Email marketing is easy to get wrong and difficult to do
well, yet many firms fail to use the data they’ve captured to target their
messages more effectively.

This means that they are effectively choosing to work blind
and use guesswork to increase their open and click-through rate, when they
could be working with real facts and figures about their recipients instead.

It’s hard to understand why this is. Any data you collect
during a purchase cycle is useful if you then plan to contact your clients in
the future.

Even if you’re not inviting them to give you details about
themselves, you can often tell their interests from their purchases.

Someone buying a family holiday to Florida is less likely to
care about your discounted 18-30 ‘Crazy Times’ package to Excess Island.

And someone who’s bought a new boiler is less likely to care
about – well – buying a new boiler.

There’s a certain amount you can learn simply from looking
at the purchases your clients have already made and applying some common sense.

Here are three key rules for
making the most of your email data.

Bigger distribution is not better

Some businesses work on the principle that they
have 1.5 million email addresses, so they should use them.

This is the antithesis of best practice and means your
emails are more likely to become caught in spam filters. Eventually, that means
that your emails won’t even reach the customers that do want to receive your

So, segment your customers into groups, even if one of those
groups is ‘customers I know nothing about who need generic content’ and discard
‘cold’ customers who never open your emails.

You may want to attempt a re-engagement programme with them
but, if that doesn’t work, then drop them. They are not worth the cost to your

Then you can target different segments of customers
accordingly, giving you a higher open rate and a better chance of steering
clear of spam filters. Segmentation increases relevancy and relevancy boosts

Segment into groups that make sense for your

There are many, many different ways you can segment your
customers; age, frequency of purchase, whether they have a family, whether
they’re students or professionals, how often they use your services, and more.

I can’t tell you how to segment your clients effectively
because it depends so greatly on the business that you’re in. So let’s look at
a couple of specific examples to give an idea of the kind of segments different
companies might use.

Starting out with a simple example: consider a baby and
child product retailer. It can tell the age of the customer’s family by the
products they buy and then target those different customers with very different

For example, someone shopping for ‘newborn’ clothes is
likely to be interested in young baby products and is perhaps setting up their

So, you could send that group emails marketing nursery
furniture, prams and other newborn paraphernalia. You can even target them with
‘Baby’s first Christmas’-type messages, so they can see it’s relevant to them.

Whereas, people buying clothes and toys for toddlers are
more likely to respond to ‘Entertain the brood this Halloween’ and ‘Clothes
that stay clean’-style content. Targeting like this will boost your open rate
and click-through.

The second example I want to consider is an outdoors shop,
selling tents, flasks and hiking clothing.

This kind of retailer will want to break down their clients
into groups like ‘family, family breaks’, ‘family, adventurous’, ‘single,
adventurous’, ‘couple, adventurous’ and so on.

It can then target these customers with different marketing
messages and even different images within the emails, in order to reinforce the
relevance once it’s been opened.

A family who likes family breaks is likely to buy
bog-standard tents, suitable for a campsite in south Wales. They’ll tend to
care less about the weight of their camping gear and more about the ease of

Whereas, a couple who routinely buy adventurous kit, like
approach shoes; lightweight, windproof tents; first aid kits; and solar shower
bags will need to be targeted with very different products and messages.

Treat regular big spenders well

There’s one group that every online retailer needs to single
out for special attention, and that’s big spenders and frequent customers.

You need to reward these loyal customers and give them
special deals and privileges, so that they know that you value them and the
loyalty is returned.

Not only can this boost sales even further, but it lessens
the likelihood of these customers being poached by another company that is
prepared to go above and beyond to secure their business.

How to begin collecting data

Don’t demand too much too early on, you could frighten your
new customer off. I have abandoned purchases in the past because I kept being
pestered for information about myself.

If your customer has agreed to let you send them messages
then don’t abuse that, read up on best practice for email marketing and only
send valuable content.

As your customer begins to trust you not to fill their inbox
with spam and to respect their data, you can start requesting more details.

Customer surveys with prize draws for participation,
monitoring any further purchases they make, these are ways to gradually build
up a picture of the client you’re dealing with.

This then becomes a virtuous circle, as your targeted emails
encourage even greater loyalty from your customer and boost their spend on your
website. Everyone is happy – which is a difficult thing to achieve with email

Further segmentation

Segmenting your customers does take time, but you’ll soon
see an increased open and click-through rate, so the value of the work will become
even more important.

If you want to further enhance your campaign, have a read of
Chris Lake’s article ‘How
to segment customers into ‘1% clubs’ to boost satisfaction
‘, there
are some good ideas for more advanced segmentation.