Mastering List Targeting

When you’re trying to create the most successful e-mail campaigns, one critical element for exceeding your goals is ensuring you have the best list targeting. E-mail list targeting is tricky to master. There are many ways to select a target list: behavioral targeting, demographic matching, data overlays, competitive segmenting, and even the more recent e-mail trend, lifestyle targeting.

Which approach works best depends the campaign’s goal.

For acquisition efforts, go with competitive segmenting and lifestyle targeting. Competitive segmenting is the process of looking at the third-party lists competitors use, gleaming insights from those choices, and staying far away from those lists. In most cases, your competitors will go after the same list type and, therefore, over e-mail the best targets. Testing a second-choice list may actually be more effective than using your first choices.

Lifestyle targeting is an alternative way to pursue the marketplace by reaching an audience where they work and live. Say your target is working professionals in the top five walkable cities. Instead of trying to reach them through industry-related publications, try publications they read during their commute or via their online subscriptions, and provide them with information they can use for their commute.

For retention efforts, start with behavioral targeting that includes purchase information. Often, many companies only include opens and clicks in behavioral targeting. This can be misleading. A frequent business flyer, whose travel is coordinated and paid for by the company travel department, opens and clicks on e-mail less often than most, but his purchase activity is very high. A typical behavioral segmentation would categorize these people as periodic readers or responders when, in actuality, they’re your most loyal, highest-volume customers.

If you don’t have the budget, resources, or time to follow any of the above advice, then for effective list segmentation use the CTR (define). Look at the results on your last three e-mail campaigns and find those people who both opened and clicked on at least two e-mail messages. That group becomes the model target segment moving forward. Use this group to test offers, messages, timing, even a survey, if you have time. By studying this group’s responses, behaviors, responsiveness, and even demographic profile, over time you’ll learn how to reach your most responsive audience.

The type of targeting that works best for your company will vary quite a bit based on industry, product offering, and messaging intent. Some industry insights you may find useful:

  • Financial service segmentation works best using second-tier lists for acquisition to avoid overexposure on the most common lists.

  • Personal entertainment works best using behavior-based segmentation to offers, with a focus on responses being altered by changing creative.
  • High tech has recently found success reaching decision makers by targeting personal lifestyle interests, such as partnering with music download sites.
  • Travel industries have seen success with revenue-based segmentation rather than behavioral alone.
  • Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have seen success using demographics rather than distribution locations.

For more professional advice, companies like Offermatica have built businesses based on defining ultimate analytics and targeting solutions for your list. If you have questions about the best targeting strategy for your industry, try one of the above approaches, contact these companies, or feel free to e-mail me. Good luck.

Meet Jeanniey at E-Mail Marketing, the first in the new ClickZ Specifics conference series, October 24-25 in New York City.

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