How can I use behavioral targeting to improve my e-mail results?

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E-mail marketers sometimes shy away from behavioral targeting because it seems too challenging or too creepy. However, it doesn’t have to be either of those things if you go about it the right way. It will take some planning and a little leg work, but the investment in time you make here will not only provide your recipient with a relevant e-mail experience but will also give you an edge over the competition. Let’s face it, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

So how do you begin using behavioral targeting without burying resources in data mining and manipulation? Start with the information you have easily available, such as e-mail metrics like open or click data, and remarket against that information. One simple tactic to employ for click-through remarketing is to start with an overarching categorization of the links contained within your message and drive decisions for follow-up communications based on the categorical click behavior. For example, if you send an apparel retail message that includes offers for kids’ clothes, men’s clothes and women’s clothes, you can categorize links accordingly and remarket an offer based on the category of expressed interest.

No matter how you slice it, the path to relevance is paved with data—not witty copy or pretty pictures, though they do enhance the experience. You can start simply and drill down as you go, achieving a greater level of relevance as you follow the path. This approach is backed up by the 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing, which states that the bulk of response opportunity in any direct marketing campaign comes from the list (40%) and the offer (40%), with only 20% attributed to creative quality. So getting the right offer to the right audience at the right time means that you have an 80% likelihood to convert—and those numbers are all driven by the data. Happy data mining.

Kara Trivunovic is senior director of strategic services at StrongMail Systems (, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.

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