Targeting Is Everything

Email marketers know that targeting is key after all, you would probably have more success selling Barbie dolls to mothers of little girls than you would to biker dudes about whom you know nothing but sometimes the road from theory to practice isn’t always a smooth one, and your visibility may not be the greatest. So this week we’ll take a look at a company that has put its energy into creating highly targeted email campaigns.

TechTarget (with a moniker like that, the company is almost obligated to live up to its name by experimenting with targeting) is a collection of web sites that serve as aggregators of category-specific content for IT professionals in areas such as customer relationship management, networking, enterprise storage, and more.

With email being the primary marketing vehicle, comprising approximately 65 percent of the marketing budget, TechTarget relies on email as the key method of acquiring members and the sole method of retaining them. And it does so typically through the use of opt-in lists from third-party list brokers.

So here are some of the different strategies TechTarget uses, illustrating what you can learn by example:

  1. Tailor the message. Marketers know that the way an item is presented can be as important as the item itself, so TechTarget has experimented with creating different messages for different audiences that revolve around the same product.

    For instance, one of the site’s portals is, a doorway to more than 2,000 prescreened Hewlett-Packard-related sites. A couple of months ago, TechTarget rented 40,000 opt-in email addresses from an HP-specific publication list broker and sent out a message highlighting the site’s free HP Market Strategy Report in the subject line and the HP-specific search engine and other HP information in the body of the text.

    Last month, knowing the synergy between HP and UNIX, TechTarget went to a population of 40,000 UNIX users (via the opt-in list specialist PostMasterDirect) and changed the message. The subject line read ” FREE UNIX Tips and Info!!” and the text featured sections of the site, such as HP-UX Training and Certification.

    According to Sean Brooks, the director of site marketing at TechTarget, the click-through and conversion rates performed as well as TechTarget had predicted for both target groups.

    Summary: Same site, different audience, different message.

  2. Create offers expressly for your target audience. This concept bleeds over into simple good marketing practices give your customers what they want but TechTarget can back up its concept with data. Last December, TechTarget launched the site, and it rented 200,000 names from opt-in list brokers. The results were a 20 percent click-through rate and an approximately 2.5 percent conversion rate.

    But TechTarget was still learning about its audience, and it hypothesized that a freebie would draw in the kinds of individuals who would be interested in the site. So four months later it sent out a mailing to a similar list, offering a white-paper giveaway. The click-through rates approached 35 percent, and the conversion rate more than doubled, to about 6.5 percent.

    Summary: Free stuff and appropriate target equals higher conversion rates.

  3. Niche audiences perform better than broader ones. OK, so that’s another obvious statement, but, once again, TechTarget shows how it works in practice. First, the company sent out a promotional mailing to NT users. Then, the company sent the same mailing to a broader group of users, those interested in networking. The response rate was cut in half.

  4. Experiment with different targeted markets. TechTarget sought out and tested opt-in lists from a number of third parties, including PostMasterDirect, Direct Media, Listworks, 24/7 Media, and others, to see which offered the best performance. There are a lot of legitimate list rentals, and finding the most highly targeted lists for a company involves trial and error, so be sure to test as many options as possible.

  5. Don’t settle for less. It’s obvious that good marketers know their markets, so when a list doesn’t perform as well as expected, be sure to go back to the list broker and point out the deficiencies. Brooks said the brokers often came back and agreed that TechTarget was right, the list wasn’t composed of the exact target market promised. And that’s usually the main factor in a poor rate of response.

    “We found that when we break the rules around timing (what days and what time of day mailings are sent out), it doesn’t hurt us as much as when our targeting is off,” Brooks notes.

As we said, targeting is everything.

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