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Segmenting Your Email List: A Beginner’s Guide

tulips and a laptop

When you’re new to email marketing, segmenting your email list can be overwhelming and scary.

Why would you want to put all that work into creating an email and then not send it to everybody? How are you going to market to these people if you have to write several emails every time you want to send something?

Is it even worth the effort?

What is segmenting your email list?

When I started in email marketing, I didn’t have a clue what it meant to segment my list. I thought I wrote an email and sent it to everyone on my list.

So that’s what I did.

After hearing about segmentation, I was convinced that it wasn’t worth the time to put different segments in place. Why should I take the time to write three or four emails when I can just write one?

Since I didn’t understand the true power of segmenting, I kept sending the same email to everyone.

And they weren’t necessarily happy about it.

It took quite a while for me to use segments in my own email marketing.

Maybe you’re where I started out.

If you’re newer to email marketing or aren’t quite sure what segmenting your list is, here’s a quick overview for you.

The process of segmentation starts with splitting your list up into smaller groups based on things they have in common

You can segment by gender, age, interest, purchases, geography, behaviors, preferences, activity, …

The list goes on and on.

There are tons of ways you can group your subscribers!

The process of splitting your subscribers into these segments, however, is only the beginning.

The real power of segmenting is clear when you create targeted email marketing for your groups. Whether you’re building automations for your different segments, writing broadcasts based on their interests, or creating sales emails to encourage purchases, you want your efforts to have an impact.

Here are just a few examples of ways you could market to your different segments:

  • Sending an email campaign at different times according to when your segments are most active;
  • Promoting specific products to groups that have purchased similar products in the past;
  • Sharing content about a topic with a group who has clicked a link related to that topic in the past;
  • Creating a re-engagement automation to try to activate subscribers who aren’t opening your emails;
  • Marketing a new course only to people who’ve signed up to learn more about it;

In 50 Smart Ways to Segment Your Email List(Yes, 50!!), OptinMonster compares sending segmented emails to a sniper rifle. It’s a dark analogy, but it shows the targeting and accuracy of email segmentation.

Sending certain emails to specific people is highly effective.

Why should you segment?

But is it segmenting your list really worth the effort? Does it actually make a difference? Can you prove it?

Yes, it does make a difference.

And, yes, there’s proof.

There are reports of open-rates averaging an increase of more than 14% compared with non-segmented lists, click-through rates increasing by 100%, and email revenue that went up by 7,000% when segmented by past subscriber activity.

statistics for benefits of segmenting your email list
The benefits of segmenting your email list from Lyfe Marketing

When you look at the data, segmenting your email list offers a great return on investment.

Plus, it’s not nearly as much work as you think!

The right tool for segmenting your email list

One way to make segmenting your list much easier is by using the right tool. 

Email marketing platforms let you get started segmenting your list from the beginning.

Since I offer email marketing services, I’ve spent time in several email marketing platforms. Sometimes, I test out new platforms just for fun! #truestory

And I wanted to highlight four of my favorite platforms for segmentation and automation.

ActiveCampaign is one of the best platforms out there for segmenting your email list (and many other advanced email marketing strategies).

With ActiveCampaign, you can segment based on: 

  • Actions in your emails;
  • Purchase history; 
  • Actions on your website; 
  • Job functions; 
  • Custom fields;
  • Communication preferences;
  • So many other ways!

You can use these segments in sending email campaigns, setting up automated email sequences, or encouraging other interactions with your subscribers. 

**Please note that ActiveCampaign is more than just an email marketing platform, so you can interact with your subscribers outside of their inbox! 

While I love ActiveCampaign and it’s great for segmenting your email list, it can get very pricy, very quickly.

Another amazing option to get started with segmentation is ConvertKit

Like ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit gives you amazing flexibility so you can segment by segment, tags, or even specific products that your subscribers have bought.

And you can add those tags to people manually or automatically!

Convertkit lets you segment people through:

  • Forms;
  • Purchases;
  • Link clicks;
  • Activity;
  • Inactivity;
  • Automations;
  • Integrations;

The options are truly endless.

Once you’ve tagged people or added them to segments, you can easily use those in your automations or email campaigns.

<**Because ConvertKit is so flexible, newer email marketers can find it overwhelming. It can also be expensive. While they do offer a free plan, it doesn’t include automations and sequences. 

My third suggestion for segmenting your email list is MailerLite (affiliate link).

I’m going to be honest with you – I do my own email marketing through MailerLite and I’m a MailerLite expert (listed on their website, not self-declared 😂).

You can add to groups through forms, actions, links, conditions, surveys, purchases, custom fields, etc.

They have integrations with many programs and can access even more through Zapier. I love that MailerLite can work so well with many different programs with just a little effort.

They also offer segments (a slightly different type of segment than what we’re currently talking about), and the segments are great because they run independently of the groups. They’re also very flexible to use. 

For example, let’s say I wanted to send an email to everyone named Jennifer, just because.

I can quickly set up that segment and send my email right away!

Once I’ve created the segments, I can use them in email campaigns and automations to reach my people.

Their free plan is why many people choose MailerLite when they’re starting out. You can have up to 1,000 subscribers, send 12,000 emails a month, AND use the full automation capabilities. I love it!

**Note – MailerLite does have a more difficult approval process to get started, but you should be fine as long as you have a website with some content and a domain-specific email address. If you’re unsure if you’ll be approved, feel free to reach out to me and I’m happy to advise you.
It can also be a little quirky when working inside the platform, but a little patience pays off big time!

There’s one last platform that I would like to mention to get started segmenting your email list – Flodesk.

If you aren’t familiar with Flodesk (affiliate link), they’re the new email marketing star for creatives. They’re promoted by big names like Jenna Kutcher, and the platform is easy to use and the templates are gorgeous!

They also have a completely different price structure than anyone else, because you pay a flat-rate, no matter how many subscribers you have. It’s currently $38 a month, but you can lock in a 50% discount with my affiliate code.

That’s right – $19/month for unlimited subscribers.

Because Flodesk is so new, their capabilities are more limited than the other platforms I mentioned. The options to segment your subscribers are manually, through forms, or through Zapier integrations.

While that won’t work for everyone, it can be a great option for creative types who want to start segmenting their list at a great price.

Plus, your emails will look AMAZING!

Deciding on your segments

So now I’ve convinced you that you need to start segmenting your list, it’s worth your time, and you’ve found your right tool to get going.

But, what do you need to do to actually start segmenting?

First, you need to decide on your segments. This depends on your niche. 

You might be in a niche where gender is a great way to split your list. If you’re in eCommerce, being able to target subscribers with products that are gender-specific is a great idea.

Or perhaps, you want to divide your list into buyers and non-buyers. 

There’s a bunch of psychology behind the reasoning, but it boils down to people who have bought from you before know you and trust you because you’ve proven your value to them in their past purchases (at least that’s the goal!).

You probably don’t need a full sales sequence to sell them on your new product like you would to convince someone who just joined your list or has never bought from you.

Or maybe you have two very different topics on your blog – like woodworking and cookie recipes.

Lemme tell ya, the people who joined your list for access to your mom’s award-winning chocolate, chocolate-chip recipe are NOT going to be happy to get an email about a special deal on your favorite lathe from Amazon!

I think you use a lathe in woodworking?

via GIPHY

These are just examples, but you get the idea of how it works. 

Of course, you know your niche and your expertise, so you’re the one who needs to decide what segments you want to use.

I recommend starting with just a few segments that you’ll use the most.

Setting up your email segments

How you set up your segments really depends on the email platform you choose to use and the segments you select.

Since I don’t know you or your situation, here a few different ways you can set up your email segments.

  1. Use different lead magnet and forms to get people to subscribe to different segments in your list.
  2. Create checkboxes, surveys, or link triggers to have people self-select which topics interest them.
  3. Use data collection forms to find out basic demographics for your audience (gender, age, income bracket, etc.) **Please only collect data that you actually need and will use AND be sure that you are very clear on your website in how you’ll use this information. I don’t want you to get in legal trouble and I am most definitely not a lawyer!**
  4. Set up third-party integrations to gather information from outside sources to segment your list. Most e-Commerce platforms allow these integrations, and you can use them successfully in your email marketing.
  5. Use the data you’ve collected inside your email platform, website analytics, and other sources to make informed decisions about your email marketing. Consider subscriber and visitor behaviors and test to see how segments respond to changes that you make.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get started with these segments and the results that you are possible.

Once you’ve worked on segmenting your email list, you can start sending targeted emails to your groups.

Whether it involves content they’ll be interested in, products they’ll love, or actions you’re confident they’ll want to take, your new email marketing strategy will be a hit.

I would love to hear the segments you come up with, so drop a comment below to share how you’re getting started segmenting your list!

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