Let’s start out by facing a tough reality: many small businesses — even the most successful ones — aren’t getting the most they could be from their email list.

It’s not that they’re not working hard or seeing good results. In fact, for many, email marketing is already their biggest driver of new and repeat business.

But there’s one thing that many small businesses aren’t doing that could help take things to the next level.

Luckily, adding that one thing to your email marketing strategy is a lot easier than you might think.

It starts with understanding a term you may have heard before — segmentation.

Segmentation is the process of organizing your contacts into different groups with the goal of targeting them with content or offers that are relevant to their needs or interests.

Rather than sending the same message to your entire list and hoping the right people see it, segmentation makes it easy to create emails that you know specific groups of contacts will be interested in — improving the chances of them opening, clicking, and acting on the content and offers you send out.

Why is segmentation important?

Did you know that 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates; 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates; and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue?

One of the biggest reasons people ignore emails or unsubscribe from email lists is because the content they receive isn’t relevant to them.

Think about your own experience — wouldn’t you be much more likely to pay attention to an email if it were designed with your needs and interests in mind?

While you may have people who read and act on every email you send out, if you’re not taking the appropriate steps to segment your audience, it’s likely that you already have potential customers or donors who are tuning you out.

Getting started for the first time with email segmentation

The good news is that Constant Contact makes it super easy to learn how to segment an email list.

Segments allow you to create customized groups of contacts using campaign engagement, contact information, and list memberships. Segments can be saved to use for later email campaigns and refreshed in real time to update the list of contacts that meet your selected criteria.

But before you can start organizing contacts into different groups, you’re going to need some information to work with.

If you’re like a lot of businesses, the amount of information you have available may be limited to name and email address.

But there are also details like: job title, company, address, birthday, interests, and purchase history, which could be used to your advantage.

How to gather the information you need to segment your email list

Use what you know

If you’re brand new to segmentation, you may want to start by creating a list of your most loyal customers or supporters. Even if you don’t have a ton of information about your contacts, you should be able to quickly scan your list and recognize a handful of names.

You can add a tag for VIPs, or create a separate list and send them exclusive offers to reward them for their loyalty.

Update your sign-up process

Much of the information you need to segment your list, can be available right from the moment people sign up.

While you may only want to require people to give their name and email address, you can also add optional fields like address or company name.

You can also provide options for the type of email content they want to receive and let new contacts opt-in to different lists right from the start.

Use a survey

An online survey is a quick and efficient way to collect information from your email contacts.

You can provide multiple choice questions to help gauge people’s interest around a particular product or service, and can also provide open-ended questions for people to fill out their own information.

Host an event

Events are a great opportunity to collect additional information for your contact list.

You can collect information when interacting with attendees face-to-face, and also use an online registration tool to collect important details before the event.

You can also create a separate list for people who attend your events, and send follow-up emails and invitations to future activities.

Use your reports

You can see which contacts are opening your emails each month, and export a list of people who have clicked on a particular link.

This is a great way to identify your most active readers, and can also be used to learn more about the content or products your audience is most interested in.

If you see a group of contacts clicking through to learn more about a particular product or to read a piece of content, you could then create a separate list and follow up with more information or an offer that’s relevant to them

With the right information, you’ll be ready to start segmenting your list!

Take some time to think about the different groups of contacts you have on your list.

Consider things like:

  • Location: Do you have groups of contacts that live locally and others that visit from out of state?
  • Customer Status: A lot of the people on your list will be customers, but you may also have a sizeable audience of potential or new customers, as well.
  • Interests: Use your click-through data to create interest-based lists.
  • Questions/Needs: Use survey data or questions you’ve received in-person to group contacts, and follow up with more information.
  • Length of time on your list: Creating a separate list for new contacts is a great way to engage people right from the start.

There are plenty of ways you can use segmentation to get more from your list.

Remember that growing an effective email list isn’t just about adding names and email addresses to your database.

These are people who have opted-in to receive updates from your business. It’s your responsibility to offer an experience that meets their needs and inspires them to take action.