Why Segmentation is the Key to Successful Email Marketing

If you do any kind of email marketing you know how important it is for gaining valuable new leads and customers. One aspect of email marketing that many businesses overlook is the power of segmentation. This simply means separating your email list into different groups based on factors such as geography, gender, age, or past buying behavior. Let's find out why segmentation is the key to successful email marketing

An Introduction to Email Segmentation

One of the fundamental principles of marketing is effectively targeting your audience. When you send out emails, it's essential to create messages and offers that closely match your subscribers' needs. In all likelihood, your subscribers vary in their needs and interests. That's why it's so helpful to segment your list and not simply send the same emails out to everyone. The specific ways you do this depends on your business and what you're selling. The following are some common examples of segmentation.

  • Buying Behavior - Send emails based on subscriber's past purchases. Suppose you're selling software with two or more tiers of service. Perhaps, like many services, there's a free version and a paid one. When someone signs up for your free plan, you'll want to send them emails encouraging them to upgrade. However, once someone upgrades, you don't want to annoy him or her with further emails on this topic. If you have multiple tiers, you might need several types of emails encouraging further upgrades. 
  • Location - This one is mainly important if you have a brick and mortar store or offer a service in a specific location. If you have multiple locations, you need to segment your list to make sure the right information goes out to people in these locations.
  • Gender - If you sell products that appeal to men or women, it's worth segmenting your list on this basis. Examples are clothing, accessories, or supplements (fitness or weight loss) made especially for men or women.
  • Age - If your products cover a wide range of ages, consider segmenting your list based on age groups. College students, middle-aged people, and seniors have different needs.
  • Interests - If your company makes sporting equipment for camping, skiing, surfing, and golf, it's helpful to send out relevant offers to all of your diverse customers.
  • Industry - For B2B offers, targeting by industry helps to ensure subscribers can relate to the offers. 
  • Frequency - Some people like to receive lots of emails. Others prefer to only receive occasional emails. 

These are just some of the possible ways to segment your email list. Consider who your customers are and how it makes sense to categorize them.

How to Effectively Segment Your List

Segmentation is not difficult with today's technology. If you use a popular autoresponder service such as Constant Contact, AWeber or GetResponse, there are tools to automate this process. What's important is figuring out exactly how to segment your lists. If you're just starting out with email marketing, it might be wise to wait until your list reaches a certain size before worrying about segmentation. This way you can start to look for patterns as you learn more about your customers.

One of the best ways to segment your customers is to simply ask them what they're interested in. This is not always obvious. Keep in mind that some people shop to buy gifts. That's why it's not always a good idea to over-segment without first asking subscribers what they want. For example, men and women buy gifts for each other, young people buy gifts for their parents and so forth. On the other hand, many subscribers prefer to receive information and offers only on certain topics. A simple questionnaire goes a long way in determining this. One thing you can do without asking is to segment your list based on past buying behavior (e.g. not promoting items to people who've already bought it). 

Another benefit of segmentation is that it may even prevent people from leaving your list. When someone clicks on your "unsubscribe" link (which all messages should have to avoid spam complaints), take them to a page that provides alternatives to unsubscribing. For example, give them the option to receive fewer emails or messages on different topics.

Segmentation is a powerful tool that makes your list more targeted and profitable. It ensures that people are receiving interesting and relevant information. It prevents you from sending out redundant messages. This is a practice that benefits every business involved in email marketing. 

Bryan Caplan