A costly mistake
The number one mistake I see with clients growing their lists that can never be undone is having tens of thousands of subscribers they never segmented.
In fact, with just a few hours of work, you can automate organizing your next 10, 20, or 50k subscribers in a way that’s super actionable for you (based on their interests and problems).
When should you start segmenting?
The answer here can vary based on context, but a rough rule of thumb is whenever you started list building. The next best time is now.
I did some consulting a few years ago for a blog that used to rank in the top few positions on Google for things like “speed reading”, “how to lift weights”, and “learn calculus.” He had about 30k subscribers at the time but no idea where any of them came from. Did they care about lifting weights or calculus? No one knew. Bummer.
Automate tagging your subscribers – even if you don’t plan to personalize based on those segments anytime soon.
“A lot of people don’t segment and they seem to do just fine.”
I find this to be true when a list is super-homogenous. This can happen with narrow topical interests (like making skunks into house pets) or a specialized job role (like SEO team leads – these guys love Star Wars references). Also, cults where what prospects think doesn’t matter because you plan to brainwash them anyway.
Typically though, your users’ reasons for signing up, how and why they found you, and they way they make purchasing decisions are important things worth paying attention to. And the signals those users send should inform when and what you share and sell them.
Not segmenting raises risk
When you don’t segment and you cover multiple topics, you don’t have a good grasp of the breakdown of your subscribers’ interests. Your mind naturally goes to the lowest common denominator of your engaged users.
You write for an imagined audience. Me too. I’m trying to imagine who you are right now. Probably my dad. Hi, dad.
Your most engaged users share their problems and personalities with you in comments, replies, tweets, whatever. So you will inevitably start imagining them when you write and even make strategic product decisions with them in mind.
This is a potential liability. The squeaky wheel, the gal who wants to be friends, the crass extrovert, the comment marketer, the guy having a bad day — they affect the accuracy with which you see your audience.
We have a client with a list of about 20,000 emails. When she described her list to us, she described them as “cheap” and “only wants free content.”
I was a bit surprised and asked her to explain her thinking. In turned out that recently (and not the first time) someone had written a critical email about how she shouldn’t be selling things to her subscribers. This nerd had a real impact on her mindset along with other negative messages over the years.
It was to the point where she was thinking about postponing a high-ticket product launch since she had sold something different a month before.
When 0.005% of a list complains about something, they’re probably just having a bad day but it can really color the way you imagine your audience and impact business decisions.
Are you familiar with this concept? It’s the idea that you can only personally know about 150 people. The actual number is hotly debated and I don’t really care what the number is, I just know it isn’t 15,000.
Segmenting gives us a deeper understanding of the needs and mindsets of people on our lists when we can’t otherwise get it. Next, we’ll talk about common ways to segment and the best easy way.