Email marketing gets results but for the kind of results that marketers rave about it's essential to develop targeted email marketing campaigns - campaigns that identify and reach the people most likely to respond.
Without effective targeting, your email campaign - any marketing, for that matter - will be a hit and miss affair resulting in low response rates and wasted marketing dollars. It will also be a complete waste of the key strength of email marketing: that it can be targeted more effectively than any other marketing.
It simply doesn't make sense to broadcast to all and sundry when you can focus your efforts - and your dollars - on the people most likely to buy.
Identify your target markets
To identify your target markets, first break down or "segment" your market into groups of people likely to have similar needs and wants. Segmentation can be along any lines you like. For instance, by age group, gender, employment status, location, lifestyle, attitudes, concerns, ethnicity, skill level, and so on.
The idea is to recognise that there is no such thing as an "average" customer. Different types of people have different needs and wants. Consequently, some groups will find the particular (and ideally, unique) benefits of your products and services more appealing than others. These are your target markets.
Because email marketing can reach very specific types of people you can take segmentation to some lengths, for highly-targeted email marketing campaigns. There will almost always be an email list/newsletter to match.
However, target markets must remain large enough to justify the time and effort if not the expense (targeted email marketing is cheap) of a dedicated email campaign.
Ideally, you will hit on market segments that are a good size and also underserved by competitors - a niche marketing opportunity. This is why it is worthwhile spending some time on segmentation.
Create a targeted email marketing message
Having identified your target markets, don't drop the ball with your message.
You will need to develop a separate email message or "creative" for each target market, focusing on their particular needs and wants, and how your particular products or services can fulfil them. Bring your "unique selling proposition" into play, to demonstrate how you can fulfil them better than your competitors.
It's also important to speak your target market's language. Use an appropriate style and tone, and words which have the greatest impact with that market. For example, "affordable," "stylish," "durable," "easy-to-use," "honest," "fast."
In short, create an email that is highly-relevant and therefore highly-interesting to your target market.
Write an effective subject line
There is plenty of advice available on writing marketing email subject lines. In summary, they should be straightforward, contain your business name, be both informative and relevant, and as short as possible. They should capture the essence of your email. For this reason they are best written after not before the message.
An excellent side-benefit of targeted email marketing is that it is much easier to write with specific types of people in mind than for mass audiences. Great news if like most people you hate writing promotional copy.
Select targeted email marketing lists
The next step in your targeted email marketing campaign is to find email lists that reach your target market. For most small and home businesses, the most affordable option will be email newsletters (ezines) with a subscriber profile matching your target market. Solo ads - emails sent to subscribers separately from the newsletter - are highly-affordable.
Most email newsletters are listed in directories, such as FindEzines, Zinester, EzineHub and the Directory of Ezines. (Search for "ezine directory".)
Target the right time
With the key elements of your targeted email marketing campaign in place, there is one more factor to consider before you send: timing.
An advantage of email marketing is that campaigns can be timed to the minute. Think about your target market's lifestyle to choose the best time to send. Ideally, it will be a time when they not only check their email but also have time to give it their attention.
For moms this might be late in the evening when the kids are in bed. For young professionals with an active social life, it might be lunchtime, when they are neither working or out on the town. Trust your common sense on this one. Statistics on the most popular email opening times are misleading.
Test your targeted email marketing campaign
My piece of final advice on targeted email marketing is to test your campaign. Ad testing is standard procedure for large companies. Thanks to the affordability of email, it's an option for small businesses too.
Once you have perfected your targeted email marketing campaign you can invest in more expensive lists and roll out your campaign with confidence.