The Importance of Email Marketing Segmentation

email marketing segmentation

If you pay attention to the hype, you’ve probably noticed that some people in the content marketing industry are saying that email lists are a thing of the past.

With the increased popularity of social media marketing, email lists are slowly becoming obsolete, right?

Not even close. Building an email list is just as important today as it’s ever been. Frankly, comparing email to social media is the marketing equivalent of comparing apples and oranges.

When it comes to engaging your audience every day, social media wins by design (you’re tapped into your clients daily news feed, after all). When it comes to conversion, email still does a better job.

Forget About ‘One Size Fits All’

When it comes to email marketing, it’s important to keep your audience in mind constantly. Now, your business (like most in the world) is probably going to have a few potential types of ideal customers.

There really is no such thing as an effective all-encompassing message that interests everyone. This is where email really has a chance to shine. After all, posting on social media, while incredibly valuable, sends out a single general message.

When it comes to email, you have the ability to split your audience into separate groups and speak to them based on each group’s needs. If you’re looking to convert every potential customer that comes your way, it’s essential that you identify these buyer personas and appeal to these different groups.

That’s the whole point of email marketing segmentation – having the ability to give people exactly what they want.

The Importance of Email Marketing Segmentation

Separating ‘Right Now’ from ‘Maybe Later’

Speaking of giving the people what they want, let’s talk about the sales cycle. Yes, building up a sizable email list is something you should be focused on. If you don’t have one, start working on it immediately. That being said, if you don’t understand your email list, you won’t be able to effectively target and convert your audience.

Now, some of your contacts are just browsing and extremely unlikely to be converted anytime soon. Why? Because they don’t need you right now. Those are the ‘maybe later’ contacts that sign up for your email list because they’re curious.

Being overly aggressive with them might actually end up doing more harm than good (the last thing you want to be seen as is a spammer).

The other group is contacts that need your product/service right now and are actively looking for a solution to their problem. By differentiating between these two kinds of contacts and using email marketing segmentation, you’ll be able to determine the appropriate kinds of emails to send them.

The first contact? They’ll just get a general email, nothing too aggressive. But that ‘right now’ contact? They’re getting targeted content that was designed for someone in their stage of the sales cycle.

ContactsCharacteristicsEmail Approach
'Maybe Later'- Just browsing- Avoid being overly aggressive
- Unlikely to convert soon- Provide informative content
- Curious and exploring- Build brand awareness
'Right Now'- Actively seeking a solution- Send targeted, persuasive content
- Need product/service urgently- Encourage immediate action
- High intent to convert- Highlight benefits and offers

The Importance of Email Marketing Segmentation

The Power of Email Automation in Segmentation

In our discussion of email marketing segmentation, it’s essential to highlight the significant role that automation plays in making this strategy effective. Automation not only saves time and effort but also ensures that your segmented email campaigns are timely and relevant. Here’s why incorporating automation into your segmentation strategy is a game-changer:

  1. Timely Engagement:
    • Automation allows you to send emails at the right moment. For example, if a subscriber signs up for your newsletter, you can trigger a welcome email immediately. Or, for a birthday promotion, you can set up automated emails to be sent on subscribers’ birthdays.
    • This timeliness increases the chances of your emails being opened and acted upon, as they align with the subscriber’s current state of mind.
  2. Behavior-Based Triggers:
    • Building on behavioral segmentation, automation can respond to specific actions taken by subscribers. For instance, if someone abandons their cart, an automated reminder can be sent within a predefined time frame.
    • These triggers are based on real-time data, ensuring that your emails are always relevant to the recipient’s recent interactions.
  3. Drip Campaigns for Nurturing:
    • Drip campaigns are a powerful automation tool for nurturing leads and guiding them through the customer journey. With segmentation, you can create tailored drip campaigns that address the unique needs and interests of different segments.
    • By automating this process, you provide consistent and personalized communication to nurture leads into customers.
  4. Personalization at Scale:
    • Automation allows you to personalize emails even when dealing with a large subscriber base. You can use merge tags to insert individual subscriber data into emails, creating a sense of personalization.
    • This personal touch enhances the subscriber’s experience and increases the likelihood of engagement and conversion.
  5. Testing and Optimization:
    • A/B testing is crucial for improving email performance. Automation simplifies the process by allowing you to set up and track A/B tests automatically.
    • You can experiment with different subject lines, content, and send times, ensuring that your segmented emails are continually optimized for better results.
  6. Segmentation Based on Engagement:
    • Automation can help you segment subscribers based on their engagement levels. For instance, if a subscriber hasn’t opened your emails for a while, you can automate re-engagement campaigns.
    • This proactive approach ensures that you’re always reaching out to the right people with the right content.
  7. Analytics and Insights:
    • Automated email marketing platforms provide robust analytics and reporting. You can track open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and more, allowing you to refine your segmentation strategy based on real data.
    • These insights empower you to make data-driven decisions to improve your email campaigns continually.
Automation BenefitsDescription
Timely Engagement- Send emails at the right moment, increasing open rates and engagement.
- Examples include welcome emails for new subscribers and birthday promotions.
Behavior-Based Triggers- Respond to specific subscriber actions, such as cart abandonment, with automated messages.
- Leverage real-time data for relevance and effectiveness.
Drip Campaigns for Nurturing- Nurture leads through personalized drip campaigns that address unique segment needs.
- Automate consistent and relevant communication to guide leads into becoming customers.
Personalization at Scale- Use automation to personalize emails even for a large subscriber base using merge tags.
- Enhance the subscriber experience and boost engagement and conversion rates.
Testing and Optimization- Simplify A/B testing by setting up and tracking tests automatically.
- Experiment with subject lines, content, and send times for continuous campaign improvement.
Segmentation Based on Engagement- Automatically segment subscribers based on their engagement levels.
- Implement re-engagement campaigns for subscribers who haven't interacted for a while.
Analytics and Insights- Utilize automated email marketing platforms to access robust analytics and reporting.
- Track open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and more for data-driven campaign improvements.
- Refine segmentation strategies based on real data and insights.

The Importance of Email Marketing Segmentation

The Ethics of Email Marketing Segmentation

While we’ve explored the practical benefits of email marketing segmentation, it’s crucial to also consider the ethical aspects of this strategy. Email marketing segmentation, when misused or taken to extremes, can lead to negative consequences for both businesses and subscribers. Here’s why ethical considerations should guide your segmentation practices:

  1. Respect for Privacy:
    • Ethical segmentation begins with respecting your subscribers’ privacy. Ensure that you’re collecting and using data in a transparent and lawful manner. Be clear about how you’ll use their information and obtain their consent.
    • Avoid purchasing email lists or using data without permission, as this can lead to legal repercussions and damage your brand’s reputation.
  2. Transparency in Segmentation:
    • Be transparent about your segmentation practices. Let subscribers know that you use their data to personalize emails and improve their experience. Provide options for subscribers to control the type and frequency of emails they receive.
    • Transparency builds trust and helps subscribers feel in control of their inbox.
  3. Avoiding Over-segmentation:
    • Over-segmentation, where you create numerous narrow segments, can lead to subscriber fatigue and overwhelm. Avoid bombarding subscribers with too many emails, as this can result in them unsubscribing or marking your emails as spam.
    • Prioritize quality over quantity when creating segments.
  4. Responsible Personalization:
    • Personalization is powerful, but it should be done responsibly. Avoid using sensitive or invasive information to personalize emails. Strive for personalization that enhances the subscriber’s experience rather than making them uncomfortable.
    • A balance must be struck between personalization and privacy.
  5. Consent and Opt-Outs:
    • Respect subscriber preferences. Make it easy for subscribers to opt out or update their preferences at any time. Honor unsubscribe requests promptly, and ensure that they are removed from the relevant segments.
    • Failing to respect opt-out requests can lead to legal violations and harm your reputation.
  6. Data Security:
    • Protect subscriber data with robust security measures. Data breaches can have severe consequences, both legally and reputationally. Implement encryption and other security measures to safeguard sensitive information.
    • Communicate your commitment to data security to reassure subscribers.
  7. Regular Auditing and Compliance:
    • Conduct regular audits of your segmentation practices to ensure compliance with data protection laws like GDPR, CAN-SPAM, or CCPA. Stay informed about evolving regulations and adapt your practices accordingly.
    • Non-compliance can result in hefty fines and legal issues.
  8. Educating Your Team:
    • Ensure that your marketing team is well-educated about ethical segmentation practices. Train them to handle data responsibly and make ethical decisions in their marketing efforts.
    • Ethical behavior should be ingrained in your company culture.

The Importance of Email Marketing Segmentation

The Real Reason You Should Use Email Marketing Segmentation

Frankly, you should be using email marketing segmentation – because it works.

According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report (PDF), 39 percent of businesses that segmented their email lists had increased open rates. Whatever your personal opinion is on the relevancy of email in today’s social media age, there’s no denying that if you’re trying to make the most out of your email list, segmentation is your best bet.

Of course, no one said that any of this would be easy. Creating accurate buyer personas can be pretty challenging, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

As if that wasn’t enough, knowing what to do with each group you’ve created requires tons of planning and talent (if you’re not sure how to get started, you’re in luck! Hubspot has a free buyer persona generator to help you get started).

Remember: email marketing segmentation is about more than just converting. It’s about understanding your audience better and (ideally) learning how to better serve them in the process.

So, what do you think? Do you think email segmentation is really worth doing?

Computer User Photo via Shutterstock

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Michael Peggs Michael Peggs is the founder of Marccx Media, a content marketing agency based in New York City. Michael helps small business owners and large companies plan, produce and promote content that drives traffic, generates more qualified leads and increases business for your brand.