Trends: Dynamic, Personalized Mail

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Though e-mail is an accepted, proven form of delivering marketing messages, professional marketers are looking for better ways to build customer loyalty and generate greater return on their investments.


The future of online marketing is using dynamic content - matching messaging and offers to recipients' demographic data. Though this approach is much more involved than standard e-mail marketing practices, it yields much higher results as well as longer-term and more value-added relationships.


Dynamic content refers to highly personalized e-mails based on database-driven customer preferences. It can take the form of customized subject lines, greetings, offers or content and accompanying images within the body of an e-mail. This strategy lets marketers send timely, relevant messages that resonate with recipients on an individual level. Dynamic content applications are becoming more readily available as add-on features to many e-mail marketing software packages.


What types of organizations benefit most from dynamic content? By carefully collecting specific demographic information about customers, prospects or partners, such as ZIP code, occupation, hobbies, household income or spending habits, marketers can tailor e-mail promotions, offers and educational information to recipients' specific interests.


Organizations that can benefit most from this form of personalized online marketing include e-commerce companies with deep product lines, professional services organizations that offer a variety of niche solutions, businesses that distribute regionally and companies that sell seasonal products or services. Examples include sports team memorabilia companies and law firms with multiple practice areas.


Dynamic content's value is two-sided. Using dynamic content to parallel online offers with customers' preferences brings value to the marketer and recipient. Customers appreciate being marketed to as an individual. With this technique their interests, tastes and needs are addressed directly through useful, relevant information or promotions.


For marketers, dynamic content builds brand loyalty and can bolster customers' attitudes toward organizations. It also can improve list retention, driving down costs associated with acquisition marketing, and it can create additional revenue opportunities by generating repeat purchases. Relevant and personalized marketing increases the likelihood of customers taking action. Dynamic content lets companies stay ahead of the competition and increase ROI.


Implementing a dynamic content strategy into e-mail campaigns. Marketers can take several steps to incorporate dynamic content into existing e-mail efforts:


· Collect specific demographic data about customers and prospects. Collecting and using demographic data effectively will separate the one-size-fits-all e-mail marketing from personalized online marketing. To build a meaningful e-mail database, focus on information such as age, income, gender, marital status, presence of children, education level and homeowner vs. renter status. Such data let marketers anticipate buying patterns and purchase preferences, thus improving the interest and response rate from each e-mail campaign.


The best time to collect this information is through an initial e-mail sign-up form or through Web or e-mail surveys. Marketers also may opt to contract for data enhancement and list appending services that can match useful demographic data to a database of e-mail or postal addresses.


· Improve and maintain hygiene and segmentation of e-mail databases. As people grow more selective about whom they accept e-mail from, sending unsolicited or non-customized e-mailings can increase unsubscribe rates and decrease response rates. While early e-mail distribution software was designed for mass e-mailing, newer systems offer ways to build and communicate with highly segmented lists.


Database segmentation, or list appending, is the process of incorporating additional pertinent demographic information into a database, enriching customer data. This lets marketers send targeted offers to specific segments. A strong e-mail partner can help append your lists to merge in postal addresses, update existing records and integrate with no-call and no-fax lists to improve telemarketing efforts linked to e-mail campaigns. Data enhancement services can improve response rates and help you design promotions that speak to your customer on an individual level.


· Give recipients choices of information they receive. Letting customers and prospects select specific offers or certain categories of information they wish to receive demonstrates a company's desire to build a meaningful relationship rather than push products or services.


This practice also shows that the company recognizes and respects its customers' and prospects' needs. This strategy will ensure the distribution list remains strong and reduce the instances of opt outs due to recipients receiving non-relevant information.


Send fewer e-mails, but make every one count. Dynamic content is the future of acquisition marketing, as consumers are becoming savvier and are inundated with too much information to respond naively to generic promotions offering little value.


The next generation of e-mail marketing etiquette is sending fewer messages to a larger database, but making every message count with offers tailored to the individual. New technologies are being introduced to help marketers automate this process.


Though you will have to make the upfront investment to develop or obtain a quality, segmented list and you will have to stay committed to creating and delivering relevant content to targeted subgroups, the long-term payback of using dynamic content to market to customers and prospects is undeniable.


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