Best Practices for Email List Segmentation for Events
No one likes getting irrelevant emails in their inbox.
If a message isn’t a good fit for your recipient, they are more likely than ever to leave it unopened, unclicked—or worse, marked as spam.
List segmentation is a powerful tool for staying relevant and increasing email opens, clicks, and conversions. It allows you to send highly-personalized and relevant messages every time.
All marketers agree that “personalized emails” is a buzz statement and the tactic should be used. We hear it all the time, that list segmentation is one of the best decisions you can make as an ecommerce marketer since it generated in 2021, a median ROI of 122% across industry.
The challenge our clients see in the event sector is that they are not a traditional ecommerce platform selling a variety of products with size and color variants that can be tracked. A clothing or home goods business, for instance, can track interest metrics and purchase patterns based on dozens of insights and personalize an email marketing approach from the data collected to build a specific path to purchase.
To keep our examples going for the sake of ease, the more variety of specific items you have as a brand the more data points you can receive to begin gleaming information on who your customers are and how best to communicate with them. If a clothing store has only 10 skus, each with 5 sizes, and 4 color options that provides 200 potential data points of interest that can be segmented into size, color, style, etc. We are not including new releases, season, holiday, location, demographic, or socioeconomic data yet. A music festival, for example, traditionally has 3-4 ticket options with a few ancillary choices, single day tickets, 3 days tickets, VIP tickets, and then perhaps contributory choices such as parking, shower, and camping. For this example, we look at the 3 ticketing options. These three options provide only 3 points of initial data. That is where the problem lies. The industry is different and has a different type of ecommerce options and purchase patterns that can not be compared to other industries. In this example the difference between the music festival with 3 options and the clothing store with 200 is 6566.66%.
That is a cavernous difference that should be considered and taking into consideration when approaching email marketing for events.
We are different and that’s ok.
Being different doesn't mean we do not try and solve the problem as an industry, but we can not simply try and mimic what other businesses do.
So. Let’s get back to the beginning. What is Email List Segmentation
List segmentation is about sending the right message to the right people by splitting your master list into smaller segments. These segments can be based on a number of different properties, such as location, industry, language, content engagement, and stage of the funnel, to name but a few. If you have the data, you can probably segment by it. You can also choose several segments for a single email.
Say you have an outdoor clothing company. You could use list segmentation to send a targeted email to women in Canada promoting your new line of women’s hiking shoes with free delivery on orders over $50 CAD. A man in London is unlikely to be interested in that message.
So… what are the best ways to segment your email list? And what best practice tips should you follow? Keep reading for some powerful ideas to upgrade your email game…
Segmenting your email list
Choosing how to segment an email list depends on your business type, but more importantly, it depends on the people you are selling to. You might choose to segment by:
Geography: Where are your contacts based? What currency do they buy in? This is particularly relevant for e-commerce businesses if you work globally or internationally. If you work in a specific market or region you can still segment if you collect the data up front by gathering information such as zip code, city, neighborhood, state, etc. In order to do this you have to collect that information up front. Going back to get it later hinders how quickly you can implement this approach.
Gender: Do men and women require different messages from your company? If you’re a clothing brand, this is useful data to know. For many other industries, such as software, not so much. For events, concerts, and artists this data could be very impactful. The challenge that we will all be running into soon however will be privacy laws and targeting blockages. The good news is if your contact provides this information themselves then you have the ability to shift targeting and communication styles as well as products.
Language: Can you speak to your contacts in their preferred language? If you have a multilingual team, language is a powerful way to segment your email lists. Pro tip—don’t presume a contact’s preferred language based on their location. The world is full of expats and well-traveled folks, so that is not enough to go by. Instead, pay attention to the language of the pages on which your contacts convert. This is especially important for European events and northern US southern and northern border events.
Interest type: Learn about a contact’s artist or genre likes through custom fields in your forms. Then, tailor your message to the most relevant products and services for them. For instance, if you ask up front what your subscriber likes, country music, rock music etc then you can communicate to that customer when you have something that you know might perk their interest and add value.
Website activity: Use page-level targeting to understand how a visitor is interacting with your website. You can use that data to send relevant nurturing emails. If a person viewed 10 of your cupcake recipes and subscribed on your Ultimate Cupcake Tower Inspiration blog post, you can probably tell what their interests include. This could present challenges in entertainment since 100% of events send customers off-site to purchase their ticket. Traditionally, music festivals send customers directly to a ticket site to hopefully make a purchase but then lose all ability to truly understand their customer. When we only focus on the end product (sales tickets) and disregard the intentional building of a sales funnel, looking at KPIs, and nurturing each sale through the buying process we, in our opinion, leave money on the table.
Let’s say you do send people to your website instead of directly to a ticketing site. When
you built your event website what level of thought was placed on strategic tracking and
metrics? Did you only want it to look pretty, have a link to buy tickets, and an email sign-
up form? Be honest…If you graded yourself right now on a scale of 1-10 on the
intentionality of your website's data tracking potential, where would you land? If the
answer is what most events are, then you are around 1-4.
This is where the breakdown in differences in industry begins. An event will spend
millions of dollars on talent, marketing, advertising, production, operations, insurance,
printing, fencing, porta-potties, staff, and golf carts. Almost all the focus and budget is
on the end product. Not really setting their business up for success in the beginning.
To us, that is like an artist spending decades learning an instrument, years crafting
songs, thousands in recording and mastering, more on the team, the record, radio,
merch, and only 10 minutes on the set-list before a show. Why not be as intentional
and dedicated about every aspect of the business.
Lead magnet interaction: Collect data on the lead magnets that your contacts convert on and engage with, such as ebooks and other downloadables if you use a sales funnel marketing approach. Also, pay attention to the specific pop-ups and opt-ins they interact with if you’re using tools like Constant Contact’s pop-up forms.
If you are an event what could you offer to potential contacts to get them to subscribe?
Ideas could include partnering with artists for free song downloads or coupons to a
sponsor's store. Things that can be replicated and do not have a heavy cost attached.
There are solutions. You just need to think about it in a way that fits your industry.
Stage in your marketing funnel: A new marketing lead requires different messages than a sales-ready lead at the bottom of the funnel. This is one of the most basic (but oh-so-powerful) ways for any business to segment its email list.
Ensure you have automation set up for each new subscriber. They should get a
welcome email. That email could ask them to take a quick 2 minute survey to get to
know them better with the promise not to bombard them with things they do not want to
hear about. You could exchange that information for something they would consider
valuable like a ticket discount, free drink, early entry, special viewing platform for one
set or other things they would like. The information you gather is more valuable than the
10% off you offered in the grand scheme.
Once you send that initial email you can intentionally move them into the funnel with
simple calls to action, like have you followed us on Instagram? Watched our wrap video
from last year? Wonder what the festival is like, watch this. Etc. Each communication
touch point should bring them closer to making a purchase if they have not.
Engagement level: Create segments of highly-engaged contacts based on open-rate and click-rate, or even what they click on. Alternatively, build inactivity segments for unengaged contacts that you could send a re-engagement workflow to.
By following these ideas for segmentation, you have a number of ways to split your
email list and achieve more personalized outreach. To ensure that your list
segmentation is a success, here are our top best practices for getting the best results
from every email.
8 email list segmentation best practices for marketers across industry.
1. Choose the right email tool for segmentation
To get started with email segmentation, you need the right tool at hand. With Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or Hubspot, for example, you can create segments based on contact activity (e.g. email clicks and opens), list membership, and contact details (e.g. country, job title, contact source, or custom fields).
2. Feed the right contacts into your email list
If your email tool does not have an updated list of the right contacts, with the right data gathered upfront or at checkout, you are going to struggle with list segmentation.
3. Keep it as simple as possible
Aim for simplicity, especially when you’re just getting started with list segmentation. To begin with, choose 2-3 segments that will make a big difference without introducing too much complexity. A good starting point is to look at your key buyer personas and identify the main differences between them, such as business type, location, or goals.
If you are an event this is much more difficult. Product based stores that have an ever changing list of products to sell, offers to make, discounts to offer, new products to showcase, or education to provide can get laser focused on how they communicate with their customers and increase the frequency of communication.
Events, for the most part, make 1 sale, and then either continue over communicating with calls to action via their email comms to customers who have already made a purchase. This provides no reason to open the email for the most part, especially, if the message is not personalized to them like a prepare for the festival, did you know, camping checklist, special message for band, etc.
If the event hasn't thought through ways to upsell customers and keep them engaged then open rates and click rates die off as you get closer to the show. This skews your data and burns out your most active customers.
As an event, you always need to exclude purchasers from your sales communications if they are not specific to an action item such as up-sale, educat, or to bring them further into the fold such as follow on social media, vote, contest to upgrade tickets etc.
4. Label new contacts early on
One of the most valuable list segmentation best practices is to start segmenting your contacts as soon as they land in your CRM or email tool. The ability to do this is dependant upon gathering information that can be segmented on the front end. Meaning, it needs to be more than first name, last name, email address. Perfect world, it should be contact details, zip code, demographics, interest, communication preferences and more.
It is a challenge to have customers provide that level of information on the front end, but if you fail to plan you plan to fail.
5. Remember user preferences
Make sure to pay attention to your subscribers’ preferences—give your contacts what they ask for, and don’t send them what they don’t want. If you collect data based on preferred email frequency and email types, take the time to create segments for these.
6. Keep your data in sync
One of the most important best practices for list segmentation is keeping your data synchronized and up-to-date. If you can’t rely on your segments and data, you will run into problems. Ensure you’re collecting the right data in your forms, keep organization clean with simple and documented processes, and carry out quarterly data clean-ups.
7. Pair email list segmentation with automation
When you combine email segmentation with automation, you can send the most relevant messages at exactly the right time. Set up email automation to send your newsletters, drip emails, and activity-based emails at the best moment.
8. Track results (and keep an eye on unsubscribes)
You can’t set and forget about segmentation. Set aside a bit of time to track performance and make adjustments. This can be more frequent for new segments and decrease to approximately one check-in per month once you’re up-and-running.
This should be measured against previous years results. Set clear goals with your team and then breakdown KPIs to ensure you are reaching your goals. If you are not setting clear goals how will you know what you are measuring against?
If you are unsure how to set goals around email marketing start with small things such as open rate, click rate, and list growth. As long as you are intentional your email list can be much more than a tool in your bag you know you are supposed to use. It can be one of your most powerful tools.
Take a look at what’s going well: which segments are getting the most opens and clicks? Alternatively, keep an eye on what is not performing so well. If you notice a lot of unsubscribes from a particular list segment, it could be a sign that your segment isn’t well-configured or that the particular group of people isn’t a good target for your business.
Email segmentation: your gateway to personalized emails that get opens and clicks:
There are two main benefits of email list segmentation for direct marketers: the right people receive the right message, and the wrong people will not receive that message.
It’s not more complicated than that at the end of the day. Keep it simple, make a plan, measure it, repeat.
If you’re sending one mass email to your entire email list, you’re missing out on results. Use list segmentation to supercharge your marketing team’s performance with every email sent, nurturing contacts down your marketing funnel and towards being your most engaged customers.
If your ticketing company, pixels, email, google analytics, google ads, Facebook etc are not all set up to work together it will be almost impossible to do this properly.
So what does it all mean?
Invest. If you are a solopreneur or have an internal team, invest in education and certifications. Invest in new staff with a skillset or experience that can get you closer to where you ideally would like to be. If you already outsource to a marketing team but scored yourself a 1-4 earlier the same answer applies. Invest.
Invest time, attention, and resources. That is if you want to ensure your email marketing can contribute to your bottom line. That investment could show up in numerous ways such as rebuilding your website to track and deliver what you are really wanting to accomplish. Conduct a full audit on your email list and begin anew with clear goals and KPIs. Work with technology partners to ensure all of your tech is speaking to each other.
If you would like to discuss any of these option or simply want to learn more call us today and let our team help you be as intentional about your email marketing as you are the rest of your business.