How to Build an Email List (the RIGHT way)

Building an effective email list

Have you ever gotten a sponsored ad in your social feed or an email in your inbox and you’ve thought to yourself, “They literally don’t know me at all”? I have. (Shout out to the folks who think I really want to learn about gastric bypass surgery. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?)

By the way, that was a rhetorical question. Of course you have!

It seems some marketers these days haven’t heard of the age of the customer and don’t realize that personalization is everything. You can’t send the same message to everyone and expect to get anywhere. You also need to know who you’re sending something to before you actually send it. It seems like common sense, but boy, you’d be surprised at some of the crazy things we’ve seen some companies do in an effort to convert leads. (I’m still a little traumatized, to be honest).

So, what’s the key to actually getting leads to convert the way you want through email campaigns?

Building an effective email list.

And, no, I’m not talking about purchasing a list of contacts who may or may not be qualified and who definitely have NOT opted in to receive communications from you.

I’m talking about taking the database of contacts you already have and properly segmenting them into extremely targeted lists so you can do email the RIGHT way. (One of my favorite co-workers already wrote an awesome article on growing your database organically if you're interested in learning how to do that.)

Here are some different approaches you can take with your database segmentation to effectively build your email lists and truly achieve smart sends.

1. Funnel Stage

One way you should look at segmenting your database is funnel stage. Where are your contacts at in the buyer’s journey? Are they in awareness, consideration, or decision? Are they post-decision? Do they start over in an entirely new buyer’s journey at that point? These are all questions that you should know the answers to and you should be collecting data for in your database. 

Once you know this information, you can segment contacts based on their stage so you know what type of content and messaging you should be sending to them. Since funnel stages can be a little abstract at times when it comes to finding criteria to use for segmentation, you can always look at form submissions or specific pieces of content they’ve downloaded to help you make that determination.

2. Lifecycle Stage

Similar to funnel stages, lifecycle stages are extremely helpful when it comes to database segmentation. Lifecycle stages are another way to determine exactly where a contact is at in your marketing funnel. Knowing whether or not a lead is simply a subscriber, a lead, a marketing qualified lead, a sales qualified lead, or an actual customer or evangelist will greatly affect the way you are sending them emails and the purpose behind those emails.

3. Persona

In a perfect world, you would know everything about your database’s preferences, pain points, challenges, and goals. The closest that you can get to that is segmenting your database by persona. If you can assign a persona to each of the contacts in your email list, you’ll be able to craft messaging that speaks directly to that persona’s pain points and challenges, which are going to differ from some of your other persona’s pain points and challenges. By tweaking the same email for several different persona lists, you’ll be able to be much more effective at getting them to take a desired action.

4. Actions

Finally, and perhaps one of the most effective ways to segment your database, is by behavior or actions that a contact has taken. By tracking what pages a contact has viewed, what type of blog articles or content they’ve been taking an interest in, and what forms they’ve already submitted, the segmentation possibilities become endless! You can bucket your contacts into different targeted lists based on what type of content you know that they’re interested in, avoid sending them content that they’ve already downloaded, and more.

Ideally, you’ll get to the point where you have enough data collected that you can segment your database by using a combination of all of the above criteria. If you know a contact’s funnel stage, their lifecycle stage, their persona, AND what sort of marketing actions they’ve already taken, well, you’ll be able to send some killer emails.

At the end of the day, the way that you segment your database into email lists will be dependent upon your business model, what you’re trying to achieve with your email sends, and who your audience is. The above approaches are just a few of the criteria you should consider using when segmenting your contacts, but the more information you can continue to collect from your audience, the better. This information will lend itself to more and more ways you can further segment your contacts in the future and get even more targeted with your approach and messaging for even more effective email campaigns.

Can AI Help?

Speaking of more effective email campaigns, artificial intelligence is going to start playing a huge role in email marketing. Once you have your database effectively segmented into extremely targeted email lists, you can take it a step further and capitalize on tools like SeventhSense’s artificial intelligence to send emails to these targeted lists at optimal times and days based on an individual contact’s behaviors. Pretty cool, huh?

Email marketing can be an extremely powerful tool if done correctly. It all starts with building your lists with strategic segmentation so you can get highly targeted and really hit the right people at the right time with your message.

Remember: people only care about themselves. If you can make it seem like your message is directed to the individual receiving that email, and that individual only, you’ll get a hell of a lot farther than you would sending out a general email blast hoping that it will resonate with someone. It’s the age of the customer, and marketers have to get even more creative with their email marketing strategy to keep up.