Climbing the E-Mail Relevancy Ladder

Think of marketing message relevancy and the recipient as rungs on a ladder. The lowest rung is an untargeted offer sent to an list of unknown recipients. The highest is the most targeted offer, sent to the recipient most likely to respond.

The lowest rung nearly always has the lowest response rate, lowest effective CPM, highest unsubscribe rate, and most complaints. The highest rung is the opposite; it boasts the highest response rate, highest CPM, and lowest unsubscribe rate.

For this discussion, let’s assume all subscribers are 100 percent opt-in.

The goal is to push the people in your database up the email relevancy ladder. Move recipients up a notch or two. Suppose my site sells fishing trips. With 100,000 people in my database, how can I mail smarter? The first step is to build an email relevancy ladder, starting from the bottom:

  1. I don’t know anything about this person in my database.

  2. This person is interested in the outdoors.
  3. This person is interested in fishing.
  4. This person’s a man.
  5. His first name is Allen.
  6. Allen likes deep-sea fishing.
  7. Allen’s likes catching tuna.
  8. Allen takes two fishing trips a year.
  9. He usually takes those trips with three of his buddies who share the same interests.
  10. Allen takes his trips in June and October.
  11. Allen wants help planning his June trip.
  12. Allen and his buddies want to go fishing in Alaska.
  13. Allen’s ready to choose a charter company.

E-mail is a great way to push people up that ladder. The message for each rung can look the same but convey different information. Here are examples for rungs 1 and 10.

Bottom Rung

Dear Friend:

Somehow, you’re on my email list. I don’t want to waste your time or clutter your inbox with spam. Please take a moment to respond to this message so I can either continue to communicate with relevant messages, or take you off my list. Simply click one of these links:

I enjoy fishing.
I do not fish.

Thank you!

A click on top link adds a piece of information to the database and, in this case, pushes that person up two rungs. A click on the bottom link unsubscribes that person from the list.

Rung 10

Through surveys and email messages, I know Allen takes two trips a year, brings three buddies, and travels in June and October. People plan vacations several months in advance, so it’s safe to assume in February, Allen is planning his June fishing expedition. Here is an example of what I might send to him then:


I’ll bet as you wait for this cold, snowy winter to end, you’re dreaming of your next fishing trip. Based on what you’ve told me in the past, you may be thinking of going in June.

Have you and your buddies talked about where you might go? I’ve done some preliminary research. One of the best places for June tuna fishing is Cape Cod.

If you’re ready to plan your June trip, I’d love to whip together something exciting for you and your friends. Are you planning to go fishing this June?


Thanks again!

P.S. If you no longer have an interest in fishing, click here, and I’ll remove you from our database.

If Allen clicks “yes,” he’ll move up one rung and I’ll send an autoresponder immediately with some details of potential trips.

If he clicks “no,” I’ll send him an immediate autoresponder, asking when he’s planning trips for the balance of the year.

Automated email allows you to have a series of discussions with potential customers. As each person is qualified and travels up the ladder, he becomes a hotter prospect for your offer.

All you have to do is develop a ladder based on what you market, then create a message for each rung.

Happy fishing. And keep reading…

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