Insight February 20, 2018

Email List Segmentation: What You Need to Know


Email marketing is far from dead. It’s an essential tool that has a median ROI of 122 percent – more than four times higher than other marketing formats, including social media, direct mail, and paid search. Social platforms might be the media-darlings, but when it comes to conversions, email marketing still runs the show.

One of the major benefits of email is the expectation of your audience. Unlike social media, where followers are primarily there to interact with friends, family, and others, email is a professional medium. Potential customers expect to find information about your products, services, or promotions in their inboxes.

If your products are relevant, they want to receive your promotions: 86 percent of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly. The keyword here is relevant. All it takes is one irrelevant or poorly-targeted email to push your potential customer to unsubscribe.

Building an email list is hard work — and the last thing you want to do is squander it.

Remember, your subscribers have already opted in to receive your marketing and promotions. Now, you just need to deliver content they actually want.

Gone are the days of a one-and-done “email blast” to your entire mailing list. When your customer opens up their inbox, you want to create an “aha!” moment — where your email fits their needs so well that they feel as if it was created solely for them. That’s where email segmentation comes in handy.

Email segmentation is a technique that allows you to whittle down your mailing list to a few targeted groups, so that you can keep your messaging relevant to more of your audience.

One study by MailChimp found that segmented email campaigns have an open rate that is 14.32 percent higher than non-segmented campaigns. If you are plagued by low open and click-through rates (or high unsubscribe rates), segmentation can help you make the most of your email campaigns.

How do you surprise and delight your customers with the perfect content?

Survey your audience. The easiest way to know exactly what your customers want is to ask them. When you ask for the information up front, it’s a promise to the audience that you will serve them relevant information and offers based on their needs.

It can be as simple as sending a one-question survey and sorting customers into segments based on their answers. Or, you could collect the information up front on your signup form with a few options for customers to select their motivations, interests, and intentions.

Know your sales funnel. Every marketer strives to turn browsers into buyers. Your sales funnel is where the magic happens, where a potential customer moves though the stages from awareness to action — and hopefully becomes a repeat buyer.

Would you send a beginner tutorial to one of your long-time, repeat customers? What about an offer for special attachments to a customer who hasn’t purchased your product yet? Email blasts that go out to your entire list might help some people, but others will be confused or annoyed.

You want to make sure that emails target your subscribers based on where they sit in your sales funnel. New subscribers should receive the most basic introduction to your offerings and loyal customers receiving relevant offers or advanced instruction.

Harness the data. Whether you’re gathering your subscriber list from an opt-in form, past purchases, or a general signup message on your website — chances are you’re also gathering data about their behavior, demographic, or location along the way. Use it to build your audience segments.

  • Behavioral data tells you about past purchases, browsing habits, clicks, and where a potential customer is engaging with your brand. Collectively, this information can be a great predictor of future interests or behavior — making it easier to serve up relevant promotions or calls-to-action.
  • Demographic data tells you who your potential customers are (age, gender, incomes, etc.), helping create more refined audience profiles. You wouldn’t necessarily want to communicate the same information to the volunteers, donors, and board members of your nonprofit, right? Each audience has different needs, so there should be a different profile/segment for each.
  • Geographic data can help to ensure you serve the right promotion to the right population. If you have a new store opening in Memphis, Tennessee, and the announcement email reaches your customers in Duluth, Minnesota, that can annoy your otherwise engaged Minnesotan customers.

Never stop experimenting. When it comes to audience segmentation, you can’t just set it and forget it. Your audiences are constantly changing; new subscribers join your email list, old ones roll off, and some make the transition from subscriber to buyer. The important thing is to check in and make sure that you’re still serving up the content they want, proving that you know their challenges, interests, and goals — so that your 10,000th subscriber still feels the same one-on-one relationship as your first 100.

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