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Email Marketing Segmentation: Your #1 Area of Unhatched Potential


In analyzing numerous clients’ email marketing campaigns, I’ve come to realize that email segmentation is the one area that’s most underutilized.

It’s really quite a brain freeze.

Businesses crave new customers and sales so rush off to social media, SEO, and all these other new techniques when their email marketing campaigns are barely even scratching the surface.

Email marketing, when combined with powerful segmentation, can literally transform your results. Follow the steps outlined here and you’ll likely boost open rates, click rates, and revenue.

Before we dive in, however, you’re going to have to do something a lot of email marketers have a hard time doing…

You’re going to have to let email marketing, as you know it, die.

Death to the eBlast

Gary Thuerk sent what’s credited as the first mass email promoting DEC computers and earned 13 million. To this day, it’s easy to assume you can do the same.

It’s what I call the epic eBlast myth.

  • Build an enormous list of email addresses
  • Blast off a highly well written email
  • Generate an influx of sales

People still think this approach can work.

It most likely won’t.

But don’t worry, there’s something else that will.

Just take a look at IHC IT Security systems and their case study on MarketingSherpa. By implementing a few segmentation tweaks to their 4-part email sequence, here’s what happened:


In his mind-tickling email course “Autoresponder Madness”, Andre Chaperon states that everything must be done in the best interest of your audience.

Blasting a single email to thousands of emails with no personalization of their behavior – while easy to do – is NOT in the best interest of these recipients.

Consequently, the eblast as we know it has fallen.

In it’s place, segmentation email marketing has hatched.

“If one kind of communication breaks down, another kind will thrive on the ruins.”

Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change

Does each email of yours have a link that certain segments of your list will click on more than others?

Are there some people on your list that open every email you send and others that don’t open a single one?

If so, you have everything needed to empower yourself with email segmentation.

Going Beyond the Basics

We look at email marketing and see the obvious metrics:

  • Open Rate
  • Click-thru rate
  • Click-To-Open Rate

Based on this data, we look at our subject lines and content to optimize these metrics.

We develop another set of emails to send. Or a better, more “optimized” email. We’re looking at the metrics but ignoring an easier, more effective approach.

As Sherlock Holmes says…

“You see, but you do not observe.”

If you’ve sent any email (even just one) and it had just one link that was about a particular topic, every person that clicks on that link is making a vote.

They are actively performing a behavior.

And they’re much more likely to perform that behavior again compared with those that didn’t click.

Here lies unhatched potential that you can awaken to transform your email marketing.

“Human relations are malleable, and if a person has the appropriate skills their rules can be transformed.”

Mihaly Csikszemtmihalyi, Flow

Your subject line and how you introduce links all represent topics that only people who respond favor.

This, consequently, creates a data reservoir.

All you need to do is open your eyes and start looking at it to reap the benefits.

Augment Your Email Reporting With Segmentation

Even the most bare-boned email marketing platforms allow you to export your email data, containing information on what email recipients clicked on and what emails they opened.

If you’re performing a weekly (or recurring) report on email sends, why not add another layer to this process and start creating segments based on behavior?

Start small.

For example, an email about topic A could indicate that all those who open the email are interested in this topic. All you have to do is export all the emails that opened this email and create a separate segment for topic A.

And no, this does not require a high-priced email service provider. Just look at the “email group” feature in GetResponse for a newsletter that was sent. This allows you to email the group, export the list, and/or create a new segment for further communications.

Email segment abilities via GetResponse

Email segment abilities via GetResponse

Anyhow, this simple action not only arms you with valuable behavioral information about those recipients that opened the email, but allows you to create campaigns catered to this specific interest.

By developing a series of broad categories as to what each of your email subject lines and links within the email are about, you begin to slice your data.

You go from a big dump of data with open rates, CTR’s, and unsubscribes, to actionable data that tells a story.

Don’t have any historic data to utilize? Unable to dig into your historical email send data due to time restraints?

No problem.

While digging into past data to optimize your sends is highly recommended, you can always start small.

Here’s how to start utilizing this approach from the very first email you send to a new prospect…

The Welcome Email

As soon as a new prospect gives you their email address, you plug them into a welcome email series, right?

If not, this is one of the easiest ways to start building a relationship.

With that said, most first email messages are like this:

Welcome Email

The copy’s pretty decent. So what’s wrong with this email?

There are no links other than the footer and social icons.

There isn’t anything wrong with having a first email without links if this is part of a bigger picture. But if this type of email is the first and only email you send to subscribers, you have a problem.

What if, instead, you could give them some sort of choice of content they can look at.

You, for example, offer them a few pieces of content relating somewhat to whatever they gave you their email address for in the first place.

Even a “learn more” button about your services and an FAQ button are enough.

Once this email is set up and starts collecting data, you can begin the automation process.

Recipients that click the FAQ section are, we can assume, people that want to know more. But they’re rational. They do their research. They’re digging into your FAQ.

You don’t need to create a segment called FAQ, but what about a “rational more info” seeker category?

What about those that click an “about us” link? They want to know more about you. Their click is effectively saying “prove to me that you’re worthy.”

Would it be worth it to create a segment of “credibility and authority seekers” for future sales catering? Maybe… just maybe.

Most automated email campaigns will send the exact same 2nd email in a welcome series to those that clicked the FAQ and About Us links from the above examples.

What if, instead of following this approach, you created two separate emails? One tailored to those that want to learn more about your credibility and authority. And for the FAQ clickers, you could reiterate what was stated in the FAQ section but in a fancier, more direct way.

All of this activity stems from action and behavior.

That’s all email marketing is.


Your list of email recipients is a list of real people. These real people, while similar, are vastly different in their preferences and thinking.

By opening your eyes to these differences, you can better cater to them.

Provide Value for Subscribers to Engage With

In the email marketing world where results are king, it’s common for most campaigns to focus solely on sales-oriented tactics.

You know, those emails jam-packed with hype, benefits, and action-oriented copy designed to educate, inform, and convert.

While this is both important and necessary to any email marketing diet, adding a few email sends focused on content creates a powerful behavioral environment for your email list.

It’s here where you get to see exactly what certain slices of data react to. And it’s with this set-up that you can supercharge your email sends.

Walt Disney was an expert at this technique…

“He (Disney) understood that it is easier to maintain control over customers if they think they are doing what they want to do, as opposed to what someone else wants them to do.

To preserve that illusion of autonomy, Disney was more than willing to make countless small adjustments, like paving a short-cut that visitors were taking through a flower bed, rather than putting up a fence to keep them out.”

The Animated Life: The Life of Walt Disney, by Michael Barrier

Give your audience the power of choice and you'll be rewarded with valuable data for more effective communications.

Give your audience the power of choice and you’ll be rewarded with valuable data for more effective email communications.

Adding value to your email list, while it doesn’t directly generate sales, indirectly allows you to develop a more in-depth segmented list.

This, consequently, allows you to amp your sales pitches by personalizing them to the ideal segments.

Segment to Warm Up Lost Prospects

One of the most powerful uses of email segmentation is for prospects that have stopped responding to your sales attempts.

Instead of sending more and more sales pitches or untargeted content messages, you can begin a segmentation process.

For example, if you have a list of demo request prospects that went, you could easily create separate segments for:

  • Those that didn’t show up to the demo
  • Those that showed up but backed away from further communication
  • Those that showed up, agree to sign up, but then back away

All three of these segments have different thought processes going on. By highlighting what you feel are the key reasons they’ve backed away, you give yourself another shot at communication.

Simple segmented email campaigns like this have repeatedly been known to bring back from 15% to 30% of lost prospects.

That’s money right on the table for your taking.

What’s more, that still leaves around 70% to 85% of prospects still out there, doing nothing.

Typical “eblast” worshippers would continue to email sales pitches to this list of cold prospects. This not only taints your brand, it ruins your IP and email sender reputation.

Here’s the time to go back to data collection and push these cold prospects into a recurring communication piece with several different value-adds.

Think of your typical email newsletter that offers several links and topics. By creating a recurring email newsletter-type campaign to leads that recently went cold, you allow your business to still stay in front of your prospect in a less “salesman-like” manner.

Your goal is now not to get your prospects to reschedule a demo. Instead, all you want them to do is start clicking on some links that interest them.

You’ll use this data to both warm up your prospects to your brand as well as segment them to a more tailored pitch.

Lead Generation Doesn’t End With an Email – It Begins

Whitepapers. Email newsletters. Engagement pieces that tell a relevant story or share a valuable customer experience.

All of these value-adds not only make your subscribers happier, they give you power to segment.

This is the true power of email and lead generation.

To generate leads among your leads that have a specific set of behaviors associated to them.

You go from a one-part lead generation process with one landing page and email form to a multi-faceted lead generation process.

Sort of like this…

Email Marketing Flow Sequence

Ready to Start Building Segmented Audiences?

Don’t be like the caterpillar Charles Darwin describes in “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animal.” The caterpillar that, when on a tree depleted of leaves, perishes from hunger rather than finding a new tree.

Make the leap. Try something new.

The answers to all your questions and concerns are not out here on the internet.

They’re in your list.

Try some segmentation and see what happens.

There is no such thing as failure. Just feedback.

The ultimate question then is this… are you listening to your audience and proactively adapting to their behavior?

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Alphonso, founder of Web Enlighten, shows small business owners how to maximize sales, leads, and engagement online. Try a few of his simple strategies revealed in the free guide, The Practical Performance Marketer's Playbook.

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1 Comment
  1. Email provides you the most direct line of communication for conversion to sales … which is why the most savvy content marketers have no intention of giving it up any time soon.

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