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Segmenting Subscribers

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Identifying segments

Segmentation is all about identifying various segments. It is the process of defining and subdividing a market into clearly identifiable segments which have similar needs, wants, or characteristics.

Segmentation is important to marketers because the more segmented you are, the more niche you are, the easier it is to reach the right audience, the right user, the right reader with your email marketing. A bit more on segmentation.

Identifying market segments

It’s important that your choice of segmentation reflects your business purpose. You have to connect the dots. Why are we doing this? Who are we trying to reach? What’s the goal?

Consider your CRM system. Salesforce provides you with very useful, granular segmentation information. And it doesn’t have to be Salesforce. This could be LinkedIn, Salesforce, or some other CRM, but, again, that segmentation is very helpful in terms of you figuring out who to send messages to and how you’re going to actually analyze, then, that data that comes back.

Social media analysis

Social media analysis can really enrich existing data and provide you with customer insights. This segmentation allows you to personalize marketing content to individual segment needs, and you can gain deeper insight and improve the effectiveness of your targeting techniques. And, now, for example, you’ve got Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn.

For example, if you are the administrator for a Facebook page, your Facebook insights give you a tremendous amount of data that you can then use to segment. Same thing goes if you’re a LinkedIn group or page administrator, or Twitter. If you look at analytics.twitter.com, you get amazing data-rich segmentation on the people who are interacting with you, and, again, it’s really easy to do via social media.

Subscriber segments

This is all on reflecting your marketing and sales funnel stages, as it gets narrower, and narrower, and narrower and more targeted. And, segments can be used to reflect your different marketing and sales funnel stages.

  • Subscribers: Subscribers come at the very beginning.
  • Leads: These are people who, maybe they’re people that you really want at the beginning of that.
  • Qualified leads: You want the qualified ones, the ones that really are the ones that you have drilled down into.
  • Opportunities: Consider various people who might become customers.
  • Customers: They’re already in your flow and working with you. They’ve been buying your services or your products.
  • Evangelists: These are the people who have a lot of affinity for you. Those are the people who are already sort of out there saying good things about you. These are the people who really have bought into what it is that you do. Some may call them evangelists, some may call them influencers, but, again, these are the people that are going to give you that grassroots boost with your content.

Subscriber segment definitions

Here are some definitions for subscriber segments.

  • Lead subscriber segment: This is a contact who you have verified as fitting your buyer persona criteria. They’ve made it through stage one. They’ve given data to you. You’ve said, “Okay. These are the people who meet the criteria.” Stage one is lead subscriber.
  • Qualified lead subscriber segment: A qualified lead is a contact that not only fits your buyer persona criteria, but they’ve also taken key actions to prove potential interest in your business. They’re a little bit further along the way. They’ve proven themselves to you, and they’re qualified in that sense.
  • Opportunity subscriber segment: This is a qualified lead that has been verified, and the actions they took are out of a direct interest in your business. These are people who actually have direct interest in the business.
  • Customer subscriber segment: This is a customer who is a contact who has completed the full buying cycle at your business, usually in some exchange of value. These are people who you definitely know. These are people who have already come through, and there’s been some sort of action or transaction. These are your customers. These are the people that you really like to have on your lists.
  • Evangelist: This is a customer that not only successfully did business with you, but is willing to promote you personally through their own channels out of loyalty. These are the people who a lot of businesses will call influencers. These are the people who go out and they say good things about your company because they’ve really enjoyed your product, your service. They have good things to say about you, and they are, again, kind of your grassroots evangelist of your subscriber segments.

When you think about the technical aspects of generating these segments, you realize that it gets a lot more sophisticated than the olden days of email.

Subscriber sources

Understanding where your subscribers come from is an important way for growing your business. Where are they coming from? Give me more detail, more information, more analysis, and more metrics. I love MailChimp’s subscribers’ sources detail because, again, the more data you have, the more stats you have, the better you are at understanding your audience, the better you are at creating custom content for your audience, which will then resonate with your audience. So, again, look at this data. Dive into it, and really drill into the value add that you can get from something like MailChimp’s subscriber data.

Dynamic segmentation

Dynamic segmentation is when data accumulated based on a subscriber’s previous activity in your email campaigns can then be used to define targetable segments.

Companies that do this really well include HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce. Salesforce obviously comes into this equation quite a bit, because they’re a huge CRM company. In the world of higher education, HubSpot comes into play quite a bit. A lot of higher education marketers are using HubSpot for dynamic segmentation purposes, and so Google them, read through their white papers and case studies.

Dynamic segmentation is this idea when data has accumulated based on a subscriber’s previous activity in your email campaigns, and then the offshoot is that it can be used to then define targetable segments.

Criteria for retargeting segments

What are the criteria? By looking at data from your previous marketing campaigns, you can identify criteria which retargeting segments can be based on

There are three things to think about:

  • When the campaign opened: Consider when it came out, or when it was released.
  • Which link the subscriber clicked: Where do people go? Look at their activity, look where they went, and look what they found interesting.
  • How many links the subscriber clicked over a certain number of campaigns: Are these people active? Are they going in and engaging with your content on a regular basis? These are the people that you can really count on, so retargeting is important.

Re-engaging subscribers

How do you re-engage subscribers? We had you before, you were awesome, we’re really glad you engaged with us, but how do we get you to re-engage?

Dynamic segmentation, once again, can be used to create a list of subscribers who haven’t necessarily been interacting with your past email marketing campaigns. Use that segmentation to sort of say, “Hey, we knew you were here before. You were engaging a lot. Welcome back,” or, “Hey, we just thought we’d reach out and say hello again”.

Maybe there’s a reason why they’re not re-engaging, and it could be they’re looking for you to re-engage with them. And, after compiling this list for your re-engagement campaign, you then create a campaign. You focus in on re-engaging those subscribers. You’ve seen those emails that say, “Hey, where have you been? Where’d you go?” and it’s just a little sort of ping to say, “We’re here still. We acknowledge you, and we want you back.”

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Eric Stoller

Eric Stoller is a Higher Education Strategic Communications Consultant and Blogger at Inside Higher Ed. With a background in student affairs, academic advising, wellness, technology, and communications, Eric educates clients and audiences on digital identity development. As a blogger, he generates conversations, answers questions, and provides insight about a variety of tech topics, including Social Media Strategies and Email Marketing.

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Evaluate inbound and outbound email marketing techniques and how they are used in marketing campaigns
  • Critically reflect on practices for managing email data and building an email subscriber base
  • Critically appraise how to optimise email delivery and email open rates for marketing campaigns

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

You will not be assessed on this content in your final exam.


Email Marketing Strategy
Eric Stoller
Skills Expert

The Email Marketing Strategy module will introduce the key concepts of email marketing and enable you to develop the knowledge and skills to build highly effective email campaigns. You will learn how to think like an email marketer and recognize that your subscriber list growth and quality is a key metric for the success of your campaign. Finally, you will recognize the role of various email delivery techniques as well as the importance of balancing frequency and volume of email sends.