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Let’s Get Personal: A Guide To Automatic Contact Segmentation

In this guide, we explain why segmentation is crucial to your success, and we demonstrate all the ways you can segment in ActiveCampaign.

Introduction

Segments are subgroups of contacts, and they are a marketer’s best friend.

Each segment contains contacts that share similar characteristics or behaviors. When you segment contacts, you can send more accurately targeted messages — the crucial component of marketing. In other words, the purpose of segmentation is to ensure you send people relevant messages that — based on the data you’ve collected — genuinely interest them. Creating segments makes your work easier and more effective.

What follows is a guide to segmentation. We’ll discuss its benefits, the conditions you can segment by, and we’ll show you how to locate and use ActiveCampaign’s segment builder.

Why Segmentation Is Important

Engagement and deliverability have a reciprocal relationship. The better your engagement, the higher your deliverability rate. The higher your deliverability, the more likely your emails are to make it to inboxes and be opened by your contacts.

To improve your deliverability in ActiveCampaign, you need solid engagement numbers right away off the bat. Segmentation helps you achieve such engagement.

By sending relevant messages to contacts, you increase the chance that they’ll engage with your messages, and by consequence, you boost the probability that your deliverability increases.

Now say you don’t create segments. Say you continue to send mass messages that aren’t tailored to contacts’ specific interests and behaviors. The result is low engagement because you send messages that certain contacts deem irrelevant, or worse, annoying. Low engagement hurts your deliverability, which in turn makes achieving your main goals an uphill battle.

So, “to segment or not to segment” really isn’t a question if you want success. Segmentation increases open and click rates and helps you meet your ultimate business objectives.

Conditions To Segment By

ActiveCampaign’s tool for segmentation is the segment builder.

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Its uniqueness is two-fold. First, the criteria you can choose to segment by is extraordinarily robust, meaning your messaging can be extremely targeted. Second, the segment builder is accessible throughout the platform, which allows you to build segments on the fly.

Here are the various conditions you can segment contacts by:

Tags

In the segment builder, tags are found as an option under the “Contact Details” condition. Tags are commonly used to organize contacts. They are used only internally and essentially are a snapshot of contacts’ histories with your business. For example, tags could be used to identify customers of certain products or tags can represent contacts you imported from a certain old system. To manage tags, click “Contacts” in the top banner, and then click “Manage Tags”.

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To segment by a tag is simply to group together contacts that share a tag. In the example below, we access the segment builder in an automation (more on that soon). The full condition we create is “Tag Exists MailChimp”. What that translates to is “contacts who have the tag ‘MailChimp’” and if we click “OK” and save that condition, then any contacts who enter that automation segment into a group that has that tag or a group that does not.

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Tags typically represent more broad, general pieces of data, and if you use custom fields, you shouldn’t need too many tags.

Custom Fields

Tags provide a snapshot summary of contacts and custom fields tell the full story. You can create a variety of custom fields and place them on your external-facing forms (aka the doors contacts use to enter your database). Any information your contacts choose to submit is permanent, actionable data you can use to segment contacts.

For example, you could create a custom field that asks what type of pets your contacts have or to find out their Twitter handle or their favorite foods. You’re limited only by what you wish to learn and what your contacts choose to disclose. The more pertinent data you collect, the more you can segment. The more you segment, the more relevant your messages become.

To create custom fields, click “Forms” in the top banner. Then, click “Manage Fields”. Click the green “+New Custom Field” button.

Note: creating custom fields generates a personalization tag, so you can plug that tag into any messages and automatically personalize them.

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Contact Details

The image below shows all the other conditions that fall under the contact details category, in addition to tags. You can further refine this type of segment by determining if a contact’s details must exactly match the condition you pick. That is, rather than being limited to creating a condition like “email is soandso@mycompany.com” you can also segment contacts by a condition that is “email contains mycompany.” Similarly, you can segment contacts whose contact records do not match the conditions you set or even a certain string of characters. You can be as specific as you’d like to be.

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Actions

A third category of conditions in the segment builder (we’ve covered contact details and custom fields so far) is actions. In this context, actions are events that occur within ActiveCampaign or on content sent through ActiveCampaign. Such actions boil down to those that contacts take in campaigns (clicking links in campaigns, sharing them, opening them, etc.) and contacts’ entry to and exit from lists.

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As shown in the example above, you are able to specify what campaign you want to pull from, as well as the specific links in said campaign (or the specific social network a contact shared it on). The campaigns, links, and social networks all auto-populate in the appropriate drop-down boxes.

Note: a powerful feature in ActiveCampaign is the ability to execute global actions. These actions include “has/has not opened ANY email” or “has/has not clicked ANY link” (which is created for measuring engagement). Using such criteria serves as a huge help in segmenting your contacts quickly and easily.

Geography

You can also segment contacts according to geography. You can select a country, state, city, zip, and area code and can segment contacts based on whose record exactly matches your location of choice. You can also segment contacts who are not in the location you specify, and you can segment contacts whose record contains or does not contain part of the location you selected.

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Site & Event Data

Unlike the actions category, which pertains to internal actions, the site and event data condition refers to actions contacts take on your external web assets. For example, you could segment contacts according to the URLs they have or have not visited. Or, you could segment contacts according to the type of device they do or do not visit your web assets on (desktop, mobile, or tablet).

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For access to such data, you must setup site tracking. We discuss how to do that in step one of our migration guide.

Deals

Lastly, the deals condition allows you to segment contacts based on the characteristics of their deals in our CRM. Characteristics include deal status (open, won, and lost), what stage deals are in, deal value, which team member is responsible for the deal, and the deal title.

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Additionally, you can segment contacts based on the number of total deals they have or don’t have. You can segment according to the total number of deals (regardless of status) and you can segment specifically by deals that are open, won, or lost.

How To Access The Segment Builder

As we mentioned, another unique quality of our segment builder is that you can access it from a variety of places in ActiveCampaign. Here are all the places you can build segments:

Contacts Page: Click in the contacts search field. Then click “Advanced Search”.

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Lists: Of course, you can create segments of a list (which really is a larger segment to begin with; if you read our migration guide, you’ll remember that we recommend keeping a small number of lists). To do so, click on the down arrow all the way to the right of a list row. Click on “Segments”. Add the segment you desire. For example, one segment of your list could be Chicagoans, indicating contacts who live in Chicago. Another could be called Customers, in which you group contacts that have already bought your product. Simply set the conditions you desire, and ActiveCampaign automatically creates the segment you want.

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Automations: Additionally, you can access the segment builder when creating automations. By doing so, you can automate two tasks:

1. the grouping of contacts into segments
2. the sending of relevant messages to each segment

The simplest way to access the segment builder in automations is to create a split path by adding an if/else action. To do so, click the plus sign at the point in the automation where you want to add an action. Doing so brings up the “Add new action” window. Click on “Conditions and Workflow” and then click the “If/Else” action. The segment builder appears and asks you how you’d like to split the automation. Select your conditions and click “OK”.

Contacts now split onto two routes at that point in the automation: one route for condition-fulfilling contacts and one route for those who don’t meet your conditions. The split empowers you to craft relevant, personalized routes for all contacts that enter the automation, which increases the likelihood that contacts achieve your ultimate goal.

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You can also access the segment builder in an automation by creating a wait condition. To do that, start by repeating the process of adding an action. Click on “Conditions and Workflow” and click on “Wait” action. A window appears giving you the option to create a wait action for a specific period of time or until specific conditions are met. Choose the latter. Doing so brings up the segment builder. Set your conditions and click “OK”. Now, contacts pause at that point in the automation until they meet the conditions you set.

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You can get more creative by adding new segment groups to each “If/Else” condition or “Wait” action. Toggling the “And/Or” buttons that rest between segment groups decides if contacts must meet all the conditions you set and/or just one of them to advance in the automation.

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When we add new features to our platform, such flexibility is what we strive for.

Campaigns:

You can further customize the messages you send when creating and saving emails in our email designer by using conditional content blocks.

Content blocks contain text, images, videos, etc. You can set behavioral or characteristic conditions for each content block. That way, when you send the message, those content blocks appear only for contacts who meet the specified conditions.

To bring up the segment builder and make content blocks conditional, click on “Campaigns” in the top banner. Then, click on “Manage Templates”. From there, choose a template to edit. Hover over any content block until you see the gear icon in the right corner. Click that icon and select “make conditional”.

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Closing Remarks

The technology is powerful, but you must remember that technology alone will not make your business successful. You need to pair it with proven marketing strategies that stem from foundational marketing principles. In order to create segments, you need to truly understand your audience, and you need to know what goals you’re looking to accomplish. Segmenting just for the sake of doing it will not net you any better results than mass messaging. If you do it right, segmentation can indeed help you work smarter, not harder.

If you found this guide helpful, please share it with your peers. Have more questions about segmentation? Ask us in the comments!