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The Three-Step Approach to Segmenting Your Email Contact List

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In the world of email marketing, there’s naturally a lot of talk about how and why to segment the people that make up your contact list or inbox audience. Considering that this process is the key to truly developing engaging and impactful content, it makes sense for the industry conversation to constantly circle back to this topic.

Unfortunately, for those who are new to the process, this emphasis on the importance of segmentation doesn’t help overcome the sometimes confusing nature of the various available methods. To ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed or lost, let’s look at the three-step approach offered up by Kevin Hillstrom of Venture Beat, as well as a few ways to go beyond the basics of this strategy.

The Three-Step Approach

So what exactly goes into Hillstrom’s three-step approach? Instead of worrying about consumer metrics and data points, this email marketing expert shifts the focus onto three unique engagement groups. These groups consist of super-engaged, engaged, and not-engaged readers. While the nomenclature used in this system appears basic at first glance, there’s actually quite a bit of depth to this easily understood process.

Defining “Super-Engaged”

The first segment of contact list members, the “super-engaged,” generally makes up the five percent of your audience that generates the majority of clicks and sales. Hillstrom goes on to note that these viewers usually have clicked through two or more of your email campaigns in the past three months.

To connect with this portion of your audience, continue developing your content with this segment in mind. While creative offerings and practices can definitely filter into the other unique portions of your contact list, these readers and customers deserve to be the prime focus of your email marketing operations.

The Particulars of “Engaged”

The next segmentation tier down – the “engaged” – covers roughly the next 10 percent of your contact list. Generally, these list members have interacted with your content in some way over the past 12 months. Don’t be surprised if adding this group into the initial click totals from the super-engaged segment ends up accounting for around 70 percent of all clicks generated by your inbox content.

Because these viewers are often on the cusp of making a purchasing, channeling your creative efforts into educational messages is a great way to convert this segment. Additionally, promoting similar items and related products helps keep this group engaged and talking about the applications of your products and services.

Finishing up with the “Not-Engaged” Base

The final group, those who are “not-engaged” with your brand, exhibit everything you’re not looking for within an inbox audience. From a lack of response to general apathy regarding your content, working with this group can be tough for brands from virtually any industry. However, this doesn’t mean that you should completely give up on this portion of your audience.

Since this segment will often make up the bulk of your contact list, it’s important to at least try and reach out to those who fall into this audience silo. One of the best ways of utilizing the potential held within this large group, according to Hillstrom, is via split-testing. Trying out new methods and tricks to stimulate action on this front is a veritable win-win scenario. If they engage with your brand, then you’ve found a new way to interact with this group. Should things go the other way, at least now you can scratch this idea off the list and get back to the drawing board.

Building Upon Your Basic Foundation

Once you’ve mastered this basic approach, there’s nothing in the email marketing rulebook that says you have to stop here with your segmentation. In fact, breaking these overarching groups into smaller portions – and continuing to drill down into this process when possible – is a powerful way to hone in on even more conversions and engagements.

According to the experts over at Business 2 Community, there’s a few effective ways to go about this strategy. Particularly, breaking down the super-engaged, engaged, and not-engaged segments of your contact list by geographic areas, demographics, origination of contact, or even via social interaction can help tell the story of these consumers in even greater detail.

From here, optimizing and personalizing content based on the positioning on these “pockets” of viewers within the aforementioned supersets becomes significantly easier and more manageable. At the very least, with this information in hand, you’ll be ready to take the first step toward implementing Hillstrom’s system and customizing it to your contact list’s unique needs and attributes.

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