Six effective ways to segment your email list

Lilach Bullock on Email marketing,


There are some rules in life which everyone knows and yet few follow. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you should do today. Wait till it’s safe to remove hardware before pulling out a USB. After a big night out, take off your makeup before going to bed. And always segment your email list.

You do segment your email list, right? Please say you didn’t invest in marketing automation software and lead generation forms and an email marketing client just to dispense your messages in one big dollop like a surly dinner lady dumping a scoop of mash onto your plate? Cos that would just be silly, and a complete waste of all that fancy software you just bought and painstakingly set up. Sure, lead generation is important, but it’s not the number of leads you generate that matters – it’s what you do with them that counts.

The art of segmentation

Email segmentation can best be likened to ordering coffee. Back in the day, people were happy to be served the same inky black brew coffee in the all-day diner. You added milk or sugar if you wanted and that was it. 15 years ago, that was how email marketing was performed. One list and one universal mailshot to rule them all and reel them all in. You don’t like the message? Then unsubscribe. There’s a whole list of prospects to keep happy – it’s not all about you buddy.

Only today, it really is all about you. We live in the age of the self, of the solipsistic millennial capable of seeing the world only from their own narrow view. “Brew coffee with cream? I couldn’t possibly. I’m gluten-free”. Walk into a coffee shop today and there’s no such thing as regular coffee: we’re all now as unique as our drinks, which means having them with soy, almond milk, extra hot, extra milky, spiced, with cream, marshmallows, syrup, decaf and double strength.

That’s the state of email segmentation today. One list isn’t enough. Neither’s two. And before you ask, no, three probably isn’t going to cut it either. Consumers demand choice. They demand marketing messages that are personalised and attuned to their interests at that precise moment in time. Segmentation isn’t optional – it’s mandatory. But let’s not get too carried away. Just because you can segment your subscriber list based on highly precise variables doesn’t mean you should. The fact that some of your customers prefer red shoes and some prefer black, for example, is inconsequential. No, if you’re going to segment, do it according to the stuff that actually matters. Do it according to stuff like this:

1. Location

Geographic email segmentation

If you operate a web-based business, you might think that geography doesn’t matter. Actually, it matters a lot. Just as the world can be broken down according to countries, whose citizens display certain cultural traits and preferences, the same is true on a regional level. Take a close look at your analytics, filtered by geo-location. Some trends will be predictable – people in Alaska buy more winter attire than people in Hawaii – while others may surprise you. The point is, you don’t know until you check. If clear location-based differences in buyer behaviour emerge, segment your list accordingly.

2. Age and Gender

Okay, so these are two separate segments technically, but we’re trying to cram in as many useful suggestions as we can here. If you have demographic information about your customers to hand and there is clear evidence that men and women, young and old, or combinations thereof exhibit different browsing and buying patterns, create separate lists and then devise targeted marketing messages that will appeal to their interests.

3. Email engagement

Engagement is a very easy qualifier to segment and it’s also a very valuable one. The top 10% of your list, the ones who invariably open, read and click to discover more, are your super-users. It’s safe to assume that they’re not opening all your emails out of boredom: these individuals have exhibited behaviour that is characteristic with being ready to buy. Oh, and don’t just segment your most engaged prospects – you can also segment the reverse, and create a list of prospects who seem to have little interest in what you have to say. Send them one final email asking what you can do to help and if that doesn’t do the trick, cull them from your database and save yourself some money on your email marketing plan.

4. Average spend

Average spend email segmentation

You can segment your list based on past purchases of course, but what if you were to care less about what your customers bought and zero in on how much they bought instead? Average spend can be a pretty useful indicator of which customers might be amenable to purchasing a premium product that you can upsell to them. Alternatively, segment your list into three price brackets and then create a selection of featured products to suit the budget of each group. After all, there’s no point in bombarding your VIPs with marketing messages about your bargain buys.

5. Browsing behaviour

What your customers do when they’re not buying on your website is every bit as important as those visits that conclude in a sale. Monitoring your prospects’ browsing behaviour gives you an insight into the topics they’re interested in, the content they’re downloading and the videos they’re watching. All of this activity provides valuable clues as to the sort of issues that prospect is interested in and the subject areas they’re researching. Using segmentation, you can split your list based on their browsing habits and then issue targeted emails based around the content they’ve shown interest in.

6. Sales readiness

Arguably the most valuable use of segmentation is to qualify your prospects based on where they’re placed in the sales funnel. It goes without saying that new subscribers will be less amenable to sales-oriented messages than prospects who have already exhibited an appetite for such content.

Sales ready email segmentation

Customers who’ve abandoned their shopping cart are clearly ready to buy and may require little persuasion to help close the sale. Segmenting your subscribers based on their sales readiness is a smart way to achieve more conversions and to turn dropped carts into successful goal completions.

Of course there are many more segmentation options than the half dozen outlined above. This is just a snapshot of the possibilities at your disposal once you start thinking creatively and using your automation and email marketing software to its full potential. You can’t segment all the things, but you can certainly segment some of them. Pick the markers that will be of most value to you based on your business type, sales cycle and list size and then get to work on crafting compelling campaigns for each subgroup that will speak their language, drive more engagement and ultimately turn more prospects into lifelong customers.

There are some rules in life which everyone knows and yet few follow. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you should do today. Wait till it’s safe to remove hardware before pulling out a USB. After a big night out, take off your makeup before going to bed. And always segment your email list.

You do segment your email list, right? Please say you didn’t invest in marketing automation software and lead generation forms and an email marketing client just to dispense your messages in one big dollop like a surly dinner lady dumping a scoop of mash onto your plate? Cos that would just be silly, and a complete waste of all that fancy software you just bought and painstakingly set up. Sure, lead generation is important, but it’s not the number of leads you generate that matters – it’s what you do with them that counts.

The art of segmentation

Email segmentation can best be likened to ordering coffee. Back in the day, people were happy to be served the same inky black brew coffee in the all-day diner. You added milk or sugar if you wanted and that was it. 15 years ago, that was how email marketing was performed. One list and one universal mailshot to rule them all and reel them all in. You don’t like the message? Then unsubscribe. There’s a whole list of prospects to keep happy – it’s not all about you buddy.

Only today, it really is all about you. We live in the age of the self, of the solipsistic millennial capable of seeing the world only from their own narrow view. “Brew coffee with cream? I couldn’t possibly. I’m gluten-free”. Walk into a coffee shop today and there’s no such thing as regular coffee: we’re all now as unique as our drinks, which means having them with soy, almond milk, extra hot, extra milky, spiced, with cream, marshmallows, syrup, decaf and double strength.

That’s the state of email segmentation today. One list isn’t enough. Neither’s two. And before you ask, no, three probably isn’t going to cut it either. Consumers demand choice. They demand marketing messages that are personalised and attuned to their interests at that precise moment in time. Segmentation isn’t optional – it’s mandatory. But let’s not get too carried away. Just because you can segment your subscriber list based on highly precise variables doesn’t mean you should. The fact that some of your customers prefer red shoes and some prefer black, for example, is inconsequential. No, if you’re going to segment, do it according to the stuff that actually matters. Do it according to stuff like this:

1. Location

Geographic email segmentation

If you operate a web-based business, you might think that geography doesn’t matter. Actually, it matters a lot. Just as the world can be broken down according to countries, whose citizens display certain cultural traits and preferences, the same is true on a regional level. Take a close look at your analytics, filtered by geo-location. Some trends will be predictable – people in Alaska buy more winter attire than people in Hawaii – while others may surprise you. The point is, you don’t know until you check. If clear location-based differences in buyer behaviour emerge, segment your list accordingly.

2. Age and Gender

Okay, so these are two separate segments technically, but we’re trying to cram in as many useful suggestions as we can here. If you have demographic information about your customers to hand and there is clear evidence that men and women, young and old, or combinations thereof exhibit different browsing and buying patterns, create separate lists and then devise targeted marketing messages that will appeal to their interests.

3. Email engagement

Engagement is a very easy qualifier to segment and it’s also a very valuable one. The top 10% of your list, the ones who invariably open, read and click to discover more, are your super-users. It’s safe to assume that they’re not opening all your emails out of boredom: these individuals have exhibited behaviour that is characteristic with being ready to buy. Oh, and don’t just segment your most engaged prospects – you can also segment the reverse, and create a list of prospects who seem to have little interest in what you have to say. Send them one final email asking what you can do to help and if that doesn’t do the trick, cull them from your database and save yourself some money on your email marketing plan.

4. Average spend

Average spend email segmentation

You can segment your list based on past purchases of course, but what if you were to care less about what your customers bought and zero in on how much they bought instead? Average spend can be a pretty useful indicator of which customers might be amenable to purchasing a premium product that you can upsell to them. Alternatively, segment your list into three price brackets and then create a selection of featured products to suit the budget of each group. After all, there’s no point in bombarding your VIPs with marketing messages about your bargain buys.

5. Browsing behaviour

What your customers do when they’re not buying on your website is every bit as important as those visits that conclude in a sale. Monitoring your prospects’ browsing behaviour gives you an insight into the topics they’re interested in, the content they’re downloading and the videos they’re watching. All of this activity provides valuable clues as to the sort of issues that prospect is interested in and the subject areas they’re researching. Using segmentation, you can split your list based on their browsing habits and then issue targeted emails based around the content they’ve shown interest in.

6. Sales readiness

Arguably the most valuable use of segmentation is to qualify your prospects based on where they’re placed in the sales funnel. It goes without saying that new subscribers will be less amenable to sales-oriented messages than prospects who have already exhibited an appetite for such content.

Sales ready email segmentation

Customers who’ve abandoned their shopping cart are clearly ready to buy and may require little persuasion to help close the sale. Segmenting your subscribers based on their sales readiness is a smart way to achieve more conversions and to turn dropped carts into successful goal completions.

Of course there are many more segmentation options than the half dozen outlined above. This is just a snapshot of the possibilities at your disposal once you start thinking creatively and using your automation and email marketing software to its full potential. You can’t segment all the things, but you can certainly segment some of them. Pick the markers that will be of most value to you based on your business type, sales cycle and list size and then get to work on crafting compelling campaigns for each subgroup that will speak their language, drive more engagement and ultimately turn more prospects into lifelong customers.

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Lilach Bullock
Professional Speaker, Lead Conversion Expert, Social Media Specialist & Occasional Diva. Proud mum
UK https://www.lilachbullock.com/