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Audience Lifecycle Segmentation for Email Senders

Why is it so crucial to segment our subscribers based on relationship stages? Find out how to make the best out of your segmentation here.

Citrus segments of various colours laying face up in a gradient of colours on a grey surface

Today's article on Audience Lifecycle Segmentation for Email Senders is a special one.


There are some brilliant email minds out there, Ciler Demiralp from Newsletter Circle being someone we admire.


Ciler's strategic email knowledge and ability to bring the best knowledge out of some of those fellow brilliant minds is certainly admirable.


We had the opportunity to share the motivation behind our newsletter, Email Advice in Your Inbox, with Ciler in an in-depth newsletter that you can read here (and make sure you sign up for Ciler's newsletter while you're at it).


Along with sharing our background, we also shared some knowledge on email segmentation, and why it's so crucial that audience lifecycle segmentation for email senders is prioritised.


We thought we'd share that knowledge here in a quick overview of the questions posed by Ciler.


We hope you find this valuable to your email segmentation strategy, and please head over to the original article to read some of Newsletter Circle's email knowledge.


Intro to Ciler Demiralp's interview with Email Expert Africa

Why is it so crucial to segment our subscribers based on the relationship?


Effective segmentation is often what separates good email senders from great ones.


Why? Simple - You’re appealing to the interests of your audience and putting their needs first by tailoring what, when, where and how you’re serving them.


The only way to really get this right is to have some broad framework for segmenting your audience in place. Many email senders don’t realize this, but it’s pretty simple to create a framework within which to segment your audience, regardless of your niche or industry.


We often discuss this by breaking it down into 3 broad sections:


  • New relationships

  • Established relationships

  • Lapsing/ Lapsed relationships 

Most often, newsletters are merely sent to all three of these sections without thought on what makes sense at the time. You don’t have to adhere to the same criteria, and these 3 over-arching segments rely on the segments within them, but it’s a starting point.



How should newsletter creators define these segments?


Let’s break them each down broadly:


  1. New Relationships: These are new subscribers who are either recently signed up (30 - 60 days, depending on how often you send emails or have not yet made a purchase/ take an action you intend them to. The higher your frequency, the “older” the subscriber becomes more quickly).

You want to nurture these subscribers through a solid welcome email series, highlighting what’s in it for them, making it invaluable to stay and why your emails make their inbox a better place is where to start.


You can also share the benefits of your offer and start working on moving them over to communication that drives why what they’re going to spend money on is a logical decision.


Sounds easier said than done (and it is), but if you carry value over time, your audience will not feel “sold to” and begin feeling more comfortable to part with their cash or engage a little more.


  1. Existing relationships: These are your engaged subscribers and product/ offer buyers, and looking after their ongoing interests now enters the equation.

Here you have multiple avenues to create opportunities. Ongoing engagement, feedback, monitoring of your content and actions around this, as well as enticing the right behaviour, are all levers you can pull with this audience.


Email automation is a big catalyst to getting this right, as well as tying in any other data points you can get that provide customer and audience interactions will help your efforts even further.


The goal is to keep them coming back, either to your store or emails, while holding up your end of the value bargain.


  1. Lapsed relationships: These involve members of your audience who start ghosting you 👻

This could either be customers who are no longer buying, who need replenishment reminders over time, or in the case of practically any email sender, someone who is no longer opening your emails or engaging with your content.


This is almost one of the easiest segments of your audience to deduce, especially if your ESP tracks engagement data over time.


Having segments for individuals who are no longer opening your emails after 30/ 60/ 90 days allows you to segment them out and begin re-engagement efforts to win them back.


It’s not done often, but it’s a gold mine to ensure ongoing engagement.


An array of multicoloured gummy bears laying stacked neatly in a pattern

Which metrics & information should we look into to create those three segments?


The best way to ascertain who belongs in each of these overarching segments will likely be based on the type of offer you have or the structure of your business.

Insight on email metric monitoring

Engagement metrics make sense here too, but your sales and customer types will often define how you segment.


Subscribers yet to purchase should, ideally, be treated differently from existing, buying customers, who in turn need a different strategy than those who are lapsed buyers.


If you aren’t defining these segments, or don’t have solid enough criteria via which to segment, then you won’t be able to target these subscribers differently.


What should the process look like for the maintenance of these segments?


If you lay a solid foundation, ongoing maintenance of these lifecycle or engagement segments doesn’t have to be super difficult.


If you apply the process of using these three broad segments, the criteria you define for each sub-section of these segments will be up to you.


What is crucial is having your systems speak to your email platform or audience management channel. You want to avoid, where at all possible, creating manual work to move subscribers between segments.


This often leads to errors and delayed communication, so where possible, use integrations or middleware (Zapier works well) to update your audience and the segments in which they lie.


Keeping an eye on your email metrics and engagement levels is also where you’ll derive information about your audience and which segments they should exist in.



What are the types of communication opportunities available to email senders at these various stages?


The possibilities are, quite literally, endless.


For new relationships, your welcome sequence is almost critical to set the tone of your relationship, establish some expectations for your reader or buyer, as well as illustrate the value that communication to come holds.


Often we promote too much too quickly as email senders. It’s a marathon, not a sprint when it comes to new relationships. Hold your subscribers’ hands through their introduction to you, your emails and your offer.


You’ll have plenty of opportunities to have them convert later down the line if you’ve done this well.


For existing relationships, the nurturing doesn’t stop, however, you’ll have created enough value initially to keep them coming back and engaging.


Here’s where you can promote further, add continued value, and begin experimenting with tactics to create more conversions, cross-promote and even begin asking for your readers to spread the word about you and your brand/ offer/ newsletter.


Ongoing newsletters are the backbone of this segment, regardless of your business or offer. Inboxes are flooded with promotional content and empty offers that simply hard sell all the time. This is an opportunity to be different; the caveat being that you need to focus on your value.


If you don’t do this well, you’re going to have subscribers begin lapsing or, worse, opt out of your emails because they aren’t receiving the value they signed up for in the first place.


For lapsing audiences, automated emails to re-engage and re-entice work well.

Think of sequences to find out why they’re becoming unengaged or lapsing, with value or offers to win them back to either a buying segment or an engaging segment.


Over time, if these subscribers don’t come back, then it’s okay to remove them from your list or even have them unsubscribe.


You do, however, have a multitude of options such as personal check-in-type emails to ask them what they’d like to receive to become engaged or buy again, so don’t leave this opportunity on the table if you can.


3 Orange segments laying face up on a wooden board

How do you apply this strategy to your newsletter?


We follow a similar process for Email Expert Africa.


For new relationships, we used a conditional welcome sequence, based on whether or not new sign-ups download the growth resource we give away for signing up.


Based on their selections, we further segment this audience down to various interest groups as well as where we’ve defined they’ve signed up from.


For existing relationships, we take that a step further to segment my audience by their region, what types of clicks they’re making in my emails, as well as which newsletters they’re more engaged with.


This allows us to test longer-form and shorter-form content on different areas of my audience while monitoring engagement.


These engagement metrics are broken down into:


  • Active Subscribers

  • Engaged Subscribers

  • Unengaged subscribers

  • Dormant Subscribers

  • Ghosts and

  • Zombies

These all have specific criteria activity metrics related to engagement levels and activity, but it’s worked so far. It may sound strange, but we also actively ask inactive members if they’d like to unsubscribe.


The intention of our newsletter is to add value to someone’s inbox, not merely send emails for the sake of sending them.



Bonus: What would it be if you had the right to give one piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators?


This is a tough one because there are so many things to mention that we’ve learned from!


That said, if we had to provide one insight, it would be something that resonates with our personal philosophy:

Focus only on what you can control, and respond well to the things outside of your control

If you focus on your inputs (well-planned, value-adding content and offers, audience growth and patience while doing things effectively and ethically), then you’ll have your sights set on the right stuff.



You can’t control if someone signs up or not, if someone unsubscribes, or even if someone is going to take the action you intend for them or not. These things will happen if your inputs and the things you can control are the centre of your focus.



We hope you enjoyed today's knowledge. Don't forget to grab your free gift below.



Before you go! If you're looking for a place to begin growing, this is for you. Learn the fastest ways to grow your email list today by using the tried and tested Email Database Growth Playbook.


Click here or on the image below to get your FREE copy👇

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