There is a lot of misinformation out there, telling small business owners that email marketing is a waste of time. Not true!  There are many articles that illustrate why email marketing is important and why it still works. It’s not a waste of time. What is a waste of time is sending the wrong email to the wrong people at the wrong time. For most, that means segmenting your email list, but, should small businesses segment their email list?  Read on to learn more…

What is list segmentation?

Segmentation means to divide up your mass email list to better put email lists in certain buckets. This helps small businesses better personalize email messages based on the recipient. Personalization is slicing up your email list into segments based on what you know about each user—like their buying habits, familiarity with your company, and professional background—and then sending each segment of people personalized information. There are several powerful platforms that can help you understand each of the items above to segment your email marketing list but for many small business owners, especially entrepreneurs just starting out, some of these powerful tools can be cost-prohibitive to start.

emailSegmenting without breaking the bank

For those small businesses who understand the power of a more personalized, targeted email message, but are not yet able to invest in a marketing tool that can segment to such detail, there are still opportunities to better target your lists. Below are a few ways you can slice and dice your email list that will still target your message to your audience which in turn can result in a better open and even conversion rate. Which can mean more sales!

Segment by where the recipient is in the buying cycle

Every business should have a good idea where their contacts are in the buying cycle. You can start simple, and divide your list in three ways:

  • Prospect
  • Current client
  • Past client

Think about your business for a moment. Would you really say the same thing to each of the above three groups?  Likely that answer is no, so your email marketing efforts should also be different. With prospects, you want to gain them as clients. For current clients, you want to retain and/or upsell them, or simply keep them informed on the business. For past clients, you’d like to bring them back into the active client role. Take a moment to divide your current list this way.  This is a great overall marketing strategy, and a strong one for email marketing.

For those businesses that divide their prospects into a more specific buying cycle stages, great!  Top of the funnel prospects need “get to know you” information. Mid-funnel may need more specific details about your clients and what you can do, while those deep in the sales funnel may want more in-depth, detailed information on results.

Segment your list by products or services of interest

If your business offers more than one service or product, it may make sense to segment your email list by interest to better target your message. If, for example, your company offers both services and training, you may want to segment your list so your message strongly resonates with your recipient based on their interest. Those interested in training may not want to get information about services, but instead learn how they can enhance their own knowledge. Those looking for services may have an interest in training at all, so an email targeted to that may likely be deleted.

Segment by in-store vs. online clients

If you have both a brick-and-mortar location as well as a website, you may want to segment your email list based on where your customers prefer to shop. You can give invitations to in-store events to those customers that visit your store, while those that only visit your website might receive offers that should only be redeemed online.

Segment your list based on the recipient’s stated interest

If part of your email marketing sign-up process is to ask for areas of interest, you can segment your list based on what the person signs up to receive. One way to segment or group your contacts is by using email lists and asking your subscribers to choose the lists they’re interested in. Constant Contact, for example, allows users to add an option to choose which list(s) subscriber want to join when they sign up.

There are many more ways that small businesses can segment their list. The question of should small businesses segment their list is clear; the answer is yes! The goal is to keep the process manageable and consistent, so if that means only segmenting by prospect, current and past clients, that’s a great start! If you’re unsure how to segment your email marketing list, work with a small business marketing professional to help you with the process.

Patty Hughes
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