Who should you be targeting with your emails? 

One of the worst aspects of traditional email marketing is that the emails being sent are often generic, impersonal, and/or completely irrelevant. They don’t acknowledge the specific needs or pain points that different types of people have. Instead, businesses go broad, casting as wide a net as possible with their emails and treating all of their leads and customers exactly the same way. And while writing better, more personalized email copy (which you’ll learn how to do in the next section) is certainly part of the solution, there’s a crucial step that comes before that: segmentation, a.k.a. dividing your email list into smaller segments based on shared attributes.

In a study we conducted at Drift that looked at 290 cold emails, we discovered that one of the most significant factors for predicting whether or not people would reply to emails was how much segmentation companies had done before. As Drift’s VP of Strategy and Siftrock co-founder Adam Schoenfeld explained, “the killer combo is using personalization with smaller audiences. More targeted messages get more engagement.”


Of course, understanding the importance of segmentation is one thing, while figuring out how to segment your email list is another thing altogether. And the truth is, there are a lot of different ways you can do it. You can slice and dice up your email list based on all sorts of different target criteria. But when it comes to using email to start conversations, we’ve identified four key types of segmentation that stand above the rest.

  1. Segmenting by Industry: This is especially useful when you’re emailing someone for the first time. Being able to identify and refer to an industry-specific problem will go a long way in making an email (even a cold one) feel warm and relevant.
  1. Segmenting by Intent: Of course, just because someone works in an industry you sell to doesn’t mean that person is actually ready to buy. Luckily, you can also segment your email list based on signals of intent (e.g. Are leads actively researching your product or topics related to your product? Or are they visiting your pricing page over and over?). Segmenting by intent allows you to hone in on those people who are most likely to buy.
  1. Segmenting by Sales Stage: Segmenting by sales stage allows you to send emails that are tailored to the different questions and concerns leads might have as they move through your sales process. For example, you could create separate segments for new leads, leads who’ve already talked to Sales, and leads who have a proposal or contract in hand.
  1. Segmenting by Customer Lifecycle: Your email campaigns shouldn’t disappear for leads who convert into customers. After all, there will always be upsell and cross-sell opportunities on the horizon, and you’ll want to keep customers in the loop when it comes to new product releases. That being said, if someone just became a customer last week, you don’t want to start selling them right away. But sixth months later? That’s a different story. By segmenting by customer lifecycle, you can make sure you’re sending the right message at the right time.

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Divide your email list in half. Take one half (Group A) and send them a generic email about a particular topic. Take the second half (Group B) and segment them by industry. Send each industry segment a tailored email on the same topic you wrote about in Group A’s email. Here are a few different aspects of the email you could customize…

  • subject line (e.g. “something every plumber should know”)
  • opening line of the body text (e.g. “It’s one of the biggest problems plaguing plumbers…”)
  • references to specific aspects of your product and/or case studies (e.g. “There are hundreds of plumbers just like you using x to achieve y.”)

Tally up the number of replies you get from your Group B emails, across all segments, and compare to the number of replies you receive from Group A. Which approach gets more replies?


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