During this interval, you need to keep your company and products top-of-mind, but your response data suggests that you are not maximizing your potential to engage your audience.

In this scenario, the best application of a trigger campaign is to use your target audience’s responses to drive deeper engagement. Leveraging your available content, you can create a collection of emails triggered by a range of positive responses — clicking on an email, downloading a white paper from your website, visiting your booth at a conference — that offer the recipient “next steps” or additional information. The keys to making this kind of trigger successful are:

  • Clean data: Make sure that the email address to which you are sending the triggered email is the email address of the person who took the positive action.
  • Low friction: Make the featured content easy to consume to lower barriers to incremental engagement.
  • Timeliness: Deploy the triggered email within a day or two of the positive action to ensure that whatever spurred the initial engagement is still fresh in the target’s mind.

In our experience, triggered campaigns targeting those with a positive recent response have delivered view rates in the 60-70% range and engagement rates as high as 20%.

A Customer Experience and Lead-Nurturing Horror Story

What you are about to read really happened. It illustrates why companies need to pay better attention to the customer experience and why marketing — or a dedicated customer experience function — needs to have visibility into all points of communication with customers and prospects.

About two months ago, I received an email from Ronnie, a salesperson at a call center technology provider. I’m sure he was emailing me because I had previously filled out a form to obtain a white paper. I read and deleted the email because EMI doesn’t handle provisioning or recommending call center technology and I felt that talking to the sales person would be a waste of both our time. A few weeks later, Ronnie sent another email; he speculated that I “might have overlooked” his previous email and again asked for a meeting. I know how not getting a “no” answer can be a drain on a salesperson’s time, so I decided to write back to Ronnie:

Hello Ronnie,

I didn’t overlook your last email…I read it and deleted it. But kudos to you on your persistence. The reason I deleted the email is that we are not in the business of using or even recommending to clients contact center technology. If a need should ever arise, I’ll look you up.

Good luck and good hunting.

Imagine my surprise — and by surprise, I mean aggravation — when two days later I received another email from Ronnie, this one more insistent than the last:

Trying to reach you. Can we schedule a call?

That’s the whole email. Makes you want to be a customer, right? I wrote back to Ronnie in a tone much less considerate than that of my previous email, explaining I had in fact responded to his earlier email and he should not email me again.

Guess what happened three weeks later? That’s right, another email from Ronnie — exactly the same as his second one. Needless to say, he got another email back from me, fuming. Now the (somewhat) happy ending to the story is that Ronnie finally got the message (literally and figuratively) and responded very apologetically, which restored a bit of my faith in Ronnie and his company. But some significant damage was done.

What this story illustrates is how detrimental a lack of coordination and oversight in customer communications can be. This situation might have been avoided if sales email outreach were templatized and triggered by a lack of response by a customer. Obviously there was a template involved (hence the exact same wording in the second and fourth Robbie emails), but the triggering mechanism failed. Moreover, even if I hadn’t been furious about the lack of recognition of my replies, I would have been turned off by the fact that the second and fourth emails were exactly the same; if you’re going to create templates, create multiple templates for different stages in the sales process and don’t repeat their use.  Email templates in the sales process should follow a logic that assumes consumption by the recipient and seek to respond to that consumption/lack of response by changing the messaging and/or offer. While there is always the potential for innocent human error, the objective of lead nurturing should be to make the entire process as automated and mistake-proof as possible to maximize the impact (and also reduce the burden on sales to compose and send the emails).

I hope Ronnie learned a lesson, but did his company — or is some other Ronnie destined to make the same mistakes that could cost the company a real prospective customer?