Unlocking the Unblast Step 1: Targeting and Segmentation

Simply defining the Unblast: “The Secret” of Effective Email Marketing really isn’t enough, so I thought I’d share some more secrets with a series of steps to help you unlock it and to guide the way to a more effective email marketing program. The first step is Targeting and Segmentation. Truly the foundation of any marketing campaign, defining a specific target helps to determine content and creative, timing, and setting estimations and expectations of results.

In the interest of protecting ongoing and future strategies, I’ll take the perspective of one of my former employers: let’s say you’re a niche retailer of sporting goods, specifically a niche, core market snowboard retailer offering a selection of the finest, most desired, and most rooted-to-the-sport brands – none of those Dick’s Sporting Goods or other megamart brands, only the good stuff here, da kine brah.

You may start by thinking that a niche retailer like this really doesn’t need to segment its customer base any further, as the customer base has essentially segmented itself into a pretty finite, small market based on the products they’re interested in. But, you’d be wrong. Really, no need to be defensive, you’re wrong. Sorry. How? Simple – are your customers interested in men’s or women’s gear? Are they interested in clothing and accessories only, as they don’t have access to snow? Or are they interested in the newest and hottest snowboards?

Defining interests is a start. Let’s say you set up your website guestbook (or whatever you prefer to call it) with a number of interests allowing your subscribers to select among men’s or women’s gear, and each of the product ranges you offer. Done. Right? Not at all. Sure, you can build out a few queries for your email marketing program: one for men’s snowboards, one for women’s snowboards, one for men’s outerwear, another for men’s clothing, and so on. Great, good start.

So, let’s build out an email for men’s snowboards, set the target, and send it. Wonderful. 100% of the work for 25% or whatever it is of your total customer base. Not very efficient, is it? How about building out a single campaign that uses dynamic content to include either men’s or women’s (or both) snowboards based on the interests selected by the subscriber? Maybe include a bit of additional content for those subscribers who are also interested in outerwear? Now we’re getting somewhere, you’ve put forth 120% of the work to reach 40% or whatever of your customer base – I’ll leave it to the mathematicians and statisticians to determine the marginal increase in efficiency. But, the reality is that’s just it – a MARGINAL increase in efficiency.

So then what? All this extra work to for small bump? Yep, exactly. So why do it? Because now you’re speaking directly to your customers, rather than sending a “blast” with all the products you offer, and basically annoying your entire customer base because they have no idea what you’re trying to say, and they start to think that you don’t pay any attention to them. Guess what… your competitors are building out this same strategy of segmentation, and they’re using it. What’s more is that they are already building a relationship with your customer base, locking them in as an expert in the selective niche, the retailer that knows them, and speaks to them.

Targeting isn’t necessarily about driving numbers up. Rather, it’s about driving numbers down. It’s about dropping unsubscribe rates, dropping unengagement, dropping email deployment costs through smaller email campaign send volumes, and dropping the competitive advantage your competitors are already enjoying, with the side effects of increasing engagement, increasing your customer base, and, in the long run, increasing revenue by maintaining and growing your customer base.


Have any questions about other aspects of an effective email “unblast” campaign? Leave them in the comments below – I have a few others planned, but always open to requests.

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