5 List Segmentation Mistakes That Tank Your Email Marketing Results

5 List Segmentation Mistakes That Tank Your Email Marketing Results

When it comes to B2B sales, look no further than the email inbox to see what’s driving results.

Sure, social media is the (relatively) new kid on the block, but true sales conversations and deals are done in the inbox.

In fact, when it comes to conversions, email marketing is the most effective means of generating sales. A study by McKinsey & Co found that US companies acquired 40 times more customers through email marketing than through Facebook and Twitter combined.

However, there’s a giant pitfall businesses face when using email marketing to reach their customers.  Poorly executed (or complete lack of) list segmentation can be tanking your email marketing results – costing you sales that are right there waiting for you in your email list.

Here are 5 list segmentation mistakes to avoid:

1: Treating “Data” Like a Dirty Word

Your data can make or break your segmentation strategy. If your data is in disarray, it’s going to be tough to create any meaningful email segments. Not to mention, nothing feels more impersonal than a missing merge field or improper capitalization.

Give your data a little respect. Try a data cleanse:

  • Use drops-down fields where possible to keep data uniform
  • Create a tagging system to help segment contacts by their interests, persona, etc.
  • Use required fields on online contact and subscribe forms to ensure you’re getting the best data possible from new contacts.

Clean, uniform data means you can tackle list segmentation with confidence.

2: Annoying Hot Prospects in the Sales Pipeline

Somewhere between a cold lead and a new customer are those hot prospects that your sales team is working diligently with to get to a deal. Harassing these prospects with marketing emails can be a turn-off.  Mainly, it leaves them feeling like they’re just another email address on your list, rather than a valued potential customer.

Segment your contacts by status and delegate an email marketing strategy for each status..

  • Leads: Those who are at the edge of curiosity, browsing but not ready to bite. You want to keep their attention, but don’t want to burn them out with a hard sell. Check in consistently with nurturing emails that educate about their problem and your solution.
  • Prospects: Those who are interested and engaged, but not certain about their need or its urgency. Continue to nurture and educate with solution-specific content, sending content relevant to their interests.
  • Opportunities: Those who know their need and are actively trying to solve their problem with your solution in consideration. This is often a good point to transition a contact from a marketing lead to a sales lead. Make sure sales and marketing are on the same page about how to communicate to opportunities to eliminate confusion.
  • Customers: Those who have purchased your solution. Check in to keep them engaged and prevent fall-off.
  • Former Customers: Those who don’t actively use your solution. Keep them in the loop with new updates and developments that match their interests.

With your contacts segmented by status, you can be much more targeted and intentional in your emails, moving everyone toward the next step in the sales process.

3: Lumping Your Personas into One Bucket

Personalized email is much more than correctly using merge fields to pull in customer data. A cleanly segmented list means you can craft content that truly speaks to the needs of your buyers.

If you’re not segmenting your email list by your personas, you’re missing out on a chance to present relevant content that converts.  Create a persona for each of your target buyers. Use their biggest pain-points and obstacles to write better email content that converts.

4: Ignoring Your Customers

It’s a lot of work to acquire new customers every month. So when you finally close those sweet deals, the tendency is to close communication as well. That’s a big mistake.

Segmenting your customers by their personas and interests can be invaluable in helping you to use email to increase customer lifetime value. Try segmenting and sending:

  • Anniversary deal
  • Cross-sell offer
  • Upsell offer
  • An add-on they’d love
  • Thank you promotion
  • Feedback survey

Staying in touch with relevant offers can keep customers engaged and reinvested with your business.

5: Disrespecting The Unresponsive and Unsubscribers

While an unsubscribe may feel like a burn, don’t take it personally.  If you’re segmenting your list correctly, it’s likely that your unsubscribers just are not a great fit. They’re actually doing you a favor by unsubscribing so as not to sink your engagement rates. Make sure you’re cleaning these people from your list to prevent accidentally sending unwanted emails that end up in the spam folder.

In the same vein as unsubscribers are those contacts in your database that just never respond. If they’ve never clicked a link or opened an email, there’s a good chance they aren’t going to. It could be a bad email address or just a bad fit.

Segment unsubscribers and unresponsives from your list periodically to keep your email engagement rates nice and high, so you can improve deliverability to your most interested contacts.

Is It Really Worth the Effort?

Aberdeen Group (2015) reports that personalized email messages improve the chances that the recipient will click-through on a call to action by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.

Econsultancy’s (2013) Realities of Online Personalization Report notes 74% of marketers believe targeted personalization improves customer engagement.

And, Mailchimp.com claims, “When we measured stats ‘across all segmented campaigns,’ segmented campaigns performed markedly better than their non-segmented counterparts.” Specifically:


Opens: 14.63% higher than non-segmented campaigns
Unique Opens: 10.82% higher than non-segmented campaigns
Clicks: 94.27% higher than non-segmented campaigns
Bounces: 3.36% lower than non-segmented campaigns
Abuse Reports: 3.70% lower than non-segmented campaigns
Unsubs: 9.36% lower than non-segmented campaigns

For most marketers, this takes more than a do-it-yourself approach. DIY is very time consuming for one thing.

If you have invested in Customer Relationship Management and Marketing Automation software, you are much better positioned to identify your market segments, construct email content for their interests, and expedite the mailing and data retention and analytics.

Avoiding these list segmentation land mines will ensure that your email marketing does more than just communicate with prospects and customers – that it drives real, meaningful results for your business.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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