How to Use Technology to Customize Communications in Data Driven Marketing - dummies

How to Use Technology to Customize Communications in Data Driven Marketing

By David Semmelroth

It used to be that printing your customer’s name in the salutation line of a letter using data driven marketing was considered personalization. Those days are long gone. Your ability to customize and personalize your communications is almost endless now. Everything from images to copy can be presented to the customer based on information from your marketing database.

Presented here is the process of customizing both online and offline database marketing communications. Technology has reached the point where you can make your messages as unique as snowflakes. By inserting content based on unique customer attributes, it’s possible to create a campaign where no two messages are exactly alike.

Here is a focus on e-mail and direct mail, but customization opportunities exist across all customer touchpoints. The sort of you know me experience that customization and personalization provide to customers is now expected.

How to customize e-mail messages with data driven marketing

It’s probably not all that surprising to you that e-mail messages provide a great deal of room for customization. These messages are constructed out of frameworks that allow for content to be dropped in based on various parameters.

An example of customization relates to the links to your website that you include in your e-mail. Online marketers have learned there are much more effective ways to direct customers to their websites than to simply send everyone to their home page. For one thing, websites have gotten huge. And no matter how well they’re designed, they take at least a minimal effort by users to learn their way around.

If you send out an e-mail advertising a back-to-school discount on clothes, why not send the customer directly to a page on your website that shows children’s apparel? What’s more, you don’t need to send everyone to the same page.

If your database happens to contain data on the ages of the children in each household, you can actually vary the links based on the ages. High school students wear very different styles and sizes than kindergarteners.

This same thought process applies to images. When a customer opens an e-mail, the images that are associated with that e-mail are not inside the e-mail, so to speak. What the e-mail contains is links, or pointers, to a server where the images reside. That’s what allows users to block images. They tell their e-mail service not to download those linked images.

But there’s an advantage to this architecture: You don’t have to point all customers to the same image. Based on individual customer information, you can place different links in different e-mails.

And there is nothing special about images. You can do the same thing with text. Rather than including text in an e-mail communication, you can embed it in what amounts to an image. You then place a link in your e-mail that points to the particular version of your message which you think is most relevant to your customer.

An ancillary advantage of treating text this way is that it gives you greater control over how the text actually appears in the e-mail. Text files don’t give you nearly as much flexibility (or control) over how your message appears. But you have all the flexibility in the world if you embed it in a linked file.

How to customize offline communications with data driven marketing

As with online content, you have a great deal of flexibility in the way you construct your printed communications. Printing has come a long way since Gutenberg. It’s now quite cost effective to use color digital printing to customize and personalize your offline communications.

Constructing a printed marketing piece is very similar to constructing an e-mail. You put together a framework that contains the basic text or outline of how you want the piece to look. This framework contains placeholders for where you want to customize content.

The digital printing press has access to the universe of images that you want to include. It also contains your customer list along with the data that drives the customization. As it pages through your customer list, it uses each individual customer’s attributes to choose which images to print on the mail piece. As with e-mails and online content, you can customize images or text in your printed pieces.

There really is no limit to your ability to customize printed content. Even catalogs and magazines can customize their content based on customer attributes. Magazines in particular can benefit from customizing their advertisements to specific consumer segments. This is a selling point with advertisers because they know they are reaching the audiences they want to reach.