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Email Marketing

26 Highly Effective Ways to Segment Your Email List

What – it's not enough to have a list? You mean, we have to segment it also?!

No, you don't have to do anything. If you're still in the beginning stages of building a list, fleshing out your sales funnel, or hitting your traffic goals, don't worry about segmentation. But if you want to understand the power of what you can do once you get things going, read on.

There is significant data to support the value of list segmentation. According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report by eMarketer:

  • 39 percent of email marketers who practice list segmentation report better open rates.
  • 28 percent of those email marketers report lower opt-out and unsubscribe rates.
  • 24 percent report better email deliverability, increased sales leads, and revenue.
  • 21 percent report better retention of existing customers.

The organization surveyed 1,397 email and online marketers in North America in June 2010. The main finding? Email and online marketers are not using some of the most basic email marketing tools, techniques, and practices as extensively as they should.

Although nearly three-fourths of respondents claimed to use list segmentation, most were not using the tool to its fullest potential. The most popular method? Segmenting by demographics, which has only proven to be mildly effective in studies.

In this article, we'll review all of the list segmenting tactics you should know about. Remember: The goal of list segmentation is to provide the right content, at the right time, for the right subscribers. And that begins with understanding the nuances of your Buyer Personas and creating the corresponding, segmented content.

Segmenting Your Email List

As you read through our list, think about which methods would work best for your business. Also, keep in mind, they will be most effective when paired with lead and trigger data from your CRM software.

Demographic Segmentations

1) Geography

Depending on the nature of your business, segmenting by geography may be extremely beneficial. For example, say you run a nationally accredited food handler certification program. Depending on the size and extent of your marketing budget, you may want to segment your list state by state. By doing so, you can personalize your email campaigns with local legislation, news items and other state-specific topics of interests. Retail companies, franchise businesses, and brick and mortars will also benefit from geography segmentation.

2) Age

If age range tends to be an important aspect of your Buyer Persona, consider requesting it in your opt-in forms. While it's probably overkill for most businesses (seriously, what are the chances of a 12-year-old being interested enough in your retirement planning Website to sign-up?), it can be useful for those uniquely targeting several age ranges.

3) Gender

While we're all about egalitarianism, the reality is men and women often have different interests—not to mention, different concerns when it comes to purchasing your products and services. If both men and women make up a significant portion of your target market, segmenting by gender is a good move. Not only can you divvy up some creative email campaigns, you can also provide more personalized content resources for each gender.

4) Education Level

Segmenting by educational level may be important if you offer learning-based programs. For example, say you teach virtual Hungarian courses online. You may want to segment your list members by pre-beginners, beginners, intermediate, and advanced users. That way, you can continue to provide valuable content post "welcome series" without sending anything that's over or under anyone's head.

5) Industry Type

Another popular form of segmentation is industry type. This is a useful tool for businesses who sell to other businesses. While some marketers may sell to 20 different industries, it's more likely you focus on two to four.

6) Organization Type

Do you sell to several different types of organizations? Maybe you have a B2B and B2C customer base? Or maybe you occasionally service non-profits. In such cases, segmenting by organization type is an important way to keep content from getting too watered down.

7) Job Function

Are you targeting B2B businesses exclusively? Chances are there are several players involved when it comes to making a purchase decision. A sales team member, a marketing team member, a senior executive, or a secretary could come across your list and take an interest. Collecting job function information can be helpful.

8) Seniority Level

In addition to various job functions, there are also different roles within those functions. Knowing whether you're talking to a sales coordinator or the VP of sales could make a difference in how you prepare content. If talking to someone less senior, you're more likely to focus on sharable resources and how to get other team members on board.

Purchase Segmentations

9) Past Purchases

You know who does a great job of this? Amazon. Sign in to your home page and you'll notice several recommended products based on past purchases. You can use the same strategy by segmenting your email content according to past purchases. You might be surprised at the variety of upsell opportunities you're passing up.

10) Purchase Interests

What if you don't have past history to go off? There are several ways to go about determining purchase interests. The first would be to create a categorical field for it on a mid-level opt-in (i.e. not your initial subscribe, but a secondary opt-in). Another would be to simply ask email recipients to hit reply and respond with what they may be interested in purchasing down the line.

11) Purchase Cycle

Does your business operate on purchase cycles? For example, a premium skincare line designed to last for 3 months at a time. Or maybe a tree-trimming service that is only needed once ever three to four years. Segmenting your list based on purchase cycle will allow you to send timely reminders. As they say, it's easier to keep an old customer than to go find a new one.

12) Buying Frequency

If you notice a handful of subscribers are purchasing more frequently than others, you may want to create unique content exclusively for them. These people will often become your greatest ambassadors. Simply, reward them for their loyalty and provide them with easy ways to socially share content and refer friends.

13) Change in Buying Behavior

Conversely, what if you have some previous customers who are now less engaged? Create exclusive segmentation for these "fence sitters," so you can determine why their behavior has changed. Oftentimes, the best course of action is to simply ask.

14) Sales Cycle

We've talked about sales funnels before—every business has them, even if they think they don't. Segmenting your list to differentiate the top, middle, and bottom portions is extremely valuable. That way you can create on target content for each stage of the Buyer's Journey (awareness, consideration, and decision).

Content Interest Segmentations

15) Content Topic

Are you keeping track of which articles get clicked through, read, and shared the most? If not, what are you waiting for?! What doesn't get talked about a lot is that content marketing is fairly experiential in nature. Meaning, you can do your best to research your target market and plan accordingly, but you never know. Sometimes the content you think is brilliant barely gets noticed. And sometimes the content you whipped up in an afternoon gets clicked through like gangbusters. If you notice certain audience members are repeatedly interested in similar topics, you may be able to segment by content topic.

16) Content Format

Similarly, you may discover certain content formats are more appealing to some segments than others. Maybe you notice executive-level contacts prefer eBooks and junior-level contacts prefer Webinars. If you're segmenting your list by content format, you can make sure to craft content in the preferred format of each recipient.

17) Interest Level

How do you determine interest level? While there is no one definitive metric, a combination of several usually indicates a high level of interest: Numerous page views, time spent on site, clickthroughs to your site, content downloads, Webinar attendance, etc. If you create a list segmentation for your most interested followers, you can follow up with them as appropriate.

18) Change in Content Engagement Level

Just like actual customers can wane in participation, so can leads. Begin to segment by content engagement and you'll be more equipped to strategically target those losing interest. Maybe you'll create a re-engagement strategy specifically for these individuals.

Miscellaneous Segmentations

19) Email Type

Gmail, yahoo, corporate—there's a lot that can be determined from someone's email address. In addition to determining their place of business in some instances, you can infer what types of other online programs they can access. For example, if someone has a Google account, you might ask them to follow you on Youtube.

20) Satisfaction Index

Most satisfaction indexes measure customers numerically to determine a level of happiness with the company in question. If you're already using a similar service, consider sending personalized emails based on satisfaction scores. As previously mentioned, the customers who enjoy your company the most are often happy to refer or promote your business if you simply request. Those with lower scores should be reached out to with a re-engagement series.

21) Customers Who Refer

If someone is regularly referring your business to their family and friends, they deserve a prize! Segment those referral-happy individuals and reward them with special discounts, learning materials, and other high-value offers.

22) Customers Who Haven't Reviewed

Whether you're a brick and mortar, B2B, or B2C, social proof matters. How and where you showcase such reviews depends on your current strategies. You may rely on a specific testimonial section of your website or your company Facebook page. Whatever you do, make sure you're asking for those reviews. Oftentimes, happy customers are more than willing to leave reviews. Review your data points to determine your most satisfied clients and send a targeted email—you'll be glad you did.

23) In-Store vs. Webstore Visitors

For those businesses that utilize both e-commerce and traditional retail locations, consider segmenting based on where list recipients prefer to shop. This way, you can create specific campaigns for online and offline business.

24) Shopping Cart Abandonment

The image of an abandoned shopping cart always reminds me of that happy moment at the grocery store. You know, the one where you've accidentally grabbed more items than you intended and you spot an abandoned shopping cart right next to the green beans? If you're an e-commerce business, you may want to keep an eye on those abandoned carts. Send an automated friendly email reminder to that segmentation and you're likely to save a few sales.

25) Form Abandonment

It's not just shopping carts that get abandoned—half-filled forms get left behind, too. Create a lead-nurturing campaign to recapture interest in whatever offer the person almost signed up for. Who knows? They may have simply become distracted by a dog begging to be walked or a new episode of Game of Thrones.

26) Stragglers

If you're selling a specialized product or service—like a software subscription program—there are going to be some people who "just get it" and others who move at a slower pace. Create a segmented list for those you've determined to be working at a slower pace. Send them an email with links to tutorials and a friendly message offering your direct support.

Phew, that was a long list. The reality is there are probably several more ways you can segment your list! Got an idea we haven't covered? Leave it in the comments below.

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Written by Ashley Gwilliam / June 23, 2016

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam