Distill all of the hundreds of email tips you’ll find on this blog, as well as the thousands more published on the rest of the internet, and they all say about the same thing: send your subscribers emails that they will find interesting and useful. Unless you have an extremely narrow niche of subscribers, it is a safe bet that they do not all find the same things interesting and useful, and as a result have different levels of engagement with your brand. At one end of the spectrum are the subscribers who open and act on almost everything, while at the other end are those who notice your message in the inbox but don’t open or read it.

The only way to make the most of the different levels of attention your audience has lent your brand is to target messages accordingly. Not all brands know exactly what topics each of their subscribers is interested in (unless you have a preferences center with a number of subscription options), but you do know who is engaged and who is not, based on how they have interacted with your messages over the previous 3, 6 or 12 months.

Here are some ways you can tailor your messages based on subscriber engagement. In my examples below I’ve focused on event marketing, but you can use the same approach for any sort of promotions and messaging:

Subject Lines: Your unengaged are less likely to open your messages than the engaged, so for them the subject line is your only brand impression. Use a subject line that delivers value without requiring an open. For example, “Register by Friday to save $200 at the Annual Summit”, or “Facebook Exec to Keynote Summit” provides the same general info as the message itself, without needing to open it. Similarly, the subject line can provide deeper info about the event that might move them towards engagement. “5,000 already registered for Annual Summit” and “120 Exhibitors At the Summit” might not drive a lot of opens, but they convey some info about the show that might move some of the non-responsive closer to action. For your engaged segment, use a subject line designed to promote a more ambitious read of the whole email or deeper interaction with content, such as “Summit News: $200 Savings, Facebook Keynote, New Networking” or “The Summit IQ Test You’ll Want to Try”.

Call-to-Action: When you are sending to people you know are engaged with your brand, your ask can be bigger. “Click here to register today” or even “Sign up a group of 4 today” or “Share with your colleagues here” are all highly reasonable if your audience is into you. If people are less engaged, moving them through the email and to your website is an accomplishment by itself. “Take a look at the agenda” or “See if the Summit is right for you” may seem like baby steps, but getting any click at all from this audience is your objective from the segment.

Content: With your engaged you can use more copy. Click-View tracking on engaged subscribers usually shows that clicks show up throughout the message – on the top, along the sidebar, even several paragraphs below the fold. Your engaged audience reads more of your message, so none of the relevant and useful info you can put into it will go to waste. Your unengaged segment is far less likely to read big blocks of copy. Use your inbox real estate with them to link to a video or a photo gallery, and make your point with charts, tables and other graphics whenever possible. When you lower the threshold of your Call-to-Action (above) and only aim for a click, you gain some freedom in your content strategy to achieve that goal. Once they become more engaged, you can move subscribers into your other segment that asks more directly for the sale.

Crafting messages for different segments is much easier than writing the perfect email that will hold universal appeal for everyone on your list, and the results may surprise you. Not only are you spending less time deciding what the right balance is between detail and quick appeal; you are also driving deeper interaction from the people connected to your brand, and bringing more acquaintances into the fold.