Imagine, hypothetically, that you like comedy. You like seeing stand-up comedians and you enjoy going to a specific theater. So, you sign up to get email updates about upcoming shows.

But the next three newsletters that come to your inbox are about opera performances. What are the odds you’re going to find these emails relevant? Pretty slim, right? Chances are you’re probably going to ignore future emails or unsubscribe altogether.

That’s why—when you’re using email marketing services—it can pay off to segment subscribers into different contact lists. This allows you to send focused email marketing campaigns to your contacts with specific interests and provide content and offers that they’ll really, really like.

Here are five examples of small businesses and nonprofits, and how they segment their lists effectively:

1. SpeechGear

SpeechGear sells complex, enterprise-level software that translates speech into different languages in real time. The company has created 92 granular lists. The lists are divided into four main categories:

a)      State/Occupation

b)      Conference

c)       General

d)      Organization

It’s important to note that SpeechGear isn’t sending emails to all 92 lists all the time. Instead, when there’s an upcoming tradeshow in Alabama, for example, the team can send a notice to educators in Alabama who they already know are interested in the product.

2. The Festival Theatres Trust

The Festival Theatres Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland, helps manage The King’s Theatre and the Festival Theatre. The theatre has a lot of audiences to reach for the different shows being produced. Here’s a look at how some of the lists are organized:

a)      Type of entertainment

b)      Audience

c)       People who only want emails about discounts

d)      General

e)      People who only want long-form content

f)       Loyal theatre-goers

g)      Attendees of specific events

The Festival Theatres Trust uses the list for loyal theatre-goers to send special discounts. The organization recently started sending customized emails to theatre-goers who are attending a certain event, too.

A little while ago, we wrote a case study about the Trust’s tactical use of segmentation.

3. The Brooklyn Waldorf School

The Brooklyn Waldorf School uses email marketing and EventSpot to help keep students and parents up-to-date with the latest events and news, as well as organize orientations and school visits.

The school’s lists are all created with a specific audience in mind. When there’s a particular update for one group, web associate Ben Williams can reach that group alone.

Here are the four main categories for the school’s lists:

a) Staff

b) Event

c) Grade

d) Special interest

Again, the thing to remember is the school doesn’t regularly send emails to all of these lists. Instead, Ben relies on these lists when he has information for a specific group. For example, he may send an email update to only Grade 3 students about an upcoming field trip.

4. FairyDogparents

Fairy Dogparents uses email to stay connected with volunteers and donors by sending regular updates about the work the organization is doing to help families keep their dogs healthy and happy.

The organization splits its lists by five different categories:

a) Events

b) Board members

c) General

d) Specific initiatives

e) Volunteers

Fairy Dogparents launched a very big initiative to find a lost dog named Mia and created a specific list for that purpose alone.

For nonprofits, lists can be instrumental in reaching donors, too, particularly if your donors are interested in different things and may value some newsletter material over others.

Hania Whitfield of Whitfield Consulting even suggests using segmentation to create lists for your top donors.

5. The Basketry

The Basketry offers customers a diverse selection of beautiful hand-woven baskets. In addition to a brick-and-mortar location, the business sells products on The Basketry website.

By keeping customers segmented, the business can specifically target people who they know will be most interested.

Here’s how The Basketry segments email contacts:

a) Retail customers

b) Online customers

c) Business contacts

d) Customers who bought the store’s products from another business

Retail stores can also segment lists by loyalty and product bought. That way, if you have a special sale for your most loyal customers or on a particular item, you can make sure that the people who are most interested in it will hear about it first.

Where to get the information for your lists

Getting more than just a name and an email address is as easy as asking. While you don’t want to overwhelm subscribers with too many fields on forms, asking for a zip code or the name of the person’s organization can go a long way.

You can do this when people sign up in the store or you can customize your Join My Mail List form so people can self-segment into the categories they find most interesting.

Some companies will even ask for birthdays. That way, whenever it’s a customer’s birthday month, they can send those people something special.

The trick is to think about collecting this information over time.

The more you know about your audience, the better you can segment your lists. But before you start, you have to build a list. Here are some resources to help you get started:

[Q&A] How Do You Build an Email List from Scratch?

15 Ingredients  to Cook Up a Delicious Email List From Scratch

How do you segment your list? Share your secrets below!