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Earn 60 Percent More Engagement with These 9 Email List Segmentation Strategies Divide and conquer your target audience with list segmentation and personalization strategies that make every email subscriber feel like your most important prospect.

By Susan Gunelius

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The following excerpt is from Susan Gunelius' book Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound

There are two ways to segment your email list to boost your email marketing results: based on who your contacts are (demographic and psychographic traits) and based on what your contacts have done (behavioral traits). In most cases, segmenting based on behaviors yields the best email marketing results, but your goal should be to develop targeted email conversion funnels based on the data you have. Following are a number of popular segmentation strategies you can use to improve your own email marketing results.

Position in the marketing funnel

Segmenting your list and building email conversion funnels that match the content to the recipient's position in the marketing funnel is far more effective than sending a single offer to a broad audience. Contacts at the top of the funnel aren't close to a purchase. They're at the earliest stages of the consumer buying cycle and need very different content from your brand than people in the middle of the funnel who are in the research stage and people in the bottom who are very close to making a buying decision. Sending a free shipping offer to a consumer at the top of the funnel is unlikely to deliver conversions, but the same offer sent to consumers at the bottom of the funnel could be extremely successful.


If someone purchases a specific product or service, this purchase shows they're interested in a specific type of product or service that delivers a certain set of features and benefits. Segmenting your list so you can send messages that promote add-on products, discounts on replenishments, and other relevant offers to contacts who show interest in specific products and services is an effective strategy to increase per-customer sales.

Lead magnets requested

Like clicks and pages visited, you can learn a lot about the people on your email marketing list based on the lead magnets they request. Keep in mind, you can use lead magnets to motivate your contacts to take different kinds of actions at all points in the buyer journey to push them further through the marketing funnel. If you track all the lead magnets each contact downloads over time, you can create targeted offers and email conversion funnels to strengthen their relationships with your brand and continually push them through the marketing funnel. For example, if a segment of your email list downloads a lead magnet about a specific topic, you can continue to build your relationship with them by sending more relevant content on that topic.


Location-based segmenting can be used to send local offers, promote products and services based on climate, remind contacts about time-sensitive offers using countdown clocks specific for each time zone, and more. For example, some businesses have great success sending promotions to national audiences during sports seasons. By segmenting their audiences, they can include references to local teams. A campaign sent during the Super Bowl or NCAA Championships could reference local teams by segmenting your list based on contacts' zip codes or states.


Depending on the type of products and services your business provides to consumers, segmenting your list by gender can be extremely effective. Not only could males and females be interested in different products or services, but they might also be interested in different features or benefits of the same products.


If you know your contacts' ages, you can create age-based segments to send targeted messages. For example, you might create email conversion funnels that offer age-appropriate products to your contacts based on their ages. You could even create special promotions for baby boomers, Generation X and so on based on your contacts' ages.

Opened Email Messages

People who open your email messages are engaged with your brand and should be segmented from people who don't engage with your messages. Further, you can segment your list by the types of messages your contacts open. People who open messages about a specific topic, type of product or service, promotion, event and so on should be put into individual segments so you can send more targeted messages to them in the future while avoiding annoying recipients who would be less interested in those messages.

Response Frequency

How often do your contacts open your emails, click on your links, or buy from you? Each of these metrics can be used to segment your email list. The more engaged someone is with your brand, the more important it is to foster the relationship and reward those contacts. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to build customer loyalty and repeat purchases, and since it costs less to keep customers than it does to win new ones, this type of segmentation should be a priority.

Buyer Loyalty

Segmenting your audience by loyalty gives you an opportunity to not only adjust your promotions for each segment but also to modify your brand messages. Consider segmenting your audience into at least four groups: first-time buyers (people who recently purchased from you for the first time), one-time buyers (people who purchased from you one time and never purchased again), repeat buyers (people who have purchased from you more than once) and frequent buyers (people who buy based on a frequency that you choose, such as weekly or monthly). First-time buyers should get very different offers and messages than your most loyal frequent buyers. For example, it makes sense to invite the people in your frequent buyers segment to join your special loyalty rewards program. Sending this type of offer to first-time buyers or one-time buyers would not be as successful. Instead, your goal with first-time and one-time buyers should be to build brand trust and try to motivate them to buy from you again.

Susan Gunelius

Marketing, Branding, Copywriting, Email and Social Media Expert

Susan Gunelius is CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc., a marketing communications and strategic branding company. She has authored a dozen books about marketing, branding, social media, copywriting and technology and is the founder and editor in chief of, a blog for business women.

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