3 Simple Email Segmentation Strategies You Can Use Today

November 14, 2015

email segmentation strategy article lead image

Tired of mediocre results with your email campaigns?

Wish you had a crystal ball and knew exactly what would trigger your list to purchase?

The answer is right under your nose! Today I am going to show you how to set up three simple but powerful segmentation strategies for your email list, and two ways to use them that will transport you from the stone age of email marketing to the future.

Example email metrics I have received by implementing the tactics in this article

You see results like these are absolutely normal no matter what stage of the funnel your prospects are in. Once you start sending emails the right way and treating your list like individuals instead of one person you will notice a night and day difference in your results.

What is Email Segmentation?

If you are not segmenting your email list you are, in effect treating them all like they are one person. The truth however, is that while emails are sent to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people they are opened one email at a time… By one person at a time.

Email segmentation is the practice of separating your large list into smaller lists or buckets based on their interests, or actions they have taken on your website. Take the following example from a previous venture of mine, ShopAnimalHat.com where I used segmentation heavily and sold well over 6,000 animal hats at $24.99 / hat.

Top level, basic segmentation strategy

At a high level I sold winter hats. But there were several types of hats. I broke it down like this:

  • Animal Hats
  • Beard Hats
  • College Mascot Hats

This is just segmenting at the top level, but even this will radically improve your email open rates, click rates, and performance as a whole. In fact, according to MailChimp you can expect a 75.9% increase in your click rate by simply using the email segmentation strategy listed above. (Source)

Why?

Because you are getting closer to the goal of talking to the individual about their specific interest and needs. So how do you set this up in your business? For a more Webster-esque definition check out iContacts definition here.

How To Set Up Your Segmentation Strategy

Setting up an effective email marketing segmentation strategy is fairly simple. The tools you will need is a few shareholders (if you have them) from sales, marketing, and possibly the owner. (If you are a solopreneur or just getting started this will just be you). And a whiteboard or pad of paper.

To start it off simply list out your products or content and put them into logical buckets like I have done for my old winter hat business.

Map out how your products are organized on a whiteboard

You want to start very high level and work your way down to the individual products. If possible add any page URL’s that exist. This might just be the end articles, or products at this point and that’s okay. If you have it in categories that’s even better. If you take a look at my homepage (opens in a new window) you will see that below the initial section I break my website down into three categories to help let visitors self segment based on what they are interested in.

Start splitting up users on your homepage

Now it’s time to put this strategy into action…

3 Email Marketing Segmentation Strategies That Work…

Now that you have determined the buckets you are going to put your subscribers in, it’s time to use some segmentation techniques to do just that. The tool I recommend here, and will use for the examples is ActiveCampaign. It could also be accomplished with Hubspot, Marketo, or other high end email marketing platforms. I use AC because it’s $9, and if you’re aren’t crushing it in your business yet, or are just using it for you blog you probably should too. 😉

1) Segment Your List By Using Forms On Your Website (Easy)

The first tactic is segmenting contacts by forms on your website. In the case of my blog I set up different LeadMagnets based on the category of the post. I use a plugin for my blog called Rapidology that allows me to easily create opt in boxes and connect them to my active campaign account.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to make different LeadMagnets, simply just hook up a different form in the different categories. Having separate forms allows you to tag them differently when they opt in and tell where they were when they did.

Start by setting up different forms to create segments and tag your list

I set a different sidebar for the blog posts based on their category and switch the forms displayed in that manner. Each form would be a part of the main list, but tag contacts depending on which form they filled out. A tag is like a note that can be used to segment contacts at a later date. This tactic alone did wonders for my small business’s email marketing.

Example: I want to send an email to everyone who has the “[Interested In] Kids Animal Hats” tag.

2) Email Engagement (Medium)

My second tactic is segmenting people by email engagement. This is a great technique if you have a large list and it is not segmented. I used this while I was the Marketing Manager at Plasticprinters.com. [PP]

To segment your list based on email engagement you have to:

  • Write more generic, widely appealing emails with a list of various products you offer.
  • Send them to everyone on your list
  • Segment people by tagging them when they click on certain links

Segment your list by link click in Active Campaign

An example that could fit almost every business is announcing you are having a sale on your most popular items. Then in the email copy list out your main products and have each one be a clickable link. When people click on a link have an automation (pictured above) that tags them as interested in that product.

3) Segment Based On Page Visits (Advanced Depending On Tool)

The final tactic is segmenting contacts based on page views. As mentioned previously this tactic is the most powerful segmentation strategy available… It is only available in email marketing tools that support it. For this example I will be using Active Campaign again.

This is pretty straightforward… Using the inventory you took earlier of your products, how they group together, and what the page URL’s are of either them or the categories they are in you will tag them when they reach those pages.

Tag visitors when they visit a certain page in Active Campaign

Using this technique specifically I have received open rates of over 80% by simply sending an email relevant to a certain page view at the time they view it. Acting like big brother is creepy, but very effective as well. 😉

Two Simple Strategies To Properly Use Segments In Your Email Marketing

Once you have created these segments using one of the strategies I mentioned above it’s time to start applying them in your email marketing. There are two ways you can easily do this, and I recommend doing a mixture of both…

1. Separate Email Blasts To Separate Segments

The first tactic is very straight forward. You are going to send different emails to people who are in different segments. To have enough people to make this viable you will use your top level segments I outlined earlier. In that example it was animal hats, college hats, and beard hats. Three distinctly different products.

Send separate email blasts to separate segments of your email list for much better results

Instead of writing one email that mentions a bunch of your products write three emails (if the lists are large enough to warrant the time) focused on just the product they are interested in.

Subject Line Before Segmentation: “Huge Sale On Winter Hats!!!”

vs.

Subject Lines After Segmentation: “Huge Sale On Animal Hats!!!”, “Huge Sale On Beard Hats!!!”
, etc.

Merely changing this will boost your open rates… Guaranteed. Then to get you click rates up include information about that product bucket specifically. It is pretty straightforward, but the majority of businesses do not take advantage of this and put in the little extra work that yields all the results when you are nurturing your list of subscribers.

2. Conditional Content In Emails Based On Segment

The second segmentation tactic is using conditional content in your emails based on which bucket they are in. What this means is while the email may be the same, certain parts of it will be tailored to fit an individual subscribers interests.

Email example with a personalized subject line

Have you received a broadcast email from a company that addresses you by name? That’s what is going on, but just personalizing with someone’s name is weak. While it may be best practice I’ve tested subject lines with and without and found no difference. Here are some better ideas.

How To Use Conditional Content In Your Email Blasts

Most modern email providers will allow you to use custom fields or variables. You can use these fields to store a value that you can reference later and display in an email, or segment a list with.

Setting a custom property in Active Campaign based on a link click

(Setting a custom field value in Active Campaign)

While most people have used “First Name” example discussed above that is weak sauce and you can really do better. Imagine instead if you had a variable that held an answer to the question, “What is the biggest issue you are currently facing in your business?”

As we learned before you can either get the answer by directly asking, or inferring the answer by watching what they click on or pages they visit on your website. But once you have this information… Just take a guess on what type of results you would get when you start sending emails with subject lines like this:

  • “Nate, still spinning your wheels about getting more leads?”
  • “Bridget, still spinning your wheels about increasing sales?”
  • “Chester, still spinning your wheels about increasing traffic?”

You have to be a bit creative with your subject lines but things like this are entirely possible and easy to do. Additionally I have personalized things like pictures of products they viewed on my website, pictures of a product they ordered previously, or an image of their sales rep by simply saving the image url in a custom property field.

Other easy things you can personalize in your emails:

  • Sender Name
  • Recipient Name
  • Sales Rep Name In Signature
  • Sales Rep Email Address and Phone Number
  • Prospects Location
  • Prospects Company Name (Subject Line: “Three Tricks To Grow XYZ Company”)

How Will You Use Segmentation To Grow Your Business?

While all of the information I covered has the potential to radically increase your email marketing results… (Personally I think it’s top notch 😉 ) The truth is that none of it is worth a thing if you don’t apply it. Instead of taking a bunch of notes, or doing a lot of thinking simply pick one thing that stuck out to you and APPLY IT TODAY.

If there was a lot of value here you can always subscribe below. I’ll send you more info on email segmentation, marketing automation, and other tips and best practices I’ve picked up along the way. 🙂

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