Although previously considered to only be in the realm of expert email marketers, segmentation of your subscriber list is something that everyone can do – and should. In this post we will cover some of the great reasons why you should apply segmentation to your campaigns, how to segment your lists and finally, mention that segmentation should be used to promote engagement, not kill it.

What is a segment?

A segment is a subset of one of your existing subscriber lists. Simply speaking, it’s a group that can be defined by you, based on criteria such as:

  • If the subscriber clicked a link in a previous campaign
  • If the subscriber joined your list prior or a specific date
  • A match with any of your custom fields (eg. Subscriber lives in Berkeley)

Lets say you’re running a coffee club meet in Berkeley. Your list may contain a lot of other coffee club subscribers from across the country, but your email is only relevant to subscribers living in Berkeley. That’s where list segmentation can come to the rescue.

But that’s not all…

There are oodles of other reasons why you should use list segmentation, including:

  • Sending introductory offers to, or asking for feedback from new subscribers
  • Re-awakening subscribers that have not responded to your last few campaigns
  • Limiting your subscriber list when sending a campaign to subscribers who responded to a previous campaign
  • Testing a new subject line or call-to-action on subscribers who did not respond to a previous campaign
  • Sending nice notes to subscribers on their birthday

Segmentation can create more personal, targeted interactions between you and the subscriber, as well as minimize list fatigue. Secondly, it’s a great way to get in touch with specific groups such as inactive subscribers, who may simply need a different kind of prompting.

So, where do we start?

We’re going to pick up again with the example of a coffee club meet in Berkeley. Lucky for us, our subscriber list includes the custom field, ‘Suburb’, so we will be able to filter and segment our list using ‘BERKELEY’ as criteria.

Start by clicking the ‘Manage Subscribers’ tab and in the ‘List’ column, click on your subscriber list. You will now be able to view all the subscribers in your list. To define a segment of this group, click ‘Segments’.

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On the ‘Manage segments’ page, click ‘Create a new segment’. You will then be asked to enter a name for your new segment. Make it something meaningful, like ‘Subscribers in Berkeley’. Now we will create the first rule for our new segment. From the ‘Create your first rule based on…” drop-down, select ‘Suburb’ and click ‘Add Rule’.

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We now want to specify that we will be selecting subscribers from Berkeley only for this segment. To do this, beneath ‘Suburb’ we will select Suburb Equals ‘BERKELEY’. You also have the opportunity to add further rules, as well as OR conditions to the rules you specify (e.g. Suburb Equals ‘BERKELEY’ OR Equals ‘OAKLAND’). Once satisfied, click ‘Save and refresh count’. The number of active subscribers that match the criteria and thus, will populate this segment are displayed.

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You can now use this segment to send your email to, or alternately, you can view the subscribers’ details or export the list as a CSV or text file. To send your email campaign, simply check the segment you want to send to when defining your recipients.

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And voila. 87 Berkley coffee drinkers and a list of subscribers happy to receive one less irrelevant email.

So… It all looks like win to me.

Not so fast. While there are countless advantages to clever segmentation of your subscriber lists, the above-average delivery and response rates for certain segments may tempt you to send these groups plenty of email, while ignoring the rest of your subscribers. Remember to share the load – even if a subscriber hasn’t responded to your last two campaigns, that’s no reason to segment them out of your next send. These dormant subscribers may be simply waiting for a more compelling offer. Plus, you may run the risk of fatiguing your most valuable subscribers.

I recommend reading Mat’s previous article, “Creating and using segments“. This easy guide covers the mechanics of setting up segments in depth. Also, make sure you visit the forums if you have any specific questions, want to share your experiences, or just want to know how others are using segments to their advantage. Happy segmenting!

  • George

    I’d love it if you could check off individuals on a subscribers list and then choose to add them to a segment via a select input or something similar. Sometimes you just need to add random people to a segment that have nothing in common.

  • Stig Morten Myre

    Hi George, thanks for the suggestion!

    Because people would usually create segments of subscribers who have something in common, that isn’t a request we’ve gotten very often.

    But one method that might work for you is to create a custom field, and add a value for those specific subscribers, that you can segment by.

  • Vince

    Hi,
    Seems there is an important filter missing.
    Similar to this one:
    “If the subscriber clicked a link in a previous campaign”
    but also useful:
    If the subscriber opened/not opened a previous campaign

    Thanks

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Vince,

    We have the filters:
    – Campaign was opened
    – Campaign was opened – Any link clicked
    – Campaign was opened – Specific link clicked
    – Campaign was opened – No link clicked
    – Campaign was not opened

    Apologies for not mentioning these in the article – the previous post on this topic, ‘Creating and using segments‘, provides a lot more detail on the filters available.

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