Have you ever wanted to just reach into your computer and hand-pick the person or people you want to talk to? Or wanted to connect properly with a new site visitor?
Good news: there’s a way to do it, and it’s not email marketing (But you’re very close).
Email marketing is great. Targeted email marketing is better.
You might be thinking, “it’s all just email, right?
Not so much. Targeted email marketing gets more personal than just general email marketing, and we’ll explain.
Although many people are still proponents of mass email marketing or “blast emails,” these aren’t typically the best practice anymore. There is so much data available that, as marketers, we’d be crazy not to use it.
Think about it. With all of the software available today, you access to so much customer data:

  • Geographic location
  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Family type
  • What they like to buy
  • Where they like to buy it from
  • What else they might like to buy
  • What problems they are trying to solve
  • How they search for solutions

And so, so much more.
The way that targeted email marketing works not only gets more personal, but it has more impact. Specifically, the way it works has more impact on your email ROI (and typically a positive impact at that).
Targeted email marketing improves communication between you and your customers. And when you have good email communication, you have good email ROI.

Back to Basics: The What and Why of Targeted Email Marketing

Guess what — Segmented and targeted emails generate 58 percent of all revenue.
targeted email marketing statistic

That’s more than half. What are you waiting for?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “you’ve gotta crawl before you can walk?”
Well, that’s what this next bit is for. You can’t get started with targeted email marketing without first knowing the what and why behind it.

What is targeted email marketing?

Targeted email marketing is sending the right emails to the right people based on a variety of data.
It avoids what some refer to as the “spray-and-pray” method of email marketing by sending all emails to everyone and seeing what happens.
We don’t recommend this.
Here’s why we recommend a more targeted approach.

Why send targeted emails?

Why send targeted emails?
It seems easier to have all of your contacts in one place, on one list, so that you can reach everyone quickly and all at once.
You’re right, that sounds easier. But it isn’t effective, and targeted email marketing is worth the work.
(And honestly? It’s less work than you think when you’re in a platform like ActiveCampaign).
Here’s why it’s not only worth the work, but why it’s important.
Imagine if you were hosting a dinner party and you served just one dish. Now, some people might like everything that’s in it. Some might not like an ingredient, or have allergies and not go near it at all, and maybe they would even leave the party entirely.
You do NOT want your guests to leave the party.
You want to offer a variety of dishes that keeps everyone happy and interested. Spicy and mild, hot and cold, sweet and savory. Everyone will want something a little different, and multiple people might want some of the same things.
shared food analogy

Ok, everybody grab a fork. Allergies? Ok, everybody but you, grab a fork. You don’t eat shrimp? Crap…

Targeted email marketing means keeping everyone happy (and, in the case of allergies, alive).
When you create and send targeted emails, you’re including everyone at the party. You’re learning what they like and don’t like, and how to keep them coming back to all of your future dinner parties.
Targeted email marketing lets you give everyone exactly what they want and need.
And in return, it gives your email ROI exactly what it needs.

What is Email ROI?

Email ROI is the return on investment a business sees based on the results and calculation of email KPIs, or key performance indicators.
Basically, it is a measure of how much of the money invested in a campaign is returned to a business based on customer actions, like…

  • Email opens
  • Email clicks
  • Email conversions
  • Bounce rate
  • Email unsubscribes

How to calculate ROI:

[($ in additional sales made – $ invested in the campaign) ÷ $ invested in the campaign] x 100

Email marketing is one of the cheapest, easiest forms of customer communication you can do. Not only that, but it also tends to have a very positive impact on a business’ ROI.
A recent eMarketer study only proved this further. Get ready…
The median email marketing ROI is 122%. That’s four times higher than any other digital marketing channel.
marketing roi statistic

That’s no typo.

So it’s not surprising that businesses have called email the top generator of ROI for the last several years. Sending targeted emails over mass email blasts has a lot to do with this.

Targeted email marketing vs. mass email marketing

Don’t get us wrong- mass email marketing or sending ‘email blasts’ has not been blacklisted. In the right setting, a bulk message can be helpful.
(For example, a company update that affects all your customers is a reason for blast email.)
Still, getting personal with email marketing is generally the better way to go. In fact, 73 percent of millennials prefer to connect with brands over email, and they definitely don’t want to be spammed with multiple email blasts.
Email recipients, millennial or not, need a personalized, targeted reason for them to open your email.
Targeted email marketing is truly what makes the most impact on your conversion rates and subsequent email ROI.
To give you a better idea, we’ve laid out some Pros and Cons of each.

Mass email marketing


  • You can reach all of your customers with the same message at once.


  • Not every customer wants or needs the same message.
  • “Dear Customer” is impersonal and boring. Enough of them and your customers won’t be ‘dear’ anymore.

Targeted email marketing


  • You can create specific contact lists for different needs
  • You can tag contacts based on a variety of demographic factors
  • You can personalize messages to speak to individual customers
  • You can enable lead scoring based on the different personal points of a customer journey to improve your conversion rate (which makes your ROI happy)


  • Actually, there really aren’t any cons to being able to speak more personally to your customers.

Targeted emails trump mass emails, every time.

Best practices for targeted email marketing

So, now you know that targeted emails are the better way to go if you want a good email ROI.
Cool. Now what?
It’s time to create and test your own target emails. But first, we’re going to share some tips and examples of targeted email marketing.

Targeting your emails: lists, tags, and custom fields

When you’re setting up targeted email automations in ActiveCampaign, the best way to avoid mass email marketing is to segment your contacts.
The ActiveCampaign Education Center is chock-full of helpful guides, like this one all about the segmentation process using lists, tags, and custom fields. But, since you’re already here, we’ll give you a brief synopsis.
First, here’s a pretty picture at how segmenting your contacts works:

getting started course
More questions? This image comes from one of our online courses (you can register for free)

Lists are a broader form of grouping. Sending emails just based on lists would be a bit like emails blasts. That’s why extra features like tags and custom fields are here to target your emails even further.

  • Tags are the first level of targeted segmentation. Tags represent a condition or a set of conditions that often are not permanent; they can easily be applied or removed.
  • Custom fields are the most targeted form of segmentation you can employ. Custom fields represent data that is either permanent or unlikely to change often.

Bonus for ActiveCampaign users – There’s no limit to the number of custom fields and tags you can create in our platform. Make as many as you need!
The holy trinity of segmentation – lists, tagging, and custom fields – will help you as a marketer improve your targeted marketing efforts and boost the quality of your personalized messaging.
Here are some demographic and action ideas to consider for tagging and creating custom fields for your customers:

  • Where they came from, such as a form, organic search, live events, social media, etc.
  • Geographic location
  • Products purchased or regularly view
  • Pages visited
  • Downloaded content
  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Family status
  • Status (where they are in a process)
  • Actions they’ve previously taken

To give you a little extra inspiration for your own targeted emails, here are a few good examples:

Cart Abandonment Email

cart abandonment email example
Chewy gets your interest back with a reassuring, ‘got-your-back’ tone.

One of the most common, behaviorally-targeted emails is a cart abandonment email. They entice the customer enough to come back and complete the purchase process.

Follow-Up Email

follow up email example
CodeCademy makes it really hard to resist the FOMO with this email.

Follow-up emails are great to fully win over customers who have signed up but haven’t followed through. They make customers want to “join the crowd” and keep using the service, just like everyone else.

Notification Email

notification email example
Netflix knows you don’t want to miss the new season of binge-watching your favorite show.

Who can keep track of everything in their life? That’s why companies send out notification emails to remind you of things you forgot about, and things you didn’t even know you wanted to be reminded of.

What do you do now? Some A/B testing campaigns

Remember how we said earlier that not everyone at your “dinner party” will want the same thing?
It’s also hard to predict what everyone will actually want (and this time we’re talking more about emails than a dinner menu).
Not every email will work for every person.