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Targeted Email Marketing Guide: Beginners Guide to Better Email Marketing, Segmentation, and Targeting

I'm an internet marketing veteran of over 10 years. I love teaching and sharing my experiences, including fishing tips.


You may have heard of email marketing, but have you heard of “targeted email marketing?” If not, then strap in, we’re about to take your email marketing skills to the next level.

A decade or two ago, putting together an email list and sending emails to it was enough to qualify as decent email marketing. That’s no longer the case. We are getting more emails than ever, Gmail is getting really good at filtering emails out, customers are getting pickier, and reporting spam has never been easier.

On top of all of these changes, email service providers are watching bounce and spam rates more closely to keep their deliverability high. Deliverability is to email service providers what flight safety is to airlines.

What follows in this article is an overview of what targeted email marketing is, some examples of email list segmentation, why you shouldn’t purchase email marketing lists, and why you should consider stepping up your targeting game. Here we go.

What Is Targeted Email Marketing?

Targeted email marketing is all about sending specific messages to an audience that will actually care about what you have to say. Targeted email marketing is about increasing the overall relevancy of your message by sending it to people with a higher probability of connecting with it.

Untargeted spam emails are the complete inverse of this. Targeted email marketing is about using the information you have about your subscribers to send them messages that are relevant to them.

What Is Email Marketing Segmentation?

Segmentation is when you create sub-groups of people from your email list. Take this sample email list I made (yes, they are Disney/Pixar characters).


As you can see, I have email addresses, first names, last names, ebook purchase information, marital information, children information, birthday, and country. What are some things we could do with this information?

Let’s say we have two ebooks that we sell on our website. We’ll call them eBook 1 and eBook 2.

Question: How could we segment this list to be more useful if we were running a sale on eBook #1?

Answer: We could first start off by filtering out all people who have already purchased it!

This is the filtered list of subscribers who have not purchased our ebook #1 yet.

This is the filtered list of subscribers who have not purchased our ebook #1 yet.

We’ve now filtered out 14% of people from our list who wouldn’t have been interested in our offer. Are there any other useful things you can think of to segment the list?

Well, it’s likely that if a customer has bought something from you in the past, they’re probably more willing to buy from you again. The list we have here can be further segmented into two lists:

1. Customers who have never purchased an eBook from you.

These are customers who have never purchased anything from us.

These are customers who have never purchased anything from us.

2. Customers who bought your other eBook, but not the one you’re running a sale on.

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These are customers who purchased our eBook #2, but didn't buy eBook #1. What were they thinking!

These are customers who purchased our eBook #2, but didn't buy eBook #1. What were they thinking!

If you segmented this list like that, you could send out two different, much more relevant emails to promote your eBook sale!

The emails could look something like:

Email #1:

"Hey, I know you haven’t purchased one of my ebooks in the past, but I’m running a sale and this is the perfect time to learn more about this topic at my lowest price of the year!"

Email #2:

"Hey, you purchased my other eBook and I thought you might be interested in a sale I’m running on my other eBook to help complete the set. I want you to have all of the information on this industry."

As you can see, you can always make your messaging more relevant. With this very simple set of segments, we’ve managed to:

  1. Filter out customers who wouldn’t be interested.
  2. Contact potential first-time customers in a more relevant way.
  3. Contact potential repeat-customers in a more relevant way.

You’ve just massively increased your chances of sales while decreasing the possibility of uninterested customers unsubscribing from your list. You can contact them in the future with a different, and relevant offer (maybe a sale on eBook #2?).

What Are Some Examples of Email List Segmentation?

You’re Offering a Course on Improving Your Marriage:

Because this course presumes marriage as a prerequisite, it might be best to only send your event information to people on your list who are classified as married. Now, I know you might be thinking: “some of the people on the list might be married and just didn’t want to tell me.”

Exactly: that’s one of the reasons for segmenting. For one reason or another, they didn’t want to tell you they were married. Therefore, you shouldn’t target your whole list on the off-chance that someone might be mis-classified. This is our newly segmented list based on marital status:

This is the segment of our list who informed us they are married.

This is the segment of our list who informed us they are married.

Book Signing in Paris:

You’ve hit the big times and you’re flying out to Paris, France to do a book signing. Wouldn’t it be cool to tell the subscribers who are roughly located in the area? How could we segment this? Well, we can start by filtering out the Americas and fictional universes. Now we’re left with people who are located much closer to your event.

This is the segment of our list who we think might be interested in attending our book signing in Paris!

This is the segment of our list who we think might be interested in attending our book signing in Paris!

Mother’s Day Discount for Moms on Your List:

This is accomplished very easily with our email list. We just filter for females with kids and this is what we end up with:

This is the segment of our list who are mothers.

This is the segment of our list who are mothers.

Video: Learn More About Email List Segmentation:

Can I Just Buy Email Lists?

Ok, this is where some tips to avoid prison come in! You could buy an email list, if you want to ruin your deliverability and possibly risk legal action due to a number of important factors to understand. First, you have to find an email service provider that’s willing to let you use purchased lists (there aren’t many). Also, purchasing and legitimately using lists of European leads has gotten significantly more tenuous because of GDPR.

It’s illegal to purchase Canadian email addresses due to Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation. Another thing, if the United States email addresses didn’t opt-in to the list, then that’s a violation of the US CAN-SPAM act.

I imagine that purchasing email address lists will be generally illegal worldwide in the next 5-10 years. I could keep going, but instead, here are more resources in case you still think purchasing an email list might be a good idea:

Why Is Targeted Email Marketing Effective?


Relevant marketing messages are useful for your subscribers. This is the foundation to Google and Facebook’s marketing juggernauts. It is all about relevancy to the viewer. Relevancy in marketing is no longer the future of marketing- it is marketing. People are no longer OK with irrelevant, untargeted ads.

Now, of course, it’s important to avoid being too personal with your data. You don’t want your customers to feel “creeped out” by the knowledge you wield, even though you aren’t personally typing these messages and looking at their data.

Who can forget the story of Target using data to accidentally tell a teenage girl’s father that she was pregnant when she didn’t tell a soul? Whoops!


We live during a time where we’re completely aware that most businesses don’t actually know our first name, but we have the technology to help us personalize the experience. Personalization, when done correctly, can make for an almost magical experience for readers. It can even make your subscribers feel like you’re writing the email to them manually!

It’s a shot to the ego when your name is gotten wrong, but luckily, that’s generally hard to mess up with today’s email marketing systems.

But what about congratulating a person on a new baby that’s on the way (when the email recipient is actually a single male)? Or that time Pinterest sent an email out to single women congratulating them on getting married (when they weren't)?

Targeted emails can be the difference between making a sale and getting an unsubscribe notification. It’s a very powerful tool versus the generic type of marketing that a lot of lazy marketers do.


It has been said that the job of a good designer is to choose what to leave out of the design. It could similarly be said that the mark of a good email marketer is just as much the messages they don’t send to you as the messages they do send to you.

When you use proper email targeting, you ensure that only the most relevant messages are being sent to the people on your list. This shows respect to your subscribers because you aren’t cluttering their inboxes with messages that are worthless to them. This also shows respect for their time.

Final Thoughts

Email marketing has matured over the last decade and continues to be refined. In addition to that, governments and laws are evolving to address challenges from this technology. This is why it’s more important than ever to ensure:

  • You are sending valuable information.
  • You are sending it to people who want to be contacted by you.
  • You aren’t sending emails unnecessarily to untargeted parties.

As you improve your email marketing skills, you will see your key performance indicators (KPIs) reflect this change. Whether that is better open rates, more click-through traffic, or more sales. I hope this article serves as a great primer to help you towards those goals. Thank you.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 19, 2018:

Hey, Dennis, thanks for responding. I greatly valued your article. I will be watching out for other stories that can make me success online from your stable. Many thanks again.

Dennis Ebris (author) from Florida on September 18, 2018:

Hi Miebakagh,

I'm glad my article will be useful for you. Good luck in your marketing. Stay motivated, stay positive, keep working dilligently and delivering value and you will succeed. Have a great day!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 16, 2018:

Hello, Dennis, this is very useful information. I am not an email marketer but some days I will be one. I have bookmarked the article for later information and study. Thank you for sharing.

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