At this point, you’ve successfully learned steps to design and develop an email campaign, build a high-performing email list, and understand what the metrics behind your email campaign mean. It would seem as though your journey is complete.
However, there’s typically one more step to take before you can call your email marketing program fully developed. It’s the ongoing process of improvement and optimization! In this lesson, we’ll talk through the various tests that it’s recommended that you run on your email marketing or newsletter program in order to take it from good to great … and beyond.
Basic Techniques or Email Marketing Optimization
When looking at optimizing your email program, there are three components that you should consider.
The first is simply to audit your email marketing program against all of the best practices detailed within this course). You may find that you’ve inadvertently overlooked a common best practice that could dramatically or even just marginally, improve the performance of your campaign or overall email program.
The second technique is the process of segmenting your email marketing list or database, referred to as ―list segmentation.
The third technique we’ll discuss is testing various elements of your email campaign in different presentations, referred to as ―A/B testing.
What is List Segmentation?
List segmentation is breaking down your larger, main email list into smaller segments so that you can present targeted offers and messages to them.
You can permanently segment your email marketing list, or you can create different list segments as needed with each email send or time frame.
As a general marketing rule, however, the more you can make a message or email specific to the audience it is intended for, the higher your conversion rate will be.
Adopting a Process and Making a Plan
Make a list of the items that you’d like to test, the portions of your email list that you’d like to segment, and ideas that you have for offers and messages that may work better than your current email content.
Then begin to test and segment in a systematic way. Never attempt to run more than one test at a time. Your data will become jumbled and it will be harder to draw conclusions.
Also, be sure to track and log all of your data. That doesn’t simply include the results of a test or segmentation, but also the time, date, spam complaints, and full range of data associated with the email send.
It’s important to always keep good records of what you changed in your email program, when you changed it, and what the results were because one small change can have a significant and immediate impact.
There’s always room for improvement.
List segmentation, as described above, is the process of taking one larger email list and breaking it down into smaller, more targeted lists (or segments).
While it may result in more work in the form of more email templates, text, or images to generate, it will also typically result in a higher conversion percentage.
No matter what you determine in regards to the emphasis on segmentation within your email marketing database, begin by pulling out only one list segment and building from there. If you try to pull out too many lists segments at once, you’ll end up confusing yourself.
Be sure, also, to put parameters in place so that you do not inadvertently have the same customers on multiple list segments that are being sent at the same time. You don’t want one subscriber to receive three emails in three days simply because he or she met the criteria for three different list segments.
Now, let’s talk about some specific ways to segment your list.
List Segmentation by Email Service Provider
As you may recall, an email service provider is a service where your users may receive their email. The most common, and most likely the largest percentage of your list, will be Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and AOL. However, you should certainly check your email marketing database to see if you have any other email service providers who account for a significant portion of your database.
Why Segment by Email Service Provider?
There are two primary reasons to segment by email service provider. The first is to take advantage of (or avoid having your email template broken by) the various display options available in certain email service providers.
The second reason is to be able to easily and nimbly recognize and respond to potential spam folder deliveries to certain major email service providers.
Most email service providers will block images from displaying. However, Yahoo! Mail commonly does not. This means that, if you segment your list out by Yahoo! Mail addresses, you can design a separate, more image-heavy template for those users while using a more text-based and html-based email template for other email service providers. You may find, as times change, that other email service providers change their regulations on images to your benefit or detriment. In either case, being able to develop and send a template specific to the display methods of the email service provider can improve your overall performance.
If you do not segment your email list by email service provider and are suddenly flagged as spam or junk mail by one email service provider, it may be several sends before you recognize it. You’ll certainly see a decrease in your open rate if a specific email service provider is sending you to the junk folder, but it may take several email sends before you realize it is a deliverability problem and not simply a poorly written subject line.
However, if you segment your email list by email service provider, then you will notice if only one segment of the list has a significant open rate drop off in a given send. If that happens, not only can you be fairly sure that you were flagged as spam or junk mail, but you already have the portion of the list segmented to respond to. You can decide to not send to that segment for a period of time or to send only a text-based version of your email to increase the chance that it will not be flagged as spam or junk.
List Segmentation by Customer Behavior
No two customers are alike, but certain groups of customers may be similar! Particularly if your online business involves ecommerce or the selling of products, customers may group into specific buying patterns. This may be based on what they purchased, the typical amount that they purchased, how often they purchased, or even other data that you’ve collected from your website such as interests or hobbies that they have or share.
For example, if you run a website that sells makeup, you may have a large group of users who have identified themselves as users who like to purchase eye makeup in ―warm colors. You may know this through their purchasing history or via information that they provided in their user profile. You may have another group of customers who have identified themselves as users who like to purchase eye makeup in ―cool colors. Rather than sending one email to both groups of users simply recommending eye makeup, sending two separate emails will yield better results. In the email to users who like ―warm colors, feature products in that color palette. In the email to ―cool color users, feature those colors. You’ll get better results because you’ll show each customer what they want to see based on their customer behaviors.
Best Practices for Segmenting Your Email List by Customer Behavior
Create a systematic plan. Then track what works and what doesn’t and repeat the segments that have proven most effective.
Also, keep data up-to-date. A user with a history of one type of purchase may change to a different type of user as lifestyles, age, and other factors change. In order to ensure the best response to your list segmentation, query fresh data each time you segment a list.
Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment. Your industry or market segment may have unique customer behaviors that make a ―off-the-wall list segmentation make sense. Anything is worth trying once!
List Segmentation by Demographics
Age, gender, marital status, geographic location, and an entire host of demographic factors can contribute to a successful list segmentation strategy. In many cases, you will have the vast majority of this data from a registration or shopping cart field filled out by your email recipient. In some cases, you may have to actively solicit it in order to refine and develop your email list segments.
No matter what the case, you can improve your email campaign performance with demographic list segmentation.
Men and women do not speak alike. Older generations and younger generations have different ways of speaking and privacy concerns. People in certain regions of the country or the world have local affiliations and loyalties that you can use to build trust and enthusiasm. When you use demographic factors to segment your list, you give yourself yet another opportunity to put the most targeted message in front of the best individual for it.
Sometimes, sending men and women different messages can result in the most ideal conversions possible.
Younger demographics will respond to pop-culture references and more salacious verbiage and imagery. Older demographics prefer classic references and milder marketing materials. Additionally, they may simply have interests in different product sets.
Best Practices for Segmenting Your List by Demographics
There is a fine line between using demographic data effectively and falling prey to stereotypes or, worse, bigotry, racism, or homophobia.
While demographic data can inform more effective offers and ways to communicate with your clients, be sure to keep it respectful and remember that, even though you’re dealing with a database, individuals are still people. Don’t be pushy about collecting data!
Be aware that there will always be users who just don’t want to share data. Don’t force them into it. You’ll end up alienating users and doing more harm than the good that the list segmentation will do
List Segmentation by User State
Active users, lapsed users, inactive users, and abandoned users all will respond to different types of emails.
Active Users: Active Users are your current customers.
Your own business metrics will determine what an active user is. It may range from a person who has interacted with your website within the last week to a user who interacted with you in the last three months. You may also have seasonally active clients that you will want to segment out and only contact when it’s seasonally appropriate.
Lapsed Users: Lapsed users are users who have made a purchase or transaction, but not recently.
You will want to, if possible, segment these users out in order to ensure that your email list remains active enough to not be sent to the spam or junk folder.
Abandoned (Inactive) Users: These are users who have not used your site in so long that it is obvious that they have abandoned your brand or company.
While email is still the most cost-effective and useful way to communicate with them, you’ll want to segment them out and minimize the frequency with which you contact them. They will have low open rates for your email and often have high amounts of spam complaints or unsubscribe requests which, ultimately, can negatively impact your sender reputation.
Always remember that the more frequently you email your lapsed and abandoned or inactive users, the more damage you may potentially be doing to your sender reputation through low opens and high spam or unsubscribe complaints.
User state is one of, if not the, most important ways to segment your email database. It not only allows you to find the most valuable names in the database, it also allows you to protect your sender reputation while simultaneously not sending to poor value email addresses.