By Lucid Fusion February 12, 2016

If you’re taking the time to develop great email campaigns, the worst thing to do is to just throw them out into the world and hope for the best; you want to identify the people who will find the most value in your emails. Often, your biggest hurdle is offering enough value to your specific customer that they’re willing to invest their time and effort into opening your email. If you were, say, trying to give away Foo Fighters tickets, this would be much easier: make a list of people you know who love the Foo, spread the word via social media, get a ton of responses from interested parties, and then make some superfan’s day.

The good news is, list segmentation is basically that same process (if only slightly less rock and roll).

Segmented email campaigns see a 58.89% higher click-through rates than non-segmented campaigns.

List segmentation helps you refine your email campaigns by leveraging specific insights into what content, promotions, or information will be attractive to each customer at any given time. After all, the more you know about your recipient, the more relevant you can make each interaction with them—and those highly-targeted interactions pay off. According to MailChimp, segmented email campaigns see a 58.89% higher click-through rates than non-segmented campaigns.

Here are three steps to get started.

1. Segment by Demographics

This is the most basic kind of list segmentation you can do, and it’s a good start—in the way that putting dirty dishes in the general vicinity of the sink is a good start to having clean dishes: it represents progress. Demographics information—e.g. age, gender, income, education level, location—is readily available and easy to acquire (collected through census data, purchased email lists, etc.). If you’re just starting to build your first ever email campaigns, this information is likely the first actionable data you may have, and it’s important because it helps you figure out who your target is.

The problem with using general demographics to segment lists is that it assumes the same demographic groups have the same needs. A 50-year-old enterprise CEO and a 50-year-old solopreneur may be the same age, but they’re going to have different business pain points and/or different interests. Google research also reveals that marketers who rely only on demographics to reach consumers risk missing more than 70% of potential shoppers. The reason is that demographics are only one part of a bigger picture; they don’t explain the why of your customer’s behavior, which you’ll need in order to better understand what will resonate to trigger conversions. So while demographics data is a great foundation, you’re going to need to get a little more specific to make a meaningful impact.

Marketers who rely only on demographics to reach consumers risk missing more than 70% of potential shoppers.

2. Segment by Culture

Also known as psychographic segmentation, cultural segmentation takes into account the actual people behind your target market by leveraging specific data about their activities, values, preferences, and buying behaviors; it provides that crucial “why they buy” component. The main issue many brands have with cultural segmentation is the availability of data; if you can’t collect it on your own you often have to purchase it, which can be prohibitive for smaller businesses. The good news is that this Digital Age we’re in makes it a lot easier to research and acquire this data yourself.

If you haven’t already, map your Customer Journey. This will help you identify the dynamics and motivations of your specific target market by defining their position at every touchpoint along the sales funnel. You can also use resources like Google’s Customer Journey to Online Purchase tool to explore the behavior of your target segment (thanks for aggregating all that data, Google!) so you can more easily plan your strategy.

3. Segment by Engagement

Once you’ve got the who and why of your customer base sorted out, you can start creating messaging and content that will resonate with those defined segments—but it’s not a one-and-done task. Drafting multiple email versions/campaigns (with varying lengths, messaging, layouts, CTAs, etc.) will allow you to test what works best so you can further refine and deliver on tactics with proven success. Everything from subject lines to click-through rates can (and should) be tested. Consider each round of testing as your new baseline; this will help you hone your campaigns into ones that are more likely to convert.

This effort will also provide you with new data to further segment your lists: engagement behavior. Every email that gets opened, gets abandoned, or goes directly to SPAM, offers valuable insight into your customers—especially as it relates to what they want, how they want it, and what it will take to win them over. A lot of marketers undervalue what testing adds to their segmentation efforts—but when data is at a premium and essential to all segmentation efforts, any that you can collect yourself (at little or no additional cost) is priceless!

The more relevant and personal an email is, the more likely someone will open it. That means, ideally, the more granular you can make your lists, the better they’ll align with each person who receives your email. However, it can often take a lot of time (and money) to get to that point. So hit the ground running by starting with the basics and continually testing/applying what you learn into more and more effective campaigns. It may not be as exciting as seeing the Foo Fighters rock the Casbah, but all those new conversions will definitely put you one step closer to marketing rockstar status.


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