Email Blasts or Specific Sends? Email Marketing Tips for Accountants & Advisors

By Posted in - Members Blog on April 20th, 2016 1 Comments

Email Newsletters for Accountants - List Segmentation

What does ‘email marketing’ mean to you? Emailing a newsletter to your clients once or twice a month? Or emailing it to your entire list, including:

  • your clients
  • your prospective clients who subscribed to your newsletter from your website
  • people in your referral network (e.g. other professionals and centres of influence)
  • anyone else in your marketing database?

You should make a point of sending your email newsletter regularly. You don’t want to be the accounting firm asking people to subscribe to a “monthly” email newsletter that only goes out two or three times a year (if that).

But instead of sending the same email newsletter to everyone, you should send out specifically targeted email broadcasts to segments of your list.

In other words, you should send different email broadcasts to different portions of your list.

It makes sense, right? Think about the face-to-face conversations you’d have with:

  • a wage and salary earner
  • someone who runs a micro business
  • someone who runs a medium-sized business
  • someone who runs a larger business
  • a not-for-profit organisation
  • someone who doesn’t have a business yet, but wants to start one eventually
  • a business client who’s good at doing their own bookkeeping
  • a business client who isn’t good at doing their own bookkeeping
  • a business client you already do bookkeeping for
  • a retiree
  • a wealthy retiree
  • someone approaching retirement age
  • someone who has a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (or equivalent tax-advantaged retirement vehicle if you’re outside Australia)
  • someone who doesn’t have a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (or equivalent) but would benefit from you helping them set one up
  • an active investor who strongly prefers property
  • an active investor who invests in shares
  • a current referral source
  • a potential referral source
  • a journalist or other media contact

They’d all be very different conversations, wouldn’t they?

Admittedly, that’s a pretty extensive segmentation. But even if you just segmented your email broadcast list according to:

  • Wage and Salary Earner: Yes/No
  • Business Owner: Yes/No
  • Retiree: Yes/No

you’d still be faced with the same question: Why are you sending the same information to people who have different personal circumstances and are in different stages of their lives?

Am I suggesting you stop sending your general eNewsletters? No. What I am suggesting is that you also send additional email broadcasts that are more specific to targeted segments of your list.

Which brings us to our next question: How do you segment your list?

Well, let’s start by telling you how not to do it.

As part of our Email Newsletter Service, we help firms set up their email broadcast account in whatever marketing platform they use (e.g. MailChimp). And if it’s an account they’ve been using for a while, we often see they’ve tried segmenting their list by creating multiple lists within the account.


7 problems multiple lists can create in your email marketing platform:

  1. Many contacts will be on more than one list. For example, a small business owner with a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund who prefers investing in property could end up on three different lists within your email broadcast system.
  2. If a person clicks the Unsubscribe link in the email footer, they’ll only be unsubscribed from whatever list that email broadcast was sent to. Unless your admin support team then removes them from every other list as well, they’ll eventually receive another email from you. (This happens a lot, despite everyone’s best intensions.) And when that happens it will not only annoy them but also be an invitation for spam complaints.
  3. When someone marks an email from you as spam—rather than simply unsubscribing—it increases your reputation for being a potential spammer. This reduces your ‘email deliverability’, and will lower the chance of future emails you send reaching peoples’ inboxes.
  4. If it happens too often, your email service provider (e.g. MailChimp) can cancel or even delete your account. (Yes they can. It’s in the Terms & Conditions you didn’t bother reading.) That’s because spammers also bring down the deliverability of everyone else using their mail servers.
  5. And if that wasn’t enough, emailing people after they’ve unsubscribed also breaks anti-spam laws in most countries.
  6. Even if you have the world’s most vigilant admin support team who always removes contacts from all other lists when someone unsubscribes from one of them, it still takes time and costs you money. (And let’s face it: there are far more value-adding tasks they could be doing.)
  7. And how do you know the contact who unsubscribed wants to stop receiving all your emails. Maybe they unsubscribed from your business owner emails (because they sold their business), but still want to receive emails about other topics.

So what’s the answer?

Depending on the email marketing system you’re using, there are two main approaches:

  1. If you’re using a system that lets you create multiple lists (e.g. MailChimp), resist the temptation. Create ONE list, and then use groups and segments so contacts—or your own team members—can select the various checkboxes and options to choose the relevant topics for each.

    Segmentation fields can be either:

    • hidden fields that only your team members see in the back-end of the email broadcast platform
    • visible fields of the sign-up web form that the contact can complete when initially subscribing to your email newsletter.

    They can also be displayed on the Update Your Profile/Preferences web form, which you provide a link to in the footer of your emails. That way they can then select the topics they’re interested in receiving themselves.

    You can even combine hidden and visible fields on the same web form if it includes helpful segmentation criteria (e.g. a “Prospective client” checkbox) you don’t want contacts to see.

  2. In more advanced marketing automation platforms such as Infusionsoft, you can perform segmentation using ‘tags’—attributes that let you segment your list in as many ways as you can imagine.

    A tag isn’t a field, so it won’t bloat your database with contact record fields that are usually empty. It’s more like a virtual sticky note you can put on a virtual client file to keep track of various details about that contact.

    The segmentation criteria we showed you earlier could be tags. Marketing automation platforms also let you apply tags to contacts based on:

    • a link they clicked in an email you sent them
    • an attachment they downloaded
    • an eBook they requested
    • a webinar they registered for
    • a webinar they attended (or perhaps didn’t show up for)
    • a service of yours they currently use (or don’t yet use)
    • their gender
    • their age (or age range)
    • their occupation type
    • a web page they visited and stayed on for a certain period of time on your website
    • an answer they gave when completing a feedback form, survey or other web form.

    The possibilities are endless.

    And they’re exciting. Marketing Automation is a powerful tool for any business, which is why we use and recommend Infusionsoft. It’s an incredible piece of technology. And segmented email broadcasts are just one of its many functions.

But back to the basics of email marketing using standard platforms such as MailChimp. Here are the principles you need to follow:

  • Have only ONE list.
  • Use segmentation fields to categorise each contact.
  • Decide on whether to use hidden fields, visible fields, or a combination of both.
  • Create these fields in your email marketing system.
  • Choose whether to:
    • populate these fields with the relevant data for each contact
    • let subscribers do it themselves, either when they sign up or via a secondary email they receive after they sign up.

    You want as few fields on the initial sign-up form as possible—one or two tops.

  • Send specific, targeted email broadcasts to segments of your list by doing lookups based on values in your segmentation fields.

By following these principles, you won’t just be blasting (I hate that word) your email list with content that tries to appeal to everyone on your list. Because as you know only too well, you can’t please everyone.

What have your experiences been like segmenting your email lists? Have you done it for your clients? Prospective clients? Both? Feel free to share any experiences or ask any questions about specifics in the Comments section below.

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