How To Segment Your Email List & Close More Leads Like A Pro

Published January 8, 2013 by ccarlino+ in Email Marketing

As a marketer, it is your sworn duty to deliver a solid message-to-market match. That is, the language, timing, and product offer you use to speak to your prospective customers should fit their personalities like a glove. However, if you’re getting a bunch of sign-ups to your e-mail list from the same opt-in form, how can you discern the differences between these subscribers and speak to them as individuals not a nebulous group?

The answer is list segmentation. This strategy involves collecting information from your subscribers either at opt-in or through a survey that tells you more about their individual traits. Ultimately, segmentation enables you to divide your mailing list into smaller sub-groups that all receive different correspondence and offers from your brand, resulting in high conversion rates. Below, we explore important tips on how to get started.

Age Segmentation

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One of the first places most e-mail marketers begin segmentation is with basic age information. Age data guides you in determining what sort of language and cultural references are appropriate to use for your audience. As an example, if your list contains a large population under 25, it might not be impactful to compose them an email using singer David Lee Roth as an example to illustrate a higher-level marketing point.

Some typical age buckets ecommerce marketers use to segment their lists include:

  • Younger than 18: Teens and tweens who might not make purchases themselves but can influence the buying decisions of their elders.
  • 18-24: The college and young adult market. These people are typically focused on educational development, freedom and independence as they head out their own.
  • 25-31: The young professionals market. These people are starting to build their careers, settle down, and are beginning to start families.
  • 32-40: The family years. As babies become children and teenagers, these people tend to focus on financial stability and upward motion in their careers to provide for their families.
  • 40-50: The middle age market. As families mature, teens go off to college and people in this market tend to find more time to focus on themselves and their personal hobbies and interests.
  • 50-65: These are people are settling into their later years and are preparing for retirement from their careers.
  • Older than 65: These people are the retired class. They are focused on enjoying life outside of their careers, travel, and dedication to hobbies.

Career Segmentation

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Career data is the next “must have” email list segmentation point. The profession a person is in reveals a great deal about their thought process, personality type, and values. Entrepreneurs think differently than finance professionals, and you should never be attempting to speak to both in the same way.

This is true for all products and services, but especially when you’re selling anything work or business related. A new retail inventory system, for example, should be sold differently to high-level executives than to store managers. The former will care about ease of implementation and bottom-line impact. The latter will be impressed by the actual experience of using the technology to do their job.

Interest Categories

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Consider including a “Primary interests:” field in your opt-in form. This field can either contain a drop-down menu with predefined interest categories that you set, or it can be an open-ended text entry. This information is extremely valuable, as it will shine light on what percentages of your audience care the most about the various aspects of your brand.

To see a real life example of how this works, check out Electrical Engineering Web’s Pulse media kit. Pulse has broken down their subscriber base by interest category and displays those interest as percentages in a bar graph. Clearly, this level of insight helps both Pulse and its advertisers hone in on exactly what products, services, and discussions will be most relevant to its audience.

For retailers, this could be one of the most important ways to segment your list. Offer your customers the opportunity to check off their interests from a list of the product categories you sell (pop music, designer fashion, computers and gadgets, etc). You can then create targeted email correspondence for each subscriber such that those who checked “pop music,” for example, are offered discounts on band merchandise, while those who checked “automotive” are offered similar deals on performance parts.

Psychographic Segmentation

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Once you’ve nailed down the information above, you can use the different combinations you encounter to create psychographic profiles, or subscriber personas. As Pragmatic Marketing indicates, personas in marketing refer to “short descriptions or biographies of fictitious, archetypical customers.” Defining these requires creative thinking and discretion from the marketer, but can yield valuable insights into the people living behind the email addresses.

Personas will tell you about buyer motivation, and what’s important to these people beyond the narrow scope of your product or service. You’ll discover if you’re dealing with some of the following customers:

  • Practical career shoppers: These consumers are “facts only” decision makers who concentrate on price and utility for their job.
  • Entrepreneurs and dreamers: These are people who value creativity over statistics. They are concerned with how products will positively impact their lives and help them achieve their goals.
  • Artists and recreational shoppers: These are people who are on your site because your products relate to their hobbies. They are less concerned with price and more with how much joy and adventure the products can add to their lives.
  • Family shoppers: Concerned with the wellbeing and betterment of their family, these shoppers are going to be looking at price and quality of the items in search of great deals that allow them to stay on family budget.

With this understanding, you’ll learn how to speak to each segmentation of your leads in a voice that resonates with them. Rather than sending the same adrenaline-fueled hype pitch to everyone, you’ll develop several niched emails that may vary greatly between each other, and deliver each one exclusively to a particular personality type on your list.

Past Buying History

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In your subscriber database, you need to be keeping a record of which products and services each user has purchased. Of course, it’s good to know which subscribers have purchased your products before because they will be the ones most open to future pitches and supportive products. However, it is equally valuable to study the subscribers who have not bought from you.

In fact, many research organizations have studied the phenomenon of “shopping cart abandonment,” which occurs when shoppers behave as though they are ready to buy, but ultimately do not complete their transaction. Depending on the study you read, these rates can account for between 60 and 90% of shoppers who arrive on your page.

Who are these subscribers and why have they not converted? Which pitches did they receive and how were they spoken to? Are there kinks in your shopping cart system or hidden fees that appear at the last minute? By attempting to diagnose these problems, you’ll find yourself defining a new buyer persona that you failed to discover in the past.  You can then use these insights to create a new list segment specifically aimed at delivering content for this type of subscriber in the future. Some tips on diagnosing and reducing this behavior for retail websites can be found in this CrazyEgg guide.

Behavioral Segmentation

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(source: SamahR)

Most of the segmentation techniques discussed above are fairly simple to manually collect using opt in forms and list surveys. However, for the truly advanced email marketer, list management software such as Infusionsoft can unlock a deeper level of organization known as behavioral segmentation.

Behavioral segmentation means tracking every willful interaction the customer has had with the e-mails you send. In effect, you can create tripwires that tell you who downloaded a free guide, signed up for your online course, or opened every e-mail you’ve ever sent, etc.

Using this information, you can create hyper segmented lists that gauge both the level and area of interest for all subscribers on your list. Some ideas of how retailers can use behavioral segmentation include sending :

People who clicked the email link for a sale on sporting goods: They should receive sporting related emails in the future.

People who have opened your email about a sale on baby supplies: These are new parents who should continue to receive emails on childcare products.

People who signed up for your retail management training course: These are profitable retail professionals dedicated to their careers. They should receive further training tools and knowledge shares in the future.

Depending on how deep you want to go, the email variations and niched markets you can define are practically endless with professional email list management software.

Make Sharing Sweeter

The best method of getting new customers for your business is when existing customers refer a friend. But although 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer you, only 29% actually do. Global brands like 99designs use ReferralCandy to proactively encourage word-of-mouth.