3 Tips for Shifting to a Rules-Based Email Framework
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3 Tips for Shifting to a Rules-Based Email Framework

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
11 March 2015

Email FrameworkData has been a buzzword in the marketing space for years, but so far, only the savviest marketers are finding new ways to incorporate behavioral data into their programs and campaigns. And while dynamic content has been a staple in email marketing for a while, today’s more sophisticated marketing platforms enable leading practitioners to personalize a larger portion of their emails by leveraging all kinds of real-time, implicit and explicit data from internal systems and external feeds. 

As the need to create compelling, targeted messages increases, consider thinking of emails as a skeletal framework. In this paradigm, messages still include traditional aspects like the header, footer and content areas. but data-driven rules determine what populates in more of the content areas. Below, I outline a few ways to shift to this model and make your emails even more personalized and relevant, helping your marketing team drive great results: 

1) Expand your data sources 

If you’re not capturing interactions with contacts across all relevant touch points, you’ll be limited in how you can personalize content. Take the necessary steps to expand the data you’re capturing and make sure you’re feeding behaviors into a centralized database that can tie each individual to these cross-channel interactions.

For example, ask questions and/or preferences on a landing page, Web form or website popover that will help you and your marketing team deliver your customers and prospects the most pertinent information. Or, incorporate Web tracking to automatically populate your marketing database with information about the pages or products your contacts are viewing most often. Then, send triggered follow up emails based on these behaviors.

The increased use of mobile and advances in location marketing have also opened up even more opportunities for adding relevance, such as delivering content based on whether someone crossed a geofence or how they interacted with your mobile app.

Once you expand past generic data collection like email address, name, phone number, etc., you’ll be able to take your personalization up a notch.

2) Combine rules 

Take those behaviors you’re capturing and associate them with other information, such as which of your products contacts are already using, when they last called the support desk, etc. Then design rule-based communications such as, “If someone watched this video and is already a qualified sales opportunity and in XYZ industry, serve this content.”

The ultimate goal of combining rules is to serve up content that will move prospective customers down the funnel – whether that’s passing them on to a sales rep or moving them to make a purchase or upsell. By collecting this kind of behavioral data, you can provide the most relevant content based on an individual’s needs and preferences, and ultimately increasing your marketing revenue and effectiveness.

3) Make incremental changes 

Moving straight from one piece of dynamic content per email to four or five might seem daunting. Remember to crawl, walk, run. If your idea of personalization currently is “Hi %%FIRST NAME%%,” it’s time to take it one step further – consider dynamically populating emails based on gender or previous purchases. If you’re already a regular user of dynamic content, it’s time to add more cross-channel, implicit data into your emails. How is a customer engaging on your mobile app? What products is he/she regularly viewing on your website? 

Instead of attempting to add five pieces of dynamic content to every template all at once (and subsequently overwhelming you and your team), aim to add one rule-based content area per template per quarter, and by year’s end you’ll have made a huge leap in relevance. Remember to keep your dynamic content rules in line with the goals of not only your marketing team, but your overall organization. This way your email communications will be mutually beneficial – your customers will be receiving content that is most relevant to them and your marketing team will be driving engagement and revenue. 

Related Resources:

1)      White paper: 7 Key Marketing Trends for 2015 – and Tactics for Succeeding in the New Year

2)      Blog: 3 Secrets for Becoming More Relevant in Your Digital Marketing

3) Tip sheet: 8 Tips for Thriving in Today’s Data-Driven Marketing World 


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