Successful email marketing is about much more than just delivering your emails to as many inboxes as possible, and hoping recipients open and read them. Email marketing campaigns are most successful when they deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, according to experts at Campaigner, an email marketing solution for small business.

Often this requires lots of trial and error. But that’s how you learn what works – and what doesn’t. One strategy that definitely does work is to “segment” your lists – divide them into different groups with like interests or characteristics.

Here are three steps to successfully segment your lists, suggested by Campaigner:

Email MarketingCollect the right data: You can’t segment your lists if you don’t know anything about the people you have on those lists. Having a simple name and email address doesn’t tell you much about someone – be they a customer, former customer or prospect. When asking customers, website visitors, newsletter subscribers or others to sign up for your list, try to gain some additional information, such as age range, interests, where they live, birth date or what they’ve bought from you before.

To help gather information, create a form or survey on your website or in your store that asks customers to provide information on their interests and preferences.

Armed with this kind of information, you can create special marketing campaigns and offers directed to specific groups or even individuals. For example, you can set up automatic messages to go out on someone’s birthday, perhaps with a coupon or other offer. Ask customers located nearby to visit your store or other facility for special events or sales.

Based on customers’ choices, you can use “conditional content” in your emails. For example, a bakery could ask for flavor preferences (such as chocolate or strawberry) and then send campaigns that show a photo of one or the other, based on the recipient’s preference.

Focus on your stars: Most successful small business email marketers find it profitable to spend the bulk of their time and resources focusing on the customers or prospects who open and engage with their content.

Pay attention to the analytics you get with whatever email platform you are using to send your emails. This includes who opens emails and – importantly – who “clicks through” to see your website or offer. Over time, you’ll get an idea of who’s most interested in you and who’s most likely to make a purchase and perhaps recommend you to others.

Create campaigns just for them. Reward loyalty with coupons. Ask them to invite friends and family members to also join your list or social media pages.

Leverage what you already know: While there are many ways to segment based on information you gather, you don’t have to wait to start segmenting your lists and offers. If you’ve been sending emails before (or a newsletter perhaps) you probably already have information about who has been opening those emails and clicking on your content (and which content they’ve clicked).

Subscribers who opened and clicked on an article about fashion for kids, for example, might be good prospects for a back-to-school campaign you have planned.

If you use a customer relationship management system (CRM), such as Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Insightly and others, you may have more information about the people on your lists than you realize. Try exporting that data from the CRM to your email service provider. Then use the CRM data to target frequent buyers or promising leads. But remember, you still need permission to send email marketing campaigns, so use CRM data to add to what you know about the people who’ve opted into your lists.

Campaigner offers a free e-book called “The Top Secret Handbook for Email Marketing Superheroes” that provides helpful tips and advice on getting better results with your email marketing. You can download it from the “Resources” section at www.campaigner.com.

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