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4 missteps that can ruin your e-mail content

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Marketers are quickly learning—if they don’t already know—that the more targeted their e-mail content is, the higher the likelihood that their messages will be opened and read. Many looking to increase their e-mail relevance quotient may turn to dynamic content as a panacea. There are several stumbling blocks, however, that can trip up even the most seasoned e-mail veteran. Derek Harding, founder and CEO of digital marketing company Innovyx Inc., explained the biggest problems in a successful dynamic content program and how you can get around them:
  • You have dirty data. This problem certainly isn’t new. Online and offline marketing campaigns suffer if databases are dirty or incomplete. However, the problem is intensified for those using database records to create dynamic newsletter content, Harding said. “If you have data that’s incomplete or wrong, you’re going to end up sending dynamic messages that are mistargeted or contain the wrong content,” he said. The fix is no surprise: Clean your database at least once a month. Another important step is to implement integrity rules so it’s harder to make mistakes. “If you’re targeting an industry, create a preset list that people have to choose from,” he said. “There could be 12 different ways to say someone works in finance. A human might look at a group of titles and have no idea if the person is in finance or should be getting, for instance, stories about manufacturing.”
  • You underestimate budgetary needs. Depending on how many stories you’d like to provide, it can be very expensive to create dynamic, content-filled newsletters. Marketers decide that they want to slice and dice their lists by tens or hundreds of categories, but they forget that each of those categories may need unique content. There’s no easy fix, Harding said. Your best bet is to start small, segmenting your list based on product interest or broad industry categories. “You might get excited and think you’re going to target all these users, but you lose track of the fact that you’re marketing to make money and drive revenue growth,” he said.
  • You don’t do the right kind of testing. Marketers want to make sure the content that goes out is spelled correctly and renders well, but with dynamically generated content, they should be equally as worried about how a reader’s hand-raising is going to affect the look and read of the newsletter, Harding said. “You need to test the boundary conditions. What happens if someone’s profile doesn’t match any of your target segments and they don’t get any stories? What happens if someone’s profile means they are going to match all 20 of your segments, and they are now going to get 58 stories? You should check each story for spelling and grammar, but then check the upper and lower levels of variants and how having those upper and lower levels affect the newsletter design,” he said.
  • You never asked recipients to give you demographic data to begin with. Maybe your database is made up of names of people who entered a contest at a trade show. Maybe it comprises people who signed up—using an e-mail address and a name—for a white paper. Without additional information, you might not be able to provide truly personalized content. Harding suggests letting your list know that you’re going to send a dynamic newsletter and asking them to provide what you think are the top five or 10 most relevant pieces of identifying information. Also, keep in mind that you can ask people for that information in incremental steps. And if they don’t want to provide any additional information? “Make sure you’re still generating a generic newsletter for those people who don’t have any data matching up,” he said.
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