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Email marketing secrets and lies: Segmentation

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List segmentation—breaking the customer or prospect list into different groups and tailoring messages to those groups accordingly—can help raise response rates, but plenty of b-to-b marketers aren't making the most of their efforts. “Everyone always wants something new related to segmentation, but a lot of them aren't doing the foundation work,” said Colleen Petitt, director of email and digital services at marketing automation provider Aprimo. The good news: As more advanced analytics offerings become available, it's getting easier to use instant, real-time data to tweak marketing efforts. (Google Analytics, for example, this month is promoting its Real-Time data as a way to see exactly what's happening on your site). Those marketers that are ready to move segmentation to the next level should consider the following “secret” and “lie” about the topic. Secret: Segmenting to the ISP level may help boost deliverability rates. B-to-b marketers often say they don't have a lot of public ISP email addresses in their lists, but once they drill down they may find that a decent portion of their list is using nonbusiness-domain email addresses. Each of those ISPs—including Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo—has its own requirements when it comes to deliverability. While it's often almost impossible to find those requirements (most ISPs guard them to keep spammers from getting into the inbox), there are some constants that make ISP-segmented lists a good idea. For instance, Gmail now has a Priority Inbox that lets users select and prioritize their messages. There is some anecdotal evidence that marketers that have their messages prioritized by users may experience a lift in their overall delivery rates. “What we've seen is that those marketers are seeing their addresses getting ranked at a higher level by email so they have a higher chance of making it into the inbox,” Petitt said. Some marketers, she said, are making this happen by using dynamic content that places small yellow arrows close to the top of the page for all Gmail addresses. “It's not self-selection or inferred, because you know that these people are Gmail subscribers,” she said. “The arrow says, "Mark this message as important to receive future offers,' encouraging subscribers to put their messages into that Priority Inbox.” Lie: You can segment a list successfully based on a single data point. Marketers often make segmentation decisions based on what they think is solid data—for example, sending product information after a prospect downloads a white paper or views a webinar about that product. However, a single inferred data point isn't enough to build an entire segment around—or an entire campaign, Petitt said. “The positive thing about b-to-b is that there's usually a lot of historical data available to marketers,” she said. “Before segmenting a list, marketers should be looking back at engagement as well as other data points to build a segment based on a number of factors.”
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