Bulk email marketing is all about information. The more you know about your subscribers the greater your return on investment. It might seem that 50% of your time is taken up by data acquisition and if so you should be worried because it should be nearer 60.
The direct route is often the easiest so if you wish to find out how your subscribers feel about holidays in Egypt or, for the less esoteric, bulk buying of ink cartridges, then one way is to send an email to them with a question on each subject of: Which do you prefer?
Subtle can be overrated.
Some people are reluctant to share such information so other routes have to be used to gain such information. But bulk email marketing is open to these challenges. All you have to do is to be less obvious.
If you produce an email newsletter then why not have a click through with the question: Do you envy those who have holidayed in Egypt? If so click here. The same thing could be added to a marketing email although care should be exercised in including too much clutter.
If 500 recipients click through then you have much more than just 500 subscribers you can target with the Egypt offer in an email campaign. What you should do is check your available data.
The thing you are looking for is a common feature amongst all those who clicked through that was not common to those who did not. If we take an age group as a crude instance, if you find that 470 of those who clicked through were between 24 and 30 and that the age range of those on that particular email was 21 to 50 then you can safely assume that to get the best return on investment you should perhaps make the major selection criterion for Egypt as age.
Things might not be quite that simple and the common ground between those who clicked through could be a combination of two or more criteria. The systems used in bulk email marketing will point you in the right direction.
There are times when subtle is good.