Segment Your Emails to Boost Sales

I’m a big fan of Mailchimp as an email solution for businesses and organizations working to drive action. Often overlooked, email is still one of the best modes of generating sales and donation activity. It’s why one of the first things I work on with most businesses is building an actionable email list.

Mailchimp recently posted an excellent case study of how the venerable New York Times increased online store sales 50% by using email segmentation. Segmentation in this case means focusing communication on a particular part – or segment – of their email list.

“We realized we had a decent size email list, and it was a matter of properly targeting them with relevant and timely messaging,” [Online Store Manager Dave Gaetano] says. “We have segmented based on opening and click rates to weed out people that aren’t reading the emails. We have also sent out incentive emails to people who haven’t clicked to get them to open with special savings. More immediate subject lines have worked better: ‘today only,’ ‘five hours away,’ etc. Also, ‘special insider savings’ and other similar language let our list members know these are sales outside of the norm and tended to spurn a better opening and sales rate.”

This is not rocket science. By focusing communication on the subset of readers who routinely open, read, and click through, they were able to boost sales.

Opens, and click rates represent the most basic form of segmentation. Virtually all email broadcast services (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, etc) make it easy to do this. Here’s Mailchimp’s guide to getting started.

Depending on the quality and information depth of your email list, you can segment  (i.e. target) your communications even more finely based on other criteria.

Segmentation is particularly useful to consider if your open and click through rates are steady or unchanging.

And of course, while you can develop segmentation campaigns on the fly (and most of us do), if you can think about your customer segments when putting together your overall content editorial plan for the year, you will be light years ahead of your competition.

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