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No matter how many times we’re told email marketing is dead, the channel continues to be an effective way to generate revenue.

It’s a guaranteed ROI booster — but, that’s only if you do it correctly.

The days of batch and blast emails are long gone. It’s no longer good enough to send your entire customer database the same offers. That’s why email list segmentation is the key to successful email marketing.

Unfamiliar with the term? Today’s blog post answers your most pressing questions about email list segmentation and explains why you should segment your lists today.


What is Email List Segmentation?

List segmentation is exactly what it sounds like – the process of breaking up an email list into several smaller, more targeted lists.  The point of list segmentation is to offer your customers and prospects a more personalized marketing experience.

There are many ways to segment an email list— and, what works for one company might not work for another. So, before you get started, it’s important to consider each of your buyer personas and the characteristics that set them apart. But, more on this later.

How is List Segmentation Effective?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Personalization is no longer a “nice-to-have” in B2B marketing — it’s a requirement. In fact, 55% of B2B professionals say that marketing personalization leads to higher rates of sales conversions and future growth. 

Think about it, is a customer or prospect more likely to engage with a general offer or with a personalized message tailored to their specific interests? The answer is obvious.

List segmentation gives marketers the ability to send emails containing tailored offers, product recommendations, and much, much more. Personalization through list segmentation gives your customers exactly what they want.

And, although customer satisfaction is important, email list segmentation gives the marketer what they want too — results! In fact, research shows list segmentation can increase open rates, limit unsubscribes, and drive more revenue. 

The Basics of How to Segment Email Lists

When it comes to how you should segment your lists, the options are limitless. 

For smaller companies, it makes more sense to choose just one or two significant differentiators, such as industry and company size. The net tends to be wider for smaller organizations to reel in a larger quantity of leads, so being picky isn’t really an option.

But, for larger companies, the more granular you get with your email lists, the more success you’ll see. For instance, if you find that financial automation companies open you emails far more than financial service companies do, it’s best to adjust your email marketing strategy targeting automation companies.

In general, nearly all customer or prospect data points can be used to segment your email list. The traits you choose to segment with depend on your specific company, products, and audience. Here are some common ways email marketers choose to segment their email lists:

Types of Email List Segments:

  • Industry or Job Function
  • Job Title
  • Geography
  • Segment by Company Size
  • Web Behavior
  • Purchase History
  • Buyer’s Journey

Industry or Job Function:

If your company offers a variety of products or services, it’s likely that the people on your email list work in different industries or departments. If segmenting by job function consider the different departments you serve — like sales, marketing, customer service, or IT. For industry think about the different types of businesses you work with — like retail, hospitality, or banking.

Job Title:

If you want to get more specific, consider segmenting your lists by industry/job function and job title. Think about it, even though an entry-level copywriter and a VP of marketing technically work in the same department, you wouldn’t approach them in the same way. One is a decision maker and one is not.

Geography:

Perhaps your offer changes based on where your contacts live or, maybe you want to invite your customers to an event at a specific location. In instances like these, it makes the most sense to segment your email list based on geographic location.

Segment by Company Size:

In general, small businesses don’t interact with your company the same way large businesses do. They have different needs, budgets, and resources. Therefore, you might want to segment your email sends based on company size. This is particularly important for organizations with only one or two offerings that serve both small businesses and enterprises.

Web Behavior:

Behavioral segmentation focuses on the recipient’s actions. An example would be monitoring clicks on a specific offer or visits to a certain landing page. These actions reveal information about the visitor’s interests. 

When you recognize what a person has responded to in the past, you can predict what they’ll respond to in the future – and target specific content towards them. This tactic is particularly influential for e-commerce websites.

Purchase History:

A customer’s purchase history provides important insight into their interests, buying behaviors, and much more. If you have access to this information, tailor your email lists and offers accordingly. 

Maybe you release a new product that integrates with one of your existing products. Segmenting your lists based on purchase history can turn a one-time customer into a lifelong buyer.

Buyer’s Journey:

A subscriber who just joined your email list after reading a blog post is much less likely to make a purchase than someone who downloads three case studies and signs up for a free trial. If your email segments mirror the buying journey, you can send content to move each person through the buyer’s cycle faster.

Email Segmentation Tools:

You don’t need a hefty tech stack to segment email lists — keep a look at for these features for the right tool (or two):

  • Automated workflows – The more automation is offered in a solution, the more time and resources can be saved in the day.
  • Engagement tracking – Seeing exactly who opens your emails and what further engagement they perform. 
  • Integrations – For email segmentation, CRM integration is going to be key in potential prospect and current customer engagement.
  • Personalization – As mentioned before, one-size-fits-all email marketing is (pretty much) obsolete. Personalization features are essential to perfectly tailoring your email campaigns.

What Do I Need to Start Segmenting My Email Lists?

Now that you understand the basics of email list segmentation, there are three things you need to get started. These are as follows:

Customer or prospect data:

Nearly every company collects customer and prospect data — after all, that’s likely how you got your initial email list. This data is key to understanding your customer base. Once you have access to this data, analyze it as you would to create buyer personas. The goal is to identify important trends and differentiators among your buyers.

For example, after analyzing your data, you notice that your customers primarily come from two different industries—publishing and telecommunications. This would be a good way for you to segment your email list.

A Marketing Automation Platform:

Although it is possible to manage list segmentation manually, we don’t recommend it. Instead, work with a marketing automation platform to quickly segment your lists and send emails.

Email Segmentation Best Practices:

Think of your different segments as email lists with acceptance criteria. Depending on how advanced your marketing automation is, it will likely handle your segmentation for you.

Email Marketing List Segmentation Drives Revenue

Even as new tactics and technologies emerge, email marketing and personalization remain essential to marketing success. Whether you email list management already employs segmentation tactics or haven’t yet ventured into the world of email marketing, we hope you take something from this post and apply it to your marketing efforts.


This post was last updated December 15th, 2020.


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