Sep 4, 2013

Segmentation Seven Ways

Update (7/18/16): The Discover Similar Subscribers feature is no longer available. To learn more about using MailChimp’s powerful segmentation tools to send relevant messages to your subscribers, visit our Knowledge Base.

List segmentation was once a power feature used only by our most advanced customers, but today, a quarter of MailChimp customers use segmentation to divide subscribers into categories for targeted email communication. In our 8.6 release we made a number of improvements to segmentation, including a streamlined way to create and access segments, auto-updating segments, and discovered segments that use MailChimp’s big data tools to help you find clusters of similar subscribers.

We use the heck out of our own tools every day for MailChimp’s newsletters. Immediately after launching the new segmentation features, we started experimenting on our MailChimp UX list. In just a few minutes, we created a series of handy segments that we can use to send more targeted emails and learn more about our subscribers.

1. VIPs

The MailChimp UX list has so many interesting subscribers from companies we respect and admire. One way we evaluate the quality of our content is by keeping tabs on how many of these VIPs open and click. There are about a dozen of us managing this list, and we’re all on the lookout for new VIPs to flag. I’m insatiably curious about our subscribers. I often dig through our list using MailChimp Mobile, looking for VIPs to flag and new VIPs discovered by the rest of the team. The first segment I created made it easier to keep up with our VIPs. It contains a single rule: "is a member of VIPs." I checked the "auto-update" option so new VIPs will always be added to this segment.

VIPs Segment

A VIP segment will also come in handy if we decide to publish exclusive content or do a special giveaway.

2. Subscribers like VIPs

Once I had a VIP segment, I wondered what other subscribers on our list were similar to those people. After creating the VIP segment, I simply clicked "Discover Similar Subscribers" and let MailChimp’s big data engine do the investigating for me. The results are fascinating. If you’re managing a big-ish list, this is a much better way to keep tabs on subscribers than reading through profiles one by one. From this segment, we selectively flag new VIPs, which automatically places them in the auto-updating VIPs segment.

Discovered Segment

3. Groups: designers, developers, and researchers

Our signup form uses groups to let new subscribers tell us what their interests are. Are you a designer, developer, a researcher, or a hybrid of those? Our content addresses each topic, but by using groups, we have the option to send specialized issues of our newsletter to specific audiences.

Groups Segment

4. People near San Francisco

A few of us from the UX team recently went out to San Francisco for a conference. There’s a large contingency of our subscribers there, and we wanted to get to know them in person over beers. We created a geolocation segment in our list to find all subscribers within a 20 mile radius of the Bay Area. We sent these subscribers a message, inviting them to an event at a local brewpub, and then we used Gather to send them text messages with details as the event approached.


We had so much fun getting to know our subscribers, learning what they liked about the newsletter, and gathering feedback on what we might write about in the future.

Gather App

5. Persons of interest

There are some domains we want to be on the lookout for. Competitors love to subscribe to our newsletter and learn all they can about us—and hey, we love to share. There are also a few domains we like to watch out for, like top press websites and companies we admire. By setting up segments that look for email addresses containing certain domains, we can easily sift out persons of interest.

Persons of Interest Segment

6. Super fans

We love to see who’s taking interest in our newsletter, so we created a segment to find all subscribers with a 5-star member-activity rating. These folks open and click regularly. They’re super fans, and we love them. This is yet another group of folks we may want to send something special to in the future.

Super Fans Segment

7. New people

We love to keep an eye on new subscribers, especially after each issue of our newsletter goes out. We set up a segment to see who signed up since our last campaign, so we can say hello and decide if any of the new folks should be marked as a VIP.

New People Segment

Segments enable targeted sending of content tailored for the cohorts in your lists, which leads to better open and click rates. The recent changes to our segmentation interface made it easier to create all these segments. I created all seven segments in about as many minutes. Because they’re saved, and many of them are auto-updating, we’re able to monitor our list more effectively and get to know our subscribers a little better.

These segments work well for us, but your list and communication goals are probably different than ours. The takeaway here is that saved segments that can be auto-updated and even discovered by MailChimp’s Big Data engine can help you manage your list and become a more sophisticated sender. A little bit of list exploration with these new segmentation tools can help you improve reader engagement with only the smallest amount of time invested.