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Time is the most precious resource in business, since there isn’t any way to get any more of it. Following this idea further, wasting someone else’s time is a very bad way to conduct a business relationship, since from their point of view this uses up time in a non-productive manner. This rule applies very strongly to email, since much of a person’s day will be filled with evaluating, and discarding, various messages most of which are totally irrelevant to them. All of this adds up to the need to provide more value to recipients, than the “time cost” of viewing your campaign. Correct targeting of your email campaigns is one way to achieve this goal.

What Is Targeting?
No product or service can be all things to all people. Acknowledging this reality, targeting is simply focusing your marketing onto a specific niche. The two factors that you alter to target your email campaigns are targeting the message, and targeting the list.

Targeting your message means tailoring your message to the expected audience. For example, you may have two pitches for your product: one that concentrates on the radical new features of the product, and another that details the tremendous cost savings from using it. You can also target the creative used for the email campaign. You might have two versions, one that uses a clean list of bullet points, and another that features highly stylized text that flies across the screen.

You also need to target (i.e. subdivide) your email lists. Targeted messages will be more effective when sent to an appropriate group of recipients. Continuing our example above, you would send the product feature pitch and technical information to technical people, and send the cost savings information to finance people.

A Note About Target Acquisition
You might be tempted to take some shortcuts, or acquire some email lists from questionable sources. Don’t do it. Use proper and ethical ways to build your lists, or your campaign will almost certainly backfire. Due to the highly negative way that recipients perceive unsolicited email, the immediate backlash will outweigh any benefits, in addition to the long-term negatives of associating your brand with spam. For more about best practices in list acquisition and management please read our article “Keeping Your List From Getting Away From You” ( ).

Give The People What They Want
The primary rule of effective targeting is deceptively simple: figure out what your target group wants, then offer it to them. How do you go about doing that? Try asking some of your existing customers. Another way to know what actually works is to send a test campaign to a sample of your targeted group.

Once you have the attention of the recipient, for an all too brief moment, the biggest factor in obtaining a positive response is usually how valuable the offer is perceived to be. Providing something of actual value that really speaks to the target is a requirement.

Once Upon A Time…Or Maybe Twice
Tell a story to each targeted group over a series of messages. This will help lead to increasing the permission level with each recipient. As you learn more about each other you will be able to utilize more sophisticated targeting. Once you begin to establish a dialog with your target, eventually a true one to one marketing relationship can develop.

Choosing Your Weapons
It is extremely important to choose a compelling creative, coupled with a message that fits your targeted group. People in high tech (business), and line of business managers respond to text and interactive emails from organizations they know and trust. More creative (marketing) managers and consumers respond best to highly creative email campaigns. The point is to emphasize messaging and creative – just like in traditional direct mail campaigns.

Missing The Target
This section could also be named “Avoiding Collateral Damage”. Should you fail to target the offer or list correctly, you will experience some negative effects. This may take form of a decreased response, an increased number of opt-outs, or even in some cases complaints. For example, sending info about marketing to technical people or vice-versa kills the response on an otherwise good campaign. At the very least, it confuses the recipient. Specific targeting only works if you have extremely accurate information in your lists.

Unless you have an unlimited budget for your marketing efforts, you need to make sure that every dollar invested counts. You need to target your email campaigns, or else at best much of your efforts are being wasted. Be careful to target accurately, or your campaign might miss the target or even work against you. Deliver the correct message to the correct group of recipients, and the results from your campaigns will “hit the bull’s-eye” and deliver a great boost to your profits.

This Web Marketing article was written by Ron Evans on 3/21/2005