How can I segment my audience for my e-mail campaigns?

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In the e-mail space, we talk a lot about achieving relevance because, in the end, being relevant is the holy grail of any marketing effort. None of us starts our morning thinking, “What I can send to my customers that they absolutely don't care about?” We know our customers are not all the same—they engage with us differently, they have been customers for varying periods of time and they likely use different products or services. What we tend to overlook is that our e-mail database has the same varying qualities. Not all e-mail subscribers are created equal. So take the lead from your customers.

Segmentation isn't always difficult, but it isn't necessarily easy either. How you as a brand should approach segmenting your e-mail audience warrants the ever-popular “it depends” response that most experts and consultants like to give because it really does depend. But in the interest of providing some guidance, here are three common segmentation points that may apply to your business (and don't require an advanced degree in statistical analysis).

Customer status: Understanding the status of the subscriber is critical in crafting your copy. Are they customers, prospects, lapsed customers or lapsed prospects? Imagine the different messages you could convey just on that knowledge alone.
Length of customer relationship: It is logical to expect that customers of a longer tenure tend to be more familiar with the quality of products or services you offer and require less value-proposition messaging and more value-add messaging. This information may drive your frequency of communication as well as the message or content you send along.
Location or geography: If you have bricks-and-mortar locations or seasonally driven products or services, segmenting against the geographic location of your customers allows you to create relevance through proximity and through seasonality. Location-based targeting most often drives the timing of your messages as well as the content.

These are just three ways to segment your data, but the relevance they deliver could make the difference in your e-mail program's success.

Kara Trivunovic is senior director of strategic services at email marketing and social CRM provider ThreadMarketing, a StrongMail company (

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