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If content is king, your database is queen: Using segmentation for more effective campaigns by Amy Garland @amygarland

If content is king, your database is queen: Using segmentation for more effective campaigns by Amy Garland @amygarland

If Content is King, Your Database is Queen

If Content is King, Your Database is Queen

Editor’s note: I thought this was a great post by Amy and deserved a second look (originally posted in April). Enjoy! jd

In email marketing, if content is king, then who is queen?

First things first:  Is content king when it comes to email marketing?  Well, if the secret to successful email marketing is sending timely, targeted, valuable emails, then yes. Content is one of the most important elements of your email campaigns.

So back to the question: If content is king, then who is queen?  The answer is: your database.

In order to make your emails timely and valuable, you must take advantage of your subscriber database.  Sending targeted emails based on your subscribers’ preferences, past purchases, and demographics will make your email marketing campaigns more effective and successful.

Enter Segmentation

Segmentation is the ability to send an email to a portion of your list that meets a certain criteria. Based on the information you have about your subscribers, you will run queries on subscribers that fit those target(s).  This makes your emails more personal and prevents the sending of unnecessary emails.

If you’re getting started with your email marketing, or if you’ve never segmented your database before, then keep reading to find out how to send emails that will garner more opens, clicks, conversions – and any other action you want your recipients to take.

Making the Most of Your Database

If you have thousands of subscribers, you might be thinking that it’s impossible to collect information on every single one of them.  Well think again!  Collecting subscriber data is easy, and it’s possible to do this a few different ways, including:

The Opt-in Form: When your subscribers opt-in to receive your emails, request information from them.  No one wants to take five minutes to fill out an opt-in form, so only ask for information that you will actually use; don’t make them fill out unnecessary information just for the sake of having it.  Ask subscribers what type of products they’re interested in, where they live, or what types of communications they want to receive from you.

Example(s): Segment by location.  If you have a store opening in New York, you would only email people in that general vicinity to let them know about it.

At Blue Sky Factory we send webinar emails, weekly email tips, a monthly newsletter, and more (view our opt-in form).  If we sent each of these to our whole list without giving subscribers a preference of what they receive, you can bet they would get frustrated, then delete the email or mark as spam – neither of which we are aiming for!

Subscriber Preferences: By including a “Subscriber Preferences” option in your emails, your recipients can update their information and preferences at any point in time.  Whether it’s an address or name change, or they want to change the frequency in which they receive your emails, this feature makes it easy for them to do so.  It’s a good idea to send the occasional reminder for them to update their profiles (e.g. “Hello, we want to make sure we have the most up-to-date information from you. Please take some time and let us know if anything has changed, etc”).  Sending a survey may help you accomplish this as well.

Example(s): Blue Sky Factory’s director of community, DJ Waldow, moved from Durham, NC to Salt Lake City, UT.  Spreadshirt sent him an email with the subject line of “Durham Rocks”.  Creative personalization, but location fail.  They could’ve simply allowed him to update his preferences, so that when he moved they would have his updated location in their database, completely avoiding this mishap.

Email & Web Activity: Segment subscribers who have clicked on certain links, abandoned their shopping carts, purchased certain items, the list goes on!  Based on the subscriber’s activity, you can determine their likes and dislikes, and even recommend products they might like.

Example(s): I often buy children’s books and Disney movies from Amazon for my niece.  Amazon will send me emails suggesting I might like the latest movie or a similar book to what I’ve purchased in the past.

You can also use social sharing (read more on Share with Your Network or SWYN) to target your subscribers.  Use segmentation to determine who your most influential subscribers are, and implement a campaign encouraging them to further spread the word about your organization!  This way you’re extending your message as well as involving your audience with your marketing outreach!

Takeaway: Segmentation is a must for most organizations.  You’d be pretty lucky if every single one of your subscribers has the exact same preferences and demographics.  By taking the time to make your emails more personal, your recipient will feel special, which will lead to a stronger relationship with them.  Let them know you’re paying attention to their wants and needs.  By collecting data and actually using that data to give subscribers what they want, you’re creating happier, loyal customers, prospects, and fans.

Are you segmenting your email marketing database? How are you segmenting? Share your thoughts!

  • Profile:  Amy Garland is the marketing manager at Blue Sky Factory, a Baltimore-based email service provider. With 6+ years experience in the marketing industry, Amy’s favorite part of her job is writing, whether it’s for emails, blogs, or any and everything else having to do with online marketing. She can currently be found writing on HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing blog and Blue Sky Factory’s The Thinking Inbox. (Be alert! She tries to fit a pop culture or music reference into almost every post!)
  • Website:  http://www.blueskyfactory.com
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Your thoughts here
  1. This is a great primer for people who either don’t know about segmenting or simply haven’t attempted it yet. I totally agree that you have to be deliberate in what information you ask for when a subscriber signs up. What about asking a few more questions in your ongoing emails with them?


    Jim Ducharme
  2. Hi Amy…

    Great post. I think on of the easiest segments people can run without collecting more information up front is:

    Active versus Inactive

    By applying a simple filter that says, do not send to anyone who has not opened or clicked on my message in the last 180 days is a great way to increase your open and clickthrough rates.

    Don’t discard your inactive members either. It’s a great opportunity to put this segment into your next re-engagement campaign.

    Thanks for reminding me who the Queen is.


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