How Do You Actually Implement Targeted Email Marketing (Without Tons of Extra Time and Resources)?

Bigger brands do it all the time: they seem to know you, sending tailored emails based on your interests, products you’ve viewed, and other information they’ve collected about you.

Targeted email marketing is a secret weapon that can help boost your open rates and conversion rates. Personalized subject lines can boost your open rates 26 percent, but targeted email marketing goes way beyond names.

From the outside, it might look like you need access to big data and big-budget tools to make it happen. But in fact, you can start getting targeted with your email marketing from the moment you start building your list. Here are a few of the simplest and most effective ways to do it.

When it’s time to actually sit down and write your targeted emails, there are a few time-tested formats you can rely on.

Get to Know Blog Readers With a Survey

The key to targeting is having information about your subscribers. If you feel like you’re starting from scratch, not to worry. You can get the information you need in the course of developing a relationship with your subscribers.

Many marketers try to get a jump start by asking for tons of information during the opt-in process. You see opt-in forms like this:

But asking for so much information could potentially hurt your conversion rates. In our experience, opt-in forms with fewer fields generally win in tests against those that request lots of data.

To avoid tanking your opt-in rate, wait to ask for the full scoop until after someone’s opted in and received something valuable from you. Then, build a survey into your welcome email sequence.

You probably already have an automated email that goes out to welcome new subscribers to your list and get them acquainted with your brand and your most popular content. But you can also use that email (or another email in your larger welcome sequence, if you have one) to get to know your customers a little better.

Think about your ideal customer avatars, or the larger topics that your blog covers. Then break down your focuses into a few helpful categories, which might be based on the kind of content they prefer, their business type, or what kind of tips they’re looking for.

For instance, if my blog contained both consumer-focused fashion coverage and fashion industry news, it would be reasonable to assume that some readers are only interested in one or the other. I can use a quick survey in an email to tag subscribers so that I only send them the most relevant information in the future.

I can do this easily by creating an automation rule in Drip. I’ll just set up a trigger link that applies a tag to those subscribers who click on it.

Then, I can send an automated email that asks readers to click on the link that best describes them, choosing between “I work in the fashion industry and want to receive industry news updates” and “I want to receive fashion inspiration and shopping tips.”

Make sure to indicate how subscribers will benefit from answering the survey. In this example, the answers themselves tell respondents about the relevant content they’ll be getting when they answer.

Then, I will automatically tag them and can target emails based on niche interest. For example, I could:

  • Send emails about specific products to leads based on their area of interest.
  • Avoid flooding leads’ inboxes by only emailing them about relevant promotions.
  • Get the best possible open rates and conversion rates for a joint webinar by mailing only to the readers I know would want to attend.

Trigger Emails Based on Actions Leads Take

You don’t always need a survey to learn what your subscribers are interested in.

You can use Drip’s tracking script to keep tabs on what pages of your site they’re visiting and trigger actions automatically.

For instance, you might want to flag a subscriber as a prospect once they’ve visited your pricing page. After all, if I’m researching how much your product or service costs, it’s reasonable to assume I’d be interested in making a purchase.

Flagging them as a prospect will enable lead scoring for that lead, which will keep track of their interactions with your emails and website. They will get points for interacting with emails and pages on your site, and lose points for inactivity. Using that score, you can get a pretty good idea of who your most interested prospects are, based on how much they’re interacting with you.

Once they have a high enough score, you might want to automatically fire a sales email, to help close the sale.

For another page-based automation, set up a workflow that will automatically check whether subscribers tagged after visiting your checkout page become customers within a day. If they don’t buy in a day, they’ll get an automated email that allows you to address any questions or hesitations they have.

This system will allow you to follow up with customers who almost purchased, but didn’t quite finish the process.

Setting up important pages on your site as triggers allows you to track the actions that indicate that a lead is seriously considering your product. Then you can follow-up to convert more leads into customers.

Use Liquid to Personalize Emails (Beyond “Hello, First Name”)

Liquid is a templating language that allows you to insert content into emails based on what you know about subscribers. It’s a helpful tool for targeted email marketing because you can tailor the content of one email to different segments of your list without having to send multiple times.

For instance, you can personalize the email with a name if you have one, while leaving that spot blank if you don’t, with code like this:

Hello{% if subscriber.name %} {{ subscriber.name }}{% endif %},

But Liquid is useful beyond first names. For instance, say I have a membership site with standard and VIP membership options, which I sell access to via Gumroad.

Inside Drip, I’d first set up two different automation rules, each of which will “listen” for purchases of one membership level and tag purchasers as either standard or VIP members.

Then, I can use Liquid conditionals to display custom reminders inside a broadcast to my list. In the example below, my VIP members will see a call to register for a VIP webinar, whereas my standard members will see a reminder about content that’s available to everyone.

A call to action to make a purchase in an email might be a bit annoying for people who have already purchased your product. You can use Liquid to send one email to your entire list, but hide certain parts from existing customers.

First, you can set up an automation that automatically tags customers after they complete a transaction in your payment processor, like Shopify. Then, you’ll be able to display and hide content within your emails based on whether or not someone has purchased from you.

In this example, I used liquid to hide my “PS” section from customers. If might be a little hard to read, but it basically says that it will display that text unless the subscriber is tagged as a customer.

Send Promotions to Engaged Subscribers

It might seem like a good idea to get every promotion in front of as many eyes as possible, but targeting your promotion emails can increase your open rates and clickthrough rates and keeps your subscribers from feeling overwhelmed by your emails.

You can target subscribers based on numerous factors, but one of the easiest ways is to just target engaged email subscribers. I might want to only email subscribers who have opened my last 3 emails.

In the above example, I would just select my last 3 broadcast emails from the drop-down menus.

Some other ways you could segment promotions include:

  • Target subscribers who clicked on a link within your emails, for another measure of engagement. If you wrote a blog post that relates to your new product, for instance, you could mail only the people who clicked through an email to read your blog post, inviting them to join your beta testers group.
  • Target subscribers who opened emails on topics relating to your promotion. If I wanted to promote my fashion news subscription service, I might send an email about it to people who opened my last few emails related to fashion news. In the example above, I would just choose those specific broadcast emails from the dropdown menu.

With all of these techniques, you can see that targeted email marketing is really about more than putting first names in your emails. Targeting allows you to speak more personally to your subscribers, based on what you know about them. It’s not about mountains of data or big-budget tools, it’s about seeing your subscribers as individuals and understanding what makes them different from each other.


How have you implemented targeted email marketing? Let us know your best tips in the comments!