How to Segment Your Email List

by Darcy Grabenstein on February 21, 2014
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Gone are the days of sending an email blast to your entire list of subscribers. No matter what the size of your audience or customer base is, you could benefit from dividing it into smaller groups.

Segmentation enables you to test and send targeted messages and get optimal results from your email marketing efforts. Here are some popular ways to split up your list — and how to use each to your business’s advantage.

By Customer Behavior

  • Keep tabs on past purchases, then send messages that try to upsell or cross-sell related or like items.
  • Monitor people’s activity (or inactivity). Reward loyal, repeat customers and offer incentives to re-engage others.
  • Find out where people spend their time on your website. If it’s in non-product areas, offer them rich content — including relevant links back to products — to keep them coming back.

By Length of Time on List

  • Create a “welcome” series for new subscribers (this can be automated). For instance, if you run an e-commerce site, offer newcomers a discount on their next purchase, simply as a thank-you for subscribing.
  • Reward longtime customers with sneak previews, early access to sales, and other perks that promote retention.

By Location

  • If you operate bricks-and-mortar stores, segment your audience by a certain mile radius around each one. Create location-based offers to drive store traffic.
  • If you offer seasonal products or services, market them accordingly. Subscribers in northern ZIP codes will have different needs from those farther south.

By Gender

  • Depending on your products or services, you could market your offering as a gift purchase for someone else or as a treat for the buyers themselves.
  • Tailor the colors in your email palette. Studies have shown that men and women react differently to color.

By Age

Be careful not to stereotype by age. For example, don’t assume that baby boomers are technologically challenged. Do realize that people of different ages are at different points in their lives and thus have different needs.

  • For Millennials, be sure to include links to your social-networking sites.
  • Baby boomers may have more disposable income, so include higher-ticket items in your email campaigns.
  • For senior citizens, keep in mind that as we age our eyesight can decline, so experiment using larger font sizes.

If you plan to test variables, consider the size of your segments to make sure your results are statistically valid. The Direct Marketing Association offers some helpful guidelines on this topic.

Darcy Grabenstein is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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