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Targeting 101: A Beginner's Guide to Segmentation

4 common misconceptions about tags and segments, and how to start using them for smarter marketing.

Illustration of a guy getting a piece of bread

If you’ve been avoiding segmentation as a ‘someday’ item on your to-do list, you’re certainly not alone: We often hear from customers that segmentation is the area in which they need the most help.

The good news is the most difficult thing about ‘segmentation’ is the term itself. After all, a segment is just a filter that helps you find contacts within your audience with shared characteristics—and we’ve been working on tools to make using them even easier.

Here are a few key reasons to try out segmenting in your next campaign:

  • Tags have made segmentation even easier. Yes, tags are just as intuitive as they sound, and—even better—once you’re using tags, you’ve already created segments (more on that in a minute).

  • The new audience dashboard has made segmentation even more valuable. When you keep all your contact data in one central audience and segment from there, your audience dashboard can give you a holistic understanding of who your audience is—and help you easily spot segments to send targeted messages to.

  • You now have access to even more pre-built segments. Read on to learn what they are and where to find them.

In fact, much of the confusion and hesitation we hear around segmentation is largely based on misconceptions. So let’s look at some of the most common misconceptions around this topic, and why there’s no better time than now to stop avoiding segmentation and start seeing better results.

“I really believe segmentation helps us to prevent unsubscribes because people aren’t just getting swarmed with emails.”

Mary Chapman, Formaggio Kitchen

Misconception #1: You have to start from scratch with segmentation.

Truth: If you have an audience in Mailchimp, you already have segments.

Just by bringing your contact data into Mailchimp, you gain access to pre-built segments, or ready-made filters that help you make sense of (and use) patterns in your data. The audience dashboard is a great place to get started with a visual breakdown of these segments, and then target them with a campaign with just a few clicks. Here, you’ll find:

  • Segments based on top locations. See segments of your contacts based on where they’re located. Is there a new city you should try targeting a campaign to, or a potential new location for a pop-up shop?

  • Segments based on email marketing engagement. Once you’ve sent out some emails, you can view and target segments of your audience based on whether they engage with your campaigns ‘often,’ ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely.’

  • Segments based on sources of recent growth. See a summary of where new contacts are coming from. For example, you might view a segment of recent signups that came in through a specific landing page, and try sending them a campaign with similar messaging.

Illustration of the recent growth module within the audience dashboard

Misconception #2: Tags can only be used for organization.

Truth: If you’re labeling your contacts with tags, you can send to them just like segments.

Tags are customizable labels you can create and assign to contacts to note anything you need to. Not only are they great for internal organization, but they also function as segments. This means:

  • You can send targeted campaigns to tags. Let’s say you tagged contacts that you met at a recent event. By filtering your audience by that tag, you instantly have a segment to reach out to with a follow-up email, thanking them for their time and letting them know about more upcoming events.

  • You can also automate targeted campaigns based on tags. With tag-triggered automations, you can easily create targeted follow-up to specific segments. Maybe you have a great email about your outdoor gear—why not automatically trigger it to send to any contact that you tag as ‘likes outdoor sports’?

Gif showing selecting a tag to send to

Misconception #3: Segments are only for email.

Truth: You can target segments across multiple channels—all within Mailchimp.

Any information about your contacts in Mailchimp is something you can filter and target by—including people who haven’t engaged in a while or haven’t even subscribed to your emails yet. New channels in Mailchimp make it easy to target these segments. For example, you can:

  • Send a postcard to connect with contacts in a new way. Maybe you have a segment of customers who bought from your store but haven’t engaged with your online channels. A personal note of thanks in the mail—with a promo code for buying online—could help them connect with your brand in even more ways.

  • Target an ad to people who only buy from you seasonally. Let’s say your online store sells winter coats. You may have contacts who aren’t interested in receiving your marketing emails year-round (understandable), but would be highly interested in a well-timed ad in their social feed in early September (particularly one that included a promo code). Targeting an ad campaign to a segment based on purchase behavior can make this simple.

Any information about your contacts in Mailchimp is something you can filter and target by—including people who haven’t engaged in a while or haven’t even subscribed to your emails yet.

Misconception #4: Segmentation is only for more advanced customers.

Truth: Sending to segments is even easier than sending a bulk email.

We often hear this: “I know I need to segment, but I haven’t had time to figure out the right way to do it.” In reality, with the visual tools and quick shortcuts to segments found in the audience dashboard, effective segmentation doesn’t require a lot of preparation or prework. And it’s important to keep in mind that:

  • Segmenting campaigns often saves time because you know what to say. With more insight into who you’re talking to, messages can be shorter and more targeted to exactly what this segment of your audience needs to hear.

  • You’ll learn as you go. By sending more targeted messages to smaller segments, you’ll learn more from how these contacts interact with campaigns (particularly since customers are more likely to engage with your campaigns when they’re targeted to segments).

Illustration showing 2 separate campaigns sending to different tags

Today, personalized marketing goes far beyond adding merge tags to your emails—it’s about having a clearer understanding of your contacts’ needs, so you can send them the messages that matter to them without overwhelming them with messages that don’t.

With segmentation and targeting, you’ll not only see better performance metrics on individual campaigns and lower the risk of contacts opting out of your marketing, you’ll also start to establish and build stronger relationships with customers by creating meaningful touchpoints with your brand. And best of all, with access to the audience dashboard, it’s never been easier to get started.

2 men sit on a couch in an office, while one is holding a laptop happily discussing their marketing strategy.

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