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The Fundamentals of Email List Segmentation

Global email usage is estimated to be somewhere around 4.3 billion users. As marketing and sales team leaders, it’s imperative to use email not only as a direct line of communication, but also as a way to reach broader audiences. Growing your email list is absolutely paramount to achieve the full growth potential of your company. If you are reading this, it’s likely that you already have an email marketing list set up (or know you need one).

Let’s face it though; Most email lists suck. 

With billions of email users, and an ever increasing amount of noise, how do you cut through the noise with your email marketing? The key to success is email list segmentation.

What is Email Marketing Segmentation?

Email list segmentation refers to breaking down your broader email list into smaller, more targeted lists (or segments.) Segmentation offers a laundry list of benefits to marketing and sales teams and effective segmentation can be the difference between email lists that take more time than they are worth and those that drive massive growth for businesses. 

Organizations can segment email lists based on a variety of factors that might affect the content a prospective customer wants to see. By creating separate lists tailored to different contacts in your list, marketing and sales teams can deliver more personalized content and offerings, thereby increasing engagement and conversion rates.

Benefits of Email Segmentation 

Email segmentation can be immensely valuable to organizations looking to grow, build their brand, and improve efficiency. Let’s go into some of the benefits of email segmentation.

Improved Personalization: 

By segmenting your email list, you can better tailor your messages to fit the specific needs, preferences, and behaviors of different groups. This increases the personalization of your emails, making them more relevant and engaging to your recipients.

Higher Open and Click-through Rates: 

Segmented email campaigns generally achieve higher open and click-through rates compared to non-segmented campaigns. This is because recipients are more likely to open and interact with emails that are relevant to their interests and needs.

Increased Sales and Conversions: 

By delivering more targeted messages, you increase the likelihood of recipients taking the desired action, whether that's making a purchase, signing up for a webinar, or downloading a resource. This can lead to higher conversion rates and increased sales.

Lower Unsubscribe Rates: 

Sending irrelevant emails can lead to higher unsubscribe rates. However, if your emails are consistently relevant and valuable to the recipient (which segmentation can help achieve), they are less likely to unsubscribe from your list.

Better Understanding of Your Audience: 

Email segmentation allows you to track the behavior and preferences of different groups within your audience. This can provide valuable insights that can help you refine your marketing strategies.

Enhanced Customer Retention: 

Personalized and targeted emails can help increase customer loyalty and retention. By regularly providing value in a way that resonates with different segments, you demonstrate that you understand and care about their specific needs and preferences.

More Efficient Use of Resources: 

By focusing your efforts on creating targeted emails for specific segments, you're likely to see a higher return on investment. You can avoid wasting time and resources on broad, untargeted campaigns that are less likely to be effective.

How to Segment an Email List

There are an endless number of ways to segment email lists. Deciding how to segment your list comes down to your understanding of the product, service, or content you are offering, and the audience you are targeting. In a past role, my team segmented lists based on the two types of contact (two types of users for our platform, investors, partners, community members) the level within an organization each contact was (executive vs junior for example), and geographic location.

While we can’t make the decision on how to segment your list for you, we can offer a few common ways to segment your list:

Criteria to Use For Email List Segmentation

  • Geographic
  • Demographic
  • Purchase behavior
  • Professional level or role 
  • Engagement & online behavior
  • Stage in funnel 

It is also important to choose the right tools for segmenting your email lists.

Implementing segmented email lists

To begin implementing segmented email lists, start by planning your segmentation criteria. Think about what factors might affect the content and offerings you want to send to one customer versus another. It can be easy to overanalyze this part of the process, so it’s never a bad idea to start broad and begin introducing more segmented lists over time. Once you have identified how you wish to segment your lists, you need to think about how you will collect the necessary data to do so. 

If you do not already have all of the necessary data to segment your list, think about how you might be able to do so. Sending forms in emails or leveraging third party databases are good options to collect additional data. You should also focus on building a solid opt-in email list. Be sure to update the lead capture forms and other CTAs so you will be able to segment any future leads. 

Once you have your email list segmented, it’s time to actually reap the benefits. To get the most out of email segmentation, it’s crucial to plan what content will be delivered to each segment and when. Although the workload of crafting multiple unique emails is greater than that of sending one email to a broader audience, the benefits are exponentially greater. Whether you manage a marketing or sales team or are running an email campaign on your own, be sure to budget additional time for content creation. It’s also worth being mindful of some general email list segmentation best practices.

With unique content planned and lists segmented, it’s time to start sending more personalized, relevant emails! Especially when list segmentation is introduced from an existing email list, it’s not uncommon to see results lag for a while. That is, subscribers who have gotten used to not opening or skimming your emails may take some time to notice the improved content and change their behavior. This is why it’s important to measure success and optimize along the way. 

Over time, you need to become an expert at email list management. Measuring subscriber growth, open rates, click through rates and other email marketing metrics is extremely important. Additionally, you will learn over time what performs better with each segment; some might prefer weekly emails on monday mornings, others monthly on Fridays. Over time, with segmented email lists, you will much more intimately understand what your audience wants and how they operate.


Want to learn more? Check out our Email List Building 101 Guide

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