TheSkimm is a daily email newsletter. But it’s not just any newsletter. According to Wall Street Journal, at its two year anniversary, TheSkimm had over 500,000 subscribers and a daily open rate of over 45%. A good benchmark for average open rate in any industry is about 20%. I heard about TheSkimm from another director at OMNI and it peaked my interest, but I doubted I’d remain a subscriber for long. I would rather give up pizza (cringe) than be forced to watch the news every day. But I read it through this newsletter.

How did they get me?

TheSkimm – A Case Study

It’s simple. The two women behind TheSkimm identified a persona—a generation of ladies who don’t like consuming news, but still want to be “up on the times.” Intelligent, busy women with an attention span the length of a tweet. Women who have a flair for drama. Women who watch a lot of Netflix. Women who like their news with a dash of humor and a large glass of wine.

They put together a curated newsletter of timely news stories and started sending. And through smart, targeted campaigns, they’ve grown a huge list of loyal subscribers.

You can do it, too. But targeted campaigns are only possible if you’ve taken the time to identify and understand your subscribers.

Getting to Know Your Subscribers

Getting to know your subscribers begins with how you capture email addresses. Categorize what your business has to offer. If you have different branches that offer different services, put two columns on a spreadsheet and collect email addresses that apply to each. If you’re an apparel retailer, male and female is a great place to start because your product is largely based upon gender.

If you have an online email capture, you may want to offer a drop-down menu or checkboxes for what they’re looking to get out of the subscription. Do they want notice of your events? Advice from your executives? Ignoring what your subscribers are interested in could force you to dilute the content you’re sending in the future, making it less effective. But do keep in mind that a long email subscribe form can deter subscribers, so be sure any additional fields are absolutely necessary.

The Size of the List Isn’t Important

At least, not at first. If there’s anything you want your email list to be, it’s engaged, not big. If your intention is to quickly cultivate any old email list, you’re wasting your time. It’s far better to have a small email list of recipients who are actively interested in your product or service.

Remember, email marketing differs from email advertising. Email advertising is essentially obsolete. The primary goal of collecting an email list today is to understand who they are and how to provide them value. In return for this value, they’ll give you their loyalty.

Catering Content to Subscribers

Understanding your subscribers will allow you to target email campaigns directly to them. What are their personal interests? Motives? Challenges in life? Pique their interest. Further their motivation. Solve their challenges. Email marketing isn’t just about promoting yourself as a business; it’s ultimately about giving. You won’t know what is valuable to a list of subscribers if you don’t know who they are.

Identifying and understanding your subscriber persona is absolutely paramount before you start sending. As long as the bulk of your campaign speaks directly to the segment of subscribers that you’re sending to, open and click rates will slowly build along with the size of your subscriber list.

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