Email List Segmentation For Beginners
As bloggers and online marketers, it's important to learn how to create content that makes each person in your audience feel like you created it just for them.
This shows that you have a deep understanding of your audience and that you've found the trigger point that puts you in touch with them on an emotional level.
When you can make this kind of connection to your readers, it makes it more likely that they will follow through on your calls to action.
However, generating that type of response using email marketing can present a bit of a challenge for most marketers.
Email is extremely personal, which makes it hard to share one message that is universal to all your readers. And so for you to be able to connect to each of your subscribers in that way requires the use of a few smart tactics which we will be discussing in this post.
Why List Segmentation is Important
Your emails need to be personal, otherwise, they may seem out of place to some of your subscribers. When people just aren't feeling the connection on a personal level, the odds are they will simply unsubscribe or become inactive.
This is particularly dangerous in any autoresponder email series that you create as you're more likely to forget it. An autoresponder is a series of pre-written emails that you send to your subscribers over a period of time.
It feels good to be able to set up something once and then let automation take over, but your audience is sharp, and it only takes that one email that isn't aligned with their needs to convince them that being on your list isn't for them anymore.
And that's when they hit the 'unsubscribe' button.
So, what's the best way of solving the dilemma of sending targeted emails to each subscriber on your list? You do that by segmenting your list into groups. That way you can actually write emails that matter to each of those groups.
List Segmentation Basics
Segmenting your email list simply refers to the process of putting your subscribers into various groups that you can send more personalized emails to.
Here is an example of basic email segmentation. You have an email list and a product to sell.
You segment the subscribers from your list into two groups:
You send specific emails to the first group, and you send different emails to the second group: Valuable content that is educational and builds authority and trust.
To the non-buyers, you send content like success stories that show proof of concept. These emails are meant to be a driver of sales.
If someone from this group buys your product, you then move them to the 'buyers' segment where they start to receive a different set of emails from your 'buyer' autoresponder series.
You could send them a thank you email for buying the product, together with some vital information pertaining to how they can access the product.
You can then send a follow-up email a couple of days later to check on their progress and ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Two weeks in, you can send a survey email to find out what they like or dislike about their experience with your product so far.
4 weeks later you can send them an unexpected free gift as a thank you.
Next, you could send a promotion for another product you have for that same audience.
So, as you can see, each group gets to have their own special series of emails that is targeted at converting them.
Can you imagine how annoyed your buyers would be with you to see an email (in their already overflowing inbox) pitching a product that they purchased two weeks ago?
That's the kind of thing that makes people want to unsubscribe, but following this segmentation process ensures that it doesn't happen. The best part is that all this can be done automatically using your ESP (email service provider).
First Rule of Email List Segmentation: Keep It Simple
The most useful piece of advice any successful email marketer will tell you when it comes to segmenting your list is to keep it simple (in the beginning, at least).
Eventually, you are going to have an incredibly complex automation sequence with dozens of segments in your list of subscribers, but when you're just beginning, it's best to keep things simple and the buyers vs. the non-buyers segmentation is the easiest to understand and implement.
Of course, there are lots of other segmentation options that you can implement within an email list.
It's not always a simple case of 'this or that' as in the example above. You could have some people who are placed in two or more groups depending on what your goals are.
For instance, you could have a non-buyer who is also interested in one of your niche's subtopics.
Here are some other options that you can explore for your email list segmentation:
Segment Your Existing Email List
You can create and save brand new segments from your existing list of email subscribers without having to collect any new data from them.
For instance, you could have a segment that is based on the date that your subscribers signed up.
Or maybe you want to create a segment of everyone who subscribed to your list in the previous month. You can also segment your list according to geographical location.
There are countless possibilities that you can use depending on your business's needs.
Segmentation becomes a truly powerful tool when you start to segment your list based on what their interests are. But how do you determine your audience's interests? And more importantly, what do you do once you have that data?
Email List Segmentation Based on Interests
Your site (hopefully) targets a specific market, which most likely has specific interests or sub-niches within it that you can cater to. You've probably already figured out what those are and they are most likely reflected in the categories of your blog.
If you haven't figured those out yet, then just go to your analytics dashboard and look for the most popular stuff that you've published. BuzzSumo is another great tool that can help you figure out the topics that your ideal audience finds most interesting.
Here is an example from the Health and Fitness Industry:
You have people who are primarily interested in losing weight
Then you have others who want to know more about strength training
Within that 'strength training' sub-niche, there are those who want to look beefed up...
And yet others who want to look lean
This is just a simple example to show you that there are many ways of dividing up your audience.
But, as previously mentioned, if you're just starting out then just two or three segments will be enough so that you don't get overwhelmed.
Interest-Based Segmentation Formulas: How to Segment your list with a Survey
You can start your segmentation with the audience that you already have.
That is, the main list that you're currently dropping all your subscribers into. You can do this by offering them a specialized link for them to click on. The click triggers the ESP to put that subscriber into a previously specified group.
You can set up an automation rule in your email service provider which specifies that when people click on the link in your survey question, they are moved from your main list to the new lists according to their answers.
You can name and categorize your groups how you see fit, and then you can start to create emails that are specific to that group. After all, it makes sense that the people who aren't yet in business shouldn't receive the same emails as the ones who have already set up their websites and blogs, right?
Now you'll be able to communicate with each of your groups in a more targeted way.
Segment Your List Based on Lead Magnet and/or Opt-in Form
Segmenting your audience through links in the emails you send them is a great method, but, although you're going to experience higher email open rates once you start segmenting, not everyone on your email list is going to open every email that you send them.
You'll do even better by segmenting your audience based on the actions that your visitors take on your site. If you can do this effectively, then you can skip the step outlined above and go straight to creating content that matters to them.
Here is an example to explain this concept.
Let's say you have a photography site, and you've broken your audience on that site into a few segments:
Yes, there are way more, but remember the point at this stage is to keep things simple.
So, you write a post for your blog titled: '17 Mistakes All Beginner Family Photographers Make', and at the end of that post, you include a sign-up form that segments all new subscribers automatically into the family photography segment.
Although this is a basic example, you get the point, right?
Depending on your email service provider, you can set it up so that each form you create has a number of specific option linked to it.
So when someone signs up for your 'Family Photography' lead magnet, you send them to that list so that they can start receiving products that are relevant to that particular interest.
That's the simple process for ensuring that when someone signs up for your email list they will automatically start to receive content that is extremely relevant to them.
List Segmentation Based on Product Purchases
As previously discussed, the easiest way to segment your audience is to separate them into buyers and non-buyers.
You can do this by setting up an automation rule in your ESP which specifies that when people buy a product from you, they are placed into an autoresponder series corresponding to the particular product that they purchased.
Also, at the same time of the purchase, those people are taken off the non-buyer autoresponder series, and they are tagged to show that they purchased that product. The former makes it seem like a duplicate, but the latter makes a lot of sense.
Tagging your buyers (in addition to placing them in specific email sequences) is a smart tactic because, over the course of their lives, your subscribers will receive many different email sequences that you have set up. They will be put into one funnel or sequence and then dropped into a different one after they take certain actions.
This means that, hypothetically, you could have one person being in two or more email sequences. That can be a LOT of emails, and you don't want to overwhelm your subscribers.
So, as your subscribers move through the various email sequences that you have set up, you should tag them to mark them as buyers so that later, if you come up with an upgrade of your product then you can send a broadcast to your customers telling them about it (regardless of where they currently are in your email series).
This kind of simple email list segmentation and automation is super useful, but is it mandatory? No, but I highly recommend it if you have a list of subscribers that you send emails to on a regular basis.
It will help you deliver better value to all your subscribers.
So, use this introductory post to help you get started. And remember, just start out simple, and then grow and expand your segments from there.
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Updated: Originally published September 2nd 2018