Barry Clifford

Relevance Never Goes Out Of Style: The Importance Of Email Segmentation

When I think about the steps I take to triage my email inbox, it usually goes something like this:

  1. I quickly use the SPAM button to get rid of obvious garbage, like when I see “Via8ra” or “Nice to meet you I’m Greta..”
  2. I have a folder to which I automatically divert all the commercial mailings I’ve asked for. If I get a random newsletter or partner e-mail in my regular inbox, I quickly scan to see if I’m interested in anything therein. If so, I move those to my “commercial” inbox and set up a new rule.
  3. I then look again at the remaining unsolicited mail. I’m a marketing guy and I have a bunch of personal interests. If a subject line grabs my interest – something like “Increase your leads by 60% in 30 days” or “Gain muscle and lose fat without quitting chocolate,” then I’ll highlight the subject line and take a look at the mail in my preview pane. If it’s something like “Knit your way to more fulfilling relationships,” Then its likely to be deleted without a second glance.

The more a communication touches upon the possibility of fulfilling your target’s immediate or foreseeable needs, interests, ambitions or fantasies, the more likely it is that he will check out the offer and/or shuttle it off into another file for possible review later. The more you’re off the mark, the more likely you are to be sent to the trash, unsubscribed or reported as a spammer. Our job as marketers therefore is to pinpoint the content to which our target reader is going to respond – to perfect the art of delivering the right offer to the right person at the right time. When reviewing ways to make your contact database more productive there are two major concerns: First you must determine the actual tactics for how to get refined user information into your database, and then you must decide the most useful attributes upon which to segment your efforts. Depending on the source of your contacts you may already have access to important information like job title or city/state. For the rest of it, collecting useful, relevant segmentation data will be a process conducted over time and across a number of campaigns. Here are some ideas to start with:

  • Collect some preliminary data on the e-mail sign-up form. You often see this in the form of questions like “what kind of mailings would you like to receive from us?”
  • Set up an automated welcome series of e-mails when a contact joins your e-mail list, and build into the copy a number of links that lead to different types of information. By keep track of the clicks those emails generate you can begin to get an idea of the reader’s interests.
  • Send out a periodic short survey (2 or 3 questions) and offer something in return for completion.
  • Give users access to an “email preference center” Where they can identify specifically the kind of content that they’re interested in receiving.

Here are some ideas of possible categories of information that could be useful delineators for developing user personas and thus more specifically targeting future email campaigns:

  • Job Function: Don’t send an email offering IT consultancy or cloud computing services to the Director of Marketing.
  • Client vs. Prospect: Nothing can turn off a present user of your product or service like receiving emails talking to him or her like a prospect or offering them something they’ve already bought.
  • Previous purchases: Keeping track of what your clients have already bought can give you insight into their habits, and provide opportunities to offer complementary products and services.
  • Geography: Don’t try to sell heated driveways to your contacts in San Diego.
  • Demographics/Psychographics: Information like age, race, gender (demographics) or interests, opinions or cultural identity (psychographics) can help you to target your messages (These are more relevant in B2C communications but are still worthy of noting.)
  • Opens and Clicks: Keeping track of what actions your prospects have taken on your previous campaigns can help you narrow in on what aspects of your offerings are most interesting to them.
  • Contact Origin: People who have organically joined your mailing list may be open to more frequent communications than contacts you’ve acquired through partnerships or other sources.

There are certainly many other qualities that can be used to get to know your prospects and customers. Each marketer must use his/her knowledge of their clients and the specific products/services they offer to identify the most important qualifiers. Most important is to USE THE DATA. What’s the point in collecting all of this information and creating user personas, if you’re still going to throw a blast against the wall and see what sticks? Developing a personal relationship with your potential customers by providing them relevant advice and targeted offers will really warm them up to you. When it comes time to buy, you have proven yourself to be a trusted source of information, which hopefully translates into an opportunity for you to convert them from a warm lead to a hot client.