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3 Tactics to Add Dynamic Content to Your Email Program

  |  May 4, 2011   |  Comments

Integrate dynamic content successfully into your email program and avoid the dangers of using dynamic content without proper planning.

More email marketers report that they want to start using dynamic content in their email programs every year. This is an admirable goal, because with dynamic content, you can tap into the promise of tailoring your messages to your audience and personalization to boost content relevancy without drowning yourself in an overload of creative versions.

However, marketers also tell me they don't know where to start. That happens because they're missing a plan with three key tactics:

  • Determine the key segments that are eligible for dynamic content.
  • Have the necessary data available to create different versions of the email creative.
  • Have the capacity to create specific content pieces needed to deliver on the promise of dynamic content.

If you follow this plan, you should be able to integrate dynamic content successfully into your email program and avoid the dangers of using dynamic content without proper planning.

Step 1: Identify Key Segments

The first step to success in planning for dynamic content is to identify the segments for which you plan to version your content. Traditionally, direct marketers have relied upon past behavior to segment their lists. This can be as simple as prospect vs. customer or as complex as RFM (recency-frequency-monetary) by product line.

Smart B2B email marketers go beyond the traditional segmentation methods and look toward behavioral segmentation as well. Content clicked in an email or browsed on a website offers excellent opportunities to segment your list and deliver dynamic content that addresses where your subscriber is in-market during the consideration process.

Once you have identified the key segments that you plan to address, your next step is to identify how the content should differ for each segment. For example, you can use the information you have collected to target an upgrade offer to subscribers who have been long-time customers and a trial offer to your prospect subscribers.

If you have data regarding their last purchases, you can make similar suggestions for their next purchases. If they just purchased a product from you, you can use dynamic content to recommend complementary products in the line.

Step 2: Integrate the Data

Many email marketers have mastered these segmentation techniques, but they hit a roadblock when integrating the data with their email tools in order to act on it.

The data goal for efficient use of dynamic content is to identify the key data points you need to distinguish among the segments. I highly recommend consolidating data to a standard value in your database to which you can refer, to identify the correct piece of dynamic content that should be included for a specific subscriber.

Without consolidation, the data needed to make dynamic content work can be very complex. Your email tool will need to access multiple data points, including demographics, past purchase behavior, preferences, and Web analytics data to determine the correct content.

The more complicated your query, the longer it will take for your mailing to wind up in your subscribers' inboxes. This delay can be disastrous if you are mailing a time-sensitive message.

Consider these data consolidation ideas:

  • Email click activity
    • Last open and last click
  • RFM (Purchase behavior)
    • Subscriber score based on a past purchase
  • Transactional messaging with relevant product data
    • Last product purchased
  • Win-back
    • Triggers after "X" days of inactivity
  • Web analytics to trigger relevant content
    • Product category last browsed, abandoned, and purchased
  • Form abandonment triggers
    • Stage at which an online form was abandoned

Step 3: Plan the Content

Once you have your data triggers, you can develop appropriate content that addresses the specific needs and offers relevant content to each segment.

This can be a daunting task for a creative team. Adding 10 segments can add, at a minimum, nine extra creative content pieces if you change only one component of your creative.

Good planning is necessary to incorporate dynamic content into your email program. Leverage your overall marketing calendar to plan content modules that you can reuse as much as possible.

Consider the following steps as you are planning creative:

  • Identify "evergreen" content.
    • Create content that will rarely change and can be used consistently with minimal changes.
  • Identify content with a longer shelf life.
    • Create content modules that can last for two to three months or longer without changes.
  • Identify content with a short shelf life.
    • Create content with modules that address short-term offers or time-sensitive content as needed.

Identifying content with varied shelf lives will allow your creative resources to plan for the additional workload without getting overwhelmed right before launch time.

The Last Word

Dynamic content in your email program is the perfect way to quickly make your email content more relevant. However, you must do your homework and plan in advance to be successful.

Continuous planning will allow you to incorporate more dynamic content into your programs without overwhelming your technical or creative resources.

When you succeed, you will realize the increased engagement and satisfaction from your email subscribers that leads to more sales.

Michael Hotz is off today. This column was originally published Jan. 26, 2011.


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Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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