How to Segment Your Email List Like a Pro

Email Segmenting

Any good online business has an email list, and that list should be segmented.

A segmented email list allows you to send targeted emails to specific customers. This helps you in a few ways:

  • Higher open and click rates
  • Less unsubscribers
  • Happier customers

The bottom line is that segmenting your list makes you make more money.

What is Segmenting?

Segmenting your list means grouping subscribers into categories. Then when you send emails to them, you can send to specific groups as needed.

For example, you could have segments for:

  • Pre-sales
  • Purchased
  • Purchased a certain product
  • Signed up for a specific interest list
  • Downloaded an ebook
  • Registered for a webinar
  • Newsletter
  • Critical account messages
  • Anything you can think of…

Subscribers can be part of multiple segments, they don’t have to be exclusive. For example, someone might be a part of Purchased, Newsletter, and Registered for a Webinar.

When you go to send an email to your list, now you can make sure people only get what they signed up for, or what is highly relevant to them.

How to Segment Your List

To segment your list, you’ll need 2 things:

  1. An email provider that supports segmenting. This can be called segments, groups, tags, interests, etc.
  2. A site integration that will segment users when they sign up or purchase.

The first step is to create the segments, which are called different things depending on your provider. It could be a tag, group, interest, or a segment. We’ll get into the specific definitions later in the article.

After your segments are created at your email provider, you will create systems on your site that will add your subscribers to these segments automatically. That can be tagging people who sign up through a certain form, when they purchase, or using an automation to do it based on a trigger.

Let’s go through it step by step.

Email Providers

Convertkit Tags
Convertkit Tags

Email providers have varying levels of support for segmenting. Some, like Convertkit, allow you to easily tag subscribers, move them, and create automations. Others, like MailChimp, allow for Groups and Interests, but it works in a different way.

Depending on your provider, you’ll need to find out the best way to group your subscribers. I use Convertkit, here are a few things I find extremely useful:

Creating a form that automatically tags subscribers when they signup.

For example, I can make a form that sends a free ebook when someone signs up. They are automatically tagged with “ebook download” so I can send them relevant follow up information.

Changing subscriber tags easily.

Some email providers charge you for 2 subscribers when you have them in 2 separate lists or groups. I like to easily add and remove subscribers from segments while keeping them on the same list.

Automatically editing subscriber segments based on triggers.

If someone is on my pre-purchase segment, and then they purchase, they need to be moved accordingly. Convertkit allows me to setup an action that does this automatically.

Whatever provider you choose, make sure they have the features you need. I will cover MailChimp and Convertkit in this article, since those are the providers I use.

Creating Segments

MailChimp Segment
MailChimp Segment

Before creating your segments, you’ll want to think ahead to when you send your emails.

Who do you want to single out to get different emails?

An obvious answer is pre-sales vs existing customers. You won’t always want to send a site-wide 50% off coupon to existing customers, you might only want pre-sales subscribers to see that.

Other ideas would be product categories. If you sell t-shirts, movies, and books, those would be good segments because they won’t all want to get the same emails.

You can add a segment for people who want your weekly newsletter, vs those who only want critical account updates.

Don’t go too crazy.

If you have too many segments, it can be counter-productive. Depending on the size of your customers and marketing team, you may want to keep your segments limited to the most important.

I find that over-segmenting can create a messy experience when you are sending broadcasts.

The segments I use the most are:

  • Pre-sales
  • Purchased
  • Major product categories
  • Webinars (send them recording)

Setting these segments up looks different depending on your email provider, but here are a couple examples.

Convertkit Tags and Segments

In Convertkit, you can use tags or segments to group your subscribers.

A tag is like “Purchased” or “Signed up for webinar,” and subscribers can have multiple tags. You can add tags under the Subscribers tab:

Convertkit Tags

Once you create a tag, you can automatically assign them based on an action.

Convertkit Segment

A segment in Convertkit is a group of subscribers with different conditions. You can either create a segment on the fly when sending a broadcast, or save one under Subscribers => Create a segment.

In this example, I have created a segment of cold subscribers based on their signup date. I can choose only people with the “pre-sales” tag who signed up more than 6 months ago.

Personally, I don’t use segments much, I create the segment on the fly when I send a broadcast. However, if you find yourself sending to the same group over and over, it would be worth making that a segment.

We will discuss different ways to automate adding tags to subscribers later in this article.

MailChimp Groups, Interests, and Segments

MailChimp works a bit differently, they have groups, interests, and segments.

MailChimp Groups and Interests

A group is a high level category like “Music,” and each group has interests. Interests in the Music group would be Rock, Hip Hop, Jazz, Pop, etc.

You can create a new group under Lists => My List => Manage Contacts => Groups => Create Group. You then create interests for your group.

This is useful because you can add people to interests automatically when they sign up on a certain form, and send them different sign up emails. For example, if someone signs up for Rock, you can send them a welcome email with a link to your band’s Rock mp3 download page.

MailChimp Segments

MailChimp Segments

Segments in MailChimp are similar to Convertkit, in that they can combine multiple subscribers based on any conditions you set.

For example, you can combine multiple groups into a segment, plus add a condition for subscribed date in the last 2 weeks.

Action Item

Create your major segments, groups, tags, interests, or whatever it’s called at your email provider. Keep it simple for now, you can always add more later.

Once you’ve created groups and segments, it’s time to put everything on auto-pilot so subscribers automatically go into the right place.

Adding Subscribers to Segments

When you create an email form, you can choose to automatically add subscribers to a segment, or give them a visible choice.

MailChimp Interests

A visible choice is great if you want people to choose what emails they are subscribed to. For example, they may be auto-subscribed to the “critical account updates” segment, but they can choose to receive your newsletter each week.

Larger publishers can use this opt-in segmenting for choosing news categories like politics, business, sports, etc.

Auto-subscribing to a segment allows you to know where someone signed up. If you have 20 different content upgrade forms, you may not need to tag each one of those separately. You can create a general “content upgrade” segment so your list of segments doesn’t get too unwieldy.

Holler Box MailChimp Settings

Action Item

When you create a new email form, make sure to add the appropriate tag or interest. If you are using the default form from your email provider, you can do it there. If you are using a lead generation plugin like Holler Box, you can choose it in the settings.



Adding tags and interests to subscribers is great, but what happens when you need to move someone around?

For example, someone purchases, but they were on your pre-sales tag. You need to move them off that tag to the purchased tag.

That’s where automations come in.

Convertkit Automations

In Convertkit, you can add this under the Automations tab, by clicking “Create Rule.” In our case, we want to remove the “pre-sales” tag when the “purchased” tag is added.

That would be Trigger: Tag is added (purchased), Action: Remove tag (pre-sales). We will be adding the “purchased” tag using a WordPress plugin, so with this automation saved we have everything on auto-pilot.

You can easily add automations for just about any user action. You may want to add tags based on what form they signed up for, or move them from one drip sequence to another when they complete it.

Tip: If you have a pre-sales marketing drip sequence, you can move anyone who clicks a link to a new “hot leads” sequence. These are your motivated customers who are ready to purchase, so treat them accordingly.

Action Item

Setup automations to move subscribers when a major change takes place. For example, they go from pre-sales to purchased.


WordPress Plugins for Segmenting

There are plugins that can auto-subscribe people to your list based on an action they take.

Using the Convertkit add-on for Easy Digital Downloads, you can auto tag new customers based on what they purchase.

You can also use MailChimp premium plugin with WooCommerce or EDD to segment your customers.

If you use a different provider, you can most likely find a plugin that does the same thing.

Tip: If you sell a lot of products, you may not need segments for each one. Consider only creating segments for major product categories that you would actually use when sending emails to your list.

Action Item

Add a plugin to your WordPress site to appropriately tag subscribers when they purchase, or sign up.


Sending to Your List Using Segments

There are 2 different things that segments help with, sending broadcasts and creating drip sequences.

Broadcasting to Segments

MailChimp Campaign Segment
MailChimp Campaign Segment

When you send a broadcast (an email to a large group of subscribers), you can use segments to increase engagement and avoid upsetting customers.

Here are a few examples.

1) Sending an email about a big promotion

Let’s say you only sell one product, and you are doing a big sale.

You don’t want to send this email to someone who already purchased, because they can’t use the discount. This may just upset them or cause them to ask for the discount retroactively.

Send the promotion broadcast, excluding customers in your “purchased” segment.

You can also do smaller targeted promotions using other segments such as cold subscribers, as described in our article on discount strategies.

2) You have something to send only to them

If someone signs up for a webinar, you want to be able to send them the recording afterwards.

You can put them in a segment for that purpose, and delete the segment after you send to keep things clean.

3) You have a message specifically for pre-sales or post-sales

If you have an important message only for your customers, you need to be able to send only to them.

You also want marketing emails to be sent to pre-sales subscribers, to give them more information about your product.

Drip Sequences

One of my favorite parts of segmenting is sending people drip emails based on what they signed up for. Here are a few examples.

1) Pre-sales follow up drip

If someone sends in a pre-sales question, we have an automated follow up email that goes out about a week later. This makes sure that they had all of their questions taken care of.

2) Marketing drip

If someone signs up to receive a particular ebook, we send them relevant follow up information. This is usually links to similar articles.

3) Post-sales drip

After someone purchases, we send them a few emails about how to setup our product. They are timed appropriately, setup and installation would be the first email, with more advanced features later.

It’s good to ask if they need help a week or two after purchase, to be proactive. You can also introduce any cross-sells or up-sells at an appropriate time in the sequence.

Action Item

Setup your drip sequences for your major segments. Pre-purchase marketing and post-sales follow up are the most important.



Sometimes store owners are afraid to send emails to their list because they don’t want to annoy anyone.

Segmenting solves this problem because it allows you to send highly relevant information to smaller groups within your list. This helps you use your email list more effectively, decrease unsubscribers, and increase engagement.

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3 thoughts on “How to Segment Your Email List Like a Pro”

  1. Scott,

    Excellent explanation on segmentation. I’m in love with the articles you are writing.

    I have few questions.

    1. So, you recommend to One big list and create groups in it?
    2. I have multiple lists right now e.g Site Subscribers, Customers, Affiliates. Should I combine all of them into one list? and then create groups for them? I have multiple products with add-ons. So, making group for each add-on will be better?


    1. Thanks Muhammad.

      Yes I recommend having one list and segmenting users by tags or groups, depending on your provider. Multiple lists can get confusing, plus if you are using a provider like MailChimp, they charge you for subscribers even if they are the same across multiple lists. So on list 1 and on list 2 counts as 2 subscribers. Convertkit only charges for 1 subscriber in that circumstance.

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