Leveraging Dynamic Content in Email Marketing

Posted on by Larry Riggs

Relevancy is the key to getting results in email marketing—which means striving to customize the message, product and service to each recipient. Because a message has only so much space and a recipient only so much attention, it's critical that your message be strong, targeted and precise. 

The good news is that relevancy in email marketing can be achieved by using dynamic content, a method for customizing parts of your email creative with text or images personalized to that specific recipient. For example, a used car dealer that can customize its newsletter and showcase cars based on an individual buyer's profile. John Smith, the low budget car seeker, could be presented with this week's Honda Civic, while Jane Doe, the high budget luxury car seeker, might be presented with the new Lexus in inventory. 

With dynamic content, there are unlimited ways to target relevant information to email recipients. Here are three areas that will enable marketers to create emails that will resonate and engage their audiences. 

1. Take inventory and analyze your data.

First off, take inventory of your recipients and other associated data attributes. Plainly put, you are trying to segment your list and come up with characteristics that you can fulfill. The used car dealer might, for instance, group recipients between "purchased" and "non-purchased." The "purchased" category might just get the latest car inventory updates, but the latter could be targeted with an "after service tune-up" special. 

What data attributes you use will depend on your business and marketing campaign. Here are some categories: 

* Demographic: Basic background information including age, Zip code, gender, education, and so forth.


* Behavioral: More complex details that could include purchase history, shopping cart abandonment, website or newsletter engagement, and so on. The possibilities here are endless—if you can access and track it, it's useful.
 

2. Find and use an email marketing system that supports dynamic content.

The second step in sending dynamic content is using an email marketing system that supports it and sets it up. Each will vary, but the focus is the same for most:

* Email message/creative: This will typically be the same template you are using, but you will have to designate email space to indicate what recipient-specific content to display. This is sometimes called a "placeholder" and usually is represented by a special keyword to direct the email marketing solution to fill that space with specific content associated to the recipient.

Database: This stores your list of recipients, their attributes, and usually also the dynamic content for each recipient. It goes hand in hand with the creative.

The process of sending a dynamic content in mass mailing follows this sequence:

1. The first recipient is read from the database.

2. The recipient attributes are read and compared with the logic built into the newsletter creative.

3. Then, the logic results retrieves the dynamic content.

4. The dynamic content is merged into the newsletter creative and gets sent personalized to that recipient.

5. The process continues for the rest of the recipients. 

3. Test before going live

The last step in sending dynamic content is arguably the most important and often the least paid attention to— testing. If not done correctly, or if the wrong or incomplete creative is sent to recipients, it will have the opposite affect and alienate your audience.

 \Dynamic content mailing depends on a lot of variables connecting properly. The exact test format will depend on the specific setup, but here are some high level guidelines:

* Create test accounts that mirror the intended setup for real recipients. This way you can send test mailings prior to the live campaign and make sure that the message renders correctly with the correct content.

* Scan database fields for missing or incorrect values. For example, if you are doing something based on gender and the logic values are "f" and "M," then make sure they all correspond. You can understand a value of "female," but a computer will not. 

* Measure results and capture feedback. Successful email marketing is built on trial and error and you will never know if it is getting better without measuring it. At the start of your campaign make sure to benchmark and include a control group that will not receive the dynamic content message, so that you can compare this with your dynamic content messages. 

* Dynamic content is one tool towards better recipient engagement. It takes a little more time initially to plan and setup, but will in most cases run on its own after that and your recipients will thank-you for that.

Andrew O'Halloran is senior director of privacy and client services at Cypra Media.

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