Not Your Grandma’s Digital Marketing: Email Targeting That Works!


We’ve collected the bright ideas of niche email marketing visionaries for you!

Burning Digital Marketing Question of the Day: What are the most effective ways to drive traffic, customers, and revenues?

Do you still think email is so old-school and only a hopeless combat against everyone’s totally jammed in-box? Guess again. The right email messaging targeted to the right segments of your niche can increase campaign response tenfold! How? By focusing on what matters most — compelling design, relevant content, and clear calls-to-action.

We consulted our whiz-kid panel of experts to shed some light on the subject of effective emails that boost ROI. Here’s what Melissa Thrune, Sales Manager for WATT Global Media, Becky Fenton, Director of Audience Development for paid publications for 1105 Media and Chris Wright, Director of Sales & Promotions at Prime Publishing had to say:

NMHQ: What’s so important about creating smart, hyper-targeted EMAIL to drive traffic, customers, and revenue? Are there any pitfalls to avoid?

mnvi8vlw3ytripjcr4cdMelissa: “Creating the right email messaging can help you learn about HOW your audience is engaging with your content, what platform they are they using–such as magazine, eNewsletter, audience targeted messaging, websites etc. This is vital to uncover.

Regarding pitfalls—everyone gets bogged down by targeting their messages based on job title and geography, vs content engagement. There is a hidden audience you may not know about, people that are engaging with your content BUT they may not necessarily have the decision-maker job title. Reaching those influencers is just as important and in some cases can be more important to start their internal discussions to become your customer.

NMHQ: Can you give us some real-world email tips? 


1. Include industry buzzwords in your messaging. For example, in the pet food market, right now food safety is a hot topic, so how does their solution help manufacturers align with the new regulations? Or reduce costs in production? Having these kinds of buzzwords in the subject line are important and they are more apt to open the message. Have a link in your message driving traffic back to your site related to this topic with a fill-in field to learn more about how they can meet regulations or reduce costs etc.

2. Collecting data about your visitors is also important and be sure to have a person designated to continue to engage with these people in discussions. Take the mentality “How can I help them achieve their goal, thus showcasing the benefits of partnering with me on this solution.”

3. Social media advertising is great and can be minimal in cost, but are you engaging with the right audience or just “spamming” everyone? Recently, I found a company promoting a mini-webinar thru LinkedIn, which was showing up on news feeds regardless of the industry the person was in. How is that beneficial to the content they crafted? Instead, define and target an audience you wish to engage with and roll out a program to promote the next mini-webinar this fall, for example.”

NMHQ: What are some common mistakes you see in design and content?

ntksn5qmewb4ra0gffbfChris: ““Making your online creative the same as you would a print space ad – not good! With online you have space galore. Take your time, engage the consumer. Make every image clickable.” Provide a variety of link-outs.  I love it <insert sarcasm here> when I see the URL written out: “” rather than a call to action, such as “Click For Info Now!” Another mistake is when publishers do not include social media links. The customer expects to see you and check you out via social media. Not including those icons & direct links is the same as not including your brand logo. Bad, very bad.” 

alkscqozph822aet6g4kBecky: “One of the most common mistakes I see is to still use “click here” for CTA’s in email, when so many people are using smartphones/tables and they are not “clicking” anywhere. Don’t have too many different CTA’s in your email.  If you really want someone to buy product A, don’t offer 10 other product options that might overwhelm them to not click at all.  Keep your message as focused as possible.

mnvi8vlw3ytripjcr4cdMelissa: “Having too much content. It is important to convey concise information in a quick and easy format to read with little to no scrolling involved. People are busy and don’t time to read everything, so bullet points work nicely. Think about how it will look on a mobile device, screens tend to be smaller, so what do you want to convey should be prominent and easily read/seen on smart phones. Also–If there no dedicated landing pages to track traffic or collect contact information of those that clicked on links in your emarketing, how are you going to further engage with people if you don’t know who they are?”

NMHQ: Niche publishers are always looking for new ways to increase their response rates. What really works?

alkscqozph822aet6g4kBecky: “Know your audience.  If you can be loose and personable with copy and it fits your brand, use that approach!  If you have a more formal audience, don’t try to use too much “lingo.” Research the latest trends and attend conferences like this!  Adapt emails that made YOU click through to fit your own needs.”


mnvi8vlw3ytripjcr4cdMelissa: “Catchy subject lines – and often the hardest to craft. I often recommend asking yourself, “What would get you to open the message?” We are bombarded with so much email you really need to stand out in your subject line as that is the first impression in most cases. Sometimes cheeky subject lines work the best, or if you can put fact or figure (watch the length) such as “Reduce production costs by 10%” helps intrigue people. An equal mixture of content and images is also important to help break up the verbiage, but images often can tell a lot about your solutions too.

And don’t just send them to your home page, it makes the person “dig” for the information they are looking for and people are too busy for that. Instead, have a landing page (or multiple) that are linked to different places on a website. Keep it simple with regards to fonts and colors. Remember, how is this going to look on a mobile device? Is your message mobile responsive? Can your message be personalized? Can it start “Dear John” or have the companies name you are emailing in the message somewhere, to help with the personalization and seem less “blast” like?”

ntksn5qmewb4ra0gffbfChris: We’re sending out roughly 45 million eNewsletters weekly. Tweaking opens can gain a percentage point or two, and that makes a significant difference in the optimization. So, we test, test, and test again!

Things we are testing every week, usually on a/b split formats:

  • Subject lines: “12 New Knit Projects For You” vs “Twelve New Knit Projects For You” (**Hint, 1 of the above formats ALWAYS out performs the others!)
  • Layout format: Color of the line breaks, thick, thin. Reverse Out Copy:  Formatting of bullets – symbols or #’s, etc.
  • Placement of ads within the eNewsletter: On top of, next to (right or left), middle of content. 

P.S. You can learn more from our expert panel as they lead the dynamic session What Goes Around, Comes Around… Email Marketing Rediscovered at the 2016 Niche Digital Conference in Denver, Sept. 19-21. Don’t miss it!



More about Melissa:  As a Sales Manager for WATT Global Media, Melissa Thrune works at developing marketing strategies for clients in the Petfood Industry portfolio of print, digital and live events. Past: Melissa has a Masters in Animal Nutrition from the University of Minnesota and was previously a technical sales manager for a leading global ingredient supplier to the pet food manufacturing market.

More about Becky: Becky Fenton came to 1105 Media in 2011 as a Circulation Manager, and has since risen to her current role of Director of Audience Development for paid publications. In addition to the overall marketing and audience strategy for the paid publications, she handles email design, copy, and analysis and is always on the lookout for the newest, most effective way to design and code the current email campaign she’s working on.

More about Chris: Chris Wright is the Director of Sales & Promotions at Prime Publishing, LLC. Prime has 32 niche consumer cooking, crafting and DIY websites, 41 eNewsletters, and a couple of eMagazines and Print publications. He has grown ad revenue through development of many promotional offerings including stand-alone and multi-branded eBooks, industry networking events, and video tie-ins.


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. Next up? The Niche Digital Conference in Denver, Sept. 19-21. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau – Niche Media’s Grand Poobah – is launching the all new Super Niche Event, March 27-29, 2017. Check it out!

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