One of the top five reasons people unsubscribe to your email campaigns is due to lack of relevance. Unsubscribes are triggered by lack of targeted content, leading once-happy and hopeful subscribers resentful and feeling spammed with content that doesn’t understand them.

The best way to avoid a disgruntled subscriber is to anticipate what matters to them. The way to do this is by segmenting your email list. Ideally, you do this at the time your subscriber on boards by asking questions that create a segment-friendly profile. Chief questions to ask at this time should factor in the following points:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geography
  • Industry
  • Organization
  • Interests [check boxes on areas that apply to your business or organization]
  • Education level

If you’ve been unable to ask these questions at the offset, then there’s always a way to go back and create custom segmented lists, especially if you’re still in the early into the email marketing game. There are a few ways to do this.

The first way (1) is to outright ask your subscribers in an email campaign to fill out a form with key questions. Preface that email with why you’re doing this now (so you can create custom content and keep things more relevant to them). Mix in that email campaign with others over the course of a couple months so you increase the frequency that email is seen. This is one of those administrative emails, which asks someone to take action – so you’re going to need to do a little gentle nudging here.

You can also link to this segment questionnaire in your social media platforms, pinning the link to the top of the page on Facebook and Twitter. And you can factor it into your website as well, through an existing landing page, a separate pop-up and with banners running across your website. But since most people are busy and aren’t inclined to fill out a form just because you’ve asked, it’s important to have more than just one approach to doing things.

The second way (2) is looking at the data you already have to start segmenting at least by gender or any other info you’ve got on hand. This is the simplest step that starts getting you thinking in terms of group types. And this step also needs to include going back to alter your current subscription form so it starts collecting this data with all new subscribers.

The third way (3) is looking to see what you can do with the data you already have. If your email list is small enough or you have some help, send out a personal email to each subscriber with the same info that’s on the campaign you just sent out. You’re much more likely to get some direct feedback here because you’ve personally reached out to strike a connection.

The third option is my favorite because it gets you engaged with your audience and thinking in terms of overlapping Venn diagrams. In other words, what similarities are you seeing? What are you noticing that you didn’t know before? How the reality of what your subscribers want different from what you’re currently doing?

As fun as this third way is, it’s also the most time-intensive. In order to be lean, break up the three steps into action items based on what can get you the quickest results. In my view, that means working backwards from 3, 2 and then 1

The reason number 1 should be last is because it is likely to be least effective even though it’s the quickest to set up and launch. This is where lean matters. Lean isn’t just about saving time, it’s about maximizing the reward for your efforts. You can take five minutes to set up the first option but if it gets you zero results and you’re not carrying this campaign across months, then you’ve wasted five minutes.

However, generating a dialogue and creating pathways for new subscribers might take a little longer, but it gets you what you need.