Sending to the wrong segment - misfit email series

What happens when you send to the wrong email segment? Mailgun explores what can happen and how to fix it



Any experienced sender knows that they should be segmenting their lists. Whether they are segmenting based on specific analytics, such as how frequently a customer buys a product, or maybe by how often they engage, it is imperative that they keep their segments organized, clean, and above all, keep them segmented. 

Every once in a while, something happens, and they may end up sending to the wrong segmented list of recipients. Bad things tend to follow when this happens, and that sends senders into a panic.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways that an organization can segment their list. It can be highly dependent on the vertical they are in, the time of year, and the type of data they are consuming from signals such as opens and clicks. While we cannot get into detail on how a segment will behave, we can cover some of the most common segment types and speak to the consequences of making your list but not checking it twice.

Engagement Segments

The most common segment is for those senders who organize their lists based on the frequency of engagement. If you are consuming open and click signals, which you should be, it is a good idea to place those engagement types into buckets of priority.

For example, daily messages should only be sent to recipients who engage daily. Or, if a recipient does not engage for a whole week, consider sending once a week. Recipients who still aren't engaging at that time should only have messages sent once a month and get hyper-focused on winning them back. 

Now, let's say that you have been using this strategy for some time, what happens when you send to a wrong segment? Should you send too frequently to non-engagers on accident, you might engage a few of them and win them back, but that is by far the exception and if anything, a pipe dream. Unfortunately, you're much more likely to start collecting spam complaints.

Spam complaints are about the worst thing to happen to a sender and are a clear indicator that something needs to change. Get enough spam complaints, and you might find your IPs rate limited, blocked, and at the very least, your content or domain reputation might earn you a fast track ticket to the junk folder.

Preference Segments

Sometimes senders consume analytics around recipient behavior beyond just engagement, like a customer's shopping tendencies. By doing so, they can target recipients with messages that are curated to those behaviors. This can be a massive boon for a sender's engagement rate and reputation as they can make highly personalized content.

Should the sender send to the wrong segment, though, they run the risk of losing their recipients' trust if it goes on for too long. For example, our recipient Gimli loves to receive emails about all the latest axes and ax accessories. Gimli is engaging often and frequently purchases the axes and ax accessories. Then something changes; the sender accidentally adds Gimli to another segment: Bows, arrows, and other things that only interest elfling princes. The next thing you know, Gimli stops engaging with those emails, and could potentially unsubscribe.

Opt-In Segments

In some cases, senders may hold on to recipient addresses that signed up but never confirmed their opt-in. Senders should naturally be using double opt-in; however, if that recipient does not confirm their consent, the sender should consider them inactive and toxic to their reputation.

While not uncommon, keeping a list of recipients that have not completed their opt-in is not recommended due to a lack of consent. Let's say, however, that you did send to these addresses on accident. If a sender has been hoarding these non-confirmed recipients and then accidentally sends to them, they may hit nothing but a bunch of trap addresses. 

Sending to recipients that haven't given their consent is the email equivalent of walking outside and slapping a wasps nest, and there is a high likelihood of hitting a spam trap. Depending on the spam trap operator you ping, you might end up on a blacklist. Of course, some are more reputable than others, but they still impact your overall deliverability negatively. 

Now you might say, "but I had to hit that trap once at some point to send the original welcome," and that is true. In this scenario, you are hitting a potential metric ton of them at the same time, not once every few days. That repetitive behavior tells spam trap operators that you haven't cleaned your lists, and thus penalize you with a blacklisting.

What you can do

While we’ve covered what to do when you accidentally send an email in the past, it bears repeating that correcting the mistake doesn’t always involve alerting the recipient of the error. For the most part, you’ll want to correct the mistake on your end and return everything to normal. Adding an additional email to the pile of misfires might irritate some recipients, so fix your mistake and check the health of your sending to see what you need to nurse back to health.

No matter your vertical or your segment – keep your recipients organized! Double-checking your recipients before you send is imperative to your deliverability. 

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