Why You Should Segment Your Contacts (And 8 Ways to Do It)

This content discusses the importance of segmenting email contacts and provides eight effective ways to do so for better targeting and personalization.

By Will Blunt ・5 min read
Email Marketing

Once upon a time, email marketing was fairly simple…Build a list, hit send on a campaign, close sales.But those times are long gone. Your email contacts' expectations have grown exponentially in the last decade as their inboxes are inundated with offers, spam filters and junk rules have become even tighter, and attention is spread across numerous other online platforms.The “bulk send” email campaign is dead in the water. If you send all of your contacts the same email campaign, it will get lost in the noise or end up in the spam folder.Targeted email campaigns, based on contact preferences, behavior, and interests, are no longer nice-to-haves but necessities. In fact, it’s estimated that poorly targeted campaigns can triple your acquisition costs and that 86% of consumers believe that personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions.So, how do you make the shift from mass send to email personalization?It all comes down to segmenting your contacts effectively. Here are 8 ways to do so.

#1. Demographic information

The simplest way to segment your contacts is by using demographic information such as age, location, and gender. This is particularly important for global organizations that run country-specific campaigns or companies that want to promote geo-located franchises or stores.Think about it, do you want to send a mass email to all of your contacts that promotes a discount pizza deal for a local restaurant? Of course not!For example, Yelp sends emails with personalized restaurant recommendations based on your demographic information.

Why-You-Should-Segment-Your-Contacts-(And 8 Ways to Do It)-demographic-information

Personalized email example from Yelp

#2. Interests and preferences

You could also segment your contacts based on their interests or communication preferences. Interest-based segmentation data includes the emails they’ve opened, blog posts they’ve viewed, or the path they took to join your subscriber list. Preferences include things like the type of emails a user wants to receive or the frequency of those emails.For example, Zapier has an email preferences link at the bottom of all campaigns that allows you to control the type of communication you get from them:

Why-You-Should-Segment-Your-Contacts-(And 8 Ways to Do It)-update-your-email-preferences

Zapier email preferencesSome brands even capture user preferences when someone attempts to unsubscribe. For example, you may have different types of email campaigns that you send to your subscribers, such as newsletters, sales emails, product updates, etc. Asking your contacts which of these types of emails they would prefer to receive will allow you to target your campaigns more effectively and decrease unsubscribe rates.

#3. Multi-step forms

You may use multi-step forms as a way of getting qualifying information about a prospect without scaring them off. For example, the form's first part will be nice and straightforward, just an email address and a name. Then, as the prospect progresses through the form, the details and questions become more specific and detailed based on their responses. If at any point the prospect drops off and discontinues filling out the form, you already have their contact details from step one and can re-engage them at a later time.A multi-step form is not only a good way to guide a prospect through the lead qualification process, but it can also help you score and segment contacts based on the information they provide.

#4. Interactive content

Interactive content, such as quizzes, calculators, contests, and surveys, is a fun and high-converting way to capture the contact details of your prospects.On top of it being highly engaging for the user, the benefit of this type of lead capture is that it enables you to collect valuable data for segmenting your audience. For example, every question in a quiz could be a data point that helps you personalize email campaigns in the future. Or, a voting contest can provide information about product and purchasing preferences.

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ShortStack Voting Contest TemplateView and Create Your Own

#5. Website behavior

Most CRMs and email marketing software allow you to add a script to your website that tracks user pageviews. This information can be really helpful when segmenting your contacts because it tells you how engaged a user is with your brand and highlights the topics or products they may be interested in.For example, if a prospect visits a product page numerous times but hasn’t yet purchased, it would be safe to assume that they are strongly considering buying that product. Or a contact may have visited specific content on your blog that tells you more about their interests. This helps you target email campaigns based on their likelihood to click on an article or buy a product.Amazon often uses this tactic in combination with email automation:

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Amazon email based on website behavior

#6. Email engagement

Similar to tracking website behavior, your email marketing software will capture data about a contact's opens, clicks, and replies to your campaigns. This will give you insight into what interests them and how you could better target emails in the future.For example, you may segment your contacts based on those that opened and clicked on a campaign about a product release - identifying them as warm prospects for that product. Alternatively, you might collate data from several campaigns to segment contacts based on trends you identify in interests, open times, or other meaningful data points.

#7. Purchases

Past purchases are a critical way of segmenting your contacts. After all, these people have a financial relationship with your brand already and are statistically more likely to buy from you again compared to cold prospects.Purchase information as simple as the product or product category someone has bought lets you target future promotions based on a user’s demonstrated product interests. For example, if you release a complementary product or a new style of the same product someone has purchased, they are the perfect candidate for a product launch follow up with targeted email campaigns for complementary products after you purchase something on their website:

Why-You-Should-Segment-Your-Contacts-(And 8 Ways to Do It)-kogan-com-purchases

Targeted product email from Kogan

#8. Lead scoring

Lead scoring for contact segmentation is a combination of the above tactics. Essentially, you are coming up with a scoring system that assigns points to contacts based on their interactions with your brand. This scoring system will then have tiers that highlight how hot (or cold) a prospect is and how much more nurturing they require before it's appropriate to send them a sales message.If you use lead scoring, you should structure your campaigns based on a contact's relative score. For example, your hottest contacts who have had numerous interactions with your business would get direct sales emails, whereas you would send trust-building content to those that need more warming up.The way you assign points is really up to you, but most CRMs have this functionality built-in.


There are a number of ways you can segment contacts who subscribe to your marketing emails, all of which serve a slightly different purpose. However, each has one thing in common - they help you better target and personalize your email campaigns.Consider the eight tips about contact segmentation in this article and identify what mix you can apply to your email marketing initiatives for increased engagement and higher conversions.

About the author

By Will Blunt ・5 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

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