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Afraid of list segmentation?

Participating Solution Provider

Afraid of list segmentation?

segmentation search resultsYou’ve probably seen a few articles about the benefits of list segmentation and some guidance on how to do it. In fact, Constant Contact alone has 100 articles on the topic, with plenty of valuable insight and guidance. With that much information, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Lots of stories about what others have done, but what is right for you? How much do you need to read before you find the article that ‘talks to you’ and fits your unique situation? Do you have the time and patience? Will it be worth it? Information overload; too much information, not enough time to absorb even a fraction of it.


Start With A Simple Decision


There are plenty of studies that show that making emails more relevant for the reader increases engagement, and that leads to all kinds of good stuff like lower unsubscribe rates, increased open and click rates, and even higher sales. You need to go hide in a closet somewhere*, take a strategic moment, and think about your readers. If you think segmentation could improve the effectiveness of your efforts, then make the decision to start – a simple yes or no; go or no-go. It might make a difference for me. You aren't making a huge commitment, just opening the door for a little experimentation. The fact that you even read this far means the answer is yes...


* Extraverts can hold an off-site strategic brainstorming session with friends at the local pub.


Pick from the low hanging branches


Now for the not-as-hard-as-I-thought part: picking segments to use. If something is not immediately obvious to you based on your own knowledge of your readers, use this list of popular segmenting practices to tease out an idea or two:

  • By geography (would local, regional, remote readers respond differently)
  • By demographics (would age, gender or income matter)
  • By purchase/download history (if they have done business with you before)
  • By open/click rates (can you offer more of the same topic)
  • By industry/job role (would people with specific backgrounds react differently to your offering)


Don’t spend a lot of time here; don’t get stuck in analysis-paralysis. Pick the easy-to-reach fruit on the low hanging branches. Accept that you will not get it perfect the first time, and that is OK. While you do want to get something from the investment of your time and effort, unless you spark a million-dollar idea, your initial improvements will be modest at best.


Try an experiment


Again, do something easy. Create lists for your segments and experiment with them. Some common testing techniques include:

  • Vary the subject line
  • Vary the content or messaging
  • Create unique offers (links)
  • Vary the timing (particularly useful for geographic segments)
  • Vary the design template (more mobile friendly?)


Play with it. You don’t have to send different emails to each group – you could just see if one segment responds differently than another. You could include multiple links, each of which should appeal to a different segment, and see if they ‘take the bait’. Think about what might work, try something, measure the results, and decide whether it worked or not. Think about what might work better. Repeat. Plan, do, check, act. Invest more effort where you see the potential for better results.


Building structure for the future


As you consider segments that hold promise, think about how you will maintain the list over time. Keep your time commitment to a minimum or the system will likely fail if the results aren't outstanding.


You could add a field to the sign-up form, letting readers self-select their topics of interest, identify demographics or provide other information. Since the subscribers do all the work for you, this is the ideal. Just make sure they can update their selections easily when their interests change; it is better to keep them on your list that to lose them because you are sending them material they no longer feel is relevant to them.


Alternatively, you can use a link that appeals to a specific segment in each of your emails and use click data to categorize them. Just be careful that you don’t over-commit people to a specific list based on what might have been a click-in-error or curiosity; don’t exclude them from other topic links that they may also be interested in. You may find you have a small group of people that read everything, some for personal interest and some professional or family-related.


Also think about point-in-time segments; they downloaded an ebook in the past month, or registered for a course last week. People might want a chance to upgrade or to learn more about their purchase for a sort while, or you might want to notify them annually of a refresher course or updated offering. These lists need to be date stamped and may even expire after a period of time.




If you were thinking that segmentation is a big scary topic, and the volume of information about it has you afraid to dive in, then it’s time to take that first little step. Make that simple yes-no decision. And if you decide to give it a try:

  • Start small, with something easy to implement
  • Learn from your results and keep testing to improve them
  • Keep an eye to the future; don’t build something you can’t maintain


Mike Sullivan is the founder of Analytics Edge, providing simple Excel-based report automation products for individuals and small businesses.

Re: Afraid of list segmentation?

Mike, this was helpful, thank you.  However, I'm looking for content on how to build segmented lists during a campaign.  


E.G.   I will be running Facebook Ads inviting strangers to a webinar and want to segment:    (a) those who clicked to the registration page but didn't register (a pixel),  (b) those who registered,   (c) those who registered but didn't show up, etc.


Any known articles or tutorials on how to do this?  Or even how to think about it?





Participating Solution Provider

Re: Afraid of list segmentation?

The way to do something like that is to take the list of emails that registered, and the list that registered and did not show up, and import them into Constant Contact lists. Then you should be able to see:

- newsletter recipients that clicked the link

- newsletter recipients that are also in the registered list

- newsletter recipients that are also in the no-show list

Mike Sullivan is the founder of Analytics Edge, providing simple Excel-based report automation products for individuals and small businesses.
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