6 Easy Steps To Implement An Email Segmentation Strategy

6 Easy Steps To Implement An Email Segmentation StrategyThe concept is simple. Segment your list so you can provide relevant content to each target audience. Actually implementing an email segmentation strategy may prove more challenging. Incorporating segmentation into your email marketing strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. You want to provide Topic A to recipients interested in Topic A. The solution doesn’t require an Enterprise application – just a little elbow grease.


  1. Create your Email Marketing Segmentation Plan
  2. Add tracking variables to your URLs or make sure they are all unique
  3. Export your click report
  4. Sort by URL and add attributes to each group
  5. Upload new attributes
  6. Send relevant content to each target audience

Download the PowerPoint for 6 Easy Steps to Email Segmentation

Email Marketing Segmentation Strategy

Present different topics in the same email in such a way that you can safely assume that clicks on Topic A mean the recipient is interested in Topic A. E.g. If a recipient clicks Retirement Planning vs. New Family Planning, you can safely assume you have an older target. Let’s get more granular. If the recipient clicks on Retirement Planning Consultation vs. Retirement Planning 101, you have someone later in the buying cycle. Can you safely assume that? That’s up to you and your options.

Obviously you can’t segment your entire list with one email so come up with a long-term plan to incorporate ongoing segmentation. Create an editorial calendar that covers the full range of your products/services and spread out your content so you are not focusing on a single topic in an email. You risk alienating and losing recipients who aren’t interested in a particular topic. It will not be clear cut and you will probably have topics and targets that fall into more than one segment.

Tracking and Segmentation

You’re ready to hit send on your first newsletter with your email segmentation strategy in place. How will you know who is interested in what after you hit send? You have a number of options.

Manual Segmentation

The lowest-tech way to segment your list is to export your click report and sort by URL. Create a new attribute for that group and update your list. E.g. everyone who clicked yourdomain.com/retirement-planning-consultation.html gets tagged with two new attributes: Topic and Buying Cycle like this (click to enlarge):

Adding Segmentation Attributes to your Click Report

Most ESPs allow you to create custom fields. Create the new fields/attributes and then upload your list. Your subscribers will be matched by email address and the new attributes will be added to their record.

Sending a Segmented Email to Your List

Your ESP may not have a sophisticated way to send to subscribers based on attributes so the lowest-tech way is to create new lists for each group you have identified and send different emails to each list. I realize that takes more effort but you are putting the burden on your recipients to read each email and determine if it is relevant to them and they will eventually stop reading your emails or report you as spam.

Automated Segmentation

If you know how to use your Email Service Provider’s (ESP’s) advanced features, you can automate segmentation. Use their logic to filter people based on what they clicked on. I usually put a variable at the end of a URL e.g. yourdomain.com/retirement-planning-consultation.html?Topic=A or yourdomain.com/retirement-planning-consultation.html?Topic=A&BC=2.

If you don’t understand this, let me break it down for you. It’s simple. The ? after .html tells the web server it’s not part of the page name – it’s just extra information. The Topic=A makes Topic a variable name and makes as its value. This isn’t programming… Trust me. It’s just a way to get extra information in the URL so your ESP can read it.

Now that your URLs have tracking codes in them, create a rule in your ESP tool that says if URL contains Topic=A, update that user’s record with A in the Topic field. You can also perform other actions such as add them to another list, send them an email or series of emails, etc. Call your ESP’s support line for an intro to the topic. It’s easy to get started.

Build your segmented list over time and start offering more relevant content. Your response rates will increase and your list will grow faster.

Download the PowerPoint for 6 Easy Steps to Email Segmentation.

Posted: March 2nd, 2010
at 10:59am by Rob Van Slyke

Tagged with , ,

Categories: Email Marketing,Email Optimization

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