4 Easy Ways to Segment Your E-mail Marketing List

The concept of segmenting can drastically streamline your e-mail lists. Here's how to get started.
July 06, 2012

You’ve got a list of e-mail addresses and it’s growing and growing. Great! But you also know that sending everyone on your list the exact same message may not be the most efficient marketing strategy. The last thing you want is to drive a recipient to click on the dreaded “unsubscribe” link due to a lack of interest.

An effective email maketing campaign is all about sending relevant content to the right audience at the right time. The more relevant your message, the better your open, click-through and conversion rates will be, and the more traffic and business you’ll get.

But try as we might, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all e-mail that will do this. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Here are four ways to divide your list and send more targeted, relevant e-mails that will keep your audience subscribed—and engaged.

1. Segment by when they’ve purchased. This is one of the easiest segmentations. All you have to do is separate your list into two groups: those who’ve purchased from you in the past and those who haven’t. This way, you can send an “introductory offer” to new subscribers and a “thanks for your business offer” to existing customers.

You can take it one step further and segment the list of existing customers by purchase history. For those who haven’t made a purchase in a long time, you can try reeling them back in with a win-back email.

Use personalization in your subject line, like “[First Name], We Want You Back,” "We Miss You [First Name]” or “Where Have You Been [First Name]?” This can be a catchy way to get that e-mail opened.

2. Segment by what they’ve purchased. Knowing what your subscribers have purchased in the past allows you to target promotions for specific products and anticipate what they may be interested in. It also helps them remember that great experience they had with your company and encourages them to interact again.

If you write a review on TripAdvisor (their version of a “purchase”), the company will send e-mail updates letting you know how many people have read your review as well as “Destination Updates” on locations you’ve reviewed. They also tell you how many reviews you need to post before getting your next badge (reviewer, senior reviewer, top contributor, etc.). This is a great strategy to remind their customers—the reviewers—about their contributions and encourages them to post more content.

Segmenting by purchase history or past actions also works great for personalization, which is another tactic to get those e-mails opened. You could send a follow-up e-mail that thanks them for their last purchase of [insert product] on [insert date], and suggest a complementary product with a great offer.

3. Segment by geography. Geographical segmentation works best when the location of the subscriber plays a significant role in what he or she is interested in. Say you’re a chocolatier and have a booth set up at an event in the next county. If you collect zip codes in your newsletter sign-up form, you can send out a targeted e-mail just to people living in the area and invite them to visit your booth.

Zipcar, the popular worldwide car-sharing company, occasionally sends e-mails with city-specific information and deals. For example, they recently delivered an e-mail about a contest giveaway, and the prize was free tickets to San Francisco Giants home games. I live just a few blocks from the ballpark, so the e-mail instantly grabbed my attention.

4. Segment by demographics. Demographic data can be anything from age group to gender and marital status. By segmenting your list demographically, you can target specific products and use specific language tailored to certain groups of people.

Word of caution: You need to be careful about collecting this type of information because you don’t want to scare people from signing up for your e-mails. For example, people might be more willing to disclose their age group and gender to a dermatologist or physician because they know it helps inform the type of care and services they might get. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about what kind of information they would be comfortable giving up.

Segmenting your e-mail list doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Start with baby steps, like the “current versus new customer” segmentation. The results can be huge for your e-mail marketing efforts—and your bottom line. It can also be a small step that leads to successfully engaging your client base. And isn’t that worth the effort?

Do you have any creative ways of dividing up your e-mail lists?

OPEN Cardmember Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, which provides a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses and non-profits including e-mail marketing, social media, event marketing, direct mail and online surveys. She's also the CEB (Chief Executive Blogger) of the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog for Small Businesses.

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