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Segmenting Your Subscribers

September 9, 2011

The smart segmentation of your database is the practice of making your email messages more targeted to individuals by dividing your subscribers into groups of people with similar likes. Across your email marketing campaigns  you will find that there are people with many different interests and likes in your mailing lists and so it makes total sense to identify them and use segmentation to improve your results by sending appealing, targeted content. Good segmentation proves to your recipient that you know what you are doing and instead of blasting out emails, you are putting thought behind each send.

Help getting started

If you want to move away from the less effective blast emailing approach, which involves sending a single generic email to your whole list, you will first of all need to start understanding the differences in your audience to convince them to open, engage and convert more often.

Setting your objectives

Objectives you may want to consider are increasing relevance, increasing your ROI or improving your response rates. When deciding how to segment your database it is important to identify your main objectives. Consider what will make the campaign a success for you and what do you want to achieve it? Just keep in mind that some of your subscribers need to be treated differently.  You may have new customers, or existing customers and each one will enjoy a different relationship with your brand and if you recognise this, you’ll be away.

Segment on arrival

For new subscribers you should start off on the right foot by segmenting them as early as possible. The best place to start is to determine what makes the most sense for marketing your product or service. Take a look at your current database at the information you already hold to see how useful this could be with your segmentation. Consider all the points at which you collect data and the effectiveness of this process.
Make sure your preference centre or subscription form gives people the opportunity to specify which segment they belong to. Consider doing this by asking them to select a topic, product or other area of interest.

Back to basics

Build your mailing list to include additional information as you will need more than just an email address!  Even very basic details such as gender or age will get you started. As you are reaching out to individuals, each new segment you target will multiply the level of content you need, which applies to a single email to each segment, or launching targeted newsletters. As this will take more time, make sure you have the resources in place to deliver relevant content and perhaps just start with one or two basic segments.

To ensure better performance, you will need to test your emails against control groups to make sure you are hitting the mark with each segment. You can do this through open rates, click-throughs and conversions. See our whitepaper Testing, Testing, Testing.

Understand your segments

A key area of segmentation is identifying your prospects from your customers. Look at dividing subscribers between existing clients, or those who have already done business with you, from those who haven’t. Identifying a customer from a prospect make a big difference as to how you should be introducing your products and services and will allow for a much stronger email marketing strategy.

Reviewing your current statistics will also allow you to obtain valuable information on individual preferences to recognise key segments.
Separate your active subscribers from your inactive subscribers.  You should consider separating subscribers who have clicked in your email within the last few months, with those who haven’t. The n you can test frequency or content for the less active subscribers who are damaging your response rates.

Profile v Behavioural

Profile based segmentation is basic demographic segmentation through profile data (age, gender, location etc) and can be one of the most effective ways to target tour message. Most of this data should be captured at the initial contact/capture stage.  Whilst profile based data forms a strong basis for a customer focused email strategy, it is totally reliant on customers providing you with information.  A very powerful way to segment is to look at click behavior and browsing or purchase history as this will give you a deeper understanding of your customers, so that you can tailor and personalise your messages.


Once you have segmented your data you will need to integrate it into your creative design. Testing will reveal the best approach for each segment and this will help you avoid over-emailing subscribers who are not as interested in the message. Simple subject line testing or segmentation involving user-based content will allow you to reward customers on a certain date for example.

Getting great results

Taking the time to create, manage and deliver customized content can make a significant difference with the engagement of your recipients and build on the valued and trusted relationship between you and your customers.

According to Marketing Sherpa’s 2011 Wisdom Report, when a sample of doctors segmented and personalized their newsletters and another sample of doctors didn’t; the doctors who segmented, created and delivered targeted content and used personalized subject lines had an average open rate of 41% against an average of 22% for those who didn’t. Sharing of newsletter content by “ Forward to a Friend” and social media increased by an average of 25%, whilst those doctors without targeted content showed only a 3% sharing rate.  


Delivering targeted content to segmented lists will help any business with their email marketing campaigns. Just take the time to review your list and what you know about them and start segmenting and delivering the content they want and need.
By dividing your database into smaller chunks or people who share the same characteristics, you can then begin to regard them differently with more targeted emails, which will help you build relationships and improve your ROI.

If you need any further help or advice on running campaigns using segmented data, please call 0161 817 2929 or email [email protected].


Posted by Rebecca McCormick

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