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How to Segment Email Marketing for Best Results

Cain & Company
November 5, 2019

For your marketing to succeed, your message needs to be relevant. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many companies take their relevancy for granted. Often, they send out an email blast with the same message to their entire contact database, and then wonder why their email marketing efforts suffer.

According to a report from Marketing Sherpa, 40% of email subscribers mark email as spam not because they don’t know who sent it, but because what was sent was irrelevant to their needs. They just weren't interested.

Targeting your email marketing campaigns through segmentation can make your emails more relevant, improve your open and click-through rates, and grow your email marketing list. Rather than including all your contacts in a mass email blast, segmenting your contact list into smaller targeted groups lets you send messages that are relevant to each group.

Here are several approaches to segmenting your email marketing to create tailored, effective emails.


Perhaps the most common way to segment your contacts is using demographics. Creating email segments that sort your subscriber list by gender, age, job title, or industry allows you to send specific messages to the people with whom they are most likely to resonate.

Organizational function

This applies more to B2B companies. Your customer’s company is made up of different divisions. The way you relate to a salesperson is different from the way you relate to an IT person or the owner. They have different goals and different interests in your company, just as you have different ways of helping each of them. Targeting their specific interests can increase your email click-through rates.

Special interests

Further narrow your demographic data to target buyer personas with specific interests. If you’re selling gourmet dog treats, don’t waste your time sending emails to people who you already know are cat lovers.

Website activity

Determine a visitor’s interests through their activity on your website. Website analytics can help you determine what your leads may find interesting. Look at the content they have viewed or downloaded to narrow down what they find interesting and segment your lists accordingly.

A simple way to start is by pulling a list of people who have downloaded a certain marketing offer. Using that data as an indicator of what interests them, create a targeted email or lead nurturing campaign that addresses that interest. Marketing automation software lets you easily do this type of segmentation by creating a list based on a recent conversion event.

Lead stage

Some leads are further along the sales cycle than others, and, as mentioned earlier, their activity on your website can provide insights into their interests and determine your best approach to communicating with them. For example, the way you communicate with someone who has only seen a few pages on your site should be different from how you communicate with someone who has downloaded five whitepapers and visited 50 pages.

Your analytics should help you distinguish the browsing behavior of different website visitors. Use this information to make your communications more relevant to how far along the recipient is in their purchasing decision.

Lead type

Those who advocate for your brand want to feel the love. They want to believe you understand them. So, who are they?

  • Frequent buyers
  • Social media fans
  • Customers who have recommended you to others
  • Non-customers who have advocated for you online

These brand advocates need to be carefully nurtured. Your emails need to acknowledge them on a personal level, such as through a personalized thank-you email, advance notice of new services or products, requests for feedback, discounts, or other rewards. If you show how you appreciate them, they will continue to spread the word.

Purchasing history

It’s easier to retain an existing customer than to gain a new one. Your customer relationship management (CRM) or point-of-sale (POS) software can offer a wealth of data that you can use to segment your email marketing messages, which can help retain current customers and encourage them to buy more. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sort your customer list by type of purchase to notify buyers of similar products that might interest them.
  • Sort your customer list by amount of purchase to send a thank you to high-value customers.
  • Sort out customers who haven’t purchased in some time and send them an invitation to reconnect.


The information you store in your contact database limits your email marketing. Geographic information, such as zip code, city, or even latitude and longitude, will let you target recipients in a specific region. If you plan to segment geographically, think about how a buyer’s location influences their purchasing decision. Here are a few examples of opportunities to segment by geography:

  • When sending invitations to a local event.
  • When your offer has geographic limitations, such as a regional sales event.
  • When your business is restricted to a local area.

Open and click-through rate

Are your recipients engaging with your targeted, personalized email campaigns? Look at your results and analyze the data. Open rate shows how often recipients opened your email. A low open rate could be a result of a poor subject line.

Click-through rate (CTR) indicates how many clicks the links in your email received. A low CTR could indicate poor calls-to-action or content that is irrelevant to your recipients.

You can use this data to formulate follow-up emails for contacts that either did not open or opened but did not click through on your first email offer.

When it comes to segmentation and personalization, look at what differentiates your subscribers and leads to see how you can address those needs or interests. You can start small – even the slightest segmentation can increase your email success rates. As you become more experienced with segmentation, you will discover more ways to target the individual characteristics of your audience and your industry.

Read the Essential Guide to B2B Marketing for Manufacturers

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