How strategically segmenting your email list increases engagement

How strategically segmenting your email list increases engagement

Ashley Gainer's Layout avatar

If you’ve been in the online business space for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about the importance of your email list and email marketing strategy.

As the exhortation goes, you need to be building a list, always. This is where your profits lie! This is the only communication channel you can control! You can make money even with a small list!

Email lists are indeed important for all kinds of businesses, especially those selling digital products and services (like web design!). And one of the nitty-gritty email list philosophies you’ll bump into time and time again is that of segmenting your list.

Segmenting your email list is basically what it sounds like — taking your list and splitting it up into different bits. It can be a really powerful tool in your marketing toolbox once you understand the basics of segmenting, especially when you’re in a profession that has two potential audiences — your clients and prospective clients, and any other people you might want to build into an “audience.”

But even if you’re a client-work-only kind of business, segmenting is a fundamental digital marketing strategy you should understand. There are always things you can do with email segments to make your emails more valuable…and when you’re a service provider (or really, any business at all!), value is one of the goals.

The huge benefits of email segments

Segmenting your list is a form of efficiency, and I (personally) am all about efficiency. Here’s how that works.

When you segment your list, what you’re doing is applying specific labels (actual labels within your email service provider, or even separate lists, depending on how your ESP works) to different “populations” within your email list. If you’ve only got 200 people on your list, this might seem like a dumb thing to do, but it becomes more and more important as your list grows.

What segmenting allows you to do is speak only to the specific people on your list who would be interested in whatever you’re sharing. This leads to all kinds of great marketing KPIs, like higher open rates and bigger conversions, which is nice to see.

But – and this is important – the act itself of only sending out relevant emails to your readers is good for business. Your email deliverability will go up, your engagement will go up, and you’ll build all kinds of good rapport.

Nobody likes to be on an email list that sends out all kinds of mass broadcasts that clearly aren’t relevant. If I’m a client of yours, for example, I don’t really want to hear about your course for new designers. I’m not a new designer, it’s not relevant to me, and dealing with this irrelevant email in my inbox is annoying and a waste of my time. It might even make me not want to work with you again.

But if you set up a segment that contains ONLY the people who might be interested in your course for new designers, and you send the email only to those people, everybody is happy. The non-designers are blissfully ignorant, the newbies know about this great new opportunity, and you’re not that annoying person who keeps sending irrelevant emails. Everybody wins!

Step 1: Identify your target audience

The first step to getting your segmenting off the ground is to identify your audiences.

(Yes, for the realists among us: It can be weird to think about clients and such as an audience, but the use of “audience” in this sense is just business jargon. It doesn’t mean you’re performing and it doesn’t mean you’re stuck-up; it’s just the word that gets used for this specific concept.)

Your target audience can mean any number of things, but basically it boils down to “the group(s) of people you want to talk to.” When it comes to your email list segments, you can think of the “target audience” as the different types of people who will be on your email list, and go from there.

If you’ve been focused on services you provide but you want to start branching out into new territory, either by developing courses, becoming a speaker or consultant, or otherwise developing a part of your business beyond the actual services you provide, you’ll have multiple distinct target audiences. The main work at this step is identifying all of them.

Clients and prospective clients would obviously be one of your target audiences, but then newbie developers might be a target audience, or experienced designers who want to move into high-end design. Marketing professionals might be an audience, depending on what you want to do. Get clear on the right person you want to reach, and that will inform your target audience as a whole.

Step 2: Identify your different segments

Once you’ve got a list up and running — maybe it’s your client database, maybe it’s that plus a bunch of email opt-ins you’ve picked up from a free download, maybe you taught in an online summit and you’ve got all those interested registrants…whatever it is, you’ve got a list! Now it’s time to come up with the segments.

There are quite a few different ways you can structure your segments, and you should go into this knowing that some people will fit into multiple segments. That’s not a bad thing! Just don’t get the idea that one email address can only be in one segment.

The first step is to think about the different ways people came to your list. What were they looking for? What are some of the natural groups they might fit into? It might be that some have signed up for a specific free download. Maybe you have one segment for each service you offer. It might make sense to have segments by location, company size, or even length of time they’ve been on your list.

The next step in coming up with the right segments is to think about what exactly you want to share with your audience(s). If you want to announce a new service you’re offering, who will that service be most helpful for? The answer to that question is a segment. For example, if you’re offering a new retainer service, you might want to announce it to clients from the past six or 12 months and exclude everyone else on your list.

Other possible segments you might use:

  • Level of skill or knowledge, including participation in a course or courses you offer (those who have participated, those who haven’t)
  • Purchasers of a specific product
  • Profession (a segment for designers and a segment for developers, for example)
  • Type of business entity (law firm, medical office, non-profit, school. etc.)
  • Work “type” (like freelancers, traditional employees, small business owners, and students)
  • Demographic information
  • Location in your marketing funnel (or the flywheel framework)

Step 3: Use the segments for great positioning

Once you’ve got your segments set up, it’s time to start using them! This is how you can make the most out of your email list.

As you continue to grow your business and come up with new services and offers, you’ll be able to send those things specifically to the people who will be most likely to be interested in them. And in that scenario, again, everybody wins!

Over time, you’ll get used to segmenting and it will become a natural consideration every time you send an email. You’ll begin to see new segments that already exist in your list, and you’ll also be able to establish new segments you want to develop.

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Jonathan

    March 7, 2019

    YES. The sooner your segment your list, the sooner you can offer your customers (or potential customers) exactly what they're looking for.

    Stop what you're doing and start segmenting your list!

  2. James Andy

    March 8, 2019

    i wnna build my list ! i think it is more important than push notifications !

  3. Green Jobs

    March 9, 2019

    Yes you do need to segment. The thing is for a small business owner email marketing is time consuming and segmentation like this can be difficult to manage once the email lists get big.

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