The quick guide to B2B email marketing segmentation
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The Quick Guide to B2B Email Marketing Segmentation

What’s the secret to writing engaging emails and proactively avoiding high unsubscribe rates?

One thing you can do is to engage users by sending relevant content that you think they’ll genuinely find useful based on their segment. After all, marketers segmenting leads for email marketing campaigns realize as much as a 760% increase in revenue. Here’s your quick guide to B2B email segmentation.

How to think of B2B segmentation

Segments are like departments in a company. Imagine that you had an important announcement that only affected one department. No one else would complain if they didn’t get notified.

Would you tell the whole company? Probably not because it would appear confusing and irrelevant for most people. Now, imagine you have an announcement that would affect the entire company but each department in different ways. You still probably wouldn’t want to send a single email because doing so would dilute the power of your message if you don’t tailor the email to each department.

Of course, it’s impractical to segment each contact by hand unless you don’t have many, to begin with. Fortunately, your CRM is constantly collecting data points about your contacts. That lets you easily tease into segments to deliver the most engaging content.

Your product probably appeals differently to different kinds of buyers. So with all that in mind, it’s easy to see the value of SaaS or B2B email segmentation.

Getting started with email marketing segmentation best practices

Use your CRM like a North Star. Here are a few quick ways to slice and dice:

  • Age: Not how old they are, but how old their record is in your CRM.
  • Activity: Number of site visits, form fills, customer engagement emails recently clicked, purchases, etc.
  • Interests: The pages that someone visits on your site say a lot about what they want—especially if they download an asset or make a purchase.
  • Company size: This is a super valuable data point in B2B marketing if you can get your hands on it. Because email is trackable, company-level data identifies who is most interested in your product.
  • Inactivity: I know… ironic, right? If a contact has been inactive for a reasonable period—anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but no more—you can attempt to re-engage them with an offer.
  • The number of purchases: Especially for B2C marketers, this metric can be helpful in sending the right content.
  • Geography: Contacts within different states or countries will likely engage with content differently and sometimes not at all, hurting the metrics that matter.

Along with the content you want to send, the size and age of your CRM will dictate how granular your segments should be. There’s obviously a huge difference between a thousand contacts and a million.

Bonus points

When you send segmented emails, you can get a much better understanding of what resonates best with whom. Some platforms enable you to send one email to multiple segments, too. At WebMechanix, we send out digest newsletters to a segment of folks who were created in the last year (age) or were created anytime but active in the last six months (activity). We also track service line interest and leverage those together to create a mini-segment, enabling us to understand the performance of our email marketing program a bit more meaningfully.

Split testing

If you’re looking to improve your email game, this is the key to doing it.

Split testing involves sending two variations of one campaign to see which one performs better, and it’s a great place to start. You can let variations of copy, segments, imagery, number of links, landing pages, and CTAs duel it out and then go with the victor… the possibilities are endless. If you’re just getting started with split testing, think in very broad strokes, like subject lines or even sending pure text versus something with imagery.

I’ve sent out thousands of campaigns totaling about 150 million emails. Based on that experience, split testing is great, but only worth it if you have enough volume. After lots and lots of statistical analysis over the years, I’ve found that the sweet spot threshold for getting meaningful data is right around 3,000 contacts, split into two groups, or groups of at least 1,500 contacts if you want to send more variations.

Don’t have that much volume? That’s okay! Consistently testing one basic quality (like time of day) over a few sends can still produce meaningful results if you take several campaigns and aggregate the emails from each test group. Where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂

Avoid temptation

As we’ve learned, reputation is everything for email. If you aren’t acting responsibly as an email sender, it will hurt you (and you may not even know it). I won’t get too far down the technical rabbit hole, but there are a surprising number of checks and balances in place to weed out spammers. Even something as seemingly harmless as using a URL shortener for your links can be a spam trigger. Here are some other broad strokes to keep an eye out for.

Don’t batch and blast

In fact, many reputable email marketers consider “blast” to have a negative connotation ill-suited for describing what you should do as a marketer. I’m firmly in that camp. The point is to nurture your relationship with contacts, not to torture them with irrelevancy. We’re much smarter marketers now than we were a decade ago when email “blasts” were more standard practice. So leave your blasts in the past. Onward.

When you’re just starting out or starting back up, it’s always tempting to email more people than you should— you’ll want to do so yourself or someone else will ask you to. This temptation is especially true in B2B for those with a sizable or old database. Resist the temptation to “blast” everyone you can. Instead, bravely whittle down your list to the folks who engage with your brand.

I get it: No one likes only being able to email 10–20% of their contacts. That stings even worse when you have content that’s likely to be highly relevant and engaging. The downside is that the longer you wait, the less likely an email account is to be still valid and regularly used by the owner, and the more likely you’ll be reported as a spammer.

I’ve had to fight this battle many times in my career. Eventually, I did some informal research using data from about 7,700 B2B SaaS customers. I first used a tool to verify each email—doing so costs about a penny per record. Once I got the information on the validity of each email address, I compared it to the contact creation date.

It turned out that the sweet spot between contact age and email validity was about 13 months. After that point, there was a steep drop-off where contacts were far likelier to have addresses that were invalid or unverifiable. So if you’re looking for a good benchmark, that’s the one I use.

Consent is non negotiable

Having permission to email people matters a lot. This alone deserves its own book, but here’s the short version: You need to be a law-abiding marketer. There are lots of laws around the world that require consent before you can email individuals. The GDPR immediately comes to mind, but it’s by no means the only one you need to watch out for.

Even with the legalities aside, this one’s just good marketing practice. Besides, your emailing platform’s terms of use likely already forbid the practice—don’t force them to take away your hall pass. Generally speaking, if a contact hasn’t actively expressed interest in your product through filling out a form or otherwise raising their hand, don’t email them.

And that’s it! With these tips, you’ll get more engagement and sales out of your emails. How confident are you with your current B2B or SaaS email marketing process?

Hungry for more? Get the success story on how we helped a B2B software beat a Fortune 500.

About the writer
William Chou
William Chou
William Chou has years of experience in the world of corporate digital marketing. He is proficient in SEO, paid media, email marketing, and copywriting.

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