The end of 2020 brought some much needed product updates to our open marketing automation solution, Acquia Campaign Studio. As a marketer, the two updates I’m most excited about (and use daily!) are the new Email Builder and the enhancements to Dynamic Content. I’ve spoken about the benefits of dynamic content and have been quite vocal with our internal teams to help develop this feature even more because of the power it has to seriously cut down on the time spent creating and editing emails.
At Acquia, we have a lot of data coming into Campaign Studio every second, and we have many filters powering our segmentation efforts to route leads, track engagement, append profile data information, score activity, etc. With so many segments to reach and optimize, our marketing team has gone from creating 2-3 emails a week last year to 5-6 emails a day to send out to our various audiences. The lift on the email marketing channel was becoming very difficult to manage and meet deadlines. To help keep our sanity and put our products to good use, I started tinkering with alternative methods to satisfy our stakeholders, but also reduce the amount of time spent creating email after email. Our solution? Dynamic content.
Implementing Dynamic Content in Email Campaigns
It’s never a bad thing when you have so much great content to promote. Yet, there are only so many emails we can expect our audience to engage with, even with the best of targeting. Our first step to condensing email sends was updating the email template design. It is always a good idea to refresh your email designs every 12-18 months to stay up to date with industry changes and to help content stand out. We also wanted to make sure we were creating a multi-asset template where we could promote supporting content for our hero offer.
Our first step was to set a standard guideline on what a content block should look like. We decided on an image, a title for the asset, supporting copy and a CTA button. This is what we ask our stakeholders to send us for each offer they want included in an email send. These are also the pieces of content which will appear dynamically, but more on that soon.
Next, we looked to the “Managed Saved Rows” feature that comes packaged with the new Email Builder. We created interchangeable rows, with one to four content blocks per row. If we wanted to promote six pieces of content in one email, we had the option to use any of the rows, as long as they were able to add up to six spots. For example, the hero image could serve as one row and two rows could then be used to support three pieces of content each. We set ourselves up for success by anticipating requests and allowing ourselves to have options. This workflow has also made adding last-minute edits to emails simple because the shell of the design is already set up in the Email Builder and available to drag in if needed.
Once we had the template and interchangeable rows designed, the next step was to start applying dynamic content to each asset’s content block, so any piece of content in a block could show dynamically. Depending on the content block, we set a standard for our image dimensions, character limit for copy and CTA buttons. With these guidelines in place, we could drag in dynamic content and start creating our emails. A common piece of segmentation we look at is whether a record has engaged with a specific product category such as Marketing Cloud or Drupal Cloud. This is a simple filter variant where we can ask “Product Interest = Marketing Cloud”. If any of the records in our recipient list meet the criteria, then Campaign Studio will show an offer relevant to our Marketing Cloud audience.
A few things we learned after the rollout of dynamic content powered emails. Always know your “Default” version. It is important to understand that when a piece of content needs to be dynamic, Campaign Studio needs a default set. A blank area will not appear. To help get ahead of this situation, it is helpful to establish a “bank” of offers and content that is already approved to be viewed by all audience types.
Link tracking was also an initial challenge. We found we needed different tracking for content offers so our various stakeholders could get the appropriate attribution. We accomplished this through sending out the emails in Campaign Builder. Though not a requirement to use dynamic content, we found that setting up our marketing sends in Campaign Builder allowed us to use decisions post send to query the engagement. If an action occurred, like a link click or form fill, we use Campaign Actions to send records to segments or integrations, like Salesforce, to ensure successful reporting.
There have been several times where our segmentation criteria to create a specific audience has been more complex than a few “OR” statements. Even though Campaign Studio’s dynamic content feature includes many engagement filters and custom fields, having a really complex filter was previously not ideal to build out in the Email Builder. Thankfully, the end of 2020 brought the new functionality in dynamic content for the user to filter based on an individual's Segment Membership. This ability greatly expanded our choices for personalizing sends. Now, if we have more than 3 OR statements powering our dynamic content, we create the filter first in Segments, then apply it with “Segment Membership” in the Email Builder. This has helped cut down on the time needed to power custom field updates and stamp records with one-off criteria fields. Now, our team can focus on creating more effective personalization with less effort.
Less Time Spent Creating Emails and More Conversions and Customer Impact
The new Email Builder feature and our simplified approach to applying dynamic content created made our email targeting and personalization efforts more efficient and more relevant for our audiences.
Before we optimized our email workflow process, the campaigns team was receiving tickets and creative briefs for every single email request. This was adding up to over 15 tickets a week. With the introduction of our new, multi-asset email template, we cut down those requests and started to own one creative brief, where team members fill the assets they want to promote. It was then up to the email marketer to organize the template. This adjustment has helped our email operations team become more involved with our overall strategy. We are now more aligned with the offers leaving the door; we understand how our audience is being nurtured and we can trace back to what content was most helpful in driving conversions.
We developed a better standardization to our email process and reduced the overall number of emails we need to manage day to day, meaning our QA methods are more diligent and we can optimize the message of each email. We also can view the different variations within a single template, by adjusting the different pieces of content for each send. The new workflow also includes giving all stakeholders visibility into email proofs. This allows us to cut down the amount of back-and-forth reviews.
We also saw a significant lift in email engagement and conversions as a result of sending sub or supporting offers. When we sent one email, with only one offer, we found we risked losing a recipient’s interest due to long copy or an asset someone might just not be interested in. Having supporting offers has allowed us to generate more clicks and has also given us more testing options for the future. Do sub offers perform better? Does specific language drive more clicks versus another? Do records go back and click other links? All of these options are now ideas we’re able to test and compare the results to adjust our strategy over time.
Most importantly, we have found the amount of time we were spending on creating emails has been cut down significantly. I now create one email for Wednesday, not five. We have established a standardization to our process, but still achieve personalization on every send. With more time, we are able to continuously stay up to date with industry best practices, perform tests and have challenged our team members to get more personalized with special targeting campaigns. Our ultimate goal is to help each email send have a touch of personalization for the recipient. We are doing this now every time we send.
To learn even more ways to maximize your marketing automation efforts, join me and many fellow Acquians at the upcoming Mautic Conference Global from June 16-17 2021! Register today.