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Email How-To Tip

Q: How can I improve my subscriber profiles using selection fields and lookup tables?

Subscriber profiles that can be used for mail-merging and filtering are a standard feature of the LISTSERV Maestro email marketing platform. In their most basic form, such profile fields are displayed as simple text fields into which the subscribers type their information.

In many cases, however, it's preferable to limit the subscriber input to just a few predefined choices instead of allowing your subscribers to freely enter any information they want. For example, you may limit the input by asking subscribers to select from a list of countries or topics of interest.

Such selection fields are available in LISTSERV Maestro both as single-select and multiple-select fields. These selection fields are backed by so called lookup tables, which contain all of the available choices.

The following example illustrates how selection fields and lookup tables can not only be used to restrict the subscribers to a predefined set of choices but also how they are helpful for more advanced uses.

Single-Select Field with Lookup Table

MegaCorp is a company that sells its products worldwide in three different sales regions: North & South America, Europe & Africa, and Asia & Oceania. MegaCorp also has a newsletter, appropriately called "MegaCorp Newsletter", which is published both as a global newsletter and as specific editions for the different sales regions.

To correctly target the subscribers with the region-specific newsletters, a profile field is introduced where subscribers can specify the region in which they reside. This profile field is supposed to be a "single-select" field with exactly the three sales regions as predefined options.

Therefore, a new lookup table called "Sales Regions" is created, with these three entries:

In the profile field definition of the "MegaCorp Newsletter" subscriber list, a new profile field named "SALES_REGION" is added, and the lookup table from above is associated with this profile field:

On the subscription page of the newsletter, the subscribers now see a selection field (in this case shown as a single-select drop-down field) that requires them to specify the region they are in:

With this profile field, it is now possible to use the selected region to target the region-specific newsletters to the correct subscribers. Or by not filtering on this field at all, the global newsletter can still be sent to all subscribers at once.

Secondary Lookup Table Columns

One of MegaCorp's goals is to always offer first-rate customer support. For this, MegaCorp has created three dedicated support centers, one for each of the sales regions and each with its own dedicated contact email address and phone number.

Each newsletter edition is now supposed to include a footer banner with information on how to contact support. This banner is supposed to show the correct support address and phone number for the support center that matches the subscriber's region.

This is easily achieved by adding secondary columns to the lookup table using the "Advanced Settings" option in the lookup table properties dialog. Two such secondary columns are added: one for the support email address and one for the phone number. The columns are then filled out with the information for each of the sales regions.

These secondary columns (or the values therein) can now be accessed for mail-merging using the {{*Calc}} system drop-in, so it's now possible to merge the correct values into the email simply by specifying the correct {{*Calc}} formula:

As a result, this footer will look different depending on the region that each recipient has selected in his subscriber profile.

The secondary lookup table columns can also be used for other advanced cases, such as derived profile fields or in the demographic breakdown report of the subscriber list.

Multiple-Select Field with Lookup Table

In addition to the global newsletter and the region-specific issues of the newsletter, MegaCorp also has additional, even more specific newsletters for the various products that MegaCorp sells. Of course, MegaCorp wants to target these specific newsletters only to those subscribers who are actually interested in the corresponding products, so another profile field is needed to be able to filter the subscribers.

To back this profile field, a new lookup table called "Products" is created, which is filled with the various, extremely innovative products that are sold by MegaCorp:

Then a new multiple-select profile field called "PRODUCTS" is created, which is backed by this new lookup table:

This gives the subscribers the option to specify their "Products of Interest" during the subscription process (multiple selections are possible):

Based on these selections, it is now possible to target a product-specific newsletter to exactly those subscribers who have expressed interest in this product.

Lookup Table Subsets and Dependent Profile Fields

One of the problems that MegaCorp faces is that not all of its products are actually sold worldwide in all sales regions. There are some products that are sold in all regions, but others are only sold in some regions. But the "Products" lookup table created above, and the "Products of Interest" profile field that is based on it, lists all of MegaCorp's products, without taking the sales regions into account. This has the effect that subscribers are able to select a product as interesting, which is actually not sold in the subscriber's region.

This weakness in the above approach can be resolved by using lookup table subsets. To do this, the original "Products" lookup table is selected, and then a new subset is defined on it. Each subset consists of a name and a list of entries (from the full list of entries that are available in the lookup table) that belong to the subset. This is the example subset of products that are available in the "Europe/Africa" sales region. The entries on the left are the ones that belong to the subset, the entries on the right are the remaining entries that belong to the lookup table but that have not been selected for this subset:

It's possible to create multiple subsets, which can also overlap with one another. MegaCorp uses this to create one subset of available products for each of the three sales regions.

The next step is to change the existing "PRODUCTS" profile field so that it does not use the full "Products" lookup table and instead uses only one of the subsets. And even more specifically, the subset that is used depends on the current selection in a different profile field, the "SALES_REGION" field.

This new profile field definition is shown below. The field is set to "Value subset to display: <Depends on other field>", and for this "other field" that it depends on, the “SALES_REGION” field is selected.

Then as the last step, the dependency mapping needs to be defined using the "Edit" link. For each of the possible values of the "SALES_REGION" field (as shown in the left column), the correct lookup table subset for the "PRODUCTS" field is selected. In this sample case, we select the matching subset for each sales region.

With this redefined profile field, the subscription page now dynamically changes the available values for "Products of Interest" depending on the selection of the "Region" field.

While the "Region" is still unselected, the "Products of Interest" menu is still empty.

With the region set to "North & South America", the "Products of Interest" menu now shows exactly those products that are available in this region (note how the "MaxLight Flashlight" and "LED Night Lite" are missing as those are sold only in Asia & Oceania):

With yet another region selection, "Europe & Africa" in this case, the available "Products of Interest" change once again:

As a result, the subscribers are now always shown exactly those products that are actually sold in the selected region, making the targeting and filtering on the "PRODUCTS" field even more accurate.

If your organization doesn't have LISTSERV Maestro yet, contact L-Soft sales for help:

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