Day 2: Determine who should be on your email list

Welcome back! I hope yesterday’s lesson got you thinking about the big picture of email marketing. Now that you have an idea of how emails will fit into your overall marketing plan, let’s talk about defining your audience.

Most likely, you’ve identified more than one type of email you could be sending. For this week, let’s choose ONE of those ideas to work with. (Remember, small wins!)

For your one specific email, you’ll need to narrow down your audience. The most effective emails are sent to a specific group of people that have common interests and have expressed a desire to hear from you. Some specific audiences might include:

  • Current donors to your organization

  • Current customers who have purchased something from you in the last year

  • Volunteers who regularly help you

  • People who have signed up to receive emails in response to a contest (This is a tricky group but with the right emails, you can move them into a new category, slowly)

If you’re having trouble deciding which audience to start with, ask yourself:

  • What is the goal of the email?

  • What would be the ideal action the reader would take?

For example, if my email goal is to welcome new donors and the ideal action is to start a dialogue with the person and get them to reply to my email, then my audience is people who make a first-time gift to my organization. This gives me a starting point to either pulling all of those email addresses together in one list or trying to collect those emails.

Another example might be an email goal of getting more traffic into my physical or online store. My ideal action might be to persuade a customer to make a purchase within a specific timeframe. So, my audience is people who have already expressed an interest in my product/service (i.e. past customers or those who have asked to receive deals or coupons).

Get the idea here? By defining the goal and the action you want readers to take, your audience becomes clear. If you can’t easily answer these first two questions, you might need to back up a step and re-evaluate if an email message is really needed in this specific case.

Most people start with writing the email before they ever really understand who they are writing to and what they want the reader to actually do. This results in poorly written emails that very rarely end up with a conversion. By working backwards and starting with the call to action, we greatly improve our chances of that email being opened and those links being clicked!

And remember, the more specific the audience, the better! By sending an email that’s relevant, your reader will be more inspired to follow through on whatever you are asking!

Today's 5-minute task

Brainstorm for five minutes about who your email should reach. If there are multiple ideas floating around, choose one. Factors to consider are email addresses (if you already have them, it's an easier task), urgency, and your goals.

A little side note here:

So what if you don’t have email addresses? This is a challenge for many who are just beginning an email marketing program. My best advice is not to let this hold you back.

  • Plan emails to the group for which you already have email addresses while you build your list. Don’t let not having hundreds or thousands of emails keep you from starting.

  • Are you sure you don’t have emails? You might have them and not realize it. Look back through event files, volunteer records, donor gifts, transaction receipts, etc.

  • Start collecting emails now. Run a contest, use social media, ask for emails at the POS, and get creative to collect them!

In tomorrow’s lesson, we’re going to cover writing that email. Most people start here without the planning we’ve already discussed and spoiler alert, it doesn’t go well! You won't want to miss this one! I could create an entire course around how to write emails that move readers to take action and steer clear of that unsubscribe button. Buuut, you'll get the ideas here for FREE! 

Remember to comment on the course homepage about today’s takeaway or what you’re hoping to learn this week! And, to complete your 5-minute task! Have questions about today’s lesson? Email me at

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Andrea Shirey