What is the best way to segment emails?

Answered by: Catherine Norman, VP of Marketing

Category: Marketing and Sales

The short answer is it depends on your objectives for any given email. Audience segmentation should correspond to the reasons for sending a particular email. Two of the most common (and basic) reasons marketers segment emails are:

1) To include and/or exclude particular audiences in an offering. For example, sending a special webinar follow up to only those who attended or offering a special discount to those who haven’t already purchased your product.

2) To offer custom content to specific audiences (by industry, function, lead stage etc.) at a specific stage. What drives opens and clicks can be quite different across industries, functions, and stages. As you segment your lists, keep in mind how you’ll customize for each audience you’re segmenting – from subject line to email copy to featured links.

To get started, here are some audiences and related questions to help you think through your particular efforts:

Buyer persona– Who is the person who is buying your offering – is it the same as the user? Consider the industries, verticals, job functions that apply as well as decision-making ability, seniority, etc.

Source of contact– Understand where you got your contact and its context

Stage of the buying cycle– Know what stage of the buying process you are focused on with a particular campaign. Is it building awareness, creating thought leadership, providing competitive information to move along the consideration phase, offering a case study to narrow the decision making? By segmenting emails appropriately by buying stage, you can greatly increase performance numbers.

Level of engagement– Can you reward your most loyal followers who regularly engage and open emails? What about the ones who haven’t visited your site in a while? How can you re-engage them and find out if they’re still a fit? (Note: pay special attention to your subject line for the re-engagement emails. If they haven’t opened your past 3 emails, how will you get them to open this one?)

Type and topic of content already consumed– Do some recipients only seem to click on webinar links or white papers? Consider sending these audiences emails with specific subjects like “Be the first to access our latest whitepaper.”  Similarly, through custom tracking links, you can learn which audience members prefer which topics and customize the subject line, intro copy, and/or content to their interests.

Business type– Does your marketing and sales team have different approaches or messaging for brick and mortar vs. online vs. non-profit or large enterprise, startups, prospects, etc.? If so, take this into consideration with your segmented email approach.

Be sure to consider a few additional segments for B2C offerings:

Purchase history– What have the recipients purchased and what will they likely buy as a follow-up? Are there opportunities for cross/up-sell?

Purchase amounts– Consider giving big spenders a little something extra – bigger discounts, free gifts with purchase, exclusive content, first to know about sales, etc.

Preferred shopping style- Do you have a brick and mortar location AND an online location? One way successful consumer brands segment is by highlighting the benefits that appeal most to their shoppers preferred methods. For example, “Come in and try for yourself” vs. “Check out our online no-hassle returns.”

Some final thoughts:

1) Prepare in advance. Before you move forward with more defined segmentation, add a drop-down menu to your opt-in form that clearly asks what type of content/topics/assets are of interest.

2) Be creative. Most email service providers allow a merge feature so you can combine one or more of the above attributes. Today, consumers expect a personalized approach, so the more customized you can be, the more your customers and prospects will reward you.

3) Make sure there’s a match. Be sure to confirm that your content tagging matches the fields in your automation programs and CRM. Tag your content to ensure that it’s relevant to a particular audience at a particular time. Then consider using a marketing or email platform to help automate the segmentation. There are quite a few guides and best practices to learn how to segment your email lists. Check out the following:

Using Personas and Lists in Your Segmentation via Hubspot

All the Segmenting Options via Mailchimp

We hope the above segmentation examples and the questions posed help you think through your particular strategy. And of course, if there are further questions you have you can always let us know on the GTM Trek.