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Unlock the Secret of Email Relevance

In my last blog,  I showed you how both retailers and customers benefit from the convergence of user need and seller solutions during the Holiday Season.

This is not, of course, the usual experience of most marketers. Instead, we have to do what we can to uncover what is relevant – which is to say – what matters to each recipient at that moment in time. Here’s how you do it.

Unlocking General Relevance

General Relevance is the broad categories that your product and your likely customers fall into. A good example of this is a company that sells life insurance policies. There are natural groups that are likely to be more interested in taking out a policy – young families, homeowners, and sole breadwinners, for instance. What is key here is that promotions are designed to appeal to each defined group of “most likely” customers. Arguably, the marketer for our hypothetical insurance company would promote differently to a young family than s/he would to a middle aged couple.

Consider your own products and your email communications. Do you have a different communication flow for each target group or are your emails “one approach fits all”? If the latter, match your communications against your target profiles. Is one approach right for all groups or should each group have its own? When you lay it out, you’ll likely see what does and doesn’t work.

Unlocking Specific Relevance

Specific Relevance is more complicated to discern because it relates to the individual needs, desires, real-life circumstances and, frankly, the attention span of each recipient at any given moment. This is where the real work needs to be done. Using our life insurance example above: has your recipient just lost a job, bought a house, given birth, inherited money, or divorced? Any of these are personal circumstances that are likely to greatly affect a recipient’s interest and openness to an email offer and are not easy for a marketer working in real-time to uncover. And even the best offer sent at the wrong time for your recipient to pay attention to it will have the same effect as a bad email offer sent at the right time. Namely, no response.

It’s important to keep in mind that relevance is fluid. Subject matter of the offer + Timing of the offer + Ease of redemption all work in concert to affect the perceived relevance by your recipient and impacts the overall effectiveness of your email campaign.


It is also true, that how much specific relevance you can discover is a function of how sophisticated the tools you have at your disposal are; the more robust your email marketing platform and its reporting, the easier you’ll be able to define and act upon it. However, even the simplest systems can provide you with information that will give you some insights you can use to enhance the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.

These pieces of information will help you to determine how relevant your communications and promotions are to your individual recipients:

  • Importance of day of week. Marketers say no promotions on Monday but there may be members of your audience that Monday is perfectly fine for.
  • Time of day or night. If your recipient usually opens their emails from you at night, you may want to move their emails to a different window of time.
  •  Links clicked. Is there a strong level of interest in certain types of content, products, or services that will allow you to customize your communications?
  • Activity Level. How likely is a recipient to open an email from you and take action? Strong respondents should be treated differently than non-respondents.
  • Subject Matter. Does your recipient respond to personalization, like funny subject lines, prefers free shipping to special saving offers, etc…..?

If email is a significant part of your marketing program, I strongly encourage you to learn more about your individual recipient behaviors. It’s unlikely you will know all that you would like to know but any insights you can glean about your individual recipients is going to be to your benefit.