Your email database is the most valuable element of your email marketing strategy. Your subscribers’ interests, goals and needs differ. You can’t send all of them the same email. To deliver highly-personalised, relevant and valuable content perfectly tailored for each subscriber, you need email list segmentation.

A good email marketing strategy depends on having a strong, loyal and healthy email list that will maintain high deliverability rates. Obviously, all email marketers focus on building and maintaining high-quality email lists. However, the true email experts nurture evergreen email lists by focusing on the following email list segmentation best practices to really achieve top results.


“A small list that wants exactly what you are offering is better than a bigger list that isn’t committed.” – Ramsay Leimenstoll

Is your goal an increase in open and click-through rates as well as decrease unsubscribe rates? Email list segmentation is an extremely powerful approach which can help you achieve that and boost your email marketing campaigns’ performance. With a well-managed email list, you can send more personalised high converting email campaigns. Yet, figuring out the best approach to segment your email list can be quite daunting. Instead of wasting precious time trying to figure it all out, take advantage of these email list segmentation best practices.

In this article, we’ll cover the following email list segmentation topics:

  1. What is email list segmentation?
  2. Types of email list segmentation
  3. Why is email list segmentation important?
  4. Top 8 email list segmentation best practices

Let’s dive in.

Email List Segmentation: Definition, Types and Importance

What is email list segmentation? A targeting technique used by email marketers to divide their email list into smaller groups (segments) based on specific criteria. Usually, email segmentation is used as a personalisation method to deliver more relevant and valuable email campaigns to your subscribers. Each segmented email list helps email marketers cater to their subscribers’ independent needs/interests rather than crafting and sending one generic email campaign to all.

The top six types of email list segmentation are – 

1) Demographic list segmentation

Information like age, gender, job occupancy and income level can tell you quite a lot about a subscriber. The more demographic information you can obtain during the sign-up process, the better chance you’ll have to create a more highly targeted segmented email list. However, be careful. Asking for too much personal information from the get-go can spook people from signing up at all.

2) Geographic list segmentation

This type of email list segmentation helps marketers divide their subscribers based on location and send them targeted email campaigns at the right time (different time-zones and all). It is also quite valuable for businesses where location greatly influences people’s purchasing decisions. By segmenting your email list using geographical location, you can more easily target your email campaigns based on regional factors such as local customs and holidays, events, special location-based offers and even the weather.

3) B2B and B2C list segmentation

You may have multiple marketing channels, some B2B, some B2C, clearly, you cannot and should not send a B2B email aimed at a sales manager or marketing specialist to a housewife that would be buying your product directly from a retail store.

Segmenting between B2B & B2C is obvious but many marketers miss the opportunity to fine-tune each of these audiences further either with specific content or based on previous behaviour or both.

4) Content-specific list segmentation

To utilise this type of email list segmentation, you will have to rely on specific subscribers’ data. Demographic, geographic, behavioural and psychographic data are the most common variables contributing to content-specific list segmentation. The more you know about your subscribers, the better you’d be able to segment your email list. Examples: What page (or pages) did the person visit on your website? If they downloaded content what was it and where did they download it from? Did they buy anything? 

5) Behavioural list segmentation

This is the most powerful email list segmentation type because the subscribers are being segmented based on real actions. Essentially, your subscribers will be divided into segmented email lists based on their behavioural patterns. Examples: How long did a person stay on your website or a specific page? On an average visit, how many pages do people view? Are visitors impulse buyers – visit and quickly buy? Or, are the nervous buyers – visiting your website a few times a week, adding the same products/services into the shopping cart and then cancelling?

The best types of behavioural email list segmentation are based on – 

  • purchase behaviour
  • benefits
  • lifecycle stage
  • level of engagement
  • occasion 
  • customer satisfaction
  • customer loyalty

Behavioural email list segmentation will help you improve targeting accuracy, provide better-personalised email campaigns and experience, sift engaged and unengaged subscribers and make tracking success easier.

6) Influencer list segmentation

Customer loyalty is no longer just about purchase amounts and purchase frequency. It’s also about who recommends your brand. Examples: Do you have any testimonials or reviews? Who has given them? Do you have people sharing your brand on social media? Who are they? Which social media platform are they sharing on? Subscribers who’ve become voluntary brand ambassadors must be appreciated and nurtured. Place them in a special segmented email list and show them some love so that they will continue sharing your content providing a boost to your business.

Why is email list segmentation important? It is proven that segmenting your email list will increase open and click-through rates, as well as, decrease unsubscribe rates. Furthermore, it will also help improve your email marketing campaigns’ performance and maintain a robust email database. Ah, if you are wondering, it’s equally important for both B2B and B2C email marketing.

Think about this, you have a huge email list with all kinds of subscribers with different needs, interests, desires and goals. Do you want to send them highly-personalised, extremely relevant valuable email campaigns that will convert? If the answer is “Yes!” (as it should be) then you need to segment your email list. What better way to do that than utilising email list segmentation best practices?

What is a healthy email list? Any email list that has good deliverability, frequent new subscribers, high open, click-through and conversion rates (engagement) and low bounce and unsubscribe rates is a healthy one. However, to have a healthy email list, you need to implement constant monitoring, follow email marketing best practices and keep your email list clean.

Email List Segmentation Best Practices

You’ve spent time on organically growing your email list – without any shortcuts like buying or renting lists, you will have to nurture and monitor them to keep them strong and healthy. Yet, email list management is often overlooked as other matters take precedence. However, poor neglected email lists with disengaged subscribers can cause many problems – decrease in email deliverability, negative impact on email marketing KPIs, increase in bounce and unsubscribe rates, poor sender reputation and inevitably, the potential collapse of your entire email marketing strategy. But, with the help of email list segmentation best practices, you will be able to monitor and protect your most valuable email marketing asset – your database. 

1) Choose A Suitable Email Provider

Before you start with segmentation, you need professional email marketing software that offers an email list segmentation feature amongst email automation and analytics. Preferably one that’ll offer you all these and more without costing you an arm and a leg.

Open a FREE account with EmailOut and take a look >>>

2) Create Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional research-and-data-based profile depicting your ideal targeted customer. By knowing your subscribers, you’ll be able to create buyer personas based on their traits, characteristics, interests, needs, desires, motivations, choices, purchase preferences, etc. Afterwards, you’ll just have to segment your subscribers based on common, mutual criteria. 

For example, subscribers interested in Android mobile devices will go into segmented email list “A” and subscribers interested in Apple mobile devices will go into segmented email list “B”. Keep in mind, buyer personas not only make email list segmentation easier, but they also help with creating valuable relevant content. 

3) Figure Out Which Subscriber Goes Where

You’ve already gathered enough information about your subscribers. Now, it’s time to analyse it and choose the best segmentation approach. It all depends on your business. For example, if you are selling a healthy way of living, you will drive segmentation for people who love sports, athletes, vegetarians, vegans, people with health issues, overprotective parents (*wink*), etc.

4) Start With Simple Email Segments And Evolve

There’s no reason to make your life harder by trying to create and leverage all possible segmentation straight from the get-go. Instead, settle on a simpler email list segmentation model that involves 2 or 3 segments. Remember, you can always add more segments down the road as you continue learning more about your subscribers and consequently, perfecting your email list segmentation to a “T”.

5) Keep Collecting Information About Your Subscribers

People signed up for your mailing list for a reason be it to get more information about a product/service, receive valuable and beneficial content or stay up-to-date with recent news. However, the basic data you’ve collected about them on signup won’t allow you to personalise your email campaigns to the highest level. To do that, you’ll need to keep collecting personal information. The more you know about your subscribers, the better you can personalise your email campaigns and deliver relevant, valuable content that converts. 

For example, allow your subscribers to periodically update their profile information and preferences. A simple link to your preference centre will do the trick. If initially, they are not interested in participating, maybe consider offering them an incentive – a special discount on a product they showed interest in or two-weeks free access to a service, anything that will persuade subscribers to take any action and end up with you knowing more about them.

6) Maintain Healthy Email Lists

By now, you know how important a healthy email list is for the success of your email marketing strategy. However, there might be some inactive subscribers that just sit in your email list costing you money. That’s right, most email marketing platforms charge based on subscribers. Thus, you must ensure that you maintain a clean, strong, healthy and engaged database.

Email databases naturally decay by about 22.5% every year. Therefore, with inactive subscribers and email list decay in mind, you need to clean your email lists periodically. These are some of the things you need to consider when doing a data clean-up – 

  • remove duplicate email addresses
  • remove email addresses with typos
  • update (if possible) invalid email addresses – if not delete them
  • delete email addresses that bounced (soft and hard bounces)

    ^All of these features are automatic with EmailOut – try it out now.

7) Do You Have Permission To Send?

Email marketing is permission-based. Therefore, if you have not obtained explicit consent from the people on your email list, you are violating email marketing laws.

Furthermore, emailing people without their consent kills trust, causes open and click-through rates to stagnate, forces recipients to report your emails as spam subsequently dragging down your deliverability rate and lastly, damaging your sender reputation. You might even end up on a blacklist. Do your due diligence and remember, never buy or rent email lists from third-parties. It is probably illegal within your jurisdiction, if not it certainly is not best practice. Purchased subscribers have not given YOU permission to email them.

8) Allow People to Easily Unsubscribe

If the goal is to keep people on your email list, isn’t it kind of wrong to make unsubscribing easy? Has that thought ever crossed your mind?

If someone wants to opt-out (unsubscribe), they will – one way or another. There’s no point in hiding the unsubscribe link. However, if you decide to be cheeky, keep two very important things in mind – 

1) if subscribers don’t see a way to unsubscribe, they’ll mark you as a spammer
2) it is a legal requirement to include an unsubscribe option in all of your emails

There are four main reasons for people to unsubscribe – 

1) irrelevant content – the content they are getting is not what they signed up for
2) overwhelming email frequency – bombarding subscribers with emails is not the path to success. Instead, choose an email frequency that works for you AND your recipients. Why not allow the subscriber to tell you how often they want to hear from you?
3) spammy looking emails – from the subject line to the overly salesy language in email copy, your email should not be riddled with spam triggers that will annoy subscribers
4) recipients have no clue who you are – people might’ve forgotten they signed up or someone else might’ve used their email address to opt-in (my Mum used mine when she signed up for online zumba classes) make sure your recipients know why they are receiving your emails

The same way your subscription process is easy, fast and painless, you should ensure unsubscribing is also fuss-free.

Final Thoughts

No matter how much you want to grow your email list and increase your revenue, remember that quality is better than quantity. Therefore, grow your email list organically – never buy or rent lists.

Email list segmentation might be slightly daunting but it has an incredible potential that will empower your marketing. There is pretty much no limit to the personalisation of your email campaigns when using it. Not only does email list segmentation help you generate more revenue, but it also resonates with your targeted audience better because your email campaigns’ purpose is solely focused on the subscribers’ profile (needs, interest, occupation, location, goals, income, age, gender, etc.). Consequently, all of that effort is reflected in your ever-increasing email marketing KPIs.

Bottom line: whether you are reaching out to new subscribers, trying to re-engage old ones, promoting products/services or delivering valuable content, smart segmentation and utilising email list segmentation best practices will help you meet your subscribers where they are and deliver hyper-focused, highly-personalised, perfectly-targeted and relevant email campaigns.

Are you ready to start segmenting your email lists? Give EmailOut a try and master email list segmentation today.

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) The Truth About Bought/Rented Email Lists
2) Writing Marketing Emails 101
3) Email List Building Secrets

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