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The Segmentation Rules of Mailchimp & Email Marketing

How many slices of cake do you need?

Segmentation in Mailchimp - Cooking up your email

“Please remember to make the cake big enough… nobody likes crumbs when it gets cut…”

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If I’m speaking to you, how do I get you to pay attention?

Do you think if I started talking about something you’ve never expressed an interest in that you’d want to pay attention and listen intently?

If I started talking about myself, would that get you to listen?

…or would you be more interested if I mentioned something I knew you were into?

…maybe dropping your name into the conversation a few times too?

The fact is that if you want someone to pay attention, you can’t talk about yourself or stuff that interests you, you need to talk about them and their interests.

The more relevant you are to someone when you speak to them, the better response you’re likely to get.

…and just because you might be using email instead of speaking to them directly, the rules don’t change… you still need to be relevant.


Being relevant in Email

Email is a tool we all use regularly and still as effective as ever in generating leads and sales.

…but relevance still rules the roost when it comes to performing better, and the more relevant an email is to the recipient, the better response you’ll get.

However, unlike our brain, which can easily store information about things people like easily and recall it instantaneously, email relies on data that needs to be collected and stored effectively.

…and even though we’d all like to be perfectly relevant to every person we send an email to, it’s not practically possible.

You need to pick and choose your relevances…


Deciding your relevance

If you’re doing things right with your marketing, you should have identified a number of avatars that you can use to target your communications

… so you ideally need to store that information (i.e. which market sector they are in) within your database, i.e. Segmenting it.

We’re not talking about information that you use to personalise your emails (like first name), but storing information that allows you to send relevant information to different groups of people.

Now, this article is not about the “how”, or the best way to do this (I’ve written extensively elsewhere about Segments, Groups & Tags, the main tools you’d use).

…rather I’d like to focus on a couple of “rules” I follow when it comes to “what” to use for segmentation.

When it comes to segmenting your audience, “where do you cut the cake?”


Rule #1 – Don’t go crazy with your segments.

When I discuss segmentation with a new customer, and the penny drops, they start thinking about creating multiple segments in their database to represent all the different market sectors they supply, and they get a bit carried away.

There’s a couple of problems with this…

For every segment you create, you should be creating a version of an email for them – so if you’ve got 5 segments you’re targeting, you’ll be creating 5 versions of your email.

So every email you send will require 5 versions… now I don’t know how quickly you work on your emails, but that’s actually a fair amount of work – so it’s got to be worth the effort.

…and this is why you need to avoid going crazy creating segments, because if your database isn’t big enough, it’s a lot of work for a potentially small return – the more segments you have, the smaller the number of people there will be in each segment.


How big is your cake?

I regularly use a cake to help describe this situation (mmmm…. cake!).

Think of your entire database as a cake… it could be a very big cake or it could be a small one (or even a muffin, which in my book is just a mini cake with good marketing).

Each time you create a new segment, you’re slicing the cake up.

Now a big cake can take lots of slices and each slice will be big enough to enjoy.

…but the smaller the cake, the less slices you get.

…and if you’ve got a muffin… put more than a couple of slices in and you’re probably left with crumbs…

…and nobody wants crumbs.

Slicing your database up too much, especially when you’ve got a small one or are starting out, is a lot of effort for not much result, so only start segmenting more when you know it’s worth the effort.


Rule #2 – Segment on things that will get you results.

There are lots of things you could segment on, but not all of them will hit the bottom line.

Accepting that there is a limit to the number of segments we can have, we need to be clear what is the best thing to segment on.

A customer recently asked me to create a segment in their database for gender, but upon reflection, this was not going to add any value. Gender may be an easy way to segment, but in reality, segmenting this way would have zero impact on the bottom line.

When it comes to segmentation, you need to “follow the money” – which brings us back to our target markets and avatars

Remember, we’re about making our email marketing more effective, and in most instances that means that it generates more revenue for our business.

So the first ‘cut’ you make to your database would be one that increases the return you get from each half.

It could be the area that they are interested in, it could be where they are located, or it could be their situation.

If you know your business and your customers (and have created some avatars to represent the markets you want to supply), you should have a good handle on where to make that first cut of the cake.


Rule #3 – The best way to segment is when they sign up

It’s all well and good saying that you’re going to segment your database into these distinct sectors… but saying it and doing it are two different things.

…because if you’re segmenting, you need to ensure that you can get the data you need to do the segmenting.

…it’s all about the data (and how you can capture it and get it into the database).

Now you may have a CRM or database which is already segmented… but if you’re starting off with nothing, the best way to get this information is at the point you capture someone’s email address.

Why?… well because there will be a form to capture the email and thus a connection with Mailchimp, which can be used to push the segmentation data (and any other data) into the database at the same time.

But more importantly, you control who fills the form (or forms)… and you can try and ensure that only a certain sector complete that form – one of your segments.


You control who completes a form

Let’s take the simple example of a local grocery shop. They have two distinct customer groups, families who want fresh fruit and vegetables, and businesses like pubs and restaurants, who want to use the produce in their meals.

If you created a form on a specific page of your website and talked extensively about the benefits of 5 fruit and veg a day, healthy family eating and the “veg boxes” you can supply cost effectively to families for their weekly needs, who’d fill the form in?

Families would… but businesses wouldn’t.

…so you create a separate form on a separate page which talks about regular deliveries, good quality produce, bulk purchase pricing and local provenance. The businesses would sign up on that page.

..and if you’ve got your tagging/groups right on that form, then you can automatically assign them to a segment, because you know only a specific type of customer would fill out that form.

(and of course, if you’re driving traffic to that page/form, the messages you use will be specific to that type of audience – relevance gets results)


Segmentation = Relevance = Success

If you want to succeed and get better results from your marketing, you need to adopt practices that you use in every day conversation.

If I want someone to pay attention to me, I talk about stuff they’re interested in.

…and if I want someone to pay attention to my email, I still talk about stuff they’re interested in – the rules don’t change.

Segmenting your database is how you know what someone is interested in when it comes to your business, and if you manage it carefully, there is no doubt it’ll have a positive impact on your bottom line.

…but remember to only slice the cake where it matters and not slice it up too much… nobody likes crumbs.

Robin Adams

Robin Adams

Robin Adams is a business owner who is passionate about helping businesses build effective marketing systems that work and don't waste money. Having a lifetime of Marketing experience (he's got a degree in Marketing before there were degrees in Marketing!) and having worked for big and small businesses and both client and agency side, he understands not only the theory, but the systems that are required to underpin everything.
51% marketer and 49% Chimp, Robin is the main man behind chimpanswers.com and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.

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