sophisticated email segmentation is like a mosaicWhere does your company fall on the spectrum of generic to specific email marketing? Are you still doing batch and blast, or have you evolved your program into something more relevant and targeted using email segmentation?

Below, I offer up my take on the 5 levels of sophistication in part so you can note where you’re at and also know where you want to be…and what that looks like. As the Cheshire Cat famously told Alice, if you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which road you take.

In email marketing, I’m pretty sure I know where you want to go, and that’s to a higher ROI with less churn. That means you do know which road to take, and it’s the road to greater sophistication which leads to pertinent, personalized content for your recipients. That in turn leads to a better experience for them making it a win win for marketer and customer both when email reaches the highest level of sophistication.

1) Batch and Blast Stage: At this stage, you don’t have the technical sophistication or access to the data you need to segment customers and deliver personalized content. In short, there isn’t any email segmentation. Activities are limited to simple batch-based campaigns. This means the program solely consists of loading a list and sending generic emails. This is the stage where many small businesses start out, and sadly, this is the stage where some big businesses still are.

2) Profile Stage: At this stage, your company uses basic customer profiles to segment and personalize content for your subscribers. Email segmentation data can include volunteered preferences such as gender or ZIP code, purchase history, and campaign reporting if you are set up with categories and codes to identify which products or topics were clicked in an email.

3) Persona Email Segmentation Stage: At this stage, your company creates email segmentation based on joining values or profile information about customers or appending customer data from an outside source. Typical profile naming rolls up to descriptions such as “Urban Warrior” (Profile: spends a lot on technology, high-end spender, gender neutral) or “Sophisticated Spender” (Profile: female, high-end spender, age 35-47). Subscribers receive more personalized content which translates into a more satisfying user experience and typically more revenue for the company as well as greater customer loyalty and a higher email deliverability rate. (That’s quite a few benefits, and we’re only at Stage 3 in sophistication!)

4) Behavioral Email Segmentation Stage: At this stage, your targeting is based on reacting to how a customer behaves in their shopping and purchasing patterns. Your company has developed a strategy for important touch points. For example, you might email a subscriber with an abandoned shopping cart, then create triggered email campaigns that respond to this customer’s future purchases.

5) Predictive Modeling and Email Segmentation Stage: Companies in this final stage have reached the pinnacle of email marketing best practices (and effectiveness). At this stage, your company targets customers based on analytics that scientifically predict what and when the customer may purchase next. You likely have email integration with your other business systems such as ecommerce, web analytics and CRM. Formulas are typically based on a lot of behavioral data stored on your customers, and the more event data collected, the better the marketing becomes.

If you’re still in Stage 1, that’s okay! As long as you can see the possibilities and know what’s right for your organization, it’s fine. I’m not sure the small-town vet needs to get anywhere beyond Stage 1 (not that they wouldn’t profit from doing so). But bigger businesses should give serious consideration to where they are on the spectrum, and know where they should be and how they’ll get there.

If not knowing how to get there is an issue, then let me stress the importance of having the right partner on board to help you move through the stages and supporting you with both strategy and technology. If you don’t yet have such a partner, have a talk with ClickMail. Maybe we’re it.

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

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