Will 55% of Marketers Learn to Segment Their Contact Lists?

New research reveals that “a majority of email marketers are flying blind” as pointed out by a news article of the same title (as quoted) recently published on the Direct Marketing News website. As if the headline isn’t disconcerting enough, the details in the news report are even more dismal. In this blog entry, we’ll try to dissect the reported causes of such a widespread lack of email targeting and hopefully show that segmenting email campaign contact lists isn’t only necessary but very much feasible as well.

According to a Return Path study, about 55% of email marketers admit relying on inadequate or wholly-absent targeting and segmentation practices in their campaigns. The survey, as explained by George Bilbrey (Return Path’s president), polled over 300 “marketing executives” who cited a number of reasons for their targeting strategies’ shortcomings. Here are some key points that the survey respondents raised and our take on the issues.


Reasons Cited: The above-mentioned news article paints a fairly clear picture of the predicament that an overwhelming majority of email marketers face today. Surely, all marketers have to take on certain challenges in their campaigns both within the organization and the external environment. These are some of the more salient concerns that email marketers voiced out in the same Return Path study:

A) Lack of necessary data. Around two-thirds of marketers surveyed say that “access to the right data is a challenge” while one-third believe they’re somewhat in the dark when it comes to analytically assessing their campaigns. Even inbox placement and deliverability metrics are inaccessible to as much as 4 out of every 10 marketers in the study.

B) Absence of competitive strategies. Email strategies are most effective when they’re developed while taking into account the campaigns of competitors. This is why about a quarter of the respondents think competitive intelligence in email marketing has a positive effect on revenue generation. However, only 23% of the participants actively observe their competitors’ campaigns, citing their inability to commit resources such as manpower and technology as root causes.

Our Rebuttal: While the arguments raised above do hold some level of validity, we think they’re worth some serious scrutiny. Regardless of how you may view our “counterarguments,” the point we intend on hammering home is best summed up in the clichéd line: “when there’s a will, there’s a way.” And so, with that, we say:

A) Things can be simplified. Segmentation and targeting can be accomplished with even the most rudimentarybusiness contact database resources. You don’t need sophisticated attitudinal segmentation algorithms to carry out a targeted marketing campaign. You just have to know your prospects and customers really well to know what’s relevant or irrelevant to them.

B) There’s more than one way to spy. Better yet, you don’t even have to spy. We came across an interesting post by Bill McCloskey discussing competitive intelligence in developing targeting, segmentation, and messaging strategies for email campaigns. “Specialized tools” do boost the results of competitive intelligence activities, but careful analysis of publicly-available data on competitors is enough to get the job done.

Conclusion: Whether you buy into the arguments we’ve raised in our rebuttal doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that facts and common sense show segmentation supports relevance which in turn ensures conversion and response. It therefore follows that segmentation positively drives campaign results. That proves our case a priori and a posteriori. With that aside, let’s go back to the question posed in the title and hope that the answer would be sooner instead of later.