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3 Ways to Personalize Your Marketing in Marketing Cloud Account Engagement

2.13.20 By: Kirsten Kippen

One of the best things about Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (powered by Pardot) is also one of the most challenging for a new user: there are many paths to the same end. When you build an Engagement Program to nurture potential donors or customers, you could use a dynamic list to automatically filter the right people, or you could create steps in the journey to check if they’re the right fit. When you import a list of attendee information from an event, you could import it first into Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (MCAE) or first into Salesforce. Each path has pros and cons depending on your use case, which is fascinating for those of us who like to flex our brains around this stuff, but can be maddening when you’re just trying to get the dang thing done.  

Personalization is one of the areas of MCAE that is most accessible for new users: everyone has had the experience of feeling more seen when they get an email that addresses them by name. As a marketer you know that personalization is just one of those things that is a good idea to try whenever possible (not to mention it is increasingly relevant for privacy legislation). But how do you decide what tool to use when?

In MCAE there are many ways you can add personalization to your marketing journey, and these approaches live in different areas of the tool. Let’s dive into some of my favorites.


HML, or Handlebar Merge Language, allows you to use conditional formatting variable tags. You have likely merged a first name field into a subject or email before, but have you created different versions that will auto-fill if you don’t have first names in your database for all of your prospects? Last year MCAE introduced HML as an upgrade to its previous variable tags language, and it is much more user-friendly. 

HML is available for MCAE email templates, list emails, 1:1 emails, dynamic content, landing pages, forms, and user signatures.

Best for: personalizing email subject lines and greetings

Where to find it: If you haven’t yet upgraded to HML, you should see a banner message at the top of your screen when you open MCAE inviting you to do so. Once you’ve upgraded, you can use HML anywhere you use variable tags.


Dynamic Content

Dynamic content is what you want to use if you want to insert a different block of text or image, not just a merge field. You can use dynamic content to display variations of content to prospects based on criteria you select, and it can often help you increase click-through rates since prospects are more likely to engage with content that’s relevant to them. Say you have a whitepaper nurture program in Engagement Studio; you could offer a different next step to someone with a C-level title than you might to a junior marketer. You can use dynamic content in emails, landing pages, and forms. 

One important note: dynamic content appears as a merge field in email tests, so you will need to create test prospects that match the criteria you select in order to ensure the content is appearing properly.

Best for: increasing click-through rates 

Where to find it: Content-Dynamic Content


Engagement Programs

Finally, there’s Engagement Studio, the hub that brings all the spokes of MCAE activities together to create a personalized marketing journey. Engagement Programs begin with a dynamic list that filters who you want begin the program in the first place, and from there you can add checkpoints to have different content or activities go to different segments of that list. Say you have a program that follows up with people who came to an event. You want different follow up messages to go to different industries. You can facilitate this through Engagement Programs or dynamic content, or even dynamic content used in email templates within an Engagement Program. 

Best for: complex personalization

Where to find it: Engagement Studio



If you are one of the many users who is using MCAE primarily for mass email, playing around with the personalization tools are one of the best ways to experiment with more advanced functionality. Personalization through HML, Dynamic Content, and Engagement Programs is easy to A/B test, and there is no shame (in fact, it’s what we recommend!) in constantly testing, tweaking to make improvements, then testing the next iteration. 

One parting thought I will leave you with: it’s always best to choose the simplest path possible given your goals and comfort level with different tools. Play around with HML before you move to Dynamic Content and Engagement Programs, and get comfortable with merging different types of fields. Once you understand what fields will be most impactful for you to personalize, you will likely be excited to build on that foundation.


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