Email segmentation, the practice of separating a list of recipient email addresses based on some
qualifying factor, is by no means a new technique. It is most certainly an effective approach that can
drive significant improvements to campaigns and marketers are big believers in the practice.
Email marketing firm Lyris recently surveyed U.S. digital
marketers asking what techniques they currently
use and found that 85 percent cited list segmentation
and targeting. Eighty percent of all those who used targeting
also reported the tactic effective.
What’s Segmentation’s Appeal?
Janel Bailey, a marketing strategist at Clean Control
Corporation in Warner Robins, Ga., had two reasons
for exploring segmentation. The first, enabling consumers
to choose their email list made them feel in control
of the information they received. The second reason
was retention. “Consumers tend not to opt out of a list
if they believe the sender is listening to their interests
and only sending them information they desire, instead
of forcing information on them,” said Bailey.
The challenge most email marketers face when tailoring
their email communication to recipients
through list-segmentation efforts, however,
usually starts with a failure to understand their
own business strategy and what they know
(or think they know) about their buyers’ purchasing
decisions. Fortunately, there are several
super email segmentation strategies to help
marketers manage more effective email campaigns.
Source Segmentation: Perhaps the most straightforward
and valuable method of list segmentation
is lead source. Stu Carty, EVP at Semafone, a global
provider of call center solutions for payment security,
explains the draw toward source segmentation well.
“When you create segmented lists it helps you track
where you met your contacts, their interests, and also
open and click-through analysis. For example, I can see
that ‘George Smith’ clicked on one of my Web links
contained in my email newsletter and that I met George
at a recent tradeshow (contact list). I can add George
to a new list called ‘chardonnay,’ because he clicked on
a Web link about an article on chardonnay wine.”
Geographic Segmentation: A marketer can employ geographic
segmentation by a few different methods. This
includes when a prospective buyer’s location plays an
integral role in their purchasing decision. For example,
it wouldn’t make sense to send an email to recipients
outside of your service coverage area, right?
Role-Based Segmentation: The typical email list is comprised
of various recipients whose roles and responsibilities
within their enterprise (e.g. the marketing lead
of a Fortune 500 company or the head of household)
are easy to identify for segmentation purposes. The reason
role-based segmentation is a popular and effective
strategy is because each role or consumer classification
has their way of interpreting meaning. If you know how
they interpret messaging, brand marketers can personalize
communications to each group.
Content-Interest Segmentation: Segmenting an existing
list by recipients’ roles requires a substantial
amount of information beforehand. However, if marketers
don’t collect this information at the relationship’s
outset, there’s still an opportunity for positive
results — segmenting content by a recipient’s previously
While many marketers only require name and email
address for list access, the activities those users engage
in after registration proves immensely useful. Users
who download a whitepaper or routinely click on a particular type or style of content are clearly expressing
their interests in a particular topic and perhaps even
their overall intent. Segmenting these users and sending
them content they historically engage with can dramatically
increase click-through rates (CTR) and
ultimately conversions. Segmenting by users’ interest in
specific content type benefits those enterprises engaged
in lead-nurturing campaigns most, particularly when the
initial sales cycle is over an extended period.
Behavior-Based Segmentation: Marketers interested in
testing list segmentation but hesitant to try aggressive
approaches, should consider segmenting based on
users’ behavior within the email itself. In the aforementioned
Lyris study, two of the most effective methods
used to segment email lists in 2012 were open rates
and click-through rates (26 and 25 percent respectively).
Segmenting a list based on behavior is a way to
increase CTR, but in an age of more advanced email filtering
mechanisms, it is also a way to stay in the good
deliverability graces of ISPs. These services are increasingly
looking at historical engagement as a measure of
whether to deliver a message or not.
Advocacy Segmentation: There are opportunities within
every email marketing campaign to identify your
brand’s strongest advocates. You can segment your list
to acknowledge this valuable group’s support. Knowing
which email list recipients also share content
to social networks is a quick way to accelerate awareness
for specific messages, which you’re confident will
resonate. Couple that with content-interest segmentation
and you’re flirting with powerful email segmentation
Experimenting with Segmentation
Once marketers understand how to segment their customer
database, they must eventually hit “send.” Semafone’s
EVP, Carty, suggests starting with a few key
segmentations and then experimenting with 3-5 lists.
“Then look at the open and click-through results to fine
tune your segmentation. Build up your segmentation
to several lists by events, titles/interest, geographic territories
or other categories.”
List Segmentation in Action
There’s no shortage of proof that segmentation works
and no lack of information on exactly how enterprises
should segment their customer and prospect lists. Often
the best way to understand segmentation is through a
Chris Peacock, inventor of Hand Steady (a new type
of cup with a rotatable handle for people with long-term
health conditions such as Arthritis), is now segmenting
his email marketing list by offering visitors a sevenday
customized introduction to the product based on
health condition, who the product was purchased for
and even where they live. Peacock will then send recipients
links to different content (in this case video)
and schedule the segmented campaigns on different
sequences (drip email marketing).
Measuring Segmentation Performance
Segmentation efforts are futile if there’s no understanding
of how that strategy ultimately performed. To be
successful, monitor changes in customer behaviors
closely, throw out the worst-performing tests and reserve
the best for when a few additional click-throughs
could make a significant difference in future campaigns.
Ultimately, it’s important to understand if additional
actions were taken, if some level of engagement
was obtained, or whether a purchase was made a first
or second time. It’s also important to understand
whether the segmentation tactics in place increase
order values and frequency.
The suggestions shared above are a good starting
point, yet they remain rather generic for individual scenarios.
The best approach is to start slowly by first analyzing
your audience in order to identify any natural
variations in their audience characteristics.