Recently, I purchased a new car from a major, well-known brand.

As part of the purchase process, I gave them my email address and was added to their email list.

A month later, I received my first email from them and the call to action was clear and singular:

“Ron, you should come in and buy this new, super-cool car.”

Unfortunately, the car they were promoting wasn’t the car I purchased, so now I was having second thoughts about the one I did buy. Even more unfortunately, I don’t buy a new car every month (sometimes I wait two or three months before buying a new car).

The brand is one of the most famous in the world and their marketing budget for North America exceeds $100 million. Yet, they are missing out on one of the greatest strengths of email marketing: the ability to target what you send.

The car manufacturer should have a lot of lists: people who bought a sports car, people who bought a luxury car, people who bought an SUV, people who came in and didn’t buy anything—and the message to each one of those lists should be different.

You already know that targeted marketing works and it would probably only take you a few minutes to come up with different messages for their different lists.

It’s particularly easy to do with email, because you can have as many lists as you like. This is where email marketing really shines and traditional marketing is weak.

Let’s look at a traditional marketing vehicle: television advertising.

  • If I had a huge budget, could I shoot 10 different commercials and have them broadcast only to the homes of my choice?
  • Could I set things up so that “Commercial A” only goes to certain houses and “Commercial B” goes to a different set?
  • Can people click and buy from a TV commercial?
  • Can they forward the commercial to their friends?
  • Is there tracking that tells me who watched the commercial and when?

(The answers, of course, are no.)

Email marketing does all of this and more, and at a tiny fraction of the price.