Targeted Email Marketing: A Guide to Email Campaigns

Megan Smith
Kassidy Vavra
Published: Nov 26, 2021
Last Updated:
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You may have heard the statistic that email marketing generates $36 for every dollar spent. That makes it by far the most profitable marketing channel. If that's not reason enough to use this method, targeted email marketing makes readers 50% more likely to click through to your store.

Open and click-through rates are the difference between a successful campaign and yelling into the void. You can't convert email subscribers into sales unless they engage with your communication.

The best way to get returning and potential new customers interested is with targeted email — also known as segmented email. It isn’t shocking that people are more likely to respond positively to emails with a relevant message. When customers are deluged with emails that don’t apply to their needs and interests, they often unsubscribe.

Learn how to give them what they want — you’ll improve both your conversion rate and consumers' relationships with your brand.

Laptop and notebook sitting on desk displaying email marketing

What Is Targeted Email Marketing?

The difference between targeted email marketing and general email marketing is the difference between a crafted strategy and yelling into the abyss.

  • With general marketing: You issue blast emails to everyone that subscribes to your brand’s communications.
  • A targeted email list: This is a more specific email audience drawn from that larger list.

You can segment emails according to demographics such as age, gender, or location. Or you can survey subscribers for their personal preferences and interests. You can also send users emails based on their purchase behavior and interactions with your brand and website.

Better yet — do them all to craft the most targeted, effective strategy.

Benefits of Targeted Email Marketing

You can achieve a number of objectives with the right segmented email strategy. Properly targeting your communication can help you:

Retain Subscribers

No one enjoys being bombarded with low-priority promotional emails that overwhelm their inboxes. It’s even worse when those emails are irrelevant. For example, someone who lives in snowy Minnesota likely doesn't want to get ads for a surf shop store in California.

Of those who unsubscribe from an email list, 56% of people do so because they don’t consider the brand’s emails relevant. When marketers segment their lists, however, 28% report lower unsubscribe rates.

Personalize Content and Improve Relationships

Which do you appreciate and respond to more, a man gesturing towards a crowd and shouting, “Hey, you!” or someone approaching you, looking you in the eye, and addressing you by name?

Targeted email marketing strategies allow you to send a personalized message and offers to specific customers. Put the material most likely to engage them in front of their eyes and make them feel recognized and valued.

Improve Loyalty and VIP Programs

Speaking of making people feel valued, you can combine segmented email with your loyalty and VIP programs. Reward loyal customers and provide exclusive access or discounts to high-value or VIP customers. This also incentivizes new customers to come back to your brand.

Guide Customers Through the Sales Funnel

Automate emails that respond to where customers are in their journey. You can send welcome emails to new subscribers, send tempting offers to prospects, or thank first-time buyers with a note and links to relevant articles or tutorials.

Remind Customers of Previous Intentions and Purchases

One of the most profitable emails to send is a reminder to shoppers who have abandoned their carts. About 73% of U.S. shoppers simply walk away from eCommerce purchases without even emptying their carts.

But you can recoup some of those losses by integrating segmented email with your eCommerce platform. Abandoned cart emails have an open rate of 42.3% and a click-through rate of 8.49%.

You can also send out promotions based on previous purchases, marketing similar products or reminding customers when it’s time to resupply.

Types of Marketing Emails

You’ve already learned a few targeted email examples, but there’s more you can do. Segmented campaigns allow you to send different, more personalized emails based on the segment.

Engagement Targeting

Offer your subscribers relevant content based on their interactions with you and with your brand. Entice new prospects with a pitch they can't resist, customers who haven't made a purchase in a while to reconnect, and loyal returning customers to spread the word about your products.

Welcome Email

Every brand should have a welcome email for new subscribers. Introduce yourself and lay out what they can expect going forward. This is also one of the easiest emails to automate with any email service.

Nextdoor is one company that sends welcome emails to new members, and offers them different actions they can take:

Screenshot of NextDoor Welcome Email

Nextdoor lays out its offerings and adds hyperlinks to make it easy for the reader to get started with its service. It also reminds users to download the app.

Incentive Email

This is the email to shoot to all those fence-sitters. It’s for people who have signed up for your email list but have yet to really engage with your business. You could also send it to subscribers with high open rates but low click-through rates.

Give them a reason to commit now — a time-limited offer they’ll want to grab before it disappears. It could be a sale, a quick-to-expire coupon, or even a product that you only offer seasonally or for a short window.

Re-Engagement Email

When you identify your inactive subscribers, you know who you need to re-engage. You can rekindle the relationship with one of these re-engagement strategies:

  • Offer coupons or promo codes.
  • Hold competitions or raffles.
  • Poll subscribers about their email interests and preferences.

If you run a poll, adjust the email topic and/or frequency to reflect their answers.

You can also send a simple query. Do they want to continue receiving your emails? There’s nothing wrong with trimming your lists. In bulk, subscribers can cost you money, so consider removing those who won't ever be interested in engaging with your brand and/or products.

Reward Email

Show your appreciation for their business. Email recent or frequent customers with a thank you promotion. Provide early access to a deal or new service or send along a nice coupon. Or simply remind them of loyalty benefits they may have forgotten.

Targeted email marketing also pairs well with referral programs. Ask your customers to spread the word about your business. Customize and focus the message to those most likely to have the best — and the latest — good things to say. Then reward them and their referrals with a special gift or discount.

Demographic Targeting

For someone who lives in cold Minnesota, January advertisements for flip-flops and beach towels can feel like a mean-spirited joke.

Give people the right emails for them. However, be careful not to make potentially offensive assumptions based on race, age, or gender. Don’t imply a certain lifestyle choice or condition purely based on where they live or other information.

Gender-Segmented Email

Gender means more and less than ever today, which can be confusing for marketers. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few generalities that you can draw.

For example, people who identify as female are less likely to be interested in jockstraps or boxer briefs, and people who identify as male are less likely to be interested in sports bras.

Location-Segmented Email

In addition to keeping an eye on seasonal weather trends, make sure that your customers know about local deals and opportunities. You can also partner with local businesses and run cross-promotions.

Age-Segmented Email

If you work in the healthcare industry, you might want to send different notices to your patients over 60 than you do to those in their 20s. Fashion and lifestyle trends can also be targeted.

You might also think about the content of your marketing itself. Who does your marketing messages address? Is it full of slang that speaks to one generation more than another? Tailor your phrasing to your audience.

Industry-Segmented Email

Target your products and services to those in specific professions. Certain products and services may appeal differently to those in the tech industry compared to those in fashion, for example.

Know your audience — particularly in B2B marketing, you may want to approach one industry with an email that's different from another. You don't want to sell manufacturing companies parts that they would never use, or offer cleaning services to a completely eCommerce-based brand.

Behavioral Targeting

Behaviorally targeted email marketing addresses customers depending on their previous habits and purchases. It overlaps with engagement targeting, so the following examples focus on shopping behavior rather than email-related behavior.

Cart-Abandonment Email

As mentioned previously, many shoppers will abandon an online shopping cart and forget all about it. Send them a reminder — their cart misses them.

There are several different tones to adopt, depending on your personal branding.

  • Be coy and charming.
  • Underline that you might run out of items.
  • Or simply offer more information if they're on the fence.

Dote uses humor in their emails to connect with customers:

Screenshot of Dote's Cart Abandonment Email

Dote's cart abandonment email is cute and clever — and never comes across as pushy.

Upsell Email

Some things are better together — like hot chocolate and marshmallows, a baseball and a glove, and a new refrigerator and a warranty.

Let your customers know about offerings that complement things they’ve ordered before.

Follow-up Email

After someone makes a purchase, send them a follow-up email to check in. Thank them for their business, ask them about their satisfaction, and solicit reviews.

Opening up a direct line of communication may also lead any unhappy customers to contact you directly in turn — instead of blasting their displeasure across the internet. This allows you to manage any potential problems right away, ensuring their satisfaction, your brand's reputation, and potentially improving customer retention.

Steps to Running a Targeted Email Marketing Campaign

To reap the proper rewards, you want to develop a targeted email marketing plan. This plan assumes that you’re working with an email service — paid or unpaid — to collect and use the emails of interested parties.

These services generally come with built-in templates and email tools for segmentation and marketing automation. They’ll make it easier to take the following steps to success.

Update Your Email List

Start by updating your list of subscribers. Have you incorporated subscriber information from all potential sources including signup forms, direct communication, purchase checkouts, etc.?

This is also a good opportunity to ask yourself if you’re doing all that you can to convert visitors and first-time consumers into subscribers. Do you have the right popups and offers in place?

Automate Some Emails for Behavioral and Engagement Targeting

Demographic targeting will take a little more thought, as will more sophisticated incentive and engagement strategies.

But you can set up email automation to engage and follow up with your customers. If you don’t have a welcome email, craft one and set it for automatic distribution whenever someone subscribes.

You should create cart-abandonment emails and follow-up emails, too. If your business lends itself to obvious upsells, go ahead and input them into your email service.

There’s no reason to wait to put these into place until you’ve refined your email marketing plan. Later, you may want to edit email content or individuate these responses, but get these automations working for you immediately.

Segment Your List

Now work with the emails you’ve collected. Your subscriber’s engagement rate will let you divide your list into at least four subgroups:

  1. Most engaged
  2. Well engaged
  3. Somewhat engaged
  4. Least engaged

How many of your emails do they bother to open? Use these open rates and set cutoff numbers for each category.

Then look for additional ways to segment your lists. Depending on your product or services, it may make sense to create lists based on:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Industry
  • Subscription source
  • Previous purchasing behavior: timing or frequency
  • Previous purchasing behavior: products or services

You’ll be able to generate campaigns based on the intersection of lists, so don’t feel the need to subdivide them here.

Determine Most Effective Demographic Targets

Define your main customer personas. Which people tend to engage with your brand? Do you sell to fashionista professionals in their early 30s, or fathers in their 50s looking for new ways to engage with their kids? Is your target market mid-career supply managers for industrial warehouses?

Think about each of these customers. What do you know about them — both hard facts such as geography and industry and softer assumptions such as interests and income? What draws them in — more product-related tips and content, new product launches, or sales?

Craft Targeted Content

Once you have your targets identified, start putting together your email campaign. Determine your primary objective for the campaign and then create and adjust content to appeal to different segments of your audience.

Don’t forget about general best practices such as strong CTAs and mobile optimization. Even though more and more customers read email on their phones, nearly one in five email marketing campaigns still isn’t optimized for mobile devices.

Test It Out

Many services make it easy for you to run A/B testing and determine which email will perform best for a larger audience.

Even if you’re running a smaller operation, get some extra eyes on your content. You could even ask consumers to participate in a short survey in return for a chance to win a gift certificate or other prize.

Get Started with Targeted Email Marketing

You’ve heard about the benefits of email segmentation and different ways to divide up those email lists. You know how simple automations can yield big returns, and you have your next actions clearly identified for your next successful email marketing campaign.

So dive in, divide, and conquer. You’ll improve your conversion rate and your relationships with subscribers. There’s nothing to hold you back.


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