More than design or even content, who you send to (i.e., your email list) is a fundamental element of a successful email marketing program.
Properly segmenting and scoring your list ensures valuable content and the right conversion opportunities reach your contacts, no matter where they are in their buying journey.
With effective segmentation and scoring you can also monitor — and even accelerate — the pace prospects move through your sales funnel. That means you’ll always have a steady pipeline of highly qualified leads and can more effectively predict when new business will close.
List segmentation is relatively easy to set up and maintain. It doesn’t require expert-level technology (the most common email marketing platforms typically include segmentation functionality) or even advanced marketing knowledge. But it does require forethought and some planning.
Segmentation Is Key to an Effective Email Marketing Strategy
In its simplest form, segmentation is grouping contacts by similar qualities. Your business goals drive the qualities — or groupings — of your segments.
It’s like sorting Legos. You don’t have to sort your Legos. But if you want to build something on purpose later, you’re going to be really disappointed you didn’t. With your Legos in disarray, it will take even longer to finish what you want to build.
Segmenting (or sorting) your contacts works in a similar way. Just as you might sort Legos by size, shape, or color, you can sort contacts according to several criteria based on what you want to “build” for your business. Some common segments might include job title, location, or average budget for projects. You can have as few or as many segments as make sense for your business.
Segmentation is at the core of everything we do at Newfangled. We start everything with persona work to define the broadest groups of people we want to target. Then we segment further based on additional data points — or digital clues — we discover about them. This can be information contacts provide directly by completing a form on our website or information about their email or site-side activity that we track through our Insight Engine.
Segmentation is an iterative process. You can continually refine and improve your segments with each piece of information you learn about your prospects.
Lead Scoring Enhances Segmentation
When you want to move to an even higher level of specificity in your audience segments, you’re ready for lead scoring. Lead scoring enhances your segmentation by assigning predetermined values to behavioral variables. The resulting score drives more effective targeting of emails and other content (like ebooks, whitepapers, or case studies) to move your contacts farther through your sales funnel.
Lead scoring is different from segmentation because it doesn’t assume that a contact’s qualities or behaviors are created equally. Instead, lead scoring assigns a priority order that informs when and how you talk to a particular prospect.
For example, you might want to send a targeted nurture campaign to prospects who have visited particular pages on your website rather than sending them a general newsletter. Or you might want your sales team to reach out directly to prospects who have visited pages on your site repeatedly for the past week. Applying lead scoring to your segmentation helps you easily identify and elevate the people that fit into those categories.
Keep Lead Scoring Simple and Flexible
There’s no need to make lead scoring too complicated. In fact, it will serve you better if it’s simple and flexible. These are “internal only” scores so keep them easy to adjust. Because trust us, you’ll want to adjust them at some point.
As you collect more data about your prospects over time, you learn more about the behaviors of the leads who convert. These data-driven insights are invaluable in the ongoing refinement of your lead scoring strategy.
To start, though, determine a timeframe to measure. This is typically based on your industry and the length of your sales cycle. We recommend starting with 7/30/60/90-day segments.
Next, determine which characteristics designate someone as a prospect — someone you want to do business with. Finally, identify which actions indicate immediate interest in your product or service.
To ease your way into lead scoring, we suggest setting up values for the following:
- Email opens
- Email clicks
- Visits to the positioning pages on your website*
- Visits to your “about us” page*
- Viewing case studies*
- Content downloads
*The website pages that you apply value to will vary based on your business. Visits to positioning pages and case studies typically indicate “high intent” for doing business, so that’s why we recommend starting with those. Talking with your organization’s internal sales team is a great way to identify other pages that are valuable to your sales funnel.
Remember that this is a prioritization exercise so everything shouldn’t be weighted the same. Decide which activity indicates the prospect is more likely to do business with you and assign the highest point value to that behavior. Then continue to rank and apply a value to each activity until you have a full list of scores. You’ll also want to determine the threshold for notification. For example, if a prospect accumulates 50 points in a 30-day timeframe, then you might place them in a targeted email send.
If you’re new to lead scoring, there may be more subjectivity in your prioritization. But as you learn more about how your prospects interact with your emails and your website, you’ll be able to make more strategic decisions about your process.
The 5 List Segments Every Firm Should Use
With so many ways to segment a contact list, getting started might feel a bit overwhelming. But we’ve got you covered. Our “Top 5” audience segments are the cornerstones of an effective overall segmentation strategy. These key segments — including how to market to each one — are outlined in the table below.
|X Day Engagement||These contacts are regularly opening your emails. The exact timeframe (the “X”) is determined by your sales cycle. We find that 180 days is a good starting point.||This group wants to hear from you so always include them in your email sends. Thought leadership and newsletter-style content are most impactful for this segment.|
|X Day Unengagement||Unengaged contacts are not interacting with your emails as regularly as they have in the past. They may, however, still be visiting pages on your site or engaging with paid media ads.||The goal is to re-engage this group. Consider an email series that promotes your best-performing content. Or leverage retargeting in your paid media campaigns to promote high-value content.|
|Highly Unengaged||These contacts have stopped engaging with your emails (through opens and clicks) or your paid media ads and are no longer active on your site.||Make a final attempt to re-engage these contacts with a win-back series that, again, leverages high-performing content. Highly unengaged contacts who don’t take action during this targeted campaign should be removed from your list or added to an archival list for extremely limited sending.|
|Prospects||This is your “wishlist” — the people you want to do business with. This segment may also have lead scoring applied to ensure that it includes the most highly qualified contacts.||Send this segment a nurture campaign with late-funnel content aimed at starting a sales conversation.|
|New Contacts||These contacts have visited your site and completed at least one form. They are a net new addition to your email list.||Establish a relationship with this segment through a welcome series sent within the first 7 days of their form submission. The content should introduce them to your brand and establish your position in the industry.|
When you’re ready to expand, other segments to consider include persona, company size, budget, location, or any other identifier unique to your industry. Also, if you offer subscription preferences on your forms (e.g., a contact can opt-in to your newsletter sends but can opt-out of events notifications), make sure you are segmenting and acknowledging these preferences when you create your email lists.
Good Segmentation Keeps Your Email List — and Your Business — Healthy
Segmentation not only helps you deliver the right content to the right contact at the right time, it also helps keep your email lists clean. That’s because segmentation establishes a regular cadence for reviewing contacts and a plan to re-engage dormant contacts — including removing them from your lists if needed.
Getting rid of contacts who are no longer actively engaging with your emails or visiting your site is actually a good thing. Continuing to send to unengaged contacts muddies your email metrics, sometimes making your emails look less successful than they actually are. And this hurts your email deliverability long-term. Over time, this could mean that your highly qualified prospects — the people that you want to talk to — might not get your messages.
But even more than that, with good segmentation and lead scoring, you have a better idea of how your email programs (and your content overall) are performing. With each data point you collect from email clicks or website visits, you learn more about your audience. Applying these findings to your list segmentation and lead scoring strategies guides their journey from new contact to prospect to client more effectively and more efficiently. And that drives more demand for your products and services — and more business for your firm.