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You spend hours crafting the perfect campaign, write compelling copy, design eye-catching graphics, and put it all together in one slick email newsletter. You hit send with excitement, only to be met with lackluster open and click-through rates. Despite your best efforts, your email marketing campaigns just aren't hitting. They aren’t driving the engagement and conversions you need.

Sound familiar? The solution lies in a targeted email marketing strategy. Rather than blasting the same generic message to your entire email list, targeted campaigns allow you to segment your audience, delivering hyper-relevant content tailored to their interests. By sending more personalized communications, you'll boost email open rates, engagement, and sales.

Targeted email marketing definition graphic
Targeted email marketing requires segmenting your subscriber list into specific groups, then sending customized email content.

What Is Targeted Email Marketing?

Targeted email marketing is a type of digital marketing that requires segmenting your email subscriber list into specific groups based on factors like demographic information, behavior patterns, interests and stage of the buyer's journey, and then sending customized email content to each micro-segment.

Why should I use targeted email marketing?

The data speaks for itself when it comes to the effectiveness of targeted email campaigns. Studies from DMA show that segmented and personalized email campaigns generate 58% of all email marketing revenue. By tailoring your message to your segments' interests, you can drastically improve key metrics.

According to HubSpot, segmented emails drive 30% more opens and 50% more click-throughs than unsegmented ones. They also found the most effective strategies for email marketing campaigns are subscriber segmentation (78%), message personalization (72%), and email marketing automation (71%).

How To Use Targeted Email Marketing

1. Gather detailed data

The foundation of any effective email marketing campaign is data. Without a comprehensive understanding of your subscribers' profiles, behaviors, and preferences, you'll be sending messages out into the void—resulting in poor engagement, missed opportunities, and wasted marketing spend.

However, when you leverage the right data insights, you can hyper-segment your lists and craft tailored email experiences that directly speak to each recipient's needs and interests. This translates to more messages that get opened, drive valuable click-throughs, and boost conversions and revenue. 

Some of the most valuable data points to collect include:

  • Geographic: location, zip code
  • Demographic: age, income, job role
  • Psychographic: interests, values, lifestyles
  • Behavioral: purchases, content engagement, email interactions
  • Technical: devices, email clients, data

You can gather this information through opt-in subscription forms, website tracking and analytics tools, email platform engagement metrics, integration with CRM sales tools and even social media. Be sure to explore opportunities to enrich your first-party data with third-party demographic, psychographic and consumer data appends as well, as the richer your customer information, the more precise your targeting abilities.

Our 18 proven email marketing tips for growing your email subscriber list is a good place to start if you’re looking for more guidance. 

2. Select the right tool

While attempting to execute segmented, personalized email campaigns manually would be an operational nightmare, email marketing software provides powerful automation capabilities to make targeted messaging efficient and scalable. A robust email marketing platform allows you to streamline every aspect of segmentation and customized campaign execution in the following areas which we will expand on further below:

  • Segmentation: Rather than manually sorting spreadsheets, you can utilize the platform’s segmentation engine to easily create filtered subscriber lists based on any combination of demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral criteria pulled from your integrated data sources
  • Dynamic Content: Using custom field mapping and personalization functionality, you can automatically inject tailored copy, images, offers and calls-to-action into email marketing templates coded for each segment with just a few clicks
  • Automated Workflows: Instead of one-off campaigns, visually build out branched, trigger-based workflow sequences to deploy dynamic drip campaigns tailored for each subscriber's behaviors and life cycle stage
  • A/B Testing: Leverage built-in testing capabilities to validate and optimize the highest-converting message components, content, and send times for each customer's preferences
  • AI & Analytics: Predictive modeling features help you identify your highest-value segments, while performance dashboards provide granular funnel metrics to monitor engagement and continuously improve targeting
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3. Use advanced segmentation

In my opinion, email list segmentation is one of the best email marketing strategies out there. Simply divide your overall subscriber database into specific smaller groups that share common attributes, behaviors or stages of the buying journey. By segmenting, you can tailor and contextualize email content to precisely match each group's unique needs and interests.

There are unlimited potential ways to slice and dice your audience for segmentation based on the specific data you've collected. However, some of the most common and effective segmentation criteria include:

  • Geographic: country, state, city, zip code
  • Demographic: age, gender, income level, job role
  • Firmographic: company size, industry
  • Psychographic: interests, values, lifestyle
  • Email Engagement: open rates, click-through rates
  • Website Behavior: pages visited, content consumed
  • Purchase Behavior: purchases, average order value, purchase frequency
  • Sales Funnel: lead, MQL, SQL, customer
  • Customer Lifecycle: new, active, churning

You can use your email marketing platform's segmentation tools to create dynamic groups that automatically update based on matching these criteria. More advanced platforms will allow you to layer multiple criteria like "Marketing Qualified Leads in California working in SaaS" for further personalization.

4. Create personalized emails

With your segmented audience lists defined, it's time to leverage your email marketing tool's personalization capabilities to build tailored email experiences customized for each distinct segment. The data overwhelmingly shows that this effort is well worth it. According to Campaign Monitor, 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement, and they see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized experiences. 

There are numerous ways to personalize email marketing beyond simply using the recipient's name in the subject line or greeting. Try:

  • Segment-Specific Content Blocks: Dynamically adapt sections like featured product recommendations, related content/resources, and calls-to-action based on each segment's interests, purchase behavior and sales funnel position.
  • Personalized Multimedia: Use the right images, graphics, videos and other visuals that align with each segment's product interests, use cases or verticals.
  • Conditional Email Pathways: Rather than one-size-fits-all campaigns, trigger fully customized, multi-branch automated workflows molded for each segment profile and their stage in the customer lifecycle.
  • Tailored Messaging & Tone: Beyond just dynamic content swaps, you can adapt the actual voice, writing tone, terminology, examples used and more to authentically speak to a segment's specific roles, backgrounds and vernacular.
  • Location-Based Elements: Customize aspects like geographically-relevant imagery, localized date/time messaging, language translations and more.

The key is leveraging your email tool's dynamic field mapping capabilities and if/then logic to automatically populate all messaging and creative components tailored for each segmented group's distinct preferences and traits.

Psst... want to learn more about email marketing?

Psst... want to learn more about email marketing?

Check out additional resources like our list of the best email marketing books. Prefer to listen? We also have a roundup of great email marketing podcasts.

5. Use A/B testing before sending

After you've segmented your lists and personalized your email campaigns, it's critical to validate that the message components and creative elements resonate with each target segment before hitting "send" to your full audience. This is where A/B testing (also known as split testing) comes into play.

A/B testing allows you to experiment with multiple variations of your email campaigns by splitting out sample segments of your list to receive each variation. You can then analyze the engagement metrics like open rates, click-through rates, conversions, etc. across the sample groups to determine the highest-performing version before deploying it to your remaining recipients.

The components you can test are virtually unlimited, including:

  • Subject lines
  • Preview text
  • Sender names
  • Call-to-Action buttons (text, styles, placements)
  • Email content (layout, copy, visuals)
  • Send times

Your email marketing platform's A/B testing tool will allow you to easily set up these experiments, define audience sample sizes and holding windows, and quickly identify winning variations based on your goal metrics. This testing functionality is critical for continuously optimizing and extracting maximum impact from each of your targeted campaigns.

A case study

For example, travel brand Going (previously Scott's Cheap Flights) used A/B testing to optimize their email newsletter promotions. They created samples that received variations highlighting different flight deals and tracked which versions generated higher email engagement and bookings. The winning promotions were automatically sent to the remaining subscribers, resulting in 6 figure revenue directly attributed to their optimized email campaigns.

Targeted Email Marketing Examples

There are various types of emails you can send throughout the buyer journey:

Location-based

Location-based email targeting customizes messaging and offerings based on the subscriber's geographic location, such as city, state/region or country. This allows you to promote location-specific events, highlight relevant product details or pricing, and localize content like imagery and messaging. This example from Sephora used location as the main messaging, as they were announcing a new store opening. 

targeted email marketing locaton based screenshot

Preference-based

With preference-based targeting, you segment subscribers based on stated interests, topics or product categories they've opted into receiving news about. This ensures the content aligns with their particular wants and needs. With this example from Airtable, they sent newsletters for those who opted-in to receive monthly content updates pertaining to their interests:

targeted email marketing preference based screenshot

Gender-based

For brands with products or messaging strategies that differ based on gender identities, gender-based email targeting can be effective. In this example by Kent, we can see the same product being promoted but imagery and copy have been adapted to suit audience demographics. 

targeted email marketing gender based screenshot

Weather-based

Weather and seasonal targeting allows you to dynamically serve up different email content, offers and messaging based on weather patterns, time of year or special events/holidays. In this example by Harry’s, they used the Spring season to promote a special sale around sprucing up your bathroom toiletries. 

Product lifestyle

Many brands cater their new products and messaging to different lifestyle segments and use cases for promotional emails. This example from healthy recipe box service GreenChef promotes different meal plans and menu options tailored to audiences keen to try clean eating.

Behavioral

Behavioral targeting is huge for ecommerce brands to automate personalized lifecycle campaigns based on purchase history and behavior. In this example by Dollar Shave Club, they were alerted by a certain customer behavior and sent out an abandoned cart email as a result. They had certain products in the shopping cart but never made the purchase, which in turn prompted an email send convincing potential customers to try the products with a discount: 

Benefits Of Targeted Email Marketing

Improved relevancy

By personalizing your email content to specific segments' interests and customer persona, you'll deliver more valuable, hyper-relevant messaging. Relevance is so crucial that according to McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from brands, and 76% get frustrated when their brand interactions aren’t personalized to their interests.

Optimized response rates

As a direct result of improved relevancy, targeted emails generate significantly higher engagement and conversions. This can be measured through open rate, which is the percentage of email recipients who open an email. Average response rates differ by industry but according to Constant Contact, the overall average open rate is 39.7%, which gives you a good benchmark to aim for. 

Increased ROI and revenue

The optimized response rates from targeted emails directly correlate to higher sales and marketing ROI. According to Campaign Monitor, 74% of online consumers get frustrated when email content are not aligned with their interests. With this in mind, according to DMA, marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue when different segments were being used. 

Better customer relationships

Targeted, 1:1 communications allow you to thoughtfully nurture each subscriber based on their specific marketing lifecycle stage. This coherent experience across touchpoints strengthens trust and brand affinity. In fact, according to Square Up, 60% of consumers prefer to be contacted by brands through email, which is good news for your business.

Longer customer retention

By continuing to dynamically adapt your messaging to each customer's evolving preferences and needs over time, you'll foster longer-lasting relationships and loyal customers. According to a study by Emarsys, 81% of small business professionals believe that email marketing efforts increase customer retention and acquisition.

The Power of Targeted Email Marketing

In today's era of personalized consumer experiences, targeted email marketing is an absolute must for driving engagement, revenue and customer loyalty. By segmenting your audiences and dynamically delivering tailored messaging, you overcome inbox noise and capture attention with value and relevance.

Here are three key takeaways to bear in mind:

  1. Leverage unified customer data to build enriched subscriber profiles encompassing demographics, behaviors and preferences. This fuels precise email segmentation.
  2. Invest in an advanced email marketing solution that streamlines automation, personalization at scale, and campaign testing.
  3. Adopt a testing mindset, continuously optimizing your targeted campaigns through A/B experimentation across segments.

Ready to elevate your email marketing game with a more personalized, data-driven approach? Subscribe to The CMO newsletter for more expert guides on targeted campaign strategies, channel best practices, and email insights.

Melissa Ariganello
By Melissa Ariganello

Melissa is a seasoned social media strategist and marketer who was recently awarded the Independent Consultant Award by Women in Marketing Community Interest Company. With a deep passion for understanding the ever-evolving digital landscape, she has developed expertise in leveraging social and content platforms to drive engagement and business growth.