Can You Segment Your Email Subscribers Too Much?

01 Aug
August 1, 2013

Email is still a powerful marketing tool, despite many claiming that the inbox is dead.

Smart email marketing is about segmenting your database – understanding the subsets of subscribers who want different kinds of information and delivering it too them.

But how much segmentation is too much?

Over the last few months, I’ve been on something of a subscription war with MediaPost. I previously subscribed to all of their content as I found the breadth of it useful.

As certain things became less relevant, I began to unsubscribe. Typically it is a pretty simple process, but over the course of several weeks, and even to this day, I found myself unsubscribing nearly daily from one of their newsletters, and it wasn’t until I actually read the unsubscribe notification carefully that I realised why.

You can see from the slideshow above that I received an email with a call for entries to an industry awards, but when I unsubscribed, I found myself removed me from a list called PLATFORMS, but still subscribed to events and special offers EXCEPT June 2013. As a subscriber, I don’t know what that means – will I still receive emails, just not for ones that occur in June 2013? And does that mean much considering it was received at the beginning of August?

Then I received another email regarding OMMA at NY Ad Week. Again I unsubscribed, and have now successfully removed myself from emails about OMMA in September, but will still receive them for events other than OMMA.

Safe to say, it’s confusing.

After ranting at the perpetually unresponsive MediaPost on Twitter, I decided to jump in to manage my subscriptions to see if I could find some more information. And this is what I am opted into:

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 9.20.11 PM

So what is now apparent is that while I am opted into a single type of email, that list is further broken down into individual events and special offers that I have no power to remove myself from other than on an individual basis.

How many? Well, according to my list of blocked promotional messages on my profile, I am currently blocking 23 different promotional emails for different events, all of which I have the option to unblock, but again, nowhere is there a list of individual events that I am subscribed to.

So what is there to learn from all of this?

You need to be really clear about the kinds of emails you are asking people to subscribe to. Ask me if I want all of it, or some of it, but bucket the “some of it” into very clearly defined types of emails so I know that when I tick that box, I know what it looks like.

I expect if I hit the opt out button, then I am removed from emails OF THAT KIND – not ones related to that specific topic or event. And make it easy for me to remove myself from it. I shouldn’t have to log in to a “subscription centre” to remove myself from a multitude of mailing lists. If you offer a subscriber a single opt in like PROMOTIONAL (as above), then my removal from that list should be just as all inclusive.

Endless subsets of segmentation may be great for third-party opportunities you may have to on sell, but if I have opted out of a dozen event notifications, chances are I don’t want them at all.

As a subscriber and potential customer, it becomes unwelcome and a very poor customer experience.


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