Email Segmentation 101: A Recap of at the 2014 FUSE Conference


Have you ever received an email from a nonprofit or political campaign that seemed tailor-made just for you?

Maybe it took into account your location, or the topic of a petition you had signed in the past. It’s possible that they were psychic, but chances are they were actually using some kind of list segmentation to better target their content. And chances are they see higher open and click-through rates when they know exactly what kind of emails to send their segments.

Last week at the 2014 Salsa FUSE Conference, our very own Associate Client Manager Erin Viray broke down the basics of list segmentation for all kinds of organizations at her session, “Why Did I Receive This Email?” If you missed out, here are three key takeaways from Erin’s presentation:

Get to know your supporters

It’s not easy to segment if you don’t know anything about the people on your email list! Take the first step by asking them for more demographic information when they sign up to join. An email address and a zip code are a great start (and should be the only required fields on your sign-up form), but think about other information that might come in handy for your organization.

For example, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America targets their content to veterans and civilians, so on their sign-up form, they ask you whether you’ve served in the military or not. Depending on your answer, you get routed through a different set of questions, and then their email content can be tailored to fit your experience.

Track their actions in your CRM

If you know what kind of actions people have taken in the past, then you can send more of what they respond to (and less of what they don’t!). Clean Wisconsin uses to recruit new advocates and supporters and tracks what petitions their supporters have signed. Then they follow-up with campaigns that have similar themes, leading to a higher response rate for their action-takers.

Start with your donors

If all of this sounds too complicated or cumbersome, at the very least, segment your audience based on their donation history. It’s the best way to get the most bang for your segmentation buck. As a donor, there’s nothing worse than being asked for money immediately after you make a gift.

The Environmental Working Group segments donors and non-donors, and then puts donors in buckets based on the amount they’ve given. This allows for testing content to see whether donors or non-donors are more likely to respond, and customizing asks based on a donor’s history. It also helps to avoid a situation where they ask for a donation of $5000 from someone who has previously given $5.

If you’re looking to take your email communication up a notch, segmentation is a tactic that - with a little work upfront - can have a big pay-off. We’d love to hear your list segmentation best practices and what you’ve learned about emailing targeted content, so share with us at @ChangeOrgs!