How to use email segmentation in your marketing strategy

Splitting your email lists into more targeted segments can improve your results.

Email marketing is still a key strategy for many businesses—B2B and B2C alike. It’s a great way to stay front-of-mind with your customers, educate them about your products or your industry, help them find solutions to their business needs, and update them about new products or services you offer.

However, with the steady influx of emails most of us receive over the course of our day, it’s increasingly difficult for most marketing emails to break through the noise and attract attention. That said, it is still possible to implement a successful email marketing strategy for your business. The key is to target your customers so that they receive the marketing communications most relevant to them. Doing so takes some extra time and care, but it also yields higher conversion rates.

The best way to target your customers is to segment your lists. This gives you the option of sending an email out to the whole list, or only a sub-portion of it. Email segmentation works extremely well if done properly. However, there are ways to abuse the practice, which can lead to you emails being marked as spam. Here are some do’s and don’ts of email segmentation to help you form an effective strategy for your business.

1. Respect subscriber consent.

As we covered in our post about email marketing techniques that can get you blacklisted, when you segment your lists still have to respect what your subscribers signed up for. You can’t just add all subscribers to one list to a new list because you want to market to them. You need their permission.

It is totally acceptable to segment your email lists based on demographic information or subscriber behavior, so long as the emails you send them still fall within the scope of what your subscribers signed up for. What’s not OK is to assume that a subscriber who consented to receive your weekly newsletter also wants to be on your daily coupon list.

2. Create separate lists for separate purposes.

A lot of marketers get a bit sneaky with their email marketing consent. They’ll add a check box to a form that’s already ticked that says something like “Yes, I want to receive marketing emails!” It acts as a carte blanche for any and all emails you want to send a lead. And yeah, you can do that, but you’re more likely to have a list of people who didn’t happen to notice the checkbox than people who actively want to hear from you.

Instead, ask and obtain consent for different email lists separately. If you both a newsletter and an email promotions list, keep them separate. You can tell your subscribers about the other list, and encourage them to sign up for them. But don’t put them all together.

3. Understand segmentation automation.

Many CRMs offer rules that you can use to govern how subscribers move from one list to another. For instance, you can automate them so that if they unsubscribe from one email communication, they will be removed from all lists. Or, you may want to unsubscribe contacts from one list if they add themselves to another.

An example of this might be people who buy a product. For a while, I received marketing emails from a company that sold a productivity day planner. Once I bought the day planner, the emails I received switched from sales-focused to use-focused. If they kept selling me a product I already owned, it would have been annoying. Instead, they showed me how I could use the product I already bought.

Essentially, this is a way to target emails based on the buyer’s journey. Anyone who’s subscribed to an email list from you is past the attract and convert stages. So most of your emails will be focused on closing a sale, and then once you have closed the sale to move them into the delight phase.

You can use these rules effectively in your campaign to ensure that you only send emails that are relevant to your subscribers. This will improve conversions, and prevent you from overloading a subscriber with unhelpful emails.

4. Focus on a single variable.

As you segment your lists, start small. Segmentation is like any kind of experience: the more variables you add, the harder it will be to know what worked and what didn’t. If you try to measure too many things at once, you’re muddle your results with irrelevant information.

So, you could decide you want to target them based on items they’ve shown interest in already, their age or gender, or their geographic location. Any one of these could warrant special email targeting, but you should handle them one at a time for the best results.

5. Pay attention to buyer behavior.

One of the ways you can use segmentation to your advantage is by targeting users based on their behavior. Did they abandon a shopping cart? Reach out to find out why, or deliver your closing offer that will convert them to customers. Has their account been inactive? Check in to remind them of their goals.

Or, maybe they recently make a purchase or completed an activity on your website. Congratulate them, offer them related products, or (like my productivity journal did), show them how to make the most of their new product.

6. Let them customize their preferences.

Let’s say your users go to unsubscribe. Fair play! You should 100% make that easy for them. But you can also offer them some options for if they want to receive fewer communications from you. Maybe they like your content, but they only want to receive emails once a week instead of every day. Or they just want a break for a specified period of time.

Businesses who provide their users options for updating their email preferences retain subscribers more than those who don’t. That’s key information that allows you to respect your subscriber’s consent, while also keeping a foot in the door.

Email segmentation is all about experimentation.

Like so many aspects of marketing, email segmentation involves a lot of experimentation. The key is to follow good marketing practices so that you maintain a healthy list. Your conversion rate will go up, and you’ll create better brand loyalty.

Published 10/05/17 by Laura Lynch