If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? That old philosophy thought experiment has been running through my mind lately, as I think about a situation I recently encountered.

The company has a robust email marketing program and a sophisticated algorithm that dynamically segments the list based on a number of factors, primarily the frequency with which the recipient has visited the website and the pages they viewed.

The frequency with which you receive emails is determined by these two factors. There are five segments that an email subscriber can fall into based on the segmentation. It’s a  pretty sophisticated model, but there’s the thing… this is the result:

Segment B consistently holds 92% to 94% of the list — with the other four segments making up less than 10%.

So to paraphrase my though experiment: If 93% of your audience consistently falls into one of your five list segments, are you really segmenting your list?

I presented this case study to the audience at eTail West last week, along with some of my ideas for segmentation strategies this company should ‘take for a test drive.’

  • Location in the Customer Journey
  • Persona-based
  • Recency-Frequency-Monetary
  • Email Behavior
  • Product Viewed
  • Propensity (likely next step)
  • Desired Next Step (what we want them to do next)

Remember that segmentation isn’t just about segments — it’s also about targeting, about how you’ll treat each segment differently in order to optimize the performance of each.

You might have multiple targeting ideas that you want to test with each segmentation model. You might also find that more than one segmentation-targeting model makes sense for your organization, depending on what the initiative is and what your goals are.

So take a few minutes today to look at the result of your segmentation model — does the audience split make sense? Do you feel like it’s the most effective segmentation and targeting you can be doing? Or is it time to re-evaluate? Let me know what you find…

Until next time,


Tree Photo by Chelsea Bock on Unsplash


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