The urge to target as many people as possible in an email marketing campaign is strong, isn’t it—after all, that’s what sales enablement is all about. Because, why not? If you’re going to send an email, why limit yourself to 1,000 recipients when you can send to 100,000? The bigger the list, the better your chances of getting a response. It’s a numbers game, after all.

Sound about right? If that’s you, then you are 100% correct. It is a number’s game. Except to be successful, that number should be way lower than you think.

The Sweet Spot

Somewhere between “spray and pray” and “all your eggs in one basket” is your ideal target market. Your job as a business leader is to find out who they are, what they value, and then talk to them directly.

Seth Godin, entrepreneur and renown author and speaker on marketing and leadership, recommends finding your “minimum viable audience.” This is a very focused number of prospects that will help your organization succeed and grow. Similarly, Chris Ducker, entrepreneur, author and business mentor, suggests you “market like a magnet – attract the best and repel the rest.”

What do they mean? They mean to truly differentiate your business (or yourself) in an industry or a market, you need a narrow focus. Marketing to a broad audience will force you to make concessions in your messaging and services that will ultimately render you irrelevant.

An email to 1,000 well-defined recipients has a value message that is on point. It resonates with the audience and they are ready to hear what it has to say. Conversely, an email to 100,000 contacts where 90% of them may not even know how they got on your list must be averaged out to accommodate a more general audience; whittled down to its lowest common denominator. It dies an unceremonious death in 100,000 inboxes. RIP, all that effort. RIP, all that potential.

The lesson? Build and target a list of prospects and clients who identify with you, who are in your space, who you can speak to directly, and who will become raving fans. Stick with them and they will stick with you.

Know Your Person

In a recent podcast Amy Landino, author, speaker and award-winning host of YouTube series AmyTV, talked about what it was like taking her business in a completely new direction. Asked how that impacted her target audience, she replied, “I know who my target audience has been from the beginning. I listen to her, and if I keep listening to her, I know I’m on the right track… the person I’m leaning into is lifting my brand higher and higher and bringing in more people that are just like her.”

So how do you get to know your person? Well, if you’ve been in business for a while, you may want to look at who your best clients are. Those long-term, great-fit, values-your-services clients. Then build a client persona based on them. Who they are, what they value, what they read, where they go online, who influences them, etc. Use that data to inform your marketing, your services, your business decisions. And don’t be shy about reaching out to those clients to ask for feedback. If they are “your people” they’ll be very willing to invest some time in your success.

Find More of Your People

Congratulations. You know your person. The next step is to grow your audience. Wait, didn’t you just say to stick with that minimum viable audience? Why do you want me to grow my audience?  Because you want your business to grow. The goal is to focus your efforts on your people. If your people like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain, and that population is 1,000, great. But what if there are 5,000 or 10,000 people that match your persona? Why wouldn’t you want to include them in your efforts? The issue is sending to random, non-targets with generic messages that are meaningless and do nothing for anyone. In order to grow your business, you’ll want to grow your audience. And that starts by practicing good manners.

You wouldn’t show up to someone’s house uninvited, so why would you do that to their inboxes? Permission marketing: diligently building a list of people who ask to hear from you is the most effective way to grow your audience and your business. It’s pure marketing gold: quality leads.

When you pursue permission marketing, it forces you to create content that your audience finds valuable. The content and messages you create must serve your audience in such a way that they willingly give you permission to contact them again. As with any relationship, this permission is based on trust. You are being trusted to provide the type of content that helps your audience, in turn they are giving you their time and attention, and ultimately influence, referrals and business.

Make It Easy

Fantastic. You’ve decided to ask permission. But, how? Since you know your person, you know how and where they like to consume information. On social sites, through newsletters or blogs, at conferences or networking events. You’ll be where they are. With useful information that talks directly to them. As they learn about you, they need ways to grant you permission to continue the conversation. Make it easy. Add a sign up to your website to collect their email addresses in exchange for exclusive (read: valuable) content, use social lead gen forms for them to seamlessly submit their information. Allow for sign ups at conferences and events – text, apps, paper/pen, chisel/stone – whatever works for them. If you receive their email from a referral, clearly state that in your communication and provide a sign-up link for them to opt-in.

Keep Tabs on Your Target

As you build your audience and provide them with targeted information, keep the lines of communication open. Measuring email performance, site traffic, shares, and proactively asking for advice and feedback are ways to learn what content resonates, what is considered valuable and what needs adjusting. This information will help you stay relevant to your target, solidifies your relationship with them, and enables you to attract more of your people.

One of the most difficult parts of targeted marketing is keeping your focus. That shiny new prospect looks tempting, but they don’t fit your client persona. Don’t do it. Stick with your person. Your minimum viable audience. Respect, protect and develop those relationship and you will continue to attract more and more of the very best clients for your long-term success.

Do you know who your person is? Have you been able to identify the client persona that best supports your business goals?