The five cardinal rules of email targeting

The five cardinal rules of email targeting
As Global Director, Strategy and Market Innovation for StrongMail's Agency Services division, Kara is responsible for helping marketers optimise their digital marketing programmes for greater returns. Kara was founder and principal of The Email Advisor, a respected email marketing consultancy focusing on email strategy and channel optimization, acquired by StrongMail in May 2009. She has had the opportunity to work with a number of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 organizations, structuring a variety of custom email education programs, conceptualizing and implementing new and innovative email programs, optimizing contact strategies and developing staffing and budget plans.

Relevance. It is what marketers are striving to achieve in their email marketing programmes today. But how that relevance is achieved is often answered by “it depends” which really gets us nowhere, fast. While it is true that targeting strategies for email are often driven by unique aspects of a brand’s email programme, there are some hard and fast rules that will, at minimum, give you a place to start and something to think about.

Time is on your side

Look at the various points of contact and interaction with your customers to identify unique moments in time where you can communicate about that specific event.  Consider refills/replenishment, customer ratings, product recommendations, anniversaries, status, etc. Regardless of the trigger point, the goal is to present a targeted and relevant experience based on the timing of the message delivery and content.

Consider the entire experience

It is often customers’ experiences in other channels that affect the engagement with your email programme. What if you are an airline and lost my luggage? Or a retailer that just delivered a less-than-acceptable customer service experience via telephone? Chances are I am not much in the mood to get sales from you right now. Communicating with these folks via email, with an unexpected message or even an apology could help you turn that negative in to a positive – really turning things around.

Pay attention to what customers say AND do?

Often times what customers say and what they actually do create some discrepancies that can leave marketers scratching their heads. Rather than relying solely on behavioural (think site-side behaviour or email engagement) or reported (think preference centre) information to drive targeting within your email programme, use a combination of both to achieve the best results.  ?

Look for patterns to emerge?

Leveraging personas is a great way to target your email communications – but if you don’t have the time or the resources to go through a hefty analysis process – you may be able to identify some broad-reaching personas based on engagement and behavioural patterns that emerge among groups. For example, do you have a subset of your audience that continuously clicks through on content related to children, or sports, or music? These behaviours can point to personal preferences and traits, helping you to gear content to these groups.

Find your evangelists?

It is likely that you have a subset of customers that are more than willing to evangelise on your behalf – “brand loyalists” if you will. Finding and speaking to these customers differently can create a synergy between you, as well as some gratitude for the recognition of their love for your brand. Drilling down into this information may take you some time, and tracking, but it is completely worth it.

Clearly, the possibilities for targeting are endless and very much driven by the unique characteristics of your customers and your brand – but in order to understand how it is going to improve or affect your business, you need to dip your toe in and give it a go!

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