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Dear Marketers,
I’m writing to let you know that I know all about this new dynamic content thing you’ve got going on. I know you can change aspects of your website, calls-to-action, and emails based on the interests, characteristics, or past behaviors of your viewers.
Well, good for you. But you know what? Sometimes I think you just don’t get that the way you’re using dynamic content is actually making your marketing worse, not better. So if you're struggling with this dynamic content thing, let me help you out by pointing out 6 reasons lots of people out there might kind of despise the way you're using it.
Note: Not only is the author of this blog post the recipient of plenty of marketing, she's also a real live marketer, too! That means all the stuff that frustrates her about awful marketing, she tries to avoid like the plague every day when she does her job. This blog post has been a helpful reminder of what NOT to do if she wants to keep her database happy, and has made her appreciate the brands that are great at creating marketing that people love; it's not easy, that's for sure, but she'll continue trying to do the same.
Alright, on to all the ways bad dynamic content drives people bonkers.

1) Your idea of personalization is showing me that you know my first name.

“Let's see, how can I really make this email sing? I know! Dear %FirstName%. Nailed it!”
Seriously? We have all these tools to collect information about site visitors -- which parts of the site a person visited, what content was downloaded, anything that was input in the lead gen form -- why isn't that information being used? Try using the things you know about me as a lead to actually target my needs and show me that you understand who I am! I expect you to know my name. It's not that impressive. When I get an email that totally speaks to who I am and what I need, however, I am totally impressed. In fact, we've published a great list of 33 examples of dynamic tags you can use to personalize your email sends. Check 'em out!

2) You don’t actually use personalization correctly.

Remember that call-to-action you put in your last email? You know, the one that said "We saw you downloaded our Introduction to Pinterest ebook. Check out our Advanced Guide to Email Marketing!"
Wait. What? Let’s back up for a second ...
  • You know I like Pinterest.
  • You know I read your introductory level content about it, so I’m probably still learning.
  • And so you thought the next logical step would be for me to jump into ... advanced email marketing?
Personally, I would’ve stuck with something within the social media theme. Or perhaps visual content since Pinterest is a visual social network. Or even another Pinterest ebook, but at a slightly more advanced skill level. These are all logical options that show you understand the context of my relationship with you. Don't show me ANY content you have, just because you can -- show me the content that I might like based on what I've liked in the past!

3) Your dynamic content is broken.

Look, I know it's confusing to have to remember the exact syntax for your personalization tokens -- is it a % or a &? There's supposed to be a semicolon somewhere, isn't there? But it's important that you get this right, because if your dynamic content is broken, it just looks sloppy. And that hurts my experience with and opinion of your brand.
Find some solution to this -- maybe a tool that lets you insert personalization tokens from a dropdown selection instead of having to remember the syntax yourself. Oh, and make sure you set up a default value in case that field isn't populated for a given contact. For example, you could set the default value for "Company" to the words "your company" so it won't just be left blank. As a consumer, I'm understanding of these mistakes when it's a result of my own error during a form submission -- but try to meet me halfway by doing everything you can to buffer your own potential missteps here, too.

4) You think the information you have about me is 100% representative.

I can see you over there ... bucketing me with all of your other leads based on a very basic concept of my pain points from that one field I filled out in my last form submission.
You think you understand all my goals and challenges from just that? I doubt it. That kind of targeting just screams oversimplification. For example, if I told you I’m trying to work out issues with our budget, that doesn't mean you dump me in a “not ready to buy” category and start showing me CTAs that say “Not convinced of the value of our product? Let us tell you why you need it now!” I’d rather you send me a guide to convince my boss that your product is worth some budget reallocation. I’m on your side here; help me help you!

5) Your segmentation criteria is booooring.

So I’m from California. Whoopdy doo. Let's focus on the things that carry a little more weight, people! For example, I bet you have a bunch of leads who have never visited your "About Us" page or seen that video about what your company does. Maybe you have some who have gotten a demo of your product, but never became customers. Heck, you probably have a few people who just want to know that you understand they already have something similar to what you’re offering, but you’d like the chance to explain why your solution is more effective. Dig through all that data you have and find the real meaty stuff to use in your segmentation. There’s a lot of value in there, and only segmenting by basic things like location or B2B versus B2C ain’t gonna cut it.

6) You’re pushing me through your buying cycle too quickly.

Yeah, I know all about your sales funnel, and I can feel you pushing me down it. Hold on a second! I’m still learning! If I just download a little tip sheet to introduce me to some basic concepts in your industry, I’m probably not ready for an hour-long demo of your product quite yet. And just because I visit your website doesn’t mean you should start sending me emails asking if I’m ready to talk to a sales rep.
Maybe suggest I read your intermediate level ebook, instead. Or at least find out if I have any questions about what I've already downloaded before you start your sales pitch. You know, your basic lead nurturing stuff -- you guide me through your sales cycle based on where I am now and what I need! Pushing me down the funnel too quickly with offers that don't align with where I truly am in the sales cycle makes me feel anything but nurtured.

I Guess What I'm Trying to Say Is ...

It’s not that I don’t like dynamic content. I actually think it’s pretty great. It gives us marketers a way to closely target our messaging to address our leads' particular situations much more specifically than we would otherwise be able to. And hey, when we can show people that we actually know what they need and like, they might just give us the benefit of the doubt and consider a purchase -- or at least listen to the sales pitch.
I guess what I'm saying is, when we really pull off this dynamic content thing, people might just start to trust us more. Even though we’re marketers ;-)
All my best,
Dynamic content can be tricky. What do you struggle with? What are your dynamic content triumphs? Share your marketing expertise in the comments!