When it comes to targeting the best supporters for specific activities, many of us are using (or have used) the sub-list model. You know—the ‘list within the list’ approach. This involves recruiting supporters onto purpose-designed lists that generally rely on the intentions of supporters when they sign up.
Here’s the problem: motivations change. Even a supporter’s most sincere intentions will rarely reflect what they’ll do over a sustained period of time. Anyone who has seen a well-worn sub-list take a nose-dive on engagement knows this to be true.
Sometimes, sub-lists really are the best way to segment. Perhaps you run a sensitive program that’s closed to outside recruits. Or maybe you deliver news alerts or recipes to those who’ve requested them. But for the most part, high frequency sub-lists bleed engagement because stated intentions can never keep pace with shifting motivations. We need better ways to fuel ongoing actions that don’t burn out (what should be) our most engaged supporters.
Should subscription preference pages address this? To an extent. But most supporters will start to tune out long before they think to adjust their preferences (if they ever do).
What if you could anticipate your supporters’ preferences before they adjusted them? That’s effectively what segmenting for behavior (rather than intentions) allows you to do.
Behavior-based segmentation enables you to proactively target the most suitable candidates for any action—without requiring anyone to opt in and out of sub-lists. This lets subscribers self-select for higher frequency actions and lets you ease off at early signs of fatigue.
The process is simple: to find people most suited to your action, segment for people who have completed similar actions recently.
A (more complex) donor-equivalent of this approach is RFV segmentation. Both systems work based on a single insight: we are most likely to repeat the actions we’ve performed most recently. In either case, behavior-based segmentation lets you maximize the size of your warm audience by looking to your full list for the best candidates at any moment in time. This proven tactic will, by definition, offer you a larger and more responsive recipient list.
New things can be scary. But relax—you don’t need to abandon your sub-lists overnight. Test drive behavior-based segmentation until you are ready to wean yourself off any unsustainable sub-lists for good.
Since you’ll no longer have use for sub-list signup forms, you’ll want another way to attract new candidates for your actions. Behavior-oriented strategy can help with that, too. List-building theory tells us that if we want to attract active supporters, we should use active email list entry points. (It also suggests that if we use list signup forms, we’ll probably attract people who like to identify as action takers; not necessarily people who like taking action.)
Embed contact capture into action forms that resemble the types of actions you most need supporters to regularly engage in. For example, if your regular actions involve corporate or political lobbying, use a list-building action form that sends messages to a political or corporate target, and segment for those action takers. Add to this by using email click data to identify and segment for repeat action-takers as well.
Here are five compelling reasons to use action forms as your primary list-building entry points (instead of sub-list signup forms).
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