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Email Marketing Strategy: 4 Ways to Segment Your Users

letter on a cutting board

Marketers’ perception on email seems to be in one of two camps:

  1. It’s in the digital marketing graveyard with keywords, or
  2. It’s one of the most effective channels in terms of ROI

Personally, I think it’s a whole lot of it depends.

If used correctly, email has the potential to be extremely efficient and effective. It’s an easy way to incorporate personalization and move individuals through the funnel. However, if not properly thought through, email just clogs up inboxes and goes unopened, unread, or marked as spam. Quite simply, it devalues your brand integrity—and it can be tough to earn back the trust of an email service provider or individual if you get labeled as spam.

That being said, how do you make your email marketing as effective as possible?

Well, beyond great design, catchy subject lines, and great content, email segmentation strategy can be a huge piece of it.

Why Email Segmentation Is Important

Every contact in your database is not going to be interested in everything you have to say. Because of that, you should only send messaging to those who are most likely to be interested. That’s segmentation. A quick example of segmentation in your everyday life would be the way retailers divide their contact lists based on genders, age, or location. As a 25-year-old with no kids, I’m not exactly interested in receiving Gap Kids updates, so they don’t send them to me.

Below are a few ways you could segment your lists to make sure you’re communicating the right things to the right people, no matter how sophisticated your email database is.


If you’re a business that operates within a dealership model, segmenting emails based on geography can be vitally important. If you’re announcing a new dealership in a state that isn’t within driving distance of me...well, that’s great for you, growing your business, but all you did was add one more useless email to my inbox.

Additionally, by segmenting based on geography, you can tailor the email content to visually resonate with the audience. Continuing with our dealership model, if you’re sending emails to the Pacific Northwest, you can use imagery of forests and mountains, whereas an email to the Southeast might show warm, sunny beaches and palm trees.

Lifecycle Stage

Generally speaking, people don’t like being sold to in the first moments they’re interacting with your brand. It’s sort of like how you wouldn’t propose marriage on a first date. They don’t know anything about you yet, why would they be ready to buy already? So, if someone is brand new to your database, they’re probably not ready for heavy product emails.

Marketers leverage email to nurture contacts from the top of the funnel to a spot where they’re ready to talk products or solutions and buy, not scare them off!

One effective way to segment your database is based on customer lifecycle stage. Individuals just entering the funnel are prime candidates for content educating them on your company, their pain points, and other introductory themes. As they move further through their journey, they’re more apt to be engaged by product-specific content, promotions, and sales offers.

Job Titles

For a technology company, you have personas that are based on job titles. The pain points and buying motives for a c-suite executive are different than they are for admins and managers. That means you shouldn’t be talking to executives the same way you are everyone else—tailor your content to fit the correct level in the org chart.

Segmenting lists based on job titles is a way to make sure you’re sending relevant content to relevant people. Know where your prospects fall in the hierarchy, and cater to their needs and interests.

Product Interest

Not everyone in your database is interested in your entire product line. Segment individuals based on their product preference—maybe this is a point-blank question you ask in a form, or you can also deduce what they’re interested in based on what content they’ve downloaded, their age, interests, or location. In a way, you can segment your users based on the other ways in which you’ve segmented them to target even more effectively.

This works on upselling opportunities, as well. Don’t send an email containing product accessories to a customer who doesn’t own the right product. Use segmentation to sell the right things to the right people.

Keep Your Prospects Interested in What You Have to Say

People will fall into multiple segments. An individual lives in a certain region, has a certain title, and is in a certain lifecycle stage, all of which have their own unique characteristics. They likely belong on multiple segmenting lists. This web of segmentation starts to fall apart, though, when you don’t consider these intricacies as you develop your holistic email strategy.

As a marketer, you’ll want to map out what emails you’re sending and when—and make sure you’re not overwhelming your database. Email fatigue happens pretty quickly, and it’s hard to revitalize a database that has received too many emails.

Anecdotally, I conducted an email experiment last week where I didn’t delete any promotional emails for seven days. There was one retailer who sent me 23 emails in that time frame—that’s over three per day. And you know what that caused me to do? Unsubscribe from all of their emails.

The bottom line is that segmentation will not only prevent you from getting marked as spam or losing subscribers, it will help you put your content in front of the right people to boost sales. Don’t wait to get started—you probably already have more data than you think to start segmenting lists and to grow the sophistication of your email marketing.

Lynsey Johnson Team Photo at Element Three

Lynsey Johnson is "mostly a Hoosier," but she's a digital marketer through and through. Marketing leverages her love of reading and writing, but her skills in math – honed in school and her past work as a financial analyst – help her find the best ways to maximize our clients' digital spend. And she's also an expert gardener, as it turns out!