Although it’s relatively old school in our modern, digital age, email marketing is still a major force in marketing. In fact, targeted email marketing is just as popular as it was a decade ago, if not more. This isn’t surprising, considering that 99% of consumers log into their email each day. And at the same time, marketing emails are highly effective because people who buy as a result spend 138% more than people who don’t get those emails.

These staggering numbers bear themselves out in terms of ROI: the DMA tells us that the typical ROI in the United States is 4,300 percent, an astounding rate of return. Although we don’t have good numbers yet, it would be interesting to see how the ongoing pandemic affects email marketing ROI, especially with the decrease in interpersonal encounters. And, despite regulatory initiatives such as GDPR, the ROI has continued to increase. Email marketing success hasn’t slowed as a result.

You can get an even higher than average email marketing ROI when you employe personalized emails as part of a targeted email marketing campaign. In fact, their conversion rates are around 6x higher than non-personalized emails. Surprisingly, 70% of brands don’t personalize their emails, missing out on this extra ROI. All of this comes down to one question: if you aren’t targeting your email marketing and sending out personalized emails, why not? To that end, here are the ways you can run successful targeted campaigns.

What is Targeted Email Marketing?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of targeted email marketing, it’s important to define our terms. In a nutshell, it is a marketing strategy that sends out personalized content to the inboxes of the most relevant customers at just the right time. Arguably, this is an art, in that we don’t always know what a customer needs at any given time. However, loyalty programs and advanced analytics give us important clues. This information is a critical part of your overall email marketing strategy.

Benefits of Targeted Email Marketing

If you’re used to blasting out the same email to everyone about your next Black Friday sale, then it’s easy to wonder why you should change your strategy. Nobody is saying these generic blasts are never appropriate, but if you don’t do targeted email marketing then you’re missing out. After all, Black Friday is a time when people buy stuff that they wouldn’t normally. But irrelevant emails most of the year are rather annoying. Most people do the same thing with these that they would random mailers.

On the other hand, when targeted email marketing is done right, it makes the receiver happy that they are receiving information of value that can help them or their business. It doesn’t really matter what your company sells, so long as it’s something that they need. Valuable information can include anything from a discount on the right product, all the way to an article on selecting the right model of computer.

The 6 Steps to Executing Successful Targeted Email Marketing

If there’s one single reason why so many brands don’t do targeted email marketing, it’s the overall complexity. Properly targeting customer groups requires a lot of consumer information, and it must be in the same place. Various tools can help you organize all the information for a good picture of your customer base and decide who gets what message. Generally, successful targeting involves six steps.

1) Choose the Right Email Marketing Service

It’s awful hard to do targeted email marketing right if you don’t have the best tools. Arguably, the most important tool is the email marketing service or software that you use. For services, you’ll pay a monthly or usage-based fee, give them the materials they need, and let them do the rest. In this situation, you should ensure that they have the right software. Programs should have the ability to segment lists through tagging and scoring, then use advanced marketing automation. In addition, it should integrate with your website, CRM database as well as shopping cart for ecommerce sites.

If you choose to do the marketing yourself, then similar rules apply. It’s of the utmost importance that you pick the right software for sending out emails, and that you keep it current. Look for the same software features as you would using a service or agency and feed the program plenty of great material. Using the right email marketing tools in addition to your email client, you should enjoy plenty of success.

How does this work, exactly? The right tools let you send targeted email marketing messages to the right people at the right time. For example, if you are a clothing company and know the customer has children, you might advertise kid’s clothes right before school starts. This way, mom and dad can make an informed decision to buy bargain clothes from you.

2) Integrate All Existing Technology You Use to Ensure All Data is Brought into the Email Marketing Tool

Even the best tools are less effective when you don’t give them the best chance to work. Garbage in, garbage out. When you’re doing targeted email marketing, garbage in is poor customer information put into your system, and garbage out is your failed targeting. By far the easiest way to ensure your customer information is accurate and timely is to use a program that’s integrated with your other customer data systems.

Keep in mind, you can get quite creative with finding information for your system. Web forms are useful for more than just a basic signup: when composed properly, these forms will ask customers to indicate what products and services they’re interested in. Naturally, other items like company news should also be included as options. This way, you have a quick guide to what each customer group wants and needs.

With ecommerce sites, customer target information is relatively easy to obtain. Purchase information tells you what styles and colors of clothing that someone likes, for instance. Or for home improvement retail, you might gather what kind of projects a homeowner performs by analyzing their purchase history and searches on your site.

Other types of sales information are also valuable. Customer relationship management tools are the gold standard in any type of sales environment, since past customer behavior predicts what they’re likely to do in the future. People who play sports are unlikely to become couch potatoes, and they typically keep buying sports equipment. But within that group, you need to know which sport they play. Runners are more likely to go for a running shoe sale than a swimming gear special.

Here’s the bottom line. For many of us, customer information is spread all over the computer systems. But it’s the marketing department which is most likely to need detailed customer behavior and demographic information. Sales and other departments are more likely to need segmented pieces of the picture. Done right, your targeted email marketing software will have everything it needs and more.

3) Gather the Information Necessary to Execute Targeted Email Marketing

Although simple targeting can be done with relatively basic information, the best targeted email marketing campaigns involve complex customer segmentation. To do this, you need to input a lot of information into your email marketing software. Customer information should be complete, including name, gender, location, preferences regarding your products and services, lead source, and purchasing history and/or intent.

For ecommerce sites, much of this information is easy to acquire through orders. Not only does customer info have to be gathered to process an order, but the invoices give you lots of information. Added bonus if your cookies track the things which are put in the cart or viewed carefully, then eliminated from consideration. That can be for a variety of reasons such as the lack of a given size or color, or simply not needing or liking it. If you can gather any of that information, it’s better.

4) Create Your Automated Targeted Email Marketing Campaigns

With all the customer information gathered, creating targeted emails is relatively simple. In short, you write different emails for various segments of your customer group. Effective tagging and labeling of customers makes deciding who to send each message to easy. There is a formula for targeted email marketing campaigns, as often they are sent focused on the following targets:

Targeting by Location

 One of the easier ways to do targeted email marketing is based on location. This is useful in several situations. For instance, if you are a global outerwear brand then you’ll sell different weights of coats and jackets. Depending on the climate and season of each customer’s location they’ll have different needs. Some locations never need winter coats, while others find summer jackets unnecessary, or anything in between. Likewise, you might have different products sold in different regions due to local taste.

Targeting by Customer Lifecycle Type

Just because all customers are important doesn’t mean you interact with them all the same way. With sales prospects, you probably don’t have as much information about their buying habits. On the other hand, a repeat customer has a long history of buying from you, and you have better information. No matter where they are in the customer lifecycle, each group needs different email types.

Targeting by Behavior

Some customers do a lot of looking, and not much buying. Or, they might go directly to what they want, put it in the cart, and check out. This kind of behavior should be logged and the information used for targeted email marketing. A great example of this technique is abandoned cart emails.

Targeting by Preferences

Finally, customers can be targeted based on preferences. In this case, you’ll use data like their purchase history, what links they click on, survey answers, and the like. Such information can differentiate between people who buy the cheapest product on sale, and the ones who must get the fanciest model as soon as it comes out.

5) Create Email Content Specifically for Those Customers You are Targeting in the Different Types of Targeted Email Campaigns

Different targeted email marketing campaigns will call for targeting based on different factors. One time you might go based on preferences, while another campaign might be location based. However, this isn’t the only aspect of successful targeting. Rather, take a page from the mailing playbook: personalized greetings. In other words, an email from the local Japanese restaurant might say “Neal, check out or latest noodle dish.” Make them want to open your email.

Another aspect of targeted email marketing is sending messages at the right time. Suggesting weekend fun on Monday morning might fall flat, but the latest lunch special could be welcomed. As a rule, send things when they’re most likely to be acted on, such as first thing in the morning, over lunch hour, or before dinner. This ideal time will depend on your product type and customer groupings. Don’t forget to adjust for time zones.  

6) A/B Test and Measure Your Targeted Email Marketing Campaigns

Finally, the best way to master targeted email marketing is through testing and analysis. Look out for trends in opens, clicks, purchases, unsubscribes, and spam reports for clues on what’s working, and what falls short. Armed with this information, you can make adjustments for future campaigns. These adjustments can include tweaking targeting groups, sending emails at different times, or even simple customization changes.

For brands, email marketing is one of the most powerful sales tools out there. With the popularity of smartphones, many customers have their email with them all the time. This means that emails can be opened while a customer is out shopping, relaxing on the couch, or taking a lunch break. Each of these moments is an opportunity to sell something through targeted email marketing. Even if they don’t buy right that minute, a compelling email might generate a response later in the day. All you have to do is market smarter.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

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