When used correctly, email marketing has the ability to be a powerful lead generator.

Unfortunately, many people find their emails fall on deaf ears. No matter the message, the frequency, or the design, they aren’t moving people from reader to lead.

What gives?

One very important step in the email marketing process that is often overlooked is email segmentation – and it could be the difference between email that’s considered spam and email that gets readers excited to buy.

What is email segmentation?

emaillistcat.jpgEmail segmentation involves slicing and dicing your entire email list up into smaller lists, grouping your contacts together by a common characteristic.

While there is no one right way to segment your contacts, below are a few common ways that email marketers may divide their lists by:

  • Where the lead is in the buyer’s journey
  • Geographical location of the contact
  • How recently a contact clicked on a link in an email
  • Contact job title
  • Contact job industry

The above list is meant to be a starting point, so don’t worry if none of the options make sense for you: the way you choose to segment your list will look different for every organization. If you need help determining your groupings, start by combing through your sales and marketing data (starting with your email analytics!) and see if there are any commonalities between chunks of your list that are worth grouping together.

How does email segmentation help you increase the number of leads?

Now that you know how to segment your email list, you might have a big question hanging over your head: how exactly does this help increase your number of leads?

Simply put: by matching your message to your readers’ needs.

When you can tailor your message to the person (or group of people) you’re sending an email to, you’re more likely to write something that speaks directly to them.

It’s important you make it clear from the get-go – and by get-go I mean subject line – that your email is relevant to the reader. If you can’t prove that your email is relevant, it won’t be opened. People don’t have time to read emails that don’t interest them.

When you segment your emails, you can customize your subject lines to be applicable to the group you send to.

For example, say you own a hair salon. As a promotion to bring in new clients, you send an email out with the subject of “New client special!”, but you send it to your entire email database. You’ll probably pique the interest of some contacts who aren’t clients, but at the risk of annoying your current clients. The more appropriate move would be to send this promotion to only contacts who have yet to visit the salon, bringing in new customers without alienating your current ones.

If you do succeed in getting your reader to open the email, you’re then faced with the challenge of proving your worth: is the content of the email actually going to be interesting to your reader?

Just because you group a segment together by one characteristic doesn’t necessarily mean you need to speak to it in your emails. You don’t need to start off your emails with, “Dear person who clicked a link in an email we sent in the last two weeks” (creepy) – but you should create content that makes sense for them based on the commonality. If your emails in the last two weeks focused on one specific topic, email those people more about that same topic.

When you segment your list, you’ll have a clearer idea of what content to send to your recipients. If you send your email specifically to people who frequently read your blog, determined by contact data compiled from a tool like HubSpot, sending them a link to read a new post will be of interest to them, meaning they’d be more likely to read your email and click on your links.

It’s all about optimizing your time in front of the reader to get them to take an action that their previous actions predict they may be inclined to take.

What are the benefits of segmentation, aside from the potential to generate more leads?

Aside from achieving your primary goal – getting more leads – there are some other benefits to email segmentation.

Improved email deliverability rates

When people stop opening or interacting with your emails, email service providers like Google take it as a sign that you aren’t sending quality content. Over time, that means your emails won’t make their way to your reader’s inboxes – whether that means being relegated to the dreaded Gmail “Promotions” tab or your spam box, it’s bad news for you. Even if people WANT to read your emails, their email service provider will make it difficult for them to do so.

No readers = no leads.

However, when your emails are segmented and thus more relevant, people will be more likely to open, read and click on links in your emails. This will signal to email providers that your messages aren’t spam, helping ensure your readers actually get your emails.

More accurate analytics

Segmented lists also allow you to get more accurate data from your email analytics.

Instead of blasting an email to everyone with a message that only a small segment cares about, your analytics for each segmented email will reflect how only those people who had interest in the first place responded to your message.

Let’s say you send emails for a big box retailer. If you email everyone about a sale on diapers, most people won’t care – they don’t need diapers. Your analytics would show low engagement.

However, if you had a segmented list of people who have previously searched for baby items on your website, you’d be speaking to people who might actually need those diapers. Your email analytics should show higher engagement rates – and I’d wager you’d see more purchases, as well. 

Segmented emails also make it easier tracking which messages resonate with the readers who has interest in your email topic. A great message might have poor engagement rates associated with it if it’s sent to all of your contacts, but could perform well when sent only to a specific segment.

Maybe your “diapers” contacts respond better to messages about easy ordering of diapers than messages about a specific brand of them. It would be tougher to test this when emailing your general audience, but your segmented groups will make information like this easier to glean.

It doesn’t matter whether you send 10 emails a week or 10 emails a year: the more segmented you can make your email lists, the more you can optimize each email to be relevant for your readers. Relevancy is the name of the game when you’re trying to turn readers into leads, so don’t skip this important step in the email marketing process.