Contact list segmentation for improved email marketing

By Chloe Mark | November 2017


As marketers receiving one too many spammy emails in our inbox daily, it's easy for us to speculate that email marketing could be on the decline as we've sensed it's ineffectiveness in our own lives.

However, with the 69.7% of US internet users saying email is their preffered method of communicating with businesses (Salesforce Pardot), now is not the time to give up on this channel. According to our marketing manager Joli, the success of email largely depends on how you segment your lists. With this in mind, let's walk through how you can configure contact list segmentation to improve your email marketing. 

Why create distinct contact lists:

First off, let's dive deeper into what makes an email feel spammy and irrelevant vs. authentic and engaging. When we group all of our contacts into one or two contact lists for our next email campaign, we are assuming they have similar needs and qualities.

For example, it's likely that your B2B clients have different questions than your B2C ones or that a frequent visitor to your site wants to receive more updates than a person that downloaded your ebook weeks ago. 

The answer to making an email feel more relevant to the recipient is to make it more personal. However, making it more personal is not as simple as placing their name after "hey," as if you're long-time friends. Rather, it's sending them the right content at the right time. That's where list segmentation comes into play. If you send them content and updates that feel relevant to them, they'll continue opening and reading your emails, potentially becoming a client or even an advocate for your company. Let's break this down into three potential segments you could create for your business. 

1. Basing contact lists off of their actions online:

If your company has invested in a marketing automation or advanced CRM tool, as we have with Hubspot (see how this works for us in this blog), you have oodles of good data with which to classify your various audiences. 


A) By downloads / forms: Has the contact downloaded any of your content? Subscribed to your blog? Signed up for your newsletter? If yes, they've practically asked for more content and so they are probably interested in receiving fairly frequent updates with insightful information on your industry. When they subscribe, you can also have them specify the topics or types of content they are most interested in receiving. 


B) By follow-through: Do they open your emails? Click through to your site? Engage with you on social media? If yes, they're engaged with your company and appreciate your content - keep it up! If no, you are sending them too much or your content is not right at this time. Consider removing them from their current list and placing them on one that has less frequent messages, decreasing the risk of having them unsubscribe completely in annoyance. Send them content that is more specific to the first content with which they engaged and see if you can recapture their attention.

2. Regarding contacts' offline activities:

Going beyond their online behavior, think about their overall actions with your company. If they've come to events, your stores/office, spoken with your employees personally etc., it's likely that a more personal email, addressing them by name and sending them more specific information with regards to their actions, will be most appropriate. You don't treat your close friends like distant relatives, so don't group them in an email that you've sent to your newsletter subscribers and expect them to view it as authentic. 

3. Involving audience persona types:

Another way of viewing your audience is a step back from behavior and simply ask what type of audience persona with which they align most. The easiest way to do this is by researching their title on LinkedIn or otherwise. Set up a few lists by who your various audiences are - are they the decision maker or are they just the initial researcher for the company? Are they with a company looking for your services or are they just a person interested in what you do?

Read through "Know Your Audience" for more guidance on building your persona. If you're a nonprofit or if you simply want to walk through a more thorough example of building personas, download the ebook below. 


In short, email marketing is highly effective as long as you treat your contacts as people rather than simply email addresses you scrounged up. Pay attention to who they are and treat your correspondence with them as if it was happening in person. The most efficient way we've uncovered for how to do so is through this method of contact list segmentation. 

Topics: Digital Marketing