What is conditional logic?

Conditional logic sounds fancier than it is. It’s actually a very simple concept. A simple example is:

  • If condition A then do X
  • If condition B then do Y
  • Else do Z

It’s a kind of computer programming, sometimes refered to as ‘if/else statements’ used in all sorts of places such as Excel and a wide range of marketing and website tools.

It’s frequently used in email marketing tools and in this context it allows marketers to engage with customers differently based on their attributes or behaviours.

Here’s an example in the context of email:

  • If the customer is interested in apples, then send them email series about apples
  • If the customer is interested in oranges, then send them an email series about oranges
  • Otherwise send them the email series about fruit in general

Although it’s a simple concept, implementing it in an email automation context can quickly get very complex.

Let’s look at three main ways in which you can use conditional logic in your email automation.

Conditionally determining which journey to send

You can conditionally determine what you want to do with a prospect before you even send them an email.

For example, you may have several welcome journeys and you want to push your prospects through a different journey depending upon whether they have bought from you before, or depending upon the products/services they are most interested in, and so on.

You can set conditions based on things like:

  • Source of the sign up (e.g. website or Facebook)
  • Time of the day they sign up
  • Fields they fill out in a sign up form on your website (e.g. you may send different information based on their country, or language, or product interest)

Conditionally routing within a journey

You can conditionally route people through different paths within a journey depending upon the same criteria mentioned above. Additionally, you can also do this based on how they interact with the journey. For example, if they click a particular link in an email you send them, then you can send them another email relating to this.

You can set conditions based on all of the same things outlined in the first example, but also:

  • The emails they open (or don’t open)
  • The links they click (or don’t click)

Conditionally displaying content within an email

You can also conditionally display content within an email. This can be done according to all of the above conditions.

Some email platforms make this very easy using checkboxes (for example Campaign Monitor), but in others it is very complex and requires a conditional logic programming language (for example Click Dimensions which uses Freemarker).

This method can help keep your journey simple. However, one downside is that you don’t get to see how different groups engage with your emails as everyone receives the same email. So the open rates and click rates may be more difficult, or sometimes impossible, to determine, depending upon your email platform.

How to determine which method to use

A lot of the time it doesn’t really matter which method you use as long as you get the result you want. And it may that you use whichever method your email platform makes easier. You may also use all three methods at various times.

Sometimes it can depend on how much you know about the prospects you are emailing. If you collect a lot of information when you sign them up then it gives you a lot to work with. Or if they are an existing customer, then again you have history and more data in the context of their previous activity to work with. But in some cases you don’t know much about them at all to begin with and so you need to use the email journey itself to learn more about them by encouraging them to engage with it.

There are pros and cons with each different approach but all email automation platforms offer these features in some way, shape or form.

As with all things in marketing automation, the best advice is to start simple – and grow!

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