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Virtually all industry experts agree that segmentation is a key list management strategy for email marketing campaigns. Without segmentation, advertisers are unable to target recipients with relevant content, and can only offer broad, nonspecific messages that are much less likely to appeal to many audience members.

However, when it comes to list segmentation, you can definitely have too much of a good thing. Over-segmentation can be detrimental to your campaigns.

The Potential Downsides of Over-Segmentation
First and foremost, anyone who has created some fairly refined list segmentation plans knows that it takes a fair amount of time and effort to develop the initial strategies. Managing and updating the list segments, developing separate, relevant content for each segment, and monitoring performance across audience groups is more complex and requires a larger effort from the marketing team on an ongoing basis.

Effective list segmentation should lead to better performance and higher ROI from your campaigns. But, be sure to measure that ROI against the costs of the additional time/resources needed to effectively manage the segmentation program. At a point, that ROI relationship will tip and it may actually cost more to implement another layer of segmentation than the changes will actually deliver in increased performance.

From a practicality standpoint, there also comes a point where the benefits of audience segmentation start to break down. Segments should be truly distinct from each other. For example, if a new segment doesn’t warrant different content in order to drive engagement, then you need to be sure there are other important reasons to keep the audience group separate. It’s possible that segmentation may still make sense for key reporting reasons, but make sure the rewards are worth the extra effort.

An argument can be made that every single user should receive customized content, but an approach like this is more related to personalization and the ability to deliver dynamic content, rather than list segmentation. Personalization and list segmentation can work hand-in-hand, but it’s important to recognize the differences between the two.

Just Right List Segmentation
An effective list segmentation strategy takes its cue from a well-known fairy tale character – Goldilocks. The best list segmentation is not too broad and not too tightly defined – but rather has just the right amount of complexity. Use this approach and you’ll get the most from your list segmentation initiatives.

By: Tom Wozniak, Executive Director of Marketing