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Targeted mailing lists: How to build your email list and segment your database

Target mailing lists
Why buying email lists is never a good idea
The benefits of building your own targeted email list
Two ways to segment your targeted mailing list
Final thoughts

Whether you’re an ecommerce, brick and mortar or B2B business, email marketing is a cost-effective supplement to your marketing strategy.

Before you can segment, you need to build up your email list and database. Once it’s big enough, you can segment it into different audiences for targeting purposes and create tailored content based on each segment’s specific needs. The result is email content that resonates with your target audience, drives engagement and improves retention.

In this article, we’ll explain why buying email lists is never a good idea, the benefits of building your own targeted email list and two ways to consider segmenting your targeted marketing list.

Why buying email lists is never a good idea

Building a targeted mailing list, or a database of any kind, takes time and effort. For this reason, many businesses resort to buying targeted marketing lists. This is highly problematic.

Purchased or rented third-party email lists usually contain email addresses and phone numbers from people who have given other businesses permission to send them marketing messages, but not your business. In the worst case, the people on those lists did not give them permission at all, so leveraging those contacts could mean you’re breaking compliance rules (i.e. the CAN-SPAM act and GDPR).

Most email inbox providers such as Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook have strict spam filters to protect users from this type of behavior. Similarly, purchased consumer mailing lists often contain many fake or inactive email addresses that will result in hard bounces, which can harm your email deliverability.

Therefore, sending emails to people who have not directly or explicitly provided their contact information can cause irreversible harm to your domain and email sender reputation, in addition to your brand and company name. Plus, it will not provide great response rates, since these people are not your best prospects.

Note: Regardless of whether you are borrowing an email list or using your own, make sure to include a clearly identifiable unsubscribe link, as this is also required by law.

The benefits of building your own targeted email list

Building your own quality email list, however, is just the beginning. The best way to excel at email marketing is by segmenting your list into different audiences who will receive content tailored to their specific needs.

This will help you achieve the following:

  • Keep your business’s emails out of spam folders

  • Keep your business’s domain off blocklists and improve your brand equity

  • Build relationships with your customers

  • Allow you to educate your target market and current customers

  • Increase engagement and conversions

  • Increase your website visitors

  • Increase your email marketing return on investment (ROI)

If you’re a small business or one with few products or services, segmenting may not be necessary at first. For example, a new restaurant might only benefit from sending a monthly newsletter highlighting seasonal specials as they build up their email list.

However, as they grow, they may want to consider creating a separate email list for brand building. A particular segment of their customers may be interested in learning about a wine of the month, with information on the different varietals and vintages they carry. This will position them as an authority, build affinity with subscribers and make people eager and excited to come in and dine.

Segmenting is also important in B2B marketing, where the sales cycle tends to be longer than in B2C. You can build targeted email lists based on where subscribers are in their buying journey as well as which channel they entered your list on (as different channels indicate different levels of buying intent). This will help you to get the most out of your email marketing strategy.

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Two ways to segment your targeted mailing list

Many email marketing campaigns rely on demographics (e.g. age, gender, geographic area and job) and customer personas to craft their messaging and content.

This can work well for email marketing. However, another effective way to consider segmenting your email list is by psychographic (i.e. how your customers think). This allows you to send relevant information that directly addresses problems that need to be solved based on subscriber behavior.

Segmenting by solution

This allows you to bypass irrelevant demographic information and uncover more applicable patterns, which in turn informs your segmentation email content.

For example, the customer demographics for project management SaaS tools vary wildly. Therefore, a better approach is to look at the audiences’ business goals and the problems they’re trying to solve, then send highly relevant content that speaks to their pain points.

Segmenting by customer behavior

The second way you could consider segmenting your targeted business email list is according to subscriber behavior.

Creating specific email triggers and content based on how subscribers engaged with your emails can increase open rates, conversion rates and response rates.

For example, say a print business is trying to improve their email marketing campaigns. If someone purchases a natural landscape print (e.g. a picture of the desert),, they could set up a trigger that segments them into a list to receive recommendations of other similar prints.

Segmenting your email contacts by customer behavior may require more sophisticated email marketing automation or CRM tools than you currently have, so be sure to do your research before investing in new software.

Final thoughts

The more specific and relevant your content is, the more effective your targeted mailing list will be (which in turn contributes to a higher ROI).

Purchased email lists infringe on people’s privacy and harm your brand and email deliverability in the long term. The best way to reach the right people is by building your own email list and segmenting it into smaller, targeted lists. This allows you to tailor your messages to varying ideal customers, help to educate them about your business and build brand awareness.

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