The essential guide to email segmentation

Email Marketing
17 min read
In this Article

How many times do you go to your inbox only to find that you hold no interest in most of the emails you open?

Even if they’re sent from brands and creators you admire and often buy from, their marketing efforts have completely missed the mark and they’re just hitting you with everything they’ve got.

You’re so over hearing from them. You’re not invested. You don’t feel known.

You, my friend, have email fatigue.

Have you heard that term before? Email fatigue happens to readers when you send them too many emails.

Communication is absolutely important for your business, and making sure your audience is comfortable seeing you in their inbox is a big part of that. The problem comes when you’re sending multiple emails each week to the same person.

There will come a time that you’ll start branching out to subjects that are still inside your niche but they don't apply to everyone on your list. Maybe it’s a new book you’re launching or a video series you’re promoting. Constantly hearing about all your updates may start to feel pushy and pestering to some of the people on your email list.

That’s why as your following grows bigger and bigger, it becomes more important to create segments of your audience you can speak to. This means that instead of constantly emailing EVERYONE on your email list about every little thing you do, you can send smaller segments of your followers the content you know they will want.

Email segmentation may not initially sound like a strategy for increased open and click rates, but once I start to unpack it a little more, you’ll quickly see why email segmentation is going to be your new best friend. In fact, according to DMA, 77% of email marketing ROI came from segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns in 2015. So I’m not just talking about deliverability anymore – I’m talking about product sales and money in your pocket.

When you can send your audience targeted content based on their interests, they will feel more invested in you. They’ll feel known, heard, and important because you’ve taken the time to create something that feels like it was tailor-made for them.

To do that, you’re going to need to do some recon on your subscribers, but we’ll talk about that later. First let me tell you a bit more about the benefits of email segmentation.

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What is email segmentation: The benefits of segmenting your audience

7 benefits of email segmentation

Email segmentation is one of the key distinctions between a list that converts and one that makes it hard to reach your goals. Knowing your subscriber's backstory and how they interact with your content is key to understanding how to communicate with them and pitch your products.

For example, if you know that your subscriber is a newbie on your topic, you can specifically send them your intro-level ebooks for free and put them into a sequence where you teach them the basics of your topic to gain their trust and build authority.

But if you find that another of your subscribers is more knowledgeable on your topic, you can send them one of your more complex ebooks and put them into a sequence that eventually pitches them one of your more expensive and advanced products. See how that works?

Knowing certain data points about your email subscribers will help you know where they are on their journey and can help you continue to move them along from blog reader to email subscriber to customer.

Now you know what email segmentation is and how it helps you meet your subscribers where they’re at, but here’s what segmentation actually means for your business and your connection with your followers:

Increase conversion rates

If you’re emailing your entire list of subscribers who may or may not be interested in the topic at hand, you risk losing them as a subscriber and you certainly risk losing them as a loyal fan.

With good segmentation, you can track who clicks on your links and then send targeted emails just to those people with a reminder about any details, some FAQs, or anything else they need to know to seal the deal. Emailing just the people who have shown direct interest is not just a smart business move, it makes you look like a real human on the other side of the computer screen too.

The more targeted you can get with your email content, the more likely your subscribers are to be engaged in your content and ready to hit that “buy” button.

According to data from the Digital Marketing Association, segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue (DMA 2015).

Eliminate email fatigue

Remember that phrase? Segmenting your audience will help you eliminate this issue for your readers by only sending them content they want to read. As long as you can keep churning out that valuable content and creating products that will help them solve their pain points, they’ll never tire of hearing from you.

Create a personal experience

Emailing just the people who have shown direct interest in your topic is not just a smart business move, it makes you look like a real human on the other side of the computer screen too. You’re able to show yourself as a person aside from your business as well as create a personal experience for your reader by showing them that you’re interested in their life.

By finding out where your audience is on their customer journey, you can send them dedicated content to move them through your marketing funnel.

Increase open rates

An email in an inbox is only as good as the person reading it. Having a segmented list allows you to send the same email but with custom subject lines to specific subscriber groups that appeal to their needs.

Your customers aren’t all the same person and segmentation can help you get more specific with smaller groups of your list.

Decrease unsubscribes

Even though unsubscribes can be good for your list health overall to get rid of un-engaged subscribers, you still don’t want to lose your subscribers at alarming rates. After all, when someone unsubscribes from your emails they’re gone for good – no more possible conversations (or conversions) with that person.

Using segmentation to your advantage will keep the number of unsubscribes to your account at a minimum. You’ll still have people who clean up their inboxes from time to time, but the more targeted you can get with the emails you send, the more likely your subscribers are to hang out.

Avoid the SPAM filter

The whole point of email marketing is to have the emails you send actually delivered and read, right? Spam folders are notorious for making that hard on marketers, but there are actions you can take to make it better.

Email service providers (ESPs) want to see that your subscribers are opening emails, clicking on links, sharing emails, replying to emails, marking them as important, and not immediately hitting delete. Sending targeted email content through segmentation helps you avoid being flagged by those ESPs.

Want to know more about how to increase the quality of your list and avoid the SPAM filter? Check out the Deliverability Defined podcast ep. 5.

Understanding your audience

The motivation for your work as a creator is to serve your audience, right? If you built your career on a solid foundation (or want to start building it the right way), you first needed to understand your future customer’s pain point. Because after all, your work is only as good as the problem that it solves.

Knowing what your customer struggles with helps you know exactly what kind of content you need to create and what kind of products and services your followers want to invest in. If you’ve skipped this step, you’re flying on your own assumptions– and you know what assuming does.

The best way to find out what your customers need and where they are on their journey to figuring out their problems is to survey them.

How to use customer surveys to segment your audience

I’m sure your first thoughts about customer surveys go straight to platforms like Typeform and Survey Monkey. And that’s cool. You can create actual surveys with rating systems, multiple-choice questions, and open-ended responses to learn about your readers. But sometimes those systems seem like more work to the people you want taking them.

But when done right through email marketing, your audience might not even realize they’re being surveyed. They’ll be more likely to respond truthfully and you’ll be on your way to creating the valuable content they need!

With email marketing automations, you can create your own customer surveys right in the emails you send with a feature we call Link Triggers. These are links you create in your emails that, when clicked by a reader, will automatically tag them in your ConvertKit account based on the data you’re looking for.

For example, in a welcome email that is sent to new subscribers of your newsletter, you could include three Link Triggers to find out where they are in their journey. These three triggers could be: “I haven’t started my podcast yet, but I’ve got an idea.,” “I’ve been running my podcast for at least a year as a side-gig,” and “I make a full-time living with my podcast.”

Based on which link your reader clicks, that Link Trigger will tag them under that stage and now you’ve got three segments of your audience! These segments will be the basis for how you communicate with your audience from now on.

How to segment your audience in ConvertKit

ConvertKit is a subscriber-centric platform, unlike many other platforms that tend to be list-centric. This means that you have more control over your list, better subscriber organization, and the best part- you can and will maintain better engagement with your list because they'll feel like you know them. Because you do!

As a subscriber-centric platform, you will be working from one list of subscribers, meaning you can easily organize them using tags and segments.

Tags vs segments

In ConvertKit, we create segmentation by tagging subscribers and then grouping those tags together into segments. So basically tags organize people and segments organize tags. I like to think of a segment as a folder full of tags.

ConvertKit tags vs segments

Tags allow you to organize and group your subscribers based on actions, interest, and more. Because we are subscriber-centric and not list-centric, you only have one list of subscribers, and tags help you keep that one list organized.

10 types of subscriber data to collect for email segmentation

10 types of subscriber data to segment your list

You could think of these tags in terms of data you collect about your subscribers. This data will help you get to know your subscribers better– what they’re interested in, where they’re from, what they want to learn from you– so that you can send them more targeted content and in turn pitch them products they actually want. Here are some tags that we suggest our customers use for collecting data for their subscribers:

Where the subscriber is at on their customer journey

Other than the basic information, this is one of the first pieces of data creators can use to start segmenting their list. Knowing this initial starting point will help you know what level of skill, knowledge, and engagement your subscriber has with your topic. This can give you insight on everything from what kind of product to pitch to how much teaching content you need to prepare.

How to use this tag– In your introductory email, ask your subscribers what their main struggle is by offering five different options to choose from. The reader will respond by clicking on the link they identify with which will trigger a sequence that ends by pitching a product geared toward that struggle.

Products they’ve bought/downloaded from you

The next thing you'll want to track is when subscribers purchase your products. If you’re using a third-party ecommerce provider, it helps to create a tag called “Purchase: Product Name” for each product so you can add customers to that tag once they make a purchase through an automation. But if you’re selling your digital products through ConvertKit Commerce, that is all taken care of as you create your products.

How to use this tag– Knowing what a subscriber has already purchased helps you in a couple different ways.

  • You can exclude that person (through their tag of Purchase: Product Name) from any further communication about that product. They don’t need your sequences that pitch that product anymore since they’ve already bought it, right?
  • You can make an assumption on what other products they might enjoy based on their first purchase. You can set up a link trigger that sets them into a new sequence that pitches your subscriber that similar product.

Webinar attendee

People who join webinars are generally people who are excited to learn. A webinar attendee has already given you their email address so they could attend your webinar, so make sure to make the most of this list growth by adding a webinar tag to their name.

How to use this tag– You’ve most likely given away a free product or pitched something on a webinar, so you know that anyone with that tag already has a basic knowledge of who you are and what you do. You can parlay that knowledge by putting people with that tag through a sequence that teaches them more in-depth on your webinar topic and ends with a hard pitch for one of your products for sale.

Event attendee

Don't miss the opportunity to reach out to leads and potential customers you've already made a positive connection with at a live event.

How to use this tag– Segment your email list depending on the type, topic, or theme of the event or even to RSVPs who didn't make it out. You'll be able to keep inviting them to events while sharing relevant content offers based on what you learned about them from past events.

Where the subscriber’s sign up came from

Did your new subscriber sign up because of your podcast or video show? Did they read a guest blog post you wrote or find you through a contest you contributed a product to? Knowing the type of content your subscriber originally found you on can tell you a lot about what kind of content they like and how they like to consume it.

How to use this tag– If a subscriber found you through your podcast, you know that you can push any products you have related to that podcast’s theme. If a subscriber found you through a guest post, you can create content and products that relate to the core topic of the blog that hosted your guest post (or at least reach out to more blogs in that industry to expand your audience).

If they refer your products/services often

If you have customers who constantly refer you to new clients or other businesses, it’s a good idea to create a tag for them. These customers are your biggest advocates and you should give them extras from time to time.

How to use this tag– You can use these advocates as beta-testers when you have a new product coming out. And to give them extra incentive to keep referring you, you could send them extras like discounts, free trials, or even set up some kind of affiliate system.

What affiliate the subscriber came from

If you already have an affiliate program set up, it’s smart to keep the sign-ups for each affiliate separate. Every affiliate will cover their own niche topic so knowing which affiliate a new subscriber comes from helps you craft content specifically for them.

How to use this tag– If you blog about baking cakes and you have an affiliate that blogs about wedding inspiration, you could create an ebook or another small free giveaway about popular wedding cake flavor combinations or color schemes that you can send to subscribers who came specifically from that affiliate.


If you teach on different topics, it’s very important to keep all your readers grouped into their correct interest so you’re not talking to them about the stuff they don’t need.

How to use this tag– You could run a survey asking your readers to click one of five topics you teach. The link they click will tag them by their favorite interest, and now you know more specifically who to send content to when you deal with multiple topics.

Interested in, but hasn’t bought

A subscriber can go through a whole teaching sequence of yours and still not end up purchasing anything. You can create a link in the final email of that sequence that tags those
subscribers as “interested in: product name”

How to use this tag– When that subscriber goes through your sequences and ends up not purchasing and being tagged as “interested”, you can send them a follow-up sequence with a downsell of that product they are interested in. It could be a smaller version at a lower price or just a lower-priced product that you think compliments the original product you were pitching. Doing this shows that subscriber that you care about them getting a product that truly helps them reach their goals and can go a long way in building trust and authority.

Customer tag

Whenever a subscriber buys anything from you, give them a ‘customer’ tag. Knowing what subscribers have made a purchase from you lets you know that they might be willing to buy other products from you.

The difference between the “interested in” tag and the “customer” tag here is big. It’s the difference between sending a subscriber through another teaching sequence and offering free incentives or sending them through a sequence with a hard pitch that doesn’t involve as much trust-building.

How to use this tag– If a subscriber purchases your course on “How to use gluten-free flours in baking”, you can assume that since they bought a course on this subject, they might also purchase another course from you on a similar topic. You could send them into a sequence with a hard pitch on your more targeted course “Gluten-free bread baking”.

Start segmenting your email list today

Figuring out the best way to segment your email marketing lists can be a huge undertaking. But the more you tag, the better you can target your emails with content that feels tailor-made for each subscriber.

Are you ready to start segmenting your email list to serve your followers better? Create your free ConvertKit account and get to tagging!

Connect with your audience

Share what you love to connect with your followers and grow your business with a free ConvertKit account.

Create a free ConvertKit account

Dani Stewart

As a daughter of an entrepreneur, the wife of an entrepreneur, and an entrepreneur herself, Dani has lived and learned all sides of creating and growing businesses. She is excited to bring all that life experience as well as a decade of crafting content to the ConvertKit community. She is a part-time baker, dinner-party planner, and lover of good bourbon living the simple life in Nashville with her husband, Sean.

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