E-mail is the most popular marketing channel for industrial companies, with 70% using e-mail to their internal lists in 2011, according to the GlobalSpec 2011 Marketing Trends Survey. And 48% of the industrial audience reads e-mail newsletters daily or several times a week.

One of the best things you can do to make e-mail a more effective marketing tactic is to segment your list into groups of similar recipients. Segmenting your list and sending targeted, relevant content to each group offers a number of benefits including:

  • Increased open rates and click-through rates 
  • Reduced unsubscribe rates
  • Increased leads and potential sales
  • Improved relationships with customers and prospects

Ways to segment your list
If you’re just getting started with list segmentation, it’s probably best to start with a simple segmentation between customers and prospects. This is the most logical and obvious segmentation because although some email content might be appropriate for both audiences, there is definitely information that will benefit one group more than the other. For example, you don’t want to send current customers special offers to become new customers; conversely, you wouldn’t send prospects an e-mail with an offer that rewards them for their customer loyalty. And it’s probably easy to determine who on your e-mail list is a customer and who is a prospect. Therefore, your first segmentation task is to divide your list between customers and prospects.

Other more advanced ways to segment your e-mail list are:

  • By types of products or services purchased, allowing you to provide specific information to customers who use certain products or services
  • By expressed interest area based on an analysis of previous e-mail click-throughs or other information in your database
  • By the length of time a prospect has been on your e-mail list, with introductory offers going to recent contacts and more in-depth content going to long-term contacts
  • By geographic location, allowing you to create messages relevant to a country or community
  • By value of contact to your company; for example, frequent and large purchasers who are engaged regularly with your company vs. infrequent purchasers

Your ability to segment your list depends on the data you have and your ability to access and analyze it, such as previous click-through history, purchases, and areas of interest. If this data isn’t available or is incomplete, you can conduct a survey of your current e-mail contacts and ask questions about their interests and preferences to create segments. There are many low-cost survey tools available on the Internet such as SurveyMonkey.com, SurveyGizmo.com, or Zoomerang.com.

For new contacts, you can add a couple of questions to the e-mail sign up form on your Web site to gauge users’ interests and segment them appropriately. Remember to keep your form simple and only ask a few questions.

Create relevant content
The whole purpose of segmenting your e-mail list is to deliver targeted, relevant content to your readers. Some of your content may be useful across all segments, such as announcements about company-wide events, while in other cases you will want to produce white papers, Webinars, product announcements, and other content for a particular segment. This will require more effort on your part, but relevancy to your audience has been shown to be the number one factor for maintaining a reader’s interest.

Which brings us to the subject of analysis. It’s important to track the results of your segmentation efforts. For each segment you e-mail to, you should be seeing uplift in open rates, click-thru rates and conversions. If not, you might not be segmenting your list properly, might not be sending content that is targeted enough, or may be e-mailing your list too frequently or not often enough. Continue to test different segments, content, and mailing frequency until you achieve the benefits of segmentation.


  1. Good summary of an important topic. Some would argue that segmentation is the key to successful email marketing. If you are not sending relevant information to targeted individuals (which requires segmenting your database) then you really aren’t any different than all the other spammers out there.


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