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How to Segment Your Email List for Better Engagement

Chris Christoff
Updated Apr 01, 2022

Target the right subscribers, give customers what they want, and encourage them to engage with your brand.

Email marketing is one of the most valuable digital marketing strategies for boosting sales. It opens a direct line of communication between you and your subscribers while encouraging engagement, introducing users to your brand and driving traffic to your website. 

But creating campaigns that help your brand reach its goals isn’t as simple as sending weekly newsletters and waiting for conversions. You need a strategy that targets the right subscribers, gives them the content they want, and encourages them to engage with your brand. 

One highly effective method for targeting emails is segmentation. We’ll look at email list segmentation and how to segment your list to improve your email marketing campaign and enjoy the best possible engagement level. 

Editor’s note: Looking for the right email marketing service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

What is email segmentation? 

Email segmentation divides subscribers based on different criteria, such as purchase history, buying behavior and location. Segmentation enables personalization, which makes your brand stand out from the rest. In fact, according to Dynamic Yield, 88% of users say they’re more likely to respond to an email that seems carefully tailored or personalized. 

If you aren’t segmenting your emails based on your audience’s defining characteristics, you’re missing out on increased user engagement and conversions. 

To segment your email list for higher engagement, follow these steps:

  1. Create buyer personas.
  2. Choose how to segment your list.
  3. Write compelling, attention-grabbing content.
  4. Test your campaigns.

Let’s dive further into these email marketing best practices so that you can segment your email list like a pro.

FYIFYI: The best email marketing services and survey software incorporate advanced tools to help you segment your customers by multiple qualifiers.

Step 1: Create buyer personas.

Imagine trying to segment your email list when you aren’t even sure which kinds of customers you have in the first place. Pretty tricky, right? If you expect your business to thrive, it’s your job to know your customers inside and out. How you respond to their needs will determine your business’s overall performance and how quickly it reaches its objectives. If you don’t know your customers, you’ll find it challenging when a customer has an issue, because you won’t know how to cater to their needs.

To know your audience better, create buyer personas, which are detailed customer profiles that reveal demographics, buying behaviors, interests and pain points. These details help you segment your email list by pinpointing which segments would benefit from which content. 

Using this information, you can divide customers into categories based on the emails you’ll send them. This will keep you organized and make your personalized email marketing strategy for individual customers much more manageable.

How do you find this information about your target audience? There are a few ways to start:

  • Scour social media. Customers love to share their experiences, positive and negative, with friends and family on social media. With social media marketing techniques such as searching industry hashtags and key phrases, you’ll find a plethora of information about your industry and what your customers need.
  • Email your existing subscribers. Do you already have an email list? Take advantage of it by sending your subscribers a survey about what they want to see from your brand, what they’re struggling with, and how your business can do better.
  • Research your competitors’ tactics. If you don’t have enough information to work with, look at your competition. Monitor your competitors to gauge what they’re doing right and wrong so you can learn from it. [Read related article: 5 Effective Ways to Beat Your Competition]

  • Review your website data and analytics. Customer analytics can reveal valuable information. Which webpages gain more traffic than others? Where do your visitors spend the most and least time? Where are they most engaged? This data will help you determine where to refine your strategy for better results.

TipTip: Marketing survey data makes it quick and easy to figure out who your target market should be and is also helpful for testing new products and markets.

Step 2: Choose your segments.

Based on the buyer personas you identified, you should see apparent segments for your email list. Use this knowledge to gauge which segments might be most beneficial to your business and help it grow. For most brands, this takes the trial and error of monitoring data to see what results in the most marketing return on investment

Base your segments on the specific actions you want subscribers to take. Do you want them to buy your product and leave a review? Do you want to increase user engagement? Keep your end goal in mind when creating your segments.

Here are a few categories to consider when segmenting your email list:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Buying behavior
  • Education level
  • Purchase history
  • Engagement level

Step 3: Craft compelling content.

Regardless of how you segment your list, it’s essential to craft your content well. Keep your target audience in mind when brainstorming how to reach subscribers.

Each person on your email list is at a different stage of the sales funnel. One person might already be a paying customer, while another may have recently opted in and wants to learn more about your brand. For your email copy, write content that speaks to where that subscriber is in the funnel. 

Here are some tips: 

  • Make your content easily skimmable with headers, subheadings and bullet points. 
  • Add visuals (where it makes sense) to spice it up. 
  • Focus the emails on your subscribers and how your content, product, or service benefits them, rather than stating your features. 
  • Write an attention-grabbing headline that persuades them to click.

Also consider your brand image when creating your content. If it doesn’t match your business’s voice or tone, it mars your image and throws off readers. If the copy on your website is casual and conversational but your emails are serious and professional, you’ll see a spike in unsubscribes and less engagement. 

Your visitors subscribed to you because they like your brand, so it’s essential to align your email copy with it. 

Bottom LineBottom line: Your messaging should change based on the segment of your email list you are addressing.

Step 4: Test your campaigns.

Once you send the emails, it’s time to sit back and wait for the results. In many ways, this is the most important part, because it tells you if the engagement level you want is there. It also shows which other aspects of your campaign need fine-tuning so that your next campaign will perform better.

Use A/B testing to determine which components worked and which didn’t. Change only one element of your campaign at a time; if you’re testing multiple things at once, you won’t be able to tell what’s increasing or decreasing engagement.

Depending on what you want from your email campaign, you can split-test and track several components:

  • Subject line
  • Sender name
  • Design
  • Landing page
  • Personalization
  • Call to action

Bottom LineBottom line: How you cater to your audience via email marketing largely determines how they interact with you and whether they become loyal customers.

How to segment for engagement

If you segment your email list according to various engagement levels, there are several factors to consider based on an email’s goal and your intent. 

Active vs. inactive users

It’s often easier to convert an existing lead than generate new sales leads. You can clean out your databases and email lists by segmenting them into active and inactive users. Active users are already engaged with your business in some capacity, so this email segmentation will focus on engaging inactive users. 

There are different levels of inactivity, from not opening emails for a week or a month to customers who give no response, who open no emails in six or more months, or whose emails bounce

By segmenting your list into active and inactive users and then segmenting the inactive users into smaller groups, you can identify which inactive leads have the potential to convert to quality leads and which ones aren’t worth the investment of time and money. 

TipTip: Segment your email list by activity level to gauge the number of potential leads you can turn from cold to warm. Specific segments for inactive users can help you reactivate cold or unresponsive leads.

Website interactions

Segmentation based on website interaction is available only to organizations with the proper web tracking on their site (including a Gtag from Google Tag Manager), but these metrics can be a game-changer. 

There are several options for implementing and automating website tracking. For example, a popular choice for e-commerce businesses is to segment lists of customers who added something to their carts but didn’t check out. The company can then start a campaign to recover abandoned shopping carts with the list. 

Another popular option is lead nurturing. When someone gives their email address to access gated content, an email list exclusively for those users gives you hyper-specific information on what the customer was looking for and can inform your future messaging to them. 

Open rate

Similar to active vs. inactive subscribers, segmenting a list by open rate is a tactic to test engaging headlines and reignite cooling leads.

Common subsegments of this group include people who have interacted with (opened or clicked on) an email once in the last 30 days, people who have interacted with an email once in the last 60 days, and people who have not opened or clicked on an email since signing up.

Did you know?Did you know? Your click-through rate is a critical metric that reveals your subscribers’ engagement levels and can indicate whether you’re sending out relevant content.

Benefits of email segmentation

Going the extra mile to segment your email list will do wonders for your business. Your customers don’t all want the same thing; they use your products or services for different reasons. Diverse individuals make up your subscriber base, and you have to consider this when creating your brand’s emails. 

Sean Peek contributed to the writing and research in this article.

Image Credit:

SFIO Cracho / Shutterstock

Chris Christoff
Co-Founder of MonsterInsights, the leading WordPress plugin for Google Analytics.