Newsletters are a great basic example to showcase the features of Accelerator. Through this article, every step needed to create a successful email newsletter will be discussed. This includes Audience Creation, Template Creation, Personalization, Campaign Creation, and Scheduled Contacts.
Message must be enabled within Accelerator in order to follow along.
Creating a New Drag and Drop Audience
Creating an Audience is the first step of any new contact. Navigate to Message → Data Management → Audiences to view existing Audiences. Use the Action button in the top right to create a new Audience. Audiences can be created through three options. Unless proficient with SQL or the API, it is recommended to use the Drag-and-Drop option.
The first step of creating an Audience is to give it a name and description. Audiences are not stored in a file system like Templates or Campaigns. The name of an Audience must be unique. Click the Click to Add Name selection in the top left to give the Audience a name and description.
Click out of the text box after entering a name and description to save the text.
|The Audience will not be saved until clicking the Create Audience button.|
Configuring the Marketing Database
The Marketing Database tab should be expanded automatically. If not, select the two arrows to the right of the Marketing Database header to expand the tab.
The fields on this screen are automatically populated based on the Database Connections determined under the Admin tab of Accelerator.
If these values are not automatically populated with information, then the default database connection has not been populated within the Admin section of Accelerator. While this is not a requirement, it is a best practice that the default values are set by the Admin.
These fields control which database, tables, and columns contain the information needed to handle customer data. The following fields are:
- Database Connection - Once setup in the Admin tab, this controls the method of connecting to a datasource.
- Database Schema - Based on configuration of the datasource, Accelerator uses a schema as a set of instructions on how to read a table.
- Database Table - The specific table (or view) an Audience should access to read recipient data.
- Email Address Field - Which column of the Database Table stores the recipient’s email.
- Unique Id (Optional) - Which column of the Database Table stores the unique identifier of the recipient. This is frequently the same unique id that is already in use.
Any fields about Push contact methods are not required unless attempting to send Push notifications for your campaign. This article will not be discussing Push notifications.
The options present in the Marketing Database fields may already be populated with system default values. They are able to be modified from the default value if needed.
Configuring Target Settings
Expand the Target section beneath the Marketing Database section. It is not often that every record in the Database Table is handled by the Audience. The Target section allows conditions to filter which customer records are selected by an Audience. Any column in the Database Table can be used to create a condition. Select a column from the dropdown to create a new condition.
Conditions select the records from the Database Table that should be included in the Audience. For example, if creating an Audience with records from the state of Georgia, a condition must select the correct records. Select the column that holds the appropriate information and set the condition to only include records where State is equal to Georgia.
|It’s important to know how the information is stored in the Database Table. If the data for the State column holds the abbreviated version of a State name (Ga, Fl, Ca, etc), then the condition must be configured with the State code. In the case of this example, State is equal to Ga.|
|Different data types must be evaluated differently. An integer value and a string value may have different results if attempting to use the greater-than operator.|
The Choose a Launch Variable drop-down allows a more dynamic Audience. The creation of Launch Variables are covered later in this article. After a Launch Variable is created, it can be referenced in the Target conditions. Launch Variables can be assigned different values when referenced in different campaigns. This allows different campaigns to dynamically select records from an Audience based on how the campaign populates the Launch Variable.
Conditions are organized into groups. Add another condition by clicking the Add Rule option.
If the AND OR Toggle is set to AND, each condition creates more restrictive rules for what records qualify through the Audience. A record must meet all applied conditions to be included in the Audience. If the AND OR toggle is set to OR, the record only has to meet one of the conditions of the group to qualify.
Using the Add Group option creates a new set of conditions that are independent from other conditions outside of the group. This is a way to create parenthetical conditions.
This condition builder creates the WHERE clause for a SQL statement. Preview the SQL statement at any time by scrolling to the top of the screen, clicking the Preview dropdown, and selecting SQL.
Setting an attribute for Personalization allows that value to be used as a variable in Templates. An attribute configured for personalization means that, when the email is rendered, these values will populate with the specific information for the customer contacted.
Not every column needs to be used for personalization. In order to stay organized and avoid confusion, only columns included in Personalization Attributes are available for selection when using personalized variables.
Personalization Attributes can be modified after an Audience is saved.
|If removing a Personalization Attribute, it is important to remove all instances of that attribute in Templates. Removing a Personalization Attribute from an Audience, but not removing the reference to the attribute in the Template will result in a rendering error.|
Some values, like the Recipient ID or Email Address, are not present in the attributes. These values are included by default and are not required to be added through Attributes.
Launch Variables (Optional)
Launch Variables are customizable variables that can be used in multiple ways. These values do not come from the datasource. Instead, they are created within the Audience configuration.
Launch Variables have a few configuration fields:
- Name - The name of the Launch Variable. This name does not support spaces. This is the name of the variable used within the SQL queries that run to the external datasource.
- Label - The front-end display name of the Launch Variable. This may differ from the Name of the Launch Variable if the Name of the variable is more technical and the Label needs to be more user-friendly.
- Default Value - A starting value for the Launch Variable. Can be overwritten by Campaigns for use. If not overwritten, the Launch Variable maintains the default value.
- Help Text - A helpful tip that displays with the Launch Variable. The Help Text is shown when clicking on a help icon next to the Launch Variable.
When using a campaign, the value of a Launch Variable can be overwritten. If the Launch Variable is referenced in the logic of the Target conditions, then the Campaign is able to dynamically target records in an Audience based on the needs of the Campaign. This is an advanced feature that requires much forethought.
Conditional Content (Optional)
Within Templates, conditions can be set based on Personalization Attributes to determine whether or not content should be displayed. These items are called Conditional Content. Within the Audience, the conditions to determine if the content should display can be pre-configured. This is a popular feature if the user creating the Templates is not responsible for the more technical options like setting conditions.
The configuration of the Conditional Content can be created in the Audience, given a title, and quickly referenced in the Template.
|It is a best practice to plan ahead and create display conditions within the Audience instead of creating display conditions within the Template.|
Previewing the Audience
After configuration of the Audience is complete, the Audience should be previewed. Click on the Preview button at the top of the screen. The following options appear:
- Preview Audience - Preview a sampling of records based on the configuration of the Audience.
- Preview SQL - View the SQL statement that queries the datasource.
- Preview Recipient XML - The XML returned when querying the datasource.
Saving an Audience
After configuration is complete, it is time to save the Audience for use. Before saving, it is recommended to refresh the Audience and see how many records are returned by the Audience.
If an Audience hasn’t been refreshed, the total records returned should be N/A by default.
Click the Refresh symbol to cause the Audience to run the current conditions and return the amount of records targeted by the Audience.
Once an Audience has been previewed and tested, click Create Audience to save the configuration of the Audience.
Third Party Integration
The Segment tool offers connectors to multiple 3rd parties such as Airship, Facebook, and Google. MessageGears follows our partners best practices for data upload and can meet or exceed our partners’ throughput demands. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Using Templates, putting together a newsletter is quick and easy. Templates are built through multiple different methods. If familiar with creating HTML for emails, the source code can be directly typed into Accelerator. Files can also be imported into the system for Template use.
This article will go over the Drag-and-Drop Builder for Templates and creating a basic newsletter.
Creating a Template
Navigate to Message → Content → Templates to view existing templates. Navigate to the correct folder and create a new template with the Actions button.
Creating a new Template will display the Template Overview screen.
From this screen, Email Content, Push Content, and SMS Content is configured separately. Snippets, a form of local Dynamic Content, are also configured here.
|More information on Snippets found here.|
Setting Up Personalization
The first step to creating a newsletter is to Setup Personalization. Personalization is a powerful feature of Templates, but not a necessary one. It is possible to make Templates without the use of Personalization. The newsletter in this article will use Personalization.
Click Setup Personalization and select the Audience. Selecting the Audience will import the columns and Launch Variables configured within the Audience.
Select the Amount of records from the Audience to use for testing purposes. Choose a number and click Refresh.
Now that Personalization is ready, a Template can be created with Personalized variables and rendered for testing. Use the Back to Template Overview link in the top left to return to the Template Overview Screen.
Creating an Email Newsletter Template
This article will use the Drag-and-Drop Template Builder. Templates can also be built using HTML. Whether using the Drag-and-Drop Builder to generate HTML or typing the HTML manually, FreeMarker is utilized to include personalization data within Templates.
Creating a new Template displays a blank canvas. This workspace is organized by rows. Each row is populated with content. Multiple items of content can exist in one row.
For basics on how to use the Drag-and-Drop Template Builder, more information is available here.
Using an Image content and Text content, a header for the newsletter can be created. Use a row to format the content.
In this example, a row is used to create a space for a company logo and the title of the newsletter.
The row chosen has space for two items of content. The left column will be populated with a Text content and the right column will be populated with an image.
Click and drag the content into the columns to add. The Text content will go into the larger column and the image will go to the smaller column. Set the Text content to a large font size and make it the title of the newsletter. Select a company image to display.
Images can function as buttons as well. Select the Image content and set the Action property to Open Web Page. By setting the Url to the company website, customers clicking on this image have a quick way to navigate to more information.
Add another Row that spans the full width of the Template. Use this Row to hold a Divider content. The Divider is simply a line to help visually separate information.
The information below the Divider will be the bulk of the newsletter. Drag another Row beneath the Divider line. This Row will hold an image and a summary of an article. Use the Row with the smallest column on the left side and the widest column on the right side.
This article will be about the benefits of the company mobile app. Add an Image content to the left column and select an appropriate image. Add a Text content in the wide column for a preview of the article.
|It is popular for companies to create their image and article text in another program and import it into a Template as an image. Clicking on the image takes the customer to the article.|
This article shouldn’t be displayed to customers who already have the app installed. As long as the Audience contains the information, content can be dynamically displayed to the recipient.
By selecting the Row and using the Row Properties, a display condition can be set. With enough forethought, the conditions for this content can be created at the Audience level and applied in the Template with one click.
Display Conditions check information on the Recipient to decide if a Row of Content should be hidden or displayed normally. Use the Select Condition button to choose from a list of pre-created display conditions from the Audience. If knowledgeable in FreeMarker, use the Add Condition to create a new set of conditions.
|Creating display conditions within the Audience is the best practice. By creating the display conditions in the Audience, the conditions can easily be used in multiple Templates. If a display condition is created within a Template, it will have to be recreated every time a new Template is used.|
Populate the Name and Description fields. The Before and After fields control the functionality of the display condition. The information populated in the Before and After fields wraps the content in the values entered here. These fields should be populated with FreeMarker.
In the example above, the external database that the customer data comes from contains a column called “mobileapp”. This value contains a boolean, or true/false, value. The contained IF statement only displays the Row in cases where the customer does not have the mobile app installed. If the external datasource did not contain this column, then this in statement could not be used.
After building all content, an email footer should be considered. In most cases, the email header and email footer are consistent across all newsletters or emails. Headers and footers are a great example of using Dynamic Content.
For more information on Dynamic Content, refer to this article.
If not using Dynamic Content, build the email footer as if it was another piece of content. Common items added to email footers include:
- Social Media Links
- Legal Disclaimers
- Unsubscribe Links
- Contact Information
Configure Subject/From Address
After configuring the Template, click on the Subject / From Address tab. This tab must be configured with information before the Template can test appropriately.
Sending Profiles are configured within the Admin section. Sending Profiles control the default values for Subject Line, From Name, From Address, Reply-to Name, and Reply-to Address. These values can be overwritten.
FreeMarker and Personalization are supported in all fields except Sending Profile. Once the fields are populated, the Template can be tested.
There are two methods of testing Templates.
There are two options for testing Templates. The first option is Quick View, above the Content, Row, and Settings tabs.
Quick View is a fast way to view the layout of a Template without any distractions that the Template Editor offers. The Quick View does not populate any Personalized information. Quick View does offer an easy way to test Conditional Content and mobile responsiveness.
After clicking on Quick View, use the Select Row Display Conditions dropdown to toggle conditions to true or false.
Quick View also allows the Template to render as if being viewed on a Computer or on a Phone. Use the Desktop/Mobile toggle to change the mode.
The Quick View is meant to help the Template building process by quickly referencing how the end product will look and respond while making building decisions.
Another method of testing a Template is to use the Preview feature. This method of testing a Template is more realistic to the final result. Personalization and Conditional Content will render correctly depending on the record being used to view the Template.
The Template must be saved before it can be previewed.
Click on the Preview button near the Save Template button.
Previewing a Template will display the Preview screen.
The Preview screen renders the email as the recipient will see it. The From, Reply-to, and Subject Line are displayed above the Template. If personalization is used in these fields, confirm that the information is rendered correctly.
In the above example, the recipient’s first name is written in the subject line.
On the right side of the screen, sample data from the attached Audience is visible. Each field from the Audience and the corresponding information can be viewed or modified for testing purposes.
|Editing the Sample Recipient Information does not permanently change the Audience customer data. Any modifications of data are only for testing the Template in Preview mode.|
Click the Configure Sample Data to view or change the Audience.
Once the Template has been tested, it is time to schedule the newsletter to send.
Campaigns define when and who to contact with the content. When creating a Campaign, Templates and Audiences are combined. Because of this, Campaigns should be configured after Templates and Audiences are created.
Creating a Campaign
Campaigns are stored in a file system. Navigate to Message → Delivery → Marketing to view Campaigns. Open the appropriate folder and use the Actions drop-down to create a new Campaign.
Creating a new Campaign opens the Campaign Overview screen. Configuring the Campaign does not happen in the Overview screen, but in the Settings screen. Click Settings found under the highlighted Overview tab on the left side of the screen.
The Campaign Settings screen must be configured for a Campaign.
- Name - The Name of the Campaign. Because Campaigns are stored in a file system, Campaign names do not have to be unique across the whole Accelerator system. They do have to be unique within the folder the Campaign is saved in.
- Description - A summary of the purpose and function of the campaign.
- Category -
- Template (required) - The Template to use when contacting recipients. This determines the content rendered to the recipient.
- Audience (required) - Determines what records from the external datasource that are contacted through this campaign.
- Channels (required) - What method of contact to use. Email, Push, Customer Preference, All Channels.
- Account (required) - Configured by the admin and referenced in Campaigns. The Account contains required information for the API connection to the MessageGears service.
- Notification Email Address - In event of an error, alerts are sent to this email address.
Save the settings after configuration and return to the Campaign Overview page.
A Campaign must be told when to run. On the right side of the screen, there is the Schedule configuration. The Schedule controls when to activate the Campaign and begin contacting recipients.
Click Change next to the schedule to set a recurring schedule. By default, a Campaign is set to an Adhoc schedule. The following schedules are available to be set:
- Adhoc - An Adhoc schedule does not have any automation enabled. The Campaign must be manually activated to run.
- One Time - Set a schedule to run automatically at a specific date and time in the future. After this schedule runs, no more future schedules will run without user interaction.
- Daily - A schedule that runs once or more a day and repeats through multiple days.
- Days Per Week - The same possible settings as the Daily schedule, but only runs on the chosen days of the week. For example, a schedule that runs once or more a day for each weekday, but does not run on the weekends.
- Advanced - For more refined setups, contact MessageGears support for help setting up an Advanced schedule.
Select the desired schedule and click Save.
Navigate back to the Campaign Overview screen.
Testing a Campaign
It is recommended that the Campaign is tested before running. Use the Test fields to confirm the Campaign will run smoothly.
Personalization will preview the Template with a sample recipient in the Campaign Audience. Use this to ensure that the personalized fields within the Template are rendering correctly.
The Spam Filter uses the SpamAssassin service to rate how likely an email will be identified as spam. The lower score, the less likely to be detected as spam.
Recipient Data displays a sampling of recipients from the Audience. Test emails can be sent to a specified email address, which defaults to the email address of the user logged in.
The last field under the Test category is Multivariate. This option is different from the others.
Using the Multivariate feature launches the campaign and sends live contacts.
Multivariate allows the user to launch the campaign with multiple subject lines. Options are then presented to use the most successful subject line in contacting the rest of the Audience.
After testing the Campaign, use the Launch button to activate the Campaign.