Sonck’s Startling 6 Steps to Segmented Email Success

by Nils Sonck - November 04, 2016

“Predictive modeling” and “marketing automation” definitely are “the future of email marketing” they’re touted to be. With 99% of marketing emails in my inbox feeling like they could have been written for anybody, however, that “future” is probably just slightly more distant than the buzzwords would like you to believe.

So, how do you future-proof your messaging strategy? May we suggest 6 steps?

Step 1. Do not automate anything, …

… before you’ve created the relevant email content. In our experience, the big ‘blocker’ for marketing departments is not their database structure or the email tools in place, but in fact this seemingly simple question: “where do we start making our emails (more) relevant?” That key question is the one to tackle first.

Step 2. Check your infrastructure

Your infrastructure is probably sufficient, but you’ll want to check it anyway, since, without a basic data setup you won’t have the data needed to do a decent segmentation. And if current data won’t do, you’ll have to connect and collect all the data needed before you start chasing ‘customer views’.

Another must-have for relevant messaging, is decent email software. You don’t need the Rolls Royce of email marketing, but you should at least have one that allows easy dynamic content usage and easy A/B testing.

Step 3. Make sure segmentation and content match

Next item on your ‘to do list’: create a basic segmentation that’s a natural or at least easy match with the relevant content you put in place (in step 1). Why that matters? When testing segmentations, we’ve not only seen that segmented emails work significantly better, we’ve also had to conclude that an incorrectly segmented email performed worse than not sending an email at all. “Start segmenting or stop sending emails,” has been our advice several times…

To create a basic segmentation, look at the results you expect from your clients and how these differ from what you know based on the available data. Then, point out how you will adapt your communication to the different outcomes desired.

Step 4. Categorize your content

Content creation is a costly process. It takes time and resources. So, if repurposing existing content is an option, that would definitely be worth considering. In order to make it fit in your segmentation plan (step 3), you categorize the content consequently, keeping in mind that different segments have different content desires and/or needs.

Step 5. Create a phased roll-out plan

Unless you have resources to spare (you haven’t, have you?), your new segmented email program won’t be up and rolling by tomorrow morning. You need a plan for a step-by-step roll-out that will enable you to, either, gradually add segments in a ‘simplified roll-out’ or, focus on a limited amount of segments first, in a ‘segment-focused roll-out’ and build from there.

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Make sure to talk this plan through with your team, as it is very important to move at a pace everyone feels comfortable with and this roll-out is a difficult hurdle to take.

Step 6. Double-check and implement

Final, yet absolutely vital step: make sure your segmentation strategy works. Define the KPIs that will enable you to measure results in a way that makes sense, ideally in a so-called end-to-end measurement. The success of an email program, after all, should not only be measured by open rates and click-through rates, but also by sales numbers.

Once KPIs are defined, you indicate what elements you think are most impactful versus how difficult they are to execute. That will allow step-by-step integration and help you to order testing and implementation.

Bonus step?

Email segmentation is often a first step, but should never be the last, as future-proof CRM will eventually establish relevant one-to-one messaging throughout entire custom ecosystems. Cross-channel thinking is essential in the long run, in other words, with touchpoints inevitably extending into app(s), personal web, social, customer service, … and beyond.

Ready for one-to-one relevance?

Nils Sonck

Performance Marketeer, Strategy