A Guide On Email Segmentation For Your Business – The Basics
From using a winning email design template, to writing a subject line that converts, there are many elements to great email marketing.
by Patrick Foster on March 01, 2019


From using a winning email design template, to writing a subject line that converts, there are many elements to great email marketing. Email segmentation is one of the most important elements. It means you can put your brand in front of the right people at the right time, increasing the chances of you getting the return you demand from your investment. Below I’ve run through the basics of email segmentation. By the end of this article you’ll be using it like a pro and driving up the revenue for your business.

Recommended reading: 4 Visual Email Marketing Tips to Increase Conversions


What Is Email Segmentation?

Email segmentation is dividing or categorizing the people in your email database into subsets (segments) based on criteria you determine in order to personalize how you communicate with them. In really simple terms, it’s the creation of email marketing lists from your database.
Segmentation enables you to tailor your communication in a way that increases the likelihood of its recipients engaging with it (you) as you will have created a clear link to them in the style, content or appeal of the email.

This is a really valuable tool for selling the value of your business. This is because you can drill down your marketing, so that you put the right message in front of the right customers. For example, if you’re in the property business then there are certain demographics who won’t be interested in what your company are offering – college students may be less likely to buy a house than young families.

You can segment your email list in multiple ways and thus target your communication with them very specifically, giving it appeal so it won’t simply be ignored. And segments can be dynamic too, changing over time so your mail is always on target!


You Need To Balance The Differences And Similarities In Your Audience

Whatever market you’re operating in, there are going to be commonalities and differences in your audience which you understand and need to capitalize on (and if you don’t, now is a really great time to start). Remember, commonality and difference are 2 sides of the same coin – the commonality shared by members of one segment is what makes them different to another.

The balancing act is between being able to group the commonalities in such a way that you don’t dilute your message, versus splitting out the differences so much that you multiply your workload having to generate separate messages. Use your understanding of your business to calculate the meaningful differences, don’t split everything down to a microscopic level.


What Do I Base My Marketing Segments On…?

What sort of business are you in…? Retail, leisure, finance? Perhaps you’re yet to commit to an industry and are searching the market for a business to invest in? Whatever your situation, you can be sure that there are no absolutes for your marketing.

The way a clothing brand might segment its email database is going to look very different to how a theme park or a bank would. Some of the things you need to think about are:
These are some of the oldest and most obvious segments and have been used since marketing began. They include gender, age, geographical location, income, education.
Purchasing or Engagement History
Does a person buy in-store or from your website, (or both)? Did you meet them at a trade-fair, conference or a meeting? Are they a seasonal or year-round customer? Are they attracted to value-added multi-buys? Do they buy new season or end of season sale?
Relationship Type
Are they a new subscriber, or long-term loyal? How frequently do they visit your website or store? Do they want regular communications? Do they even open your emails? How engaged are they?


Are There Tools That Will Do This For Me…?

If you already use a mass marketing email service, chances are it can do the segmentation for you. If you don’t, it’s worth spending some time selecting one that has the power to categorize your database in the way you need it done.

It’s a key capability, so you won’t have to look far into any provider to understand what each system can do. A crucial factor is likely to be whether or not it can talk to your existing data capture system easily or whether there is additional work to get the customer and contact records you already hold into the email marketing system.


Who Does The Segmenting...?

This is the part that’s entirely dependent on the business you’re in. If you’re a sole owner then it’s probably going to be down to you. Bigger brands may have data teams, marketers, or even freelance email marketers to rely on. If you’ve picked up a profitable ecommerce business for sale and put your own brand on it, you may find the customer segmentation work has been done already, though be clear on the data protection laws of inheriting an existing customer database.

If you have anyone devoted to marketing and/or business development activities, chances are pretty good you’ll be able to delegate at least some of the work to them, once you’ve provided some guidance on the segmenting strategy. The good news here is that you now know enough to sound credible when discussing it with them – just have a good exit strategy at the ready if their questions suddenly get too technical!

If you have a dedicated IT team, they’re definitely in the crosshairs, but will need to act on the marketing team’s direction and guidance, based on a Director’s strategy (or something like this). If you’ve read this far, once again you’re probably not the IT or the Marketing Department, but you’ll now know when they’re bluffing.


So, What Next…?

Work out a segmentation strategy that is appropriate to your business, products and contacts and which is achievable using the data you can access or create. This doesn’t have to be a huge piece of work, it just needs to capture and articulate what you want to achieve and why. You can always update it again later.

Get to work (or get someone to work) on the implementation straight away and in tandem with this, develop your first set of targeted messages based around your new segments and schedule their release.

Monitor the results to understand the impact your segmentation had. If it’s not clear, re-assess it and try again. You may need to experiment to get it spot on!

Plan the next level! Start thinking about developing page-level targeting and lead magnets so anyone who visits your website in future (new or existing contact) gravitates to and identifies with your segments to optimize your communication with them immediately.