The Secrets Behind Successful Email Segmentation That Drive Results

Brian Honigman on Email marketing,


As of April 2013, 73% of businesses use basic email segmentation, while 16% are planning to do so in the future. Segmenting your emails is a powerful technique for finding better insights from your subscribers and a means of providing better messaging to match their various interests on a regular basis.

Segmenting an email is the process of breaking up your list of subscribers into different groups based on a variety of demographics in order to send them specific messaging based on their unique interests.

By segmenting your email list, you’re more likely to see an increase in your email open and click through rates from each segment of your audience because these emails are more personalized.

However, email segmentation is not for every business. It’s important that your list is large enough to break into different segments. Make sure your email list has at least 3,000 – 5,000 subscribers before your team begins to heavily segment it into different groups.

If you’ve grown a large list of email subscribers today, it’s time to start segmenting your audience to better reach them based on their unique preferences. Here’s how to drive results from email segmentation.

Gather Your Subscribers Information

Segmenting starts with understanding which audiences you’re trying to break up and that you have the bandwidth to effectively message on their own in terms of building out the right sequence of autoresponders and on the fly email messages.

To begin to understand which audiences to email to based on the information you have from them is to start gathering as much information about them from the very beginning.

For example, if one of the ways you’re gathering email subscribers is through a sign-up form, consider having a few fields on the form that a potential subscriber has to fill out. This gives you more data points on each one of your subscribers that your business has to work with.

Email Segmentation Sign Up Form

If this sign-up form grants access to a resource like a premium eBook, infographic, white paper, webinar, video or some other form of content, then a subscriber is more likely to fill out a few fields of information about themselves to gain access to it.

It’s important to note that you’re likely to gain fewer subscribers from a form with more required fields to fill out, but this also makes it more likely that these subscribers are of a higher quality.

There are few ways to gain more data on each of your subscribers similar to the use of some kind of sign-up form like occasionally surveying your existing email list for their feedback, good old fashion research on your subscribers and monitoring your analytics to identify trends in the consistent habits of your existing subscribers.

The sign-up form, which comes in many different types, is one of the best ways to gather data on new subscribers to your email list, while surveys, analytics and reliable research are better resources for understanding the behaviors and preferences of your existing subscribers.

Segmentation Questionaire

All in all, the most important information to base your segments on in the future is what your various subscribers actually want to receive from your emails.

All of the different ways to collect data on your subscribers should take into account their preferences as they provide them to your company since the whole point of your email marketing is to deliver ongoing value to your audience.

It’s your company’s job to help guide their preferences into actionable segments that help impact your email marketing goals.

Types of Segments

Before, during and after the process of collecting as much data as reasonable on your email subscribers, it’s important to clarify what types of segments you’re trying to create from your list.

This should be reflected on what questions are asked on your surveys, how you’re analyzing your analytics, how your sign-up forms are setup and more. To know what types of audiences your business should segment into their own groups, here are some common examples of data points to gather about your subscribers:

  • Past Purchases
  • Age
  • Geography
  • Brand Affiliation
  • Job Function
  • Industry
  • Buyer Persona
  • Gender
  • Size of Organization
  • Past Purchasing Behavior
  • Content Formats
  • Education Level
  • Length of Subscription
  • Product Preferences
  • Email Type
  • Life-Time Value
  • Changes in Behavior
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Shopping Cart Abandonment
  • Source of Subscriber Sign-up
  • Customer Referrers

Once you’ve collected one or a few of the above data points about your subscribers, you’ll be able to better understand how to continue to segment your email list effectively. It’s important to note that it’s not always prudent to segment based on one data point, but instead try grouping a few data sets to create a strong segment that’s worth catering to.

As an example of a successful segment, try segmenting your subscribers that have been a part of your list for the last five years as compared to the subscribers on your list that have just recently joined within the last six months by analyzing the length of each subscribers subscription.

Email Segmentation Audiences

This will provide some insights and give your team the ability to send each group unique messaging when it makes sense based on their very different levels of familiarity with your business and its emails.

Take a long look at this list of data points above and then think about the various buyer personas that make up your overall audience. From here see which of these groups are strong enough to merit creating unique email messaging for that you have enough data on to appropriately identify them.

With the right amount of data on your audience and insights on how your business wishes to uniquely message these groups, you’re well on your way to achieving results from segmentation.

Start Emailing and Create a Personalized Experience

Once you’ve got your email list segmented in two or in a few different ways, it’s time to start crafting messaging for each segment to better personalize the experience they are having with your business via email.

The only reason you’re segmenting these different groups of subscribers is because they have unique preferences, experiences, interests and needs from other members of your email list. Keep this mind when creating messaging for each of your segments.

It’s important to note that your company should continue to email your whole list from time to time with more generic emails that pertain to your entire customer base, since many of your emails apply to your complete audience.

It’s important not to generate extra work for your team with this level of email segmentation, but instead to focus on strategic decisions as to why you’re creating separate emails for each of your segments.

Start creating content that is specific to the interests of your segment, maybe even alter the same email that you’re sending to multiple segments by tweaking a few elements to better suit the needs of each audience.

A lot of the time, you’ll be creating email autoresponders to only be sent to certain segments based on a specific action they’ve taken and therefore, you’ll only want that email message to reach them and not your entire list as a whole.

Map out the unique nuances to the experiences of each segment along your marketing funnel to best understand what email content will best serve your audiences.

Again, this shouldn’t overwhelm your organization or cause many more hours of work for your team. Not every single email needs to be sent to a segmented audience; only the messaging that specifically pertains to the preferences and interests of that group.

Alter Your Approach by Measuring Results

Segmentation is a tool to inform your team on how to better craft your emails to make them more personalized and effective at driving results for your business.

Therefore, it’s important to continually A/B test your emails with each segment to understand which messaging is working and which might be causing your email unsubscribe rate to grow.

Elements like the subjects of your email, when they are sent, visuals used, copy choices and more should be analyzed on an ongoing basis to best understand what works for your email list as a whole, but also what works for each individual email segment.

Analytics Sources

This ongoing analysis of your email marketing efforts is critical to help inform your business as to what messaging is working to drive results and from which segments.

A/B testing allows your company to send two versions of the same email to a segment to see which performs better when it comes to increasing open rates, generating more sales or positively impacting another email metric you’re monitoring that drives results.

Again, measuring how your emails are performing and noting any trends in behavior from your email subscribers can help inform the creation of new segments for your business. Following consistent measurement practices not only informs what segments to email, but what your business should email them about.

Ask questions as you analyze your data like:

Did your segment of repeat shoppers that are female on the east coast spend more money than other segments this month?

Why is that? Did you send an offer to them to spur this action?

What about sending them incentive to come shop with your company again?

Why did your other segments not perform as well, but have a better email open rate?

How can you better impact your conversion rates across each segment?

In the end, asking a plethora of questions about your analytics shouldn’t paralyze your team by flooding them with way too many data points.

Your subscribers can provide thousands of data points to analyze, but what really matters is analyzing a few key data sets that drive results for your business or sets that you’d hope will generate results in the future.

Now it’s your turn. Start generating subscribers for your email list, while gathering as much data about them throughout the process. Take insights gleamed from your data and create segments that can help drive results from your list to help your business to continue to work toward its goals.

What has your organization’s experience been like when it comes to segmenting your emails? Which techniques for gathering data on your audience have proven to be the most successful? Share the story behind your most successful email segments in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Relevance.

As of April 2013, 73% of businesses use basic email segmentation, while 16% are planning to do so in the future. Segmenting your emails is a powerful technique for finding better insights from your subscribers and a means of providing better messaging to match their various interests on a regular basis.

Segmenting an email is the process of breaking up your list of subscribers into different groups based on a variety of demographics in order to send them specific messaging based on their unique interests.

By segmenting your email list, you’re more likely to see an increase in your email open and click through rates from each segment of your audience because these emails are more personalized.

However, email segmentation is not for every business. It’s important that your list is large enough to break into different segments. Make sure your email list has at least 3,000 – 5,000 subscribers before your team begins to heavily segment it into different groups.

If you’ve grown a large list of email subscribers today, it’s time to start segmenting your audience to better reach them based on their unique preferences. Here’s how to drive results from email segmentation.

Gather Your Subscribers Information

Segmenting starts with understanding which audiences you’re trying to break up and that you have the bandwidth to effectively message on their own in terms of building out the right sequence of autoresponders and on the fly email messages.

To begin to understand which audiences to email to based on the information you have from them is to start gathering as much information about them from the very beginning.

For example, if one of the ways you’re gathering email subscribers is through a sign-up form, consider having a few fields on the form that a potential subscriber has to fill out. This gives you more data points on each one of your subscribers that your business has to work with.

Email Segmentation Sign Up Form

If this sign-up form grants access to a resource like a premium eBook, infographic, white paper, webinar, video or some other form of content, then a subscriber is more likely to fill out a few fields of information about themselves to gain access to it.

It’s important to note that you’re likely to gain fewer subscribers from a form with more required fields to fill out, but this also makes it more likely that these subscribers are of a higher quality.

There are few ways to gain more data on each of your subscribers similar to the use of some kind of sign-up form like occasionally surveying your existing email list for their feedback, good old fashion research on your subscribers and monitoring your analytics to identify trends in the consistent habits of your existing subscribers.

The sign-up form, which comes in many different types, is one of the best ways to gather data on new subscribers to your email list, while surveys, analytics and reliable research are better resources for understanding the behaviors and preferences of your existing subscribers.

Segmentation Questionaire

All in all, the most important information to base your segments on in the future is what your various subscribers actually want to receive from your emails.

All of the different ways to collect data on your subscribers should take into account their preferences as they provide them to your company since the whole point of your email marketing is to deliver ongoing value to your audience.

It’s your company’s job to help guide their preferences into actionable segments that help impact your email marketing goals.

Types of Segments

Before, during and after the process of collecting as much data as reasonable on your email subscribers, it’s important to clarify what types of segments you’re trying to create from your list.

This should be reflected on what questions are asked on your surveys, how you’re analyzing your analytics, how your sign-up forms are setup and more. To know what types of audiences your business should segment into their own groups, here are some common examples of data points to gather about your subscribers:

  • Past Purchases
  • Age
  • Geography
  • Brand Affiliation
  • Job Function
  • Industry
  • Buyer Persona
  • Gender
  • Size of Organization
  • Past Purchasing Behavior
  • Content Formats
  • Education Level
  • Length of Subscription
  • Product Preferences
  • Email Type
  • Life-Time Value
  • Changes in Behavior
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Shopping Cart Abandonment
  • Source of Subscriber Sign-up
  • Customer Referrers

Once you’ve collected one or a few of the above data points about your subscribers, you’ll be able to better understand how to continue to segment your email list effectively. It’s important to note that it’s not always prudent to segment based on one data point, but instead try grouping a few data sets to create a strong segment that’s worth catering to.

As an example of a successful segment, try segmenting your subscribers that have been a part of your list for the last five years as compared to the subscribers on your list that have just recently joined within the last six months by analyzing the length of each subscribers subscription.

Email Segmentation Audiences

This will provide some insights and give your team the ability to send each group unique messaging when it makes sense based on their very different levels of familiarity with your business and its emails.

Take a long look at this list of data points above and then think about the various buyer personas that make up your overall audience. From here see which of these groups are strong enough to merit creating unique email messaging for that you have enough data on to appropriately identify them.

With the right amount of data on your audience and insights on how your business wishes to uniquely message these groups, you’re well on your way to achieving results from segmentation.

Start Emailing and Create a Personalized Experience

Once you’ve got your email list segmented in two or in a few different ways, it’s time to start crafting messaging for each segment to better personalize the experience they are having with your business via email.

The only reason you’re segmenting these different groups of subscribers is because they have unique preferences, experiences, interests and needs from other members of your email list. Keep this mind when creating messaging for each of your segments.

It’s important to note that your company should continue to email your whole list from time to time with more generic emails that pertain to your entire customer base, since many of your emails apply to your complete audience.

It’s important not to generate extra work for your team with this level of email segmentation, but instead to focus on strategic decisions as to why you’re creating separate emails for each of your segments.

Start creating content that is specific to the interests of your segment, maybe even alter the same email that you’re sending to multiple segments by tweaking a few elements to better suit the needs of each audience.

A lot of the time, you’ll be creating email autoresponders to only be sent to certain segments based on a specific action they’ve taken and therefore, you’ll only want that email message to reach them and not your entire list as a whole.

Map out the unique nuances to the experiences of each segment along your marketing funnel to best understand what email content will best serve your audiences.

Again, this shouldn’t overwhelm your organization or cause many more hours of work for your team. Not every single email needs to be sent to a segmented audience; only the messaging that specifically pertains to the preferences and interests of that group.

Alter Your Approach by Measuring Results

Segmentation is a tool to inform your team on how to better craft your emails to make them more personalized and effective at driving results for your business.

Therefore, it’s important to continually A/B test your emails with each segment to understand which messaging is working and which might be causing your email unsubscribe rate to grow.

Elements like the subjects of your email, when they are sent, visuals used, copy choices and more should be analyzed on an ongoing basis to best understand what works for your email list as a whole, but also what works for each individual email segment.

Analytics Sources

This ongoing analysis of your email marketing efforts is critical to help inform your business as to what messaging is working to drive results and from which segments.

A/B testing allows your company to send two versions of the same email to a segment to see which performs better when it comes to increasing open rates, generating more sales or positively impacting another email metric you’re monitoring that drives results.

Again, measuring how your emails are performing and noting any trends in behavior from your email subscribers can help inform the creation of new segments for your business. Following consistent measurement practices not only informs what segments to email, but what your business should email them about.

Ask questions as you analyze your data like:

Did your segment of repeat shoppers that are female on the east coast spend more money than other segments this month?

Why is that? Did you send an offer to them to spur this action?

What about sending them incentive to come shop with your company again?

Why did your other segments not perform as well, but have a better email open rate?

How can you better impact your conversion rates across each segment?

In the end, asking a plethora of questions about your analytics shouldn’t paralyze your team by flooding them with way too many data points.

Your subscribers can provide thousands of data points to analyze, but what really matters is analyzing a few key data sets that drive results for your business or sets that you’d hope will generate results in the future.

Now it’s your turn. Start generating subscribers for your email list, while gathering as much data about them throughout the process. Take insights gleamed from your data and create segments that can help drive results from your list to help your business to continue to work toward its goals.

What has your organization’s experience been like when it comes to segmenting your emails? Which techniques for gathering data on your audience have proven to be the most successful? Share the story behind your most successful email segments in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Relevance.

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Brian Honigman
Content Marketing & Social Media Consultant
http://www.brianhonigman.com/