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Salsa Blog

Salsa's Merge Field Webinar Followup

by Akash Jayaprakash, Learning and Training Associate

(Grab the slides from the webinar here.)

Admit it: the second you see something addressed to "Dear Friend" in your inbox, you tune it out. Then delete it. Lousy marketing impact aside, the phrase "Dear Friend" may actually trigger Spam detection, ensuring that your message connects with even fewer of your supporters. Why do this when you can take control with Salsa and address your supporters by their actual names? Use the power of dynamic content (Salsa's name for merge fields) to customize your emails and increase your impact!

Merge What?

A super quick explanation for those last couple of you that haven't discovered the glory of merge fields. The basic concept of merge fields is to team up a document (like a letter or email blast) and a database (like Salsa!) to fill multiple copies of the document with information from the spreadsheet. So rather than manually typing "Dear Bob" and "Dear Pooja" and "Dear Maria" on a thousand emails, you write the email blast to say "Dear ," and then the system automatically looks at the document, then takes your list of supporters and automatically merges the first names into the field you designated. Presto! (As it turns out, the merge field for first name is , which isn't too far off.)

In Salsa we call merge fields dynamic content because you're not limited to static data like first and last names. You can also put things like the amount of a supporter's most recent donation ("Dear Bob, thanks for your recent gift of $100!"), or the names of their US Senators ("Dear Liz, write to Senators Ebenezer McLiberal and Melissa TeaPartizard today!") or even some of your custom fields ("Dear Ajay, as the owner of a small business specializing in vegan soy twinkies, you may be interested in a sponsorship opportunity...").

Check out Salsa's documentation on dynamic content for more information on how to insert merge fields into your email blasts and other documents. But we'll just share two quick additional tips.

Using Default Merge Field Settings to Avoid "Dear Friend"

Okay, so you've got an email blast ready to go, and the salutation is Dear . Great! But what happens if a supporter doesn't have a first name listed? If you don't change anything, then that supporter will get an email that says Dear -- and nothing else! That's no good. We can fix situations like this in the Default Merge Fields settings. To get there, go to your account settings (click the gear icon then Manage Account in Salsa 2.0 | click account in the top right of your screen in the previous version of Salsa) then click on the Default Merge Fields link.

Once you're there, you'll see a list of default fields. Click First_Name and customize what's in the field. You could put "Friend," but don't! Try "supporter" or something specific to your issues, like "believer in environmental justice" or "dog lover" or "tofu eater." Then, supporters without first names in the database will see Dear dog lover in their email blast (or whatever). You can customize any of the fields you see here, like putting in "your area" for the Zipcode field. Try it out! (Don't mess with the organization_KEY though, that's a system thing.)

Using Dynamic Content to Autofill Web Forms

Want to make it easier for your supporters to sign up for events or take actions? Use dynamic content to help them fill out web forms. Create URLs that will "pass through" their personal information to a webform using merge fields. The basic idea is to match up the field names and API names for each field you want to autofill, then type a new URL with the field/API names added to the end. Learn more here.

Experiment with dynamic content and see how to personalize your email blasts. Just remember to send yourself a test message--or even better, preview the email as a supporter using the email blast tool's preview function. The only thing worse than an email to "Dear Friend" is one sent to "Dear " because you didn't type the merge field right! (It's supposed to be , by the way, with the right capitalization and an underscore.) Not only can you improve your engagement with good use of dynamic content, but you can increase your email blast deliverability at the same time.

Topics: Supporter Management Salsa