Building email lists of contacts that (actually) want to hear from you

Using advanced segmentation practices to create email lists for your email campaigns can improve engagement metrics and reach your target audience. Read more -

This post was written and contributed by our friends at Ongage.

You have a large email list of subscribers that opted-in to receive your stuff. All potential customers – so naturally you want to send them everything you’ve got: daily content pieces, offers and discounts, a little Grumpy Cat, too. It’s gonna be great!

But before you go and commit sending reputation suicide, consider that sending an email blast to everyone in your database, just to see if it will ‘stick’ is a lot like this:

At best, you’ll get demoted to junk mail in the inbox…at worse, you’ve scared off a potential customer.

Anyway, we’re here to pull you away from the ledge, and to share some tips on how to make sure your subscribers receive content that is relevant to them. Let’s look at how you can use email segmentation to increase engagement and your overall email ROI.

Getting granular with email segmentation

The whole point of launching a multi-touch email campaign, is to share useful content that will address one or several pain points. But how can you do that if you don’t know who is in your marketing email segment? You need to figure out what characteristics they share to find a trend. This will let you create groups using demographics like gender, hometown, age, marital status, etc. Your contacts could also be in the same stage of the buyer’s journey or have similar likes and dislikes. Understanding and identifying similarities between them is the first step.

Ok, so we’ve started to peel back the layers on email list segmentation. How else can we slice and dice our data to get insights? Well, it helps to differentiate between behavioral and non-behavioral data.

Behavioral data is everything that tracks the activity of your contacts across all marketing assets you have available to-date. This includes email metrics like open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribed status, as well as tracking for things like purchases, usage, registrations, login to website or mobile apps, etc. Non-behavioral data refers to geography, demographics and psychographics – activities, interests, opinions…more subjective characteristics. Generally, the more data points you have to work with, the more targeted and effective your email list will be.

Building non-behavioral email segments

Each and every contact in your database is a special snowflake with their own interests, background and profile. Since they’re all different, they shouldn’t all be treated the same when it comes to how you talk to them. Find similarities between your subscribers and build out targeted segmented email lists for different email marketing campaigns.

Let’s say an email marketer at Nintendo wanted to build hype for the Nintendo Labo launch in the Texas market. He knows that not all users are children, and that customers above the age of 18 prefer to shop at Best Buy instead of Walmart or Target (and will wait for days outside of Best Buy in a camping tent to hold their place in line). Instead of sending an email to all Nintendo subscribers, they can increase their email open and click rates by building a segment that targets only those that have purchasing power. They could contact women and men ages 18 – 45, living in San Antonio, TX within a 10-mile radius of the largest Best Buy using targeted emails that let them know about launch activities.

By doing this, Nintendo would increase the engagement of their emails, since the targeted list reaches subscribers in a specific geographic area, that are likely to purchase the Nintendo Labo.

Building behavioral email segments

Behavioral email list segmentation is based on how customers behave with your emails, website, apps, and more. Every user behaves differently with your product and content, and so it makes sense that they should be targeted based on where they are in the buyer’s journey and using the following metrics:

Open and click rate – This lets you know how many people open your emails and how often. There are several ways to build a behavioral segment based on this data. First, divide your subscribers into several activity groups such as those who have opened an email in the last week, two weeks, one month, etc.

Typically, you will want to place those who have been sent daily or weekly emails but have not opened them on a different segment with a lower mailing routine. Space out those messages and send every other week instead of once a week. If 45 days go by and they still don’t engage, you should remove them from any regular mailing routine. You can add them to a re-activation program, using different subject lines and creatives in order to re-engage them. If they still don’t show a pulse, retire them altogether and pro-actively unsubscribe them. Just by practicing regular list hygiene, you can improve your open and click-through rates, which leads to better deliverability and IP reputation.

New customers – These customers are typically targeted with a short series of introduction or onboarding emails to products and services (and how to use them). If your business relies on new sign-ups actually doing something with their account, you might want to target them with relevant content to get them to activate.

The email segment of 1 – You can send an automated transactional email based on unique user behavior. Let’s say a user added an external hard drive to his Amazon shopping cart but didn’t go through with the purchase. You can recognize this behavior and send an automatic email to remind them. On the other hand, if the user did purchase the external hard drive, now you would target him in subsequent emails and offer things that complement the purchase like extended warranty.

The Power of Dynamic Content

You’ve built your segmented email lists, now how do you decide what content to include in your emails? It helps to make sure that all of your content is personalized to your email segments and tells a story. One way to automate and save yourself some time, is to use dynamic feeds within the body of your email message to control the content you send. Doing this can decrease the number of campaigns you have to build out, as different recipients will receive content based on their unique data point values.

Consider that you want to send an email to all job seekers in your network. You can create one campaign, with a dynamic feed that pulls in jobs based on the location data of each recipient, so that a programmer in San Francisco will receive a different set of jobs in their email than a lawyer in Los Angeles. In just one campaign, you can actually target thousands of different micro-segments. These are the most potent kind of campaigns, and once they are set up, they reduce the overhead of preparing email content for each and every micro-segment!


Using advanced user segmentation in your emails will increase open rates, conversion rates, and overall ROI. It’s important to send personalized content that is relevant to your subscribers. The best way to do this is by building different segments that target your subscribers based on behavioral and non-behavioral data. Using an advanced email marketing platform can help you send targeted campaigns to different segments, and encourage your subscribers to take action and engage with your content.

About Ongage

Ongage is an advanced email marketing solution that separates the front-end from the back-end delivery system. It was designed to improve campaign effectiveness by providing versatile and powerful marketing tools coupled together with full marketing analytics.

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