The following is a guest post from Zach Watson at TechnologyAdvice. Learn more about Zach at the end of the post.

Few principles are as central to effective marketing as segmentation. Think about it: the variances in your customers’ needs, characteristics, and behavior shapes every piece of your marketing. These details influence the campaign creative, the campaign channels, and they even affect the product design.

Segmentation is the act of implementing and organizing the knowledge you have about your customers. And when it comes to choosing the right tools for the job, it’s difficult to deny the utility of the tried-and-true email list.

But despite email’s natural segmentation capabilities, dividing up your market is a science in the truest sense of the word: it requires a systematic approach, a lot of testing, and data analysis. Here’s how to become a segmentation specialist:

1. Decide Which Data Matters

Without data, it’s impossible to determine the various subdivisions of your market. However, it’s doubtful a data shortage is the problem. More likely, you’re wondering which data is meaningful.

To get the segmentation engine running, you’ll need to assign some value. Define which data points tell you the most about your audience. It’s often easiest to start with demographics: job title, industry, geographic location, or gender.

Though these divisions are broad, it’s logical that audiences with different demographics will value different aspects of your product or service—and therefore require distinct messaging.

Once you’ve determined which demographics provide evidence of market segments, consider which data will make these segments more specific and how you can get it. Behavioral data is the next logical step, and it might already be within reach in the form of past purchase history or recent on-site activity. If not, consider how you can set up a process for obtaining it.

2. Test What You’ve Done

Hypotheses are good, but once you’ve defined the criteria and unleashed the segmentation beast, it’s time to make sure your intuition is grounded in reality. Whether you’re using the best marketing automation software or even something a bit lighter, testing segmentation at this level isn’t too difficult. Run your new segmented campaign and test the results against your previous, unsegmented attempts. Hopefully the segmentation results positive, if not substantial, results.

If the results are middling, perhaps the value proposition is misaligned and the creative needs to be fixed, or perhaps the data from step one wasn’t the right signifier. Both are changes that should be tested further.

Testing can be simultaneously maddening and euphoric. Refining the right criteria for your lists can be an arduous process, but once you strike gold, it’s likely you’ll see increases in open and click-through rates. When that happens, congratulate yourself — you’ve made a major breakthrough in defining your market.

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to simply survey your audience and ask for some feedback. In truth, you should probably just do that anyway.

3. Tie the Results to the Right KPIs

Increased open and click-through rates are nice, but they don’t keep a business afloat. Even if you’re producing a rise in email-specific performance, it’s important to tie the results of your segmentation back to your business’s bottom line, whether that’s app downloads, website traffic, or form completions. It’s entirely possible to create more targeted campaigns without moving your audience closer to making a purchase, so be vigilant.

Segmentation can be powerful, and there’s a great deal more to do beyond these three steps, but using these tips will help you build better frameworks for email campaigns, gather better data about your audience, and ultimately deliver more value to your business.

About the author: Zach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, healthcare IT, business intelligence, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

SendGrid Team
Expert advice and insight about all things email including best practices tips, examples, and advice for marketers, developers, and everyone in between.