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5 Ways to Use Email Scripting for Superior Marketing

“Emails must be relevant.”

“Companies must personalize.”

“Consumers want one-to-one messaging.”

We marketers hear this kind of email marketing advice all the time, and we know—we know—this path is the only one that will maximize the effectiveness of our email programs. But it’s admittedly a challenge to figure out the email technology choices that enable this kind of personalized messaging.

Email scripting offers one solution to the challenge.

What is email scripting?

Email scripting is just what it sounds like: It’s using a scripting language within outbound emails in order to provide dynamic content to recipients.

In its simplest usage, email scripting can populate emails with current date or pricing information. At the other end of the complexity scale, email scripting lets you query your data extensions to pull up and use personalized data in your email marketing, for truly relevant content and one-to-one messaging.

Some ESPs have scripting languages (a.k.a. Merge fields) that can do more than email. For example, ExactTarget’s email scripting language is called AMPscript and it can be embedded within HTML and text emails, but also landing pages and SMS messages.

5 ways to use email scripting for better marketing

Email scripting enables you to do all kinds of things with your data. It can parse data, invoke things to happen and do math, plus much more complex tasks. Rather than give you a laundry list of everything it enables, below I describe just 5 things you can do with this email technology. Read through this and maybe you’ll decide to explore further and implement this technology as part of your company’s marketing strategy.

[Note: Not every email service provider (ESP) offers email scripting and the capabilities of those that do will differ. What I’ve provided here is an overview of the kinds of things you’ll be able to do if you employ this email technology. Obviously, however, your ESP is your best resource for discovering exactly what you can and can’t do.]

1. Personalized content: If you’re using a relational database, you know you can use the additional tables to segment your messages. But email scripting lets you use this additional data to move beyond segmentation and into one-to-one messaging. That’s because you can use it to populate an email with content based on data drawn from a particular customer’s data records, rather than target a category or type of customer.

2. Time-sensitive content: This email technology can grab the latest data so that you can be sure you send most current information at send-time. For example, with email scripting, you can finish an email campaign on a Tuesday to be sent on a Thursday morning. Email scripting can grab the most up-to-date content on Thursday morning and use that in the email.  Sending timed content is especially useful if your campaign goes out over several days, as many campaigns do when the in-house email list is huge.

3. Default variables: Say you don’t have a first name for everyone on your in-house email list, but you want to use the first names you do have rather than leave them out. Email scripting can insert “valued customer” or some other generic term into every blank first-name field.

4. Content syndication: Email scripting enables you to leave a content area in an email blank, to be populated with content the script grabs from an outside source, like your blog or your CRM system.

5. Re-marketing: Email scripting can be used to harvest content for re-marketing. If a customer abandoned a shopping cart, a scripting language can be used to re-market to that customer, including the abandoned items as content in the email, so that the message is hyper specific to that customer and what they almost bought.

If you’d like to see specific examples of this email technology at work, you could check out the some email scripting scenarios, for instance promoting local concerts and new cars.

As we marketers strive to provide ever more relevant content to subscribers and customers, we are shifting from using our email data for segments to using it for one-to-one messaging…meaning messaging that’s engaging and effective in a way generic marketing can never be. Email scripting makes this kind of truly personalized email marketing possible. Could it work for your business?

Marco Marini
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