When harnessed correctly, an email list can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. Not only is your list an intimate, direct way to communicate specific messages to your audience, it is something you can truly “own.”
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are powerful in their own rights, but you are only ever “renting” those users from the platform itself. And as Facebook continues to make it harder and harder to reach your followers organically, growing and maintaining your mailing list is crucial.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of that process is email segmentation. But what exactly is it — and why is it so vital? And how can you make it happen?
What is Email Segmentation?
For starters, email segmentation refers to the process of breaking your mailing list up into organized pieces. Instead of always sending emails to one large group of people, you break up your list into categories based on similar features of those users. Here are some common ways email lists may be segmented:
- Geographically (e.g. Boston, UK, California)
- Demographically (e.g. age, gender)
- Behaviorally (e.g. website visitors, previous customers)
Often times, a mailing list subscriber might fall into several segmentation buckets — and that’s OK! The more ways you can slice and dice your list into specific pieces, the better.
Email marketing software like MailChimp or Emma can provide you with easy ways to categorize and tag your subscribers, but they will all require that you manually input those tags yourself. If you don’t know someone’s location or their place in the buying cycle, you’ll need to spend the time tracking down that information. The size of your list and your familiarity with who has signed up for it will influence how long that process takes.
Why Should I Segment My list?
The simplest, most direct answer to that question is because your email performance will drastically improve. Metrics like Open Rate and Click-Through Rate will no doubt get better the more you segment your audiences and email campaigns.
In fact, a recent study by MailChimp showed just how powerful segmentation can be, comparing around 11,000 segmented emails against a similar group of non-segmented emails. Here are a few highlights of the results:
- Increased opens by 14.31%
- Increased unique opens by 10.64%
- Increased clicks by 100.95%
- Decreased bounces by 4.65%
- Decreased unsubscribes by 9.37%.
As you can see, sending specific emails to a targeted group of people will result in better performance because that email is more relevant to your recipient. Because you’re not blasting one broad message to a diverse group of users, the audience will reward your effort with greater engagement.
In addition to the improved metrics, there is the less measurable effect segmentation has on your overall brand perception. Think about your own experience with email: How much do we hate getting some generic email for a sale on clothing we don’t even wear? What about software updates for a product we’ve never used?
By tailoring each email to a specific, segmented group of users, you can give them information that feels personalized, thoughtful and useful. This will only further endear your customers to your brand along the way.
How Can I Segment My List?
As mentioned above, one of the best ways to begin segmenting is to dive into your database head-first. It won’t be pretty, and it won’t be quick, but trust us: it’s 1000% worth it.
Grab some of your best sales or account folks — anyone who has deep knowledge of your potential and/or existing customers — and start going through your list, adding as much information as you can about them. Start with the most important data you’re hoping to segment for (demographics, geography, etc.) and then add whatever information you can. Again, the more data you have on each subscriber, the better.
Once you’ve got your list updated, it’s time to start thinking about future email campaigns: the true test of your segmentation efforts. Make a list of all your new segments, and brainstorm what kind of content they might want to receive. How can you educate and delight that small group of users? How can you speak in a way that only addresses them and their needs?
The other important piece of segmentation going forward is to make sure any data capture methods you’re using (landing pages, pop-ups, sign-up forms, etc.) allow you to capture information that will help you segment those new entries. Most any mailing list platform will allow you to do this, but remember: don’t be too pushy too soon. Generic email signups on your homepage should likely only take a small bit of information, whereas a detailed landing page that was served to a targeted audience can ask for a bit more info (especially if you’re offering a valuable benefit like an eBook or a product demo).
So there you have it: a beginner’s guide to email segmentation. It won’t be a quick project, but if you’re serious about improving your email performance, it’s the best investment you can make.