How Email Segmentation Could Boost Your Retention

How smart is your email strategy for your digital business?

As we’ve said before, getting people on your list is one thing, but it’s even more important what you do with them next.

Whether you’re a SaaS, an ecommerce business, or a seller of digital products and services, one thing every business wants is to successfully retain customers. After all, it tends to be cheaper and more cost effective to keep your current customers than to find new ones.

Email marketing works. In fact, the graph from Neil Patel below shows it far outdoing other methods in terms of ROI…

email-marketing-works

… but the key is that you have to have good strategy behind it to see results.

Email segmentation is important if you want to smart about your business email strategy. It’s also a good way to boost your chances of retaining those customers…

Why Are “Blanket” Emails A Bad Idea?

You hear the word “relevance” discussed regularly when it comes to any form of marketing. We want to publish “relevant” content, present “relevant” offers and target the right audience with those things.

Email is no different. If I purchase makeup from your online store, how likely is it that I’ll also be interested in men’s socks? Yet many online sellers work off the basis of blanket emailing everything they have to say to every person on their list.

By my second or third men’s sock sale email, I’ve been trained to believe that your emails are not relevant to me and I’ve stopped opening them. If I don’t open any of your emails, you may start to slip from my mind as being a business relevant to my needs, then how likely will I be to come back and shop again?

What emails should you send out for retention? Grab our free guide here.

Why Segmentation Works

We’ve covered segmentation previously so we won’t labor over the point, but in a nutshell, segmentation works because it allows you to be more targeted with your messaging so that relevant messages are put in front of the right people.

These statistics from Mailchimp show how segmented email campaigns do better than those which aren’t:

Mailchimp-segmentation-results

As Neil Patel puts it, email segmentation helps you to find untapped potential in your list and take advantage of it.

segmentation-potential

 

Source: Neil Patel

Avoid Spam Folders

The whole purpose of email marketing gets defeated if your emails end up on a quick trip to the spam folder. One way to avoid this is to do your best to get good open and action rates on your emails.

Email service providers note whether or not your emails are getting opened, links are getting clicked, or actions such as replying or flagging as important are taken. If you’re sending irrelevant, blanket emails which are ignored or deleted, expect to end up in spam boxes and have your task of retaining customers made even more difficult.

How To Segment

A major benefit of segmenting is that it allows you to respond appropriately to customer behavior and serve up relevant information to them. Previously, we looked at some basic tagging in Infusionsoft to help you create segments, but let’s look at a few slightly more advanced segmentation ideas:

Demographics

This is a basic way to create a segment, but look at what you can do with it. Simply knowing age, gender or job role can allow you to adjust your messaging for maximum engagement, even if it is essentially the same thing you are promoting.

Email Marketing On Acid provide a great example of this from Fit For Me.The message is exactly the same as they are sharing the same promotion, but the image on the left could be sent out to younger subscribers, while the one on the right is sent out to an older age group. This way they have elements that any of their subscribers can relate to.

email-demographic

Product Category Preferences

How does a 7000% increase in email marketing revenue sound? In this example from EmailMonday, Totes Isotoner Group noticed that many shoppers were only visiting a single product category: umbrellas, gloves, or boots.

When they segmented those consumers and sent targeted email offers based on that category, they saw more browsers becoming buyers and achieved that impressive 7000% statistic. See how relevance works? The company will also be more likely to keep those customers because they understand their preferences.

Your Best Customers

However you define “best customers”, creating a segment for them is a good idea. This way you can not only send them special offers, but encourage them to engage with your business.

For example, you may want to survey them and get their input on new products they’d like or any ideas they’d like to see implemented. You could also use this segment as a means to encourage referrals of new business, perhaps rewarding them for doing so.

The idea is that you want to keep nurturing those top customers. Make them feel special and you will be more likely to hang on to them.

Abandoned Tasks

This is a good one for any SaaS out there. Churn is always of high concern, so you want to make a move early to prevent it. Say your client abandons a task part way through in your software, it could be because they were busy with something else and decided to leave, but it could also be because they got confused or something went wrong.

If you can set up a system so that the abandoned task triggers a tag rule, you can send an email seeking to find out why they abandoned the task. You then have an opportunity to help the customer succeed and potentially intervene before they leave.

Survey Results

If you’re starting close to scratch and need a way to quickly understand what customer preferences are, surveys or quizzes can be a great way to do it. In fact, as Marketo shows, the evidence is in that people love taking quizzes.

For maximum effectiveness, you need to be quite thoughtful with the questions that you ask, so that you can generate useful results of preferences, ability or personality. You can then segment your customers based on the answers they gave you.

Look at Tru&Co for a perfect example. The online lingerie retailers offer a 10% discount to those who complete their quiz and use it as a means to recommend products which will suit the preferences of the customer. This is also a great way for them to send targeted email offers which make sense to the customer.

tru-and-co

Geographic Location

It goes without saying that sometimes an offer may be better suited to those in a certain geographic location more than others, but Email On Acid demonstrates how you could take this a step further…

If you know where someone is located, what else do you know about them? That’s right, you can understand the kinds of weather patterns they deal with and make offers accordingly (especially if you are an ecommerce seller).

Skymosity is a company set up to track weather patterns and help you to segment customers accordingly. To share the example given by Email On Acid, athletic company Brooks used this data to create multiple campaigns based upon weather conditions and temperature range. This is a powerful way to remain relevant!

brooks_weather_segmentation

What emails should you send out for retention? Grab our free guide here.

Final Thoughts

How does email segmentation boost retention? Simply by allowing you to remain relevant in the eyes of the customer, keeping you on their minds and ensuring that your emails get opened.

Segmentation is a powerful way to encourage engagement, promote repeat business and therefore retention of your customers.

There are literally dozens of different ways you can segment your audience, but look to try some more advanced methods if you really want to increase your chances of keeping the customer.
If you can deliver high customer value and increased email engagement, then your retention figures should look good.

Keith Perhac

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.

4 Tips To Boost Your Email List Quality

When it comes to your email list, size is not necessarily a good indication of performance.

If you have just 500 active and engaged subscribers, you’re likely to do better than a list of 10,000 who are not engaged or who are not the best fit for your business. So when it comes to email lists, quality is always a better emphasis than quantity.

The point is that you want your email marketing efforts to drive action, yet if you don’t have a quality list, those efforts could fall flat. No one wants to waste the time and money involved with putting a decent campaign together for a poor list.

So, how can you ensure you have a better quality email list? We’ve got a few tips.

#1. To Buy, Or Not To Buy?

If your list is still relatively small, it can be a huge temptation to go out and buy an email list to boost your numbers, but is this a good idea? Does buying a list ever net people enough engagement to warrant the action?

It seems the answer to that question is “not very often.” Overall, buying lists doesn’t tend to work out well or promote quality on your own list. Here’s why:

The Prospect Doesn’t Know You

What do you usually do when some random, unknown email turns up in your inbox? Are you likely to open it? Or simply flick it to spam? Even if you do open it, the chances are you’ll delete it anyway because you don’t recognize the sender and perhaps it appears to be marketing.

On average, email promotions are three to five times more effective when being sent out to current customers rather than prospects. The reason for this is simple — your current customers know who you are and why you’re emailing them. They possibly even remember opting in to your list, whereas your average person residing on a bought list doesn’t have a clue who you are and is pretty sure they’ve never opted in.

For most people, this is not a good way to generate good will. People get annoyed by receiving marketing emails they don’t believe they’ve requested. You know what happens next? They report you as spam…

You Can Compromise Your Good Standing

Reputable email service providers don’t allow you to use purchased lists anyway. They want to ensure they and their users remain compliant with CANSPAM laws and that people on your lists have actually opted in to be there.

Here’s what Infusionsoft has to say on the matter:

“All lists used in conjunction with the services provided by Infusionsoft are required to be 100% solicited (opt-in) lists. This means that the individuals on the list have explicitly agreed to receive information from your business entity. The practice of bartering, purchasing or renting lists of names and sending e-mails to those people is strictly prohibited.”

Infusionsoft and other reputable providers often require that you are able to provide proof that customers have opted in, but even if you’ve somehow managed to sneak a purchased list through, there is further reason it is not a good idea…

Remember the angry customers who are reporting emails as spam? If you get too many of those reports, your email account loses its good standing and you could find yourself removed altogether. Infusionsoft’s current guidelines state that there should be no more than one complaint for every thousand subscribers who receive your email.

“Should I go through a ‘less reputable’ email provider?” you ask. Well, then you run into deliverability issues that simply make it not worth the effort. Most of those less reputable services will have emails blocked or redirected to spam by your customer’s email provider.

#2. Create Well-Targeted Opt-Ins

So we know the preferred method of getting people onto your list is to have them opt in, but how will this lead to a quality list?

Internetland is full of freebie seekers who have no real interest in a business or product, but simply go around gathering up free stuff. Obviously these people do not make for a quality list, so it’s about finding ways to better target the people who are genuinely interested.

There’s never going to be an absolutely perfect method, purely because anyone can still opt in if they want to. However,  if you create a decent lead magnet (or graduate to more than one if you want to create some effective segments), then it’s a great place to start.

Know Your Target Audience

Did you know that taking the time to craft and use detailed marketing personas for your target audience can make your website two to five times more effective? Hubspot provides some great pointers in their infographic, but the short of it is: know your customers very well so you are able to create content targeted to suit their needs.

personas

Offer A Relevant Incentive

There is a Copyblogger post which is a few years old now but still remains relevant when it comes to deciding what to offer as an incentive for subscribers. Their suggestion is that you a) know the customer and understand what kind of incentive will spin their wheels and b) focus on keeping that customer subscribed through your incentive.

In order to avoid people subscribing purely for your giveaway then immediately unsubscribing, Copyblogger suggests offering your giveaway over a series of emails where you showcase your expertise and deliver value over time. This is a great way to help the new prospect get to know you better and perhaps build up to purchasing.

What should you give away for targeted leads? Grab our ideas here

Your Messaging

Every piece of copy and all content created for your website should be explicitly geared toward that ideal customer persona you have identified. You want people to clearly be able to self-select as appropriate sign-ups for your list.

This could even include some message about who your product or service is NOT for. For example: “Looking to get rich quick? This program is NOT for you. We teach the sustainable way to build wealth over time.”

What About Giveaways?

We briefly touched on “freebie seekers” who only sign up with you to get the incentive you are giving away — does this make contests and giveaways ineffective for quality lists?

It’s kind of one of those “time will tell” things. We know contests can work well to boost large numbers onto lists, but the question is whether or not the list will be “quality.”

Authority Hacker recently wrote about how they grew their list by 1626 subscribers by running a giveaway. While we don’t really get an indication of the quality of those subscribers at the end of the giveaway, they do mention growth in traffic to their website as a lasting result.

There are a couple of things they mention though which will help giveaways to result in better subscribers: 1) they chose something very relevant to their target audience to give away and 2) they promoted through sites that their target audience hangs out on.

You don’t want to take the blanket approach to promoting your giveaway or give away something that appeals more to the masses than specifically to your target audience. This way you will hopefully avoid getting too many subscribers who are not a good fit, but even if you do, you can weed them out in the next two steps…

contest-vs-sweepstakes

Source: Authority Hacker

#3. Run Some Creative Campaigns

This point is fairly self-explanatory. It would be difficult to measure whether or not you are developing a “quality” list if you’re not making an honest effort to regularly communicate and send out creative, relevant emails.

Essentially you need to be proving your value to the prospect and again, ensuring that all copy is written to appeal to your ideal customer. This also means that you’re not just pushing “sell, sell, sell” and are providing helpful, engaging content.

From there you need to measure and test campaigns, including:

  • Open rates
  • Click through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Email sharing/forwarding rates
  • Overall ROI

Another point to note is that your communication must be regular in order to really do a fair test. If you’re not in the habit of emailing at least a couple of times per month, your list could forget who you are and simply ignore your intermittent emails.

If your open and click-through rates are always poor, it could be that you’re not doing so well with email subject lines and content and need to change them up. Otherwise, if you’ve got great content and are getting good engagement, you then start to look at those who never engage and what you can do about cleaning your list up.

#4. Clean Your List Up

You want to keep your email list healthy and engaged, so there’s no sense in hanging on to those who just don’t seem to be interested. You don’t want to be too hasty in getting rid of potential customers however, so here are a few tips:

Create Segments

We’ve noted previously how segmenting your list can get you better email marketing results. Create clear segments based on how the customer came to sign up with you and consider creating content to appeal to each segment. This could move previously disengaged prospects over to the active side, especially if you set up good automation workflows.

Try A Re-Engagement Campaign

The aim of a re-engagement campaign is to get the inactive prospect to just open one of your emails. That way you know you’ve hit some kind of interest and can send them more similar content.

You should have created a segment of these inactive customers so that you’re able to target them separately.

Hubspot Academy has a good set of instructions to follow for setting up a re-engagement campaign, with one of the keys being that you should be sending a compelling offer which entices engagement.

Clean Up

If you’ve tried everything else and still aren’t getting opens from certain people, then cut them from your list. There is no sense in agonizing over someone who probably was never a good fit in the first place. Many email service providers are now recommending you ditch subscribers after 6 months of inactivity.

Maintaining Quality…

So, if you want to boost the quality of your email list, an absolute key lies in how you get people onto your list in the first place.

Your subscribers should have opted in, preferably via a campaign or lead magnet which is very targeted to their interests or needs. You don’t want to go too broad or you will end up with too many who are just not a good fit.

From there it’s about maintenance. You need to keep in regular contact and provide them with valuable reasons to stay engaged with your emails. Know your audience, cater to them and cut those who are not interested.

Keith Perhac

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.

How To Create A Welcome Email Series That Works

It’s always validating when you get a stream of subscribers coming onto your list. “Hurrah” you say, “I’ve optimized, I’ve got the right messaging and my lead magnet works.”

Getting them there is one thing, but arguably what’s more important is what you do with them next.

This is where having a well-constructed welcome email series comes in – emails that help your subscriber get to know you and start to build a connection; even encourage them to purchase from you in the end.

How do you create an effective welcome email series? We’re digging in to take a look.

Need content ideas for your welcome emails? Check out some of ours here.

Why Do You Need Welcome Emails?

It can be tempting to think that email marketing must be on a death slide, especially if you think about the average person receiving 121 emails per day and having nowhere near enough time to deal with them all. However, research tells us that email still brings a remarkable return on investment (4300% ROI according to the Direct Marketing Association), it still converts well, and it is a relatively simple strategy for businesses large or small to put in place.

The role of welcome emails is important as part of effective customer lifecycle marketing, which means delivering messages to customers at the right time in accordance with where they are in their journey with you.

Build Recognition Early

How many times have you subscribed to something, then completely forgotten about it? This often happens if you haven’t received any kind of communication directly after subscribing. When the site you subscribed to eventually sends you something, you are more likely to ignore or spam it because you can’t remember who they are.

Research from Bluehornet finds that almost 75% of consumers expect to receive a welcome email when they subscribe. This means something personable and engaging, not an automated “you’re subscribed” or something like the image below.

subscription-confirmation
Besides the fact that your new subscribers are expecting to receive welcome emails immediately, further statistics show that welcome emails generate more revenue than blanket promotional emails. They capture the interest of new subscribers while you are still fresh in their minds and are vital for building a connection before their interest dwindles.

smtp
Source: Easy SMTP

First Impressions

Your welcome emails set the tone and impression the prospect has of your business. This is your chance to hit them with something super interesting, engaging, and professional in appearance early to help generate that trust in your brand.

These emails can lay the foundation of their entire relationship with your business. They can set expectations (for example, how often they can expect to hear from you), encourage connection through social media channels, and point customers back to your website for any offers you may have going.

What Makes A Welcome Series Effective?

#1. Timing and Frequency

For starters, as indicated in the previous section, you need to be timely with that first email going out. That means sending out an email immediately while the customer is still engaged with your business; don’t go for options like batching of emails to send out later.

As far as the number of emails and timing between them, that will depend upon what you decide a new subscriber needs to know about your business (which we look at under “content” below). Some people suggest a series of 6 to 8 emails, spaced a couple of days apart, others will say to send one email per day for the next five days. This is something you’re going to need to test for yourself, but the key thing is not to send out emails for the sake of emails. If you’ve really got something to say across 8 emails, go for it, if not, the prospect will appreciate you not wasting their time.

Another timing consideration is whether or not you want new subscribers to immediately be receiving what your regular list gets. If not, tag them so that they only go into the main newsletter list once the welcome series is over.

As a side note for those sending out regular newsletters or other email communications to their list, the 2015 study by BlueHornet on Consumer Views of Email Marketing revealed that a weekly frequency is the sweet spot.

rsz_weekly-email

#2. Getting Opened

Obviously the first thing you want people to do is actually open your emails, though this is one of the trickiest things to achieve in crowded inboxes. There are really two elements that encourage (or not) the prospect to open the email:

  • Trust – does this look like spam?
  • Relevance – is the subject line compelling?

When you’re beginning a relationship with a new prospect, trust elements are quite simple. You need to be sending from an email address which appears trustworthy and your subject lines shouldn’t scream out “spam” with excessive use of exclamation marks, dollar signs, or spam trigger words such as “free”, “affordable” or “cash.” Your subject lines are an element you should set up for split-testing to see which are the most effective. There is some research out there to suggest which words are more effective than others to use in the subjects of welcome emails, but there will be variations depending on your business type.

subject-line
Source: Easy SMTP

Research presented by Easy SMTP shows that generic “from” email addresses should be avoided. People are more likely to open an email from “Charlie@” rather than “info@.”

from-email

“Noreply@” is even worse because it implies that the email is being sent by some kind of robot that doesn’t allow the customer to engage with your business. The idea is that you want to keep those lines of communication open.

#3. Content

The first thing you need to decide before writing a single line of content is which actions you want your subscriber to take. What are the goal outcomes? What should a new subscriber know about your business?

No matter how many emails you decide to put together as part of a welcome series, there should be a cohesive story and clear actions to take with each email.

For example, you might want subscribers to:

  • Learn about your brand story.
  • Provide their subscription preferences (a great way to ensure they are put into the right segments).
  • Connect with you on social media.
  • Use a coupon code or offer.

Calls To Action
Calls to action are a must if you want your emails to be effective. You could use any or all of these goals throughout your series, but if you want people to take action, then you should limit your calls to action to one type per email, as found in research by Which Test Won? (You can repeat it more than once, but if you ask people to take more than one kind of action, you may overwhelm them and get none).

Deliver Value Immediately
What content should you include in your welcome series? The answer to that lies in the reason that people subscribed with you in the first place. You will have made some kind of promises to entice them to subscribe, so start delivering on those ASAP.

If you offered an incentive for sign-up, deliver that in the first email. For anything else, live up to your promises, whether that was helpful information or awesome deals. Keep it relevant to what the customer signed up for: If it was deals, they probably don’t want an email that’s purely about your brand history (give them your story but include the deals!).

Delivering value early is about building trust with the prospect. From the beginning you want to train them that your emails are relevant and worth their time opening. For this reason you may also want to consider segmenting prospects according to how they signed up and preferences they expressed, then sending out different welcome series accordingly.

Another point to remember is that even if one of your big goals is to sell, if your emails all come across as a sales pitch they are not likely to be effective. The point of your welcome series is to build the relationship, not make them feel like they’re meeting up with the classic, oily salesperson.

How Long?
Constant Contact did some research recently looking at the relationship between the length of emails, the number of images used, and the click through rates that resulted. Their overall finding? Less is more.

Specifically: “Emails with about 20 lines of text and three or fewer images received the highest click-through rate.”

This is another element for you to test within your own business, however. As they point out, general findings can give an idea of best practice, but may vary between businesses.

Need content ideas for your welcome emails? Check out some of ours here.

Final Thoughts

A welcome email series can be a very effective tool for your business if you spend a little time developing it well. It allows you to start building a relationship with your prospect early while your brand is still on their mind, and to set the standard for what they should expect from you.

This is why it’s worth your time. Generic “thanks for subscribing” emails are uninspiring and don’t deliver any kind of value to the customer. A well-planned welcome series engages them and helps them to realize the value you can deliver.

Make your welcome series effective by building trust, being responsive, and delivering relevant, valuable content.

Keith Perhac

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.