Things have changed since Henry Ford said customers can have their car painted any color they want so long as it's black. Customers are a lot more in control now. You cannot sell the same product with the same messaging to everyone.

If you are an email marketer who is doing traditional "batch and blast" email marketing, now's a good time to start segmenting and sending triggered emails. Doing so allows you to send more relevant emails and achieves better response from your subscribers.

Most email service providers (ESPs) have tools that make it easy to segment your list and schedule triggered emails based on specific criteria. In addition, email reports generate specific subscribers who performed specific actions (e.g., clicked on a link) and other data useful in targeting your emails.

Although segmenting will help you target your emails and get you far better outcomes, many people hesitate to start because they are busy and think it will take a lot of time and effort. The reality is that you can start with some basic segmenting, and extend it later on.

Getting Started

Let's say you are in the wine business and you have a field in your database that delineates general palate preference: "dry," "sweet," and "both." In addition, you have another field that delineates wine color preference: "red," "white," and "both."

For those likely to respond to special sales on dry Cabernet, you would use the filtering feature provided by your ESP to choose those who have "dry" selected in the palate field and "red" selected in the color field. You could also expand your reach by selecting subscribers who have selected "both" in the palate and color fields. Accordingly, your sweet, white wine lovers are excluded from getting an email that is not directly relevant to them.

Use Your Reports

Most ESPs provide good reporting on the outcome of your emails: opens, click-through rate (CTR), bounces (both hard and soft), unsubscribes, complaints, and delivery reports. You can get the raw numbers and drill down to get the specific subscribers who performed the specific behavior.

If you find that certain subscribers have clicked on a specific link in your email, you can be reasonably sure that they have some interest in what you were offering at the other end of that link. Don't ignore that clue—send them relevant emails. You could then pull the lists of those who clicked on, say, the link for a discount on Cabernet, learn who the Cabernet lovers are on your list, and refine your targeting to them accordingly.

The converse is also true. If you see recipients on your list who rarely open your emails or click on your links, you might need to get their attention again with some fresh approaches. You could focus more attention on promoting the social aspect of your Friday night wine tasting, where enthusiasts gather as much for the conversation as for the wine.

Testing is key to see what you can do to re-excite your dormant subscribers. It could be as simple as trying livelier subject lines. My local wine shop uses compelling subject lines such as "Friday Flights: The Big Bordeaux Blast," "E-Specials: Mediterranean Pleasures," and the like.

Always review your email marketing reports carefully to monitor your results and to determine whether there are ways you could use the report information to more effectively target your emails. Some ESPs even enable you to easily integrate your email marketing reporting with Google Analytics.

Triggered Emails

Most ESPs have a feature called triggers (sometimes called autoresponders) that enable you to send emails based on dates or at certain intervals from the time the subscriber joined your list.

Many email marketers send out promotions ahead of subscribers' birthdays and anniversaries. This is the very definition of a relevant email: It arrives at the right time with the right message.

You could include coupons in these promotions that the subscriber can use to get a discount. A coupon may be printable or, if you sell online, the coupon code could be recognized by your e-commerce system to apply the discount automatically.

Quite a few email marketers have said that they get much, or even most, of their repeat business and total business through such email marketing promotions. Customer loyalty is king.

The fact is, without busting your budget or using up all your time, these methods can help you significantly improve response to your email marketing campaigns and build stronger relationships by sending relevant, timely messages.

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Neil Anuskiewicz is director of business development for the StreamSend Email Marketing service, which also offers a private-label email marketing reseller program.