How to Build Code-free Dynamic Emails with Marketing Cloud

April 5, 2018 Aaron Pratt

“Hey,” said your boss. “I want to make sure that the email we send out tomorrow lets our members know if their account is expired or expiring. And our VIP members should have the option to upgrade.”

What would your response be?

Prior to Content Builder in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Studio, a request such as this could end up being an ordeal. You’d probably end up writing custom code, which required specific knowledge about Marketing Cloud and its proprietary language, AMPscript. And you’d hope and pray that there wouldn’t be any additional changes, or that you wouldn’t be out sick the next day and someone else would have to mess with the code. 


Code-free dynamic email with March is National Frozen Foods Month Headline

Fields in a code-free dynamic email in Marketing Cloud

Fortunately, displaying dynamic content in your emails no longer requires writing custom code. If you can drag-and-drop, click buttons on-screen, and build emails from a template in Marketing Cloud, you can meet your boss’s request quickly. Let’s say you have your email built and the data extension you’re going to send to ready to go. 

You were ready to send your email, until your boss’s latest request. There are only a few small steps you need to take in order to add dynamic content to your email.

Build your content

You’ve built your email, so you already know how to build your content. Build new content blocks using Content Builder. The example here is using the Free Form content block type, but you can use any available type — including image, text, external content, or buttons. You create one block for each potential message you want to display:

Code-free dynamic email example using the Content Builder tool in Marketing Cloud

  1. A notice that a subscriber’s account has expired. 
  2. A notice that a subscriber’s account expires soon. 
  3. A notice that a VIP subscriber is eligible to upgrade.


Add your dynamic content block

  1.  Go back to your email and drag and drop a dynamic content block just above the headline of your email.


How-to drop a dynamic content block in an email with Marketing Cloud 

2. Choose “Data Extension” and select the data extension you’re going to be sending to.

 How to select the Data Extension in dynamics emails with Marketing Cloud

3. Click on “Rule 1” in the content pane.

4. Drag and drop your rules so they look like this.

How to create a dynamic content rule for email with Marketing Cloud 

This will match all subscribers whose account has already expired. Be sure to select the content block with the expiration message

Repeat with “Rule 2” in the content pane, and add these rules to match all subscribers whose membership expires within the next two weeks.

How to create a rules that matches all subscribers whose membership expires in two weeks

The rules you see can be read as matching subscribers whose membership expiration date is after yesterday and before 15 days from now. Select the content block that shows a message that someone’s account is expiring soon.

  1. Create your final rule. With Rule 3, we’re checking two things. First, we’re checking to see if their account is expired. That’s probably unnecessary. When a dynamic content block is processed during an email send, Marketing Cloud will go in order of the rules and will match only the first rule that evaluates true. That is, if someone’s account is expired, they will see the content block defined in Rule 1 but not the content block in Rule 3, even if they’re a VIP member. (We’re also checking that they’re a VIP member. If both evaluate as true, we’ll show them the upgrade message.)
  2. Leave the default content blank. If none of the rules match, we don’t want to show any message there.

Test your content

And that’s it for building your dynamic content block. Now you need to test it. Review it in the testing tab in Content Builder using the data extension you’ll be sending to. As you view individual records, you’ll see the email change and display the appropriate message for that user. Be sure to at least spot-check to make sure the right message shows in the email. 


Content Builder testing the data extension you're sending to

Code-free dynamic email with renew now reminder

code-free dynamic email example in Marketing Cloud with membership expired message

So what do you say when your boss makes a last-minute request for dynamic content? Give a heavy sigh, take a deep breath, and say, “Sure, I can do that. But you should give me the rest of tomorrow off after the email is sent.” He or she doesn’t need to know that adding the dynamic content will only take a few minutes.

Want to learn more about development, coding, and IT? The Appirio Tech Blog offers more resources for workers who want to grow, learn, and stay engaged.

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