One feature that some of the prospects and customers of the BombBomb video email marketing software seek is the ability to use variable data in their traditional emails and video emails. Some call it “mail merge.”
This is the ability to drop in “Dear #First_Name#” or “how we can help #Company_Name#” into your emails as you’re building them. Then, as you send them out, we pick up the information for each individual from your BombBomb database and deliver it on your behalf with that data automatically inserted.
The answer is yes! We do allow that. Just click the “Add Variable” button when you’re editing any email in your BombBomb account (see video below).
This post, though, is intended to give you two cautions before making the use of variable data a specific and constant tactic in your video email marketing.
Adding Variable Data to Your Video Email Marketing
CAUTION 1: Data Must Be Complete and Current
When you add variable data fields to your subject line or email body, it’s a call out to your database inside BombBomb. If you have blank fields (incomplete data) or outdated information (non-current data), the effect you seek – making the email feel more personal and relevant – will produce the exact opposite.
In the case of missing data, your recipients will just see the variable data field, like #First_Name# or #Company_Name#. In the case of inaccurate data, your recipients will see whatever’s in your BombBomb database.
Here’s an example of a company I greatly like and respect sending me emails with inaccurate, non-current data. At the top is a subject line with the name of a television station whose brand I have not managed in over a year. Toward the center and bottom are references to the same company inside the body of two other emails. Clearly, their database is not current – and I, like most of your email subscribers, am not sufficiently motivated to alert them to it.
Whether based on incomplete or non-current data, the negative response to the error will likely be stronger than any positive response to getting it right. That’s to say: the risk probably outweighs the benefit. So now let’s look at that benefit.
CAUTION 2: It May Not Delight Your Prospects and Customers
We all know variable data when we see it. We tend to sense mass mail and mass email when we see it. When the campaign of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney send me a piece of direct mail or a traditional email soliciting donations, the addition of “Ethan” or “Mr. Beute” in the salutation really isn’t all that surprising, exciting, connecting, or impressive. It’s still very obviously mass mail.
Still, variable data can be used effectively. But should it?
Temple University Fox School of Business professor Sunil Wattal led a recent research project that found 95% of email recipients reacted negatively to personalized greetings – when an email greeted them by name. It was true across both people unfamiliar and familiar with the company. Though a very limited study (only included one retail company), that 95% is a high number.
The point here is that mass is mass. We all know it when we receive it. If you’re not sending targeted emails that are timely for, relevant to, and anticipated by your recipients (which should be the goal of every video email marketing effort), variable data may be a strong detriment to your effort.
So, Should I Use Variable Data?
My favorite answer – and often the most fair – to questions like this is “it depends!” If the idea of it excites you and you have a specific way to use it, test it out.
Identify a regularly sent email or video email. Send it two or three times with variable data in it. Send it two or three other times without variable data in it. Look for any kind of lift. This could be in open rate (if you’re using it in the subject line), video play rate, click through rate, or anything else that’s important to you. Decide for yourself whether or not your list appreciates automated personalization of your emails and video emails.
If you don’t see a specific benefit from sending with variable data (like increased opens, clicks, or plays), I would discourage you from using it. It’s challenging and time consuming to make sure you have both complete and current information for everyone in your email lists.
Let Us Know!
Are you using variable data or mail merge with specific success? Has it bitten you in the past? Tell us about your experience.
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