The Beauty & Beast Of Targeted Emails
Date: February 2, 2016
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Last weekend I woke up to #blizzard2016. Located in the NYC area. It’s all I had been hearing about the week prior and man, did it deliver. Twenty-six plus inches of snow…

Saturday morning, I opened my emails and was greeted with all kinds of messages about the snow. Subject lines like “Stay Inside. THIS is worth it!” and “Snowed in?” I’m going to guess that people in SoCal weren’t receiving the same thing.

Targeting emails allows marketers to segment their lists send specific emails to a specific set of subscribers. In this case, these emails were likely segmented based on geographical location.




The Beauty. Gone are the days where you have to blast out the same, general message to your entire email list. For better or worse, the internet is a little creepy and marketers can now tell many different things about their subscribers. (Yes, some of this is due to forms you fill out when you subscribe, but some of it is based on things like your IP address.)

With a segmented list your marketing message can be very focused. If I’m sending a message to subscribers located in the north east about a conference in Arizona, my message could be.. Get out of the snow, come join us in sunny Arizona. That resonates quite quickly, don’t you think?

The Beast. Chances are, the general messaging in your email is going to be the same. The challenge then becomes making it obvious that this is, in fact, a targeted message. General message: XYZ is having a sale this weekend. Targeted message: XYZ is having a sale this weekend that includes cold weather items and there’s 26 inches of snow outside your door. See my point?

The Tip. Focus on the targeted portion of the message; design to highlight it. It’s great that there’s a sale but it’s even better that it includes items I’m probably suddenly interested in due to the weather. Use visual cues, in this case, snow! Remember that you already know the list you’re targeting and the reason why, the subscriber doesn’t. Make it obvious.



The Beauty. If you’re anything like the average person, you’re probably receiving more emails than you can keep up with over the course of a day. How do you choose which ones you open and which ones you trash? Companies that send targeted messages are more likely to be in the open category. They’re sending a message the subscriber can immediately relate to. “Snowed in?” Yes, what else ya got?

Targeted messages also create a trust between the subscriber and the brand. If I’m used to getting targeted messages from a brand, sent to me specifically based on things I’ve done in the past, I’m more likely to keep opening their emails. The more messages I get with miscellaneous items or things that don’t make sense.. The more likely I am to unsubscribe. (Ned Nadima agrees in “Dear Online Stores..”)

The Beast. As you can imagine, it’s likely that you need to reach more than just one segment of people in your email campaigns. Here is where the task becomes a tad beastly for us designers/coders. More than one email needs to be written, designed, built and proofed.

The Tip. Reuse the same structure. By doing this you only have to test your code once. Make sure it works on all the popular email clients, on mobile, etc. and tweak the design where necessary. Change the header image, reflow the copy. If you segmented your lists correctly, no one’s getting both emails so no one will ever know!



The Beauty. A clear, concise message makes your email easy to read and process. With targeted emails we’re able to cut down on the number of CTA’s because we know we’re selling something the subscriber likes. I don’t have to add in other, seemingly random things “just in case”. This will help increase your click through rates in emails. It has the added benefit of not overwhelming the subscriber with too many options.

The Beast. Non-believers is always an obstacle. Why do I have to send 3 separate emails? Can’t we just send one email with whatever we’re promoting and oh, maybe 1-2 other pieces on the side incase the subscriber doesn’t want the main piece? That’s a designer (and probably a copy writer’s) nightmare. You wind up sending one email about 3 pieces of content that have nothing to do with one another in hopes that the subscriber will like one of them. Essentially, it’s a shot in the dark.

Here’s a tip. Suggest A/B testing campaigns. Do one blanket email where you stick everything together and hope for the best. Then, do one where you segment the list and write/design specifically for those verticals. It’s likely that once the client sees the segmented emails they’re going to have the light bulb moment but if not, sit back and wait patiently for the results.



Bonus Point. From time to time, look at who’s downloading your content or registering for your events. You may find some unusual characters that you weren’t thinking about. Tap into those areas. Chances are if one person is interested, others like them are too.



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