An awesome guide on how to segment your audience so your emails convert

- November 4, 2020 8 MIN READ

We see the stats everywhere. Email marketing delivers an ROI of 38:1It’s 40x as effective as Facebook or Twitter. It helps you build a deeper connection with your audience. If that’s the case, why are so many people struggling to realise the benefits of email marketing? asks Nick Brogdan.

Why personalisation is a must

The simple answer is that most businesses don’t use personalization properly. A name in the greeting won’t cut it. Sending an email to your entire list isn’t as effective as it once was. 

Today, buyers are savvier than ever and it’s crucial that you segment your email list and personalise messages if you want to reap the rewards email marketing promises. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What segmentation is and the different types
  • A simple strategy to better understand your audience so you can create segmentation groups
  • Methods you can use to segment your audience and personalize your email messages

Let’s dive in

What is segmentation?

Market segmentation is the process of dividing your total addressable market into smaller groups with shared characteristics. You can then send more relevant messages which are more likely to get them to take your desired action. 

For example, instead of sending everyone a message that informs them about the latest dresses in stock, you only send it to people who have bought dresses in the past. They’ve shown interest in dresses and will be much more likely to buy them again. 

There are many ways you can segment your email list which can be divided into 4 major methods. 

Geographic segmentation

Geographic segmentation is when a business divides its market based on where the customer or prospect is located. This makes sense when you’re selling to a global audience and there are different expectations and norms in each market. You’d position your products one way in New York and a different way in Sydney. 

Behavioural segmentation

This type of segmentation focuses on separating the market based on buying, engagement, and shopping behavior. For example, a customer that buys a pair of boots can be targeted with more messages about shoes and different types of boots. 

The image above was an ad I started seeing after I visited MentorBox and clicked around a bit. It saw that I was interested and started to retarget me based on that interest. 

Demographic segmentation

Demographic segmentation is the most common method people use to segment email lists as well as their market. The information tends to be readily available and gives them an idea of the type of market they’re serving. 

It’s the process of creating customer groups based on demographic factors such as age, race, sex, gender, family makeup, etc. 

Psychographic segmentation

This type of segmentation seems to be the least used and understood. It focuses on the values, beliefs, attitudes, lifestyle, interests, etc. of a market. Part of the reason it’s not used as often is that this information can be hard to come by. 

Each type of segmentation can be further broken down into subcategories depending on your needs. With email marketing segmentation, choose the one that’ll be most useful to you based on your acquisition channels and customer makeup. 

For example, if your marketing depends on knowing whether a prospect is a man or woman then be sure to capture that information. If you sell adventure gear and can create better messages when you know the kind of lifestyle your prospect has then prioritize capturing that information. 

Jodie Mlikota, the CEO of Gathar says, “Knowing the types of segmentation isn’t enough. It’s important to create defined market segments for your business.” In that way, you can segment subscribers when they sign up and send them through tailored email sequences. 

To do this, you’ll tap your current customers or audience to give you the information you need. 

A simple strategy to find your best performing customer segments

Guessing what your customers want and need is the easiest way to waste time and valuable resources implementing campaigns that’ll never yield a positive ROI. 

There’s a way to do this that’s way more efficient. 

Ask them. 

Ask your customers what they want, who they are, and what they need from you. You can’t call everyone who visits your website or signs up for your mailing list but you can use a survey. 

Send out a survey to your current email subscribers and customers. You’ll want to get about 100 responses. On average, a survey sent to an external audience has a 10 – 15% response rate. If you can’t get that many from your current list then you may want to set up a few ads. 

100 responses isn’t a statistically significant sample size but it will give you just enough insight to observe patterns. 

There’s an important question you’ll ask to get the most out of your survey.  

That question is:

What’s the biggest challenge you have in relation to X?

  • What’s the biggest challenge you have when it comes to losing weight?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you have with converting website visitors to customers?
  • What’s the biggest problem you encounter when shopping for new clothes?
  • What’s the hardest part about successfully implementing live chat on your website? 

This is an open-ended question that encourages the survey taker to give a detailed answer. The results will give you insights into the problems customers are experiencing that relate to your business and help you define your most profitable segments. 

Note: you’ll get a lot of answers that give you different perspectives. Prioritize them by the length of the answer. The people that take time to give you detailed answers are more motivated to solve a problem. 

Here’s an example to illustrate. 

Acme Inc. is a fitness brand that sells training videos and meal plans to help its customers get into shape and improve their quality of life. They implemented a customer discovery survey so it could segment its email list and send more relevant messages. 

The survey asked, “what do you find most difficult about losing weight and getting into shape?”

One of the answers read like this:

For most of my life, I’ve been slim but not exactly fit. I didn’t work out and ate whatever I wanted but just didn’t gain weight. I stayed active by playing basketball a few times a week. 

After I got married and my wife gave birth to our first child, I started putting in more time at work which requires me to sit at a desk for most of the day. I’ve tried using a standing desk but I don’t enjoy the experience. 

When I’m not at work, the baby takes up most of our time so when I do have a few hours to myself I just want to rest. 

Let’s analyze this answer and identify the challenges the respondent is experiencing. 

  • Long work hours and an inactive lifestyle
  • Stressful home life
  • Lack of motivation to exercise

The first time you look at the survey results, you’ll have quite a few problems but you’ll also notice they can be grouped together. 

Go through the results again and consolidate the most common reasons until you have three or four that represent the majority of your market. These are the same issues the rest of your market will face. 

Going forward, you’ll segment your users, so they are placed in one of these groups. 

Strategies to segment your audience

Before you implement strategies to segment your audience, make an email nurturing sequence that addresses your audience’s problems. 

For example, If a live chat software provider were to identify the reasons people were slow to adopt its solution as:

  • Trouble convincing their boss it was useful
  • Don’t know how to implement it on their websites
  • Not enough support staff to take over the live chat 

It would make separate nurturing sequences that addressed pain points their prospects have. For the first issue, it would make a sequence that delivered case studies, surveys, and reports the recipient could use to convince their boss of the ROI associated with live chat. 

The second group would get helpful information that showed them how simple it was to implement on their website. The last group would be shown how live chat isn’t as resource-intensive as they believe. 

After you’ve set up your automation, it’s time to segment new leads. 

Single question opt-ins

This is an underutilized way to find out important information about your audience. Many people shy away from it because they believe it’ll reduce their conversions. 

If implemented poorly, it will. The key is to present it as a way to improve and personalize their experience. In a study conducted by Salesforce which surveyed 7,000 consumers, it was found that 57% were willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized discounts or offers. 

Melyssa Griffin is a popular blogger that focuses on a few broad topics. Many pages of her site have an opt-in that asks a single question. 

It asks a variation of the question used in the survey and the answer options are, most likely, the audience segments she identified by going through a similar process. When someone chooses an option and signs up for her mailing list, they’re sent information in line with their interests. 

Don’t ask too many questions at this point because prospects may decide to bounce. 

Lead magnets for different audience segments

Lead magnets are a tried and tested method of capturing new email subscribers, but they’re not used to their full potential. Instead, a new subscriber is sent a welcome email and walked through the same nurturing sequence as everyone else. 

This is a huge missed opportunity. 

You know the major challenges of your customers’ experience. Use that information to create targeted lead magnets. When they subscribe, send them through an email automation that best matches what they downloaded. 

MindSumo is a crowdsourced innovation platform. It serves a diverse collection of industries from industrial manufacturing to pharmaceuticals. It utilises a collection of lead magnets to segment and qualify leads. 

In the image above, there are white papers and reports for three different industries. When a specific report gets downloaded, the contact receives relevant follow up messages before they’re contacted by a sales rep. 

DigitalMarketer is a popular company in the marketing and entrepreneurship space. It creates educational content for small businesses that want to expand their digital footprint. Digital marketing is a huge field and the company has products that touch on almost every aspect. 

It created a free resource library that helps it segment its subscribers. 

Most aspects of digital marketing are covered and when you create a free account, you get access to the specific resource you’re after plus a large collection of other ones. The follow-up emails you receive focus on the content you signed up for and position DigitalMarketer’s paid option as the final solution to that problem. 

Interactive quizzes

Interactive quizzes are unique because they let you do three things well:

  • Engage prospects while finding out a lot about them
  • Segment them into groups you can follow up with
  • Capture a much larger percentage of leads

Few other devices can give you the results you’ll see with quizzes but there is a caveat. They have to be relevant to your audience. How to make a compelling quiz is beyond the scope of this post but here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short (ten questions or less)
  • Tie the outcome of finding out more about their personality
  • Do use a custom start page with compelling imagery

Tarzan Kay is a launch strategist and copywriter that services multiple audiences. She works with people who’ve not started businesses, course creators, freelancers, and consultants. Each group wants something different from her so she set up a quiz that’s directly related to a service she offers – pricing. 

When a contact submits their information, they’re sent down a personalised email nurturing sequence that also pitches relevant products.

Behavioural cues

This strategy is a bit different. With the other ones, you were segmenting at the point of lead capture. That’s not always possible. It may be due to the way someone joined your mailing list or because they joined a long time ago. 

Segment them based on website behaviour and email interactions. Most email marketing services allow you to track website visitors and send messages in response to pages viewed and frequency. 

For example, if someone visited a specific product page three times, you may want to start a relevant email nurturing sequence. You may also want to score them based on the emails they open, links they click, and the number of times they forward/share. 

Depending on what they interact with, you may be able to segment them into the right bucket and send out relevant emails. Purchases are the best behavioural cue. If a customer has purchased from you in the past then use that information to send relevant messages in going forward. 

I’m a big shoe fan and I buy them from ASOS all the time. It has taken note and sends me shoe promotions about 40% of the time. . 

Please note that even though someone may buy shoes from you that doesn’t mean they won’t buy shirts or jackets. It’s important to not use their behaviour to lock them into a segment and never show them any other type of message. 


Segmentation is a crucial element of all your marketing initiatives – email marketing included. Many people shy away from it because of its perceived complexity. 

I admit, if you go down the rabbit hole far enough, you’ll encounter some complex scenarios. You don’t have to do that to start seeing results. 

In this post, I’ve covered a lot of ground and shown you how to find the best segment in your audience. After that, you found 4 ways to use that information to segment your subscribers and send better emails as a result. 

Don’t try to implement everything at once. Start with one strategy, test it, refine it, and then add the next one until your website is a lean mean lead generation machine. 

Let me know how you’re segmenting your customers in the comments and don’t forget to share. 

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