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How to Maximize Conversions Using Advanced Email List Segmentation

  • Email Marketing

Tell me…

Do you send out mass emails to all your subscribers?

Or do you send out targeted email campaigns to segments of your list?

If your answer is the latter, kudos to you.

If not, I’ve got some news for you:

The success of your email marketing efforts is in jeopardy.

Why am I so sure?

Without email segmentation, your engagement will be at an all-time low.

Open rates will fall…

Unsubscriber rates will increase…

And that’s just the beginning.

You can’t expect to generate sales for your business with a disengaged email list.

Not convinced? MailChimp found that segmented email lists performed strikingly better than non-segmented lists.

Here are the numbers to prove it:

Effects of List Segmentation on Email Marketing Stats

Source: MailChimp

So what exactly is email list segmentation?

It’s a practice where you create targeted subsets of your email list.

These subsets are sectioned off based on the main insights that you have about your audience.

In this article, I’ll give you seven email segmentation best practices that will improve your engagement rates.

But first…

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Why you need to segment your email list 

There’s no denying it.

Email list segmentation can dramatically transform your email marketing.

Think about it.

Your audience is diverse. They have different needs and desires. They’re all at various stages of the buyer’s journey.

To not segment your list is to sabotage the success of your email campaigns.

A DMA report found, for three consecutive years, the highest email marketing ROI came from segmented lists.

National Client Email Report 2015

Source: EmailMonday

What are the specific benefits?

Here are a few:

  • Increase email marketing revenue
  • Improve audience engagement
  • Improve customer loyalty and customer lifetime value
  • Recapture lost leads

Win back disengaged subscribers and drive sales

When is the right time to segment your list?

The easy answer?


You should be segmenting your email subscribers as soon as they opt into your list.

Naturally, you won’t know much about them at this point.

Here’s what you would know:

  • Where they signed up
  • What incentive they opted in for
  • The first point of contact with your business

From that, you can also deduce their interests.

This information is sufficient for segmentation at least in the beginning.

You can refine your list segments as your audience insights become more sophisticated.

Advanced segmentation strategies will take time and may only be possible after you’ve interacted with your subscribers in depth.

For example, segmenting your list based on Customer Lifetime Value will require a lot more data.

That takes time to gather.

So what are some other segmentation strategies?

There are several pillars of segmentation.


Source: Pillars of Segmentation, EmailMonday

Each pillar may serve a different objective.

Our focus in this article is engagement.

As such, I’ll give you the best strategies for that purpose.

Let’s get started.

1. Segment based on engagement history

This is perhaps one of the most effective ways of segmenting your list.

The best indication you have of what will resonate best with your subscribers is to analyze their past behavior.

For instance, if a subscriber clicks on a particular link in your email, you can tag them under a specific list segment.

This way, they’ll receive emails that are aligned with their past actions.  

The result?

They’ll be more likely to engage and follow through on your calls to action in any future emails.

There is a whole range of activities that you can track, including subscribers who…

  • Interacted with specific content
  • Attended your events either online or offline
  • Open your emails and clicked the links
  • Interact with your website
  • Took part in your challenges, contests, and other promotions.

These are just a few behaviors that should be on your radar.

Let’s look at some of these in action.

Here’s a snippet of an email targeting subscribers who created an account at Mack Weldon:  

Mack Wheldon Segmentation Email

Similarly, Cotton Bureau targeted new subscribers with a coupon code:

Cotton Bureau Engagement Email

This code is trackable so you’ll know if new subscribers use it.

And let’s be honest…

It’s an excellent way to qualify new leads that are coming through your funnel.

2. Segment based on subscriber interests and preferences

Sounds basic, right?

In truth, this is one of the highest impact segmentation strategies.

The bottom line?

Subscribers won’t engage with emails that don’t interest them.

But the great news is, segmentation by interests is unbelievably simple to implement.

There are two key ways to gain that insight:

i. Create surveys to ask subscribers about their preferences

You already know the power of custom surveys.

Ask your subscribers what types of emails they prefer. Don’t forget that preference also includes email frequency.

If you send out lots of emails, it’s a good practice to ask your list when they’d like to hear from you.

Better yet, do this segmentation from the get go.

Next to your sign up form, you can include check boxes so subscribers can make their interests and preferences known.

You can also leave an option in your email newsletters, like Old Navy.

Old Navy Subscriber Preferences

ii. Evaluate interest based on interaction with your content

There’s no better way to decipher your subscriber’s interests than to assess their interaction with your content.

What posts do they read, share, and comment on?

What content upgrades have they opted for?

Pay close attention to these, and you’ll have your list all figured out.

Based on the insights that you glean, you can then send them email campaigns that are aligned with their interests.

3. Segment based on success milestones of subscribers

Here’s the thing:

Users opt into your list for a reason.

They have a problem they want to solve or a transformation that they want to achieve.

Depending on when they signed up, among other factors, your subscribers will have their success milestones at different stages.

They won’t all progress at the same rate.

This is why it’s critical that you map the journey that subscribers will take throughout.

Begin with when they just discovered their problem until they achieve that ultimate transformation.

This will help you come up with segments based on these success milestones.

As a result, you’ll be better able to serve their needs and meet them right where they are.

4. Segment based on the point of signup

If you have a robust lead generation and nurturing strategy, you’ll likely have multiple signup points on your website.

You may even have email capture forms on your social media platforms.

Ideally, you should have different creative elements for each sign-up source.

The lead magnets and calls-to-action that you employ should be different.

For one, it makes for a smart way to split test your lead magnets to determine which performs the best.

Secondly, when you vary the creative, you make sure that you do not alienate any segment of your audience.  

Instead, you cater to all of their possible desires.

For example, if a user signs up for a coupon code, they should only receive a prospect email campaign aligned with their choice.

Whatever your industry, there are clever ways you can offer different incentives and segment your list based on that.

5. Segment based on geography and demographics

You may think that black and white data points may not be all that useful.

This demographic data includes:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Industry
  • Location
  • Company position

These are just a few of the important ones.

How does it serve you to segment your list based on this information?

Let’s draw some examples.

If you know the age group of your subscribers, you immediately know what generation they belong to.

Are they millennials? Baby boomers? Or something else?

If you can figure that out, you can better tailor your messages to fit your target demographic.

You can imagine, the language that you use to sell to millennials will be vastly different from what you use to sell to baby boomers.

Here’s an email from Girlboss, a brand that targets millennials:

Girlboss Engagement Email

Notice the language. It won’t fly with an older generation.

I highly recommend you have an email strategy that takes into account all these nuances. It would only lead to massive wins where email engagement and revenue generation are concerned.

Let’s look at another example to underscore the utility of demographic data.

The role that a subscriber has in his or her business is one of the most critical insights that you can have.


It’s important that when you market your offers, you take into consideration who the decision maker is.

It may well be that your subscribers aren’t the ones responsible for making that penultimate purchase decision.

This means that you need to tailor your email campaigns with that in mind.

It can also be a case where your offers are tailored to a male demographic, but your message should be universal.

How come?

In many instances, women make purchase decisions for the men in their lives.

That’s why demographic information is crucial.

It then gives you access to the psychographic data that determines how people make decisions.

These two are a formidable combination.

6. Segment based on position in the sales funnel and lead score

I’ve got a quick question for you.

What is the point of your email list?

Is it solely to build a relationship with your subscribers?

Or, are you trying to capture qualified leads and drive sales?

I’m guessing it’s the latter, right?

Relationship building may be the action step, but ultimately, revenue generation is the goal.

Sure, some people may decide to spend years nurturing their email lists before they go for a sales conversion.

But if revenue is at the forefront of your mind, I recommend that you segment your list based on their position in your sales funnel.

It’s also wise to decide the quality of each lead that comes through the top of your funnel.


You can use the sign-up source and incentive as a gauge.

For example, if a user signs up for a coupon code, it’s fair to say that they’ve got high purchase intent.

You can then use your email campaigns as a way to keep these subscribers engaged and drive them to make that final purchase.

Here’s another example.

If a user signs up for a how-to guide, it’s safe to say that there’s no immediate commercial intent.

This subscriber is still at the informational stage of the cycle.

Can you imagine if you were to expose them to the same email sequence as the subscriber who opted in for a coupon code?

It would likely lead to them unsubscribing from your list.

No one wants that.

7. Segment based on level of disengagement

No matter how large or targeted your email list is, there will be some subscribers who are not engaged.

Perhaps they have never shown any interest since that first sign-up point.

Or, it can be a case of previously engaged subscribers falling off the wagon.

Whatever the scenario, your task is to segment your list based on level of disengagement.

This will help you win back any subscribers who have gone dormant. It’s also going to help you keep your list as hyper-targeted as possible.

It’s likely that some of these subscribers aren’t your ideal customers. At this point, I’d recommend letting them go.

It will keep your list healthy and your engagement rates high.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Email Marketing Inspiration?

Let’s face it: writing good marketing emails is TOUGH. To help, we’ve put together an email marketing swipe file, including 41 email marketing examples (organized by category). Plus, a few other goodies not featured below (*cough* killer Facebook Ad examples *cough*).


There was a point where email segmentation was a technique that only savvy marketers used.

Times have changed.

If you’re not segmenting your list based on a range of criteria, you’re underutilizing your number one asset.

But if you put the time and effort into creating hyper-targeted subsets of your email list, every pillar of your business will reap the benefits.

You can start off with the basics. As you gain the depth of audience insight that is required for more sophisticated options, you can refine your strategy.

I assure you, your engagement rates will increase.

Your sales funnels will be more robust.

And your subscribers will be delighted that you’ve considered their individual needs.

What email segmentation strategies do you use?

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