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Audience Segmentation is Still the Future of Email Marketing

I’m Ruthie, the host of The Defiant Business Podcast. Wow, we get to talk about email marketing audience segmentation! 

That’s probably one of the most used, yet misunderstood and misused marketing channel that we still have in 2020. If it wasn’t for social media marketing automation, then I would say that the next most popular marketing automation tool has to be for email marketing. 

We’ve all heard again and again that to really grow a business, you have to constantly add to your email list. Even micro-businesses and solopreneurs need to have email lists. The real question is: what do you do with that email list?

Social media is great, but you don’t get the sorts of metrics and analytics that you need to really assess how well your message resonates with your audience. With email marketing, we’ve got open rates, click-through rates, forwarding rates, etc. You can see all sorts of activity with your email marketing, and you can really customize your user’s experience with the automation tools that we have available today. 

Email marketing can be hard to commit to, though. Why? Because it feels inauthentic for a lot of us. So in the end, we don’t email market at all, or we kind of, sort of email market, but it’s really inconsistent and we don’t communicate with our list as often as they’d like us to. 

Here’s the episode:


What is Audience Segmentation?

The key to staying away from spammy email marketing is through audience segmentation. Segmentation allows you to email a segment of your list that’s particularly interested in topic X, but you have another email segment who’s particularly interested in topic Y.

For example, if you’re a consultant who works with companies in specific industries, you could segment your list based on those industries and cater your content to those industries. 

How Do You Segment?

So how do you even start segmenting? Some people try to do it through that initial form, where people sign up for your newsletter. But unless you’re a big business (like Microsoft or IBM), people are not going to give you their first name, last name, their company, their position, their industry, their birthdate, their address, their phone number, etc. They’re not going to give you all of those things just for your newsletter. 

First Name and Email

Ask for our first name and an email, more segmentation to follow. That’s generally been the best way to do it. This is because you can later offer more valuable content for more information about the people on your list. 

A Profile Update Form

If you have a really intimate list that’s got a high response rate (high click-throughs and high opens), send them a profile update form. They can answer a few questions and it updates the information on their profile. 

If you do it this way, you probably want to stick to some general questions, like asking for their last name, the company, or the industry that they’re in. That would be particularly valuable information for you. 

Create a New Lead Magnet

You could also create a new lead magnet and ask for additional information in exchange for that lead magnet. What you always want to do is make sure that your lead magnet is worth the additional information. 

This ties back to people asking for too many things. People just want to download this ebook on the top 5 strategies for social media, and if you’re a small social media marketing consultant/agency, people are not going to be willing to give you all of that information above five social media marketing strategies of 2020.

They’re just not; at least not anybody who has any idea of protecting their privacy and their information. 

A Survey Lead Magnet

So what you’d want to do is create a survey that takes input about a person’s target client and tells them which social media platforms they’re most likely to be on.  And you’re thinking, “Ruthie, that will be way harder to develop than an ebook!” Yes, it would be, but it would also be worth it to many people to try out the survey and get the results. 

If you created that sort of survey lead magnet, that would actually give them something valuable. Most people aren’t quite sure where to look for their audience on social media.

They know where they’re comfortable on social media, but that’s not always the same. It’s often not the same. And so they need help. A survey like that can point them in the right direction, and therefore it may be of value for them to give you the information you’re asking for in order to get their results. 

Ask an Extra Question Later on

Let’s use another example. I worked with a lot of corporate wellness consultants. So let’s say you built your current list with “5 Ways That Actually Work to Create a Mindful Workplace”. It sounds like a really good title. Somebody should snap that up!

But then you create a new lead magnet called “The Top 3 Ways to Build Productive Teams in 2020”, and you offer it to your list. 

When you send them the form for this new ebook/video/piece of content, besides asking for the usual first name and email, maybe you do ask about their industry. You could list 4 common industries that you work with, and then offer another option for them to fill in. That would be a fantastic way for you to continue delivering value to your audience. 

If they’re already on your list and they already know that you deliver good stuff, it’s probably likely that they’ll want to fill out the form. The idea is that you’re giving them valuable content in return for something, and this is particularly important in the B2B sector.

This is because a lot of the recipients for these sorts of eBooks and emails are a bit savvier. If I want to give out my information, make sure that you let them know whatever you’re offering is good

Surveys are another great way for you to learn about your audience in detail, but it won’t be attributable to an individual person, which is why I like to offer my list new content in exchange for any new information about them. That new information is tied directly to their profile and my marketing system. 

Keep Your Segments Segmented

However, make sure that once you segment, you treat those segments a sacrosanct. Be careful of cross-pollinating your lists without permission. If you have a list of prospects who’ve signed up for your newsletter, you shouldn’t just throw your current clients on that same list without their permission. 

Of course, you should have a client list and you can send them relevant information, but you shouldn’t just add them to your newsletter list without their permission. Keep your segments segmented. 

I had this happen to me once. I signed up to download an ebook on marketing automation, and about a week later, I started getting a crazy amount of emails about the same company’s Instagram growth course. 

Hold on. Nowhere did I say that I wanted to learn about growing on Instagram. I’m sure that when I filled out the form, I agreed to receive marketing information from them, so they weren’t technically spamming me, but I didn’t indicate that I was interested in Instagram growth and I didn’t indicate that I was interested in their products. Marketing automation and Instagram growth aren’t really related in the proper sense. 

I replied to that email and told them that I did not sign up to receive any information on Instagram products and I unsubscribed from the list. What they should have done is sent me a little more information about marketing automation, or some information about their company so I’d actually know who they were. Instead, they threw me on their “buy buy buy” list, and that was not okay. 

Start with Email Marketing Exactly Where You Are

Start from the beginning. If you have no list, if you have a small list, segment it now as best as you can. When we have smaller lists, they’re typically more intimate and you know a lot of the people who are on there, so fill in the information and segment them out. 

As your list grows, it’s going to be harder to segment it on the back end unless you employ some of the techniques I’m talking about. If you have a list of 1000 people, you’re not going to want to go through each person’s LinkedIn, Facebook, or whatever, if you can find them and add in that information. So you’re going to want to regularly schedule opportunities to segment your list further by using information that they provide to you. 

The future of email marketing is still segmentation, and email marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is one of many marketing channels that we still get to use in 2020, so the future of marketing still includes email. 

I would love to know your thoughts on email marketing, so please share them in the comments wherever you found this. If it’s social media, please share! What do you think is the biggest email marketing mistake people are making right now? Have you seen a good piece of email marketing recently? All right. I look forward to your thoughts.