Profile Attributes for Dynamic E-Mail Campaigns

A traditional marketing campaign typically requires only a small number of recipient profile attributes. Relationship is one example (customer, prospect, vendor), or customer segment (home, SMB, Enterprise). Dynamic email requires many more attributes and far more detailed information in order to provide the customization and targeting that makes it so effective. The collection and management of that data is critical to the success of a dynamic campaign.

Types of Attribute

There are several types of profile attribute. Chances are your database has a few of each type.

  1. Preference: Recipient preferences are perhaps the first thing that come to mind when we think of dynamic messaging. That is a good thing. One of the best ways to know what someone wants is to ask them, and surveys indicate the number one reason people read email is interesting content.

    Recipient preferences can often be used directly to include or exclude information of specific interest. For example, include new product information for recipients who said they wanted to hear about new products.

    Unfortunately there are often large numbers of recipients for whom little preference information is available.

  2. Behavior: Smart marketers collect a complete history of their interactions with recipients. Purchase history, browsing history, call center activity, traditional marketing responses, all these interactions can be added to the behavioral profile.

    Past behavior is typically used for inferred preferences when no direct preference information is available. For example, a recipient who has bought two small business products is likely to be interested in other products targeted to small businesses.

  3. Demographic: Long a staple of segmentation these typically include attributes such as age, income, education level, employment status and location.

    While demographic data are sometimes be used directly (for geographically specific products, for example), they’re more commonly used to segment where no individual preference data are available. Hair restoration products are targeted based on gender and age, for example.

  4. Psychographic: Sometimes called Interests, Attitudes and Opinions (IAO) these include measures of personality, lifestyle and attitude.

    Psychographics are generally used where none of the previous three are available, or to enhance targeting of other messaging.

Data Hygiene

To mis-quote Donald Rumsfeld, “You run a dynamic campaign with the data you have, not the data you’d like to have”. Customization decisions should not be made on unsafe premises. But I’ve yet to see a perfect preference database of any significant size. It’s therefore essential to understand both the completeness and quality of the data you have.

Through the use of default choices it’s possible to work with incomplete data. However inaccurate data, perhaps because it is too old or was obtained from uncertain sourcea, must be removed or replaced. Which brings me neatly to the final aspect of profile attributes.

Attribute Collection

Collection and maintenance of profiles must be considered an ongoing task. Attributes may be collected in a variety of ways and at a variety of times.

  1. Preference form: Peoples’ circumstances and preferences change. As recipient preference data is the most immediate form of profile attribute available, it’s essential they’re able to update their key preference data quickly and easily. Every email should provide access to a form where recipients can alter their subscription preferences. This goes double for dynamic campaigns.

  2. Surveys: Surveys are a common way to collect demographic and preference data. They’re also are a great way to collect a lot of data in a short time. Unfortunately, many recipients won’t respond to a survey. The number of respondents can be increased using incentives, but this can become expensive.

  3. Polls: Simple one-question polls can be used to collect incremental profile information. Many recipients may answer a simple poll when they’d ignore a long survey.

  4. Other interaction: Any other interaction, from an on-line purchase to a call-center inquiry, can be an opportunity to collect, update and verify profile information. Be careful not to overdo it, though. A recipient dropping out of an on-line purchase due to overly intrusive profile questions isn’t desirable.

With all these mechanisms avoid the temptation to force people to enter data they don’t wish to. Too many “must-fill” form fields may result in them providing no information, or worse, false information.

Once you know what attributes you have available, you’re ready to develop the content strategy, or campaign business rules. That’s the subject of the next column.

Until next time,


Related reading