How to Create Exclusion Segments for Email Marketing

How to Create Exclusion Segments for Email Marketing
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How many times have you purchased from a brand only to then be blasted incessantly with sales promotions littered with coupons?

This onboarding experience is lazy, predictable, and based on the assumption that all you’re interested in is offers.

In fact, the real reason most customers churn is in fact because they believe brands don’t care about them.

Introducing the concept of ‘Exclusion Segments’

How many times have you met somebody, had a negative first impression only to then turn around and realise they actually weren’t such an asshole after all?

The answer is surprisingly not too often.

Ever accepted a connection request on LinkedIn, only for the person to then instantly bombard you with requests for a “15-minute call” to “explore synergies”?

You know the hard sell is coming, so you either ignore or block the person.

As Malcolm Gladwell points out in Blink, first impressions are crucial and also likely to set the tone for the rest of the relationship.

This is because humans are hardwired to make snapshot judgements.

It’s also why you should get to the point you’re trying to make quickly if you want people to consume your content (ok, sorry, I’ll speed things up a little!).

The point is that first impressions are crucial and working backwards to salvage a relationship is an inefficient strategy.

Start as you mean to go on by leveraging “Exclusion segments” at key stages of the customer journey.

Start with the Basic Flows

The first two interactions a customer usually has with your brand is either:

  1. Your Welcome Flow
  2. Your Post-Purchase Flow

Depending on whether they signed up to a pop-up on your site or just purchased for the first time, the likelihood is that the tone you set in these two flows is likely to form the future perception that your customers have of your brand on email.

If you get this right, you’ll keep open rates healthy over the long term and drive unsubscribes rates down over the short term.

This is absolutely crucial, especially considering the rising cost of acquisition and how much more difficult it is to retain customers.

It will give you innumerable opportunities to sell to the customer many times into the future providing you can delay gratification and add value first.


How to Create Your Exclusion Segment

The main thing brands get wrong during these initial stages of acquisition is that whilst they set these flows up with the best intentions, they end up getting sandwiched between their standard sales campaigns.

Somebody may be passing through the most perfectly designed post-purchase flow in the world for the first time, eliminating buyer remorse, receiving quality product education and thoughtful aftercare to only then be bombarded by relentless sales promotions when they haven’t even experienced your product.

I detailed the hideous sight of this customer journey firsthand in this video and just how much of a turn-off it is to new customers:

To prevent this horrorshow, you should always focus on setting up what we call a “Global Campaign Exclusion Segment”.

We have two fundamental rules on people who shouldn’t receive campaigns (ad-hoc sales promotions):

  1. People who subscribe to you for the first time in the Welcome Flow
  2. Customers who purchase for the first time for the first 25-30 days

Thus, you’ll need to find a way to amalgamate these two customer journeys into one “Exclusion Segment” which you can then prevent receiving your campaigns.

Step 1: Add Custom Properties to Your Welcome Flow

To begin, navigate over to your Welcome Flow.

You’ll want to add a Custom Property inside Klaviyo once somebody enters the flow for the first time.

In the image below, you can see the property is set up as ‘WelcomeFlow = Active”

How to Create Exclusion Segments for Email Marketing | Magnet Monster

When somebody then exits the flow, you’ll want to update the “WelcomeFlow” property to “Inactive”.

(If you’re wondering why we don’t just strip them of the property altogether, it’s so we have a reference in future on when somebody has received a certain flow or not. This allows us to make better data-driven decisions and also construct future flows that include/exclude certain segments more effectively.)

Next, you’ll want to create a segment that groups together all customers who currently have the ‘WelcomeFlow = Active” tag to let you know they’re currently passing through this flow. Here’s how you would set it up:

The above segment will give you a snapshot of how many customers are active in your Welcome Flow at any given time.

Step 2: Add Custom Properties to your Post-Purchase Flow

You’re now going to want to repeat the exact same logic and apply it to your Post-Purchase Flow for first-time customers. Here’s a quick screenshot of how this may look inside Klaviyo:

How to Create Exclusion Segments for Email Marketing | Magnet Monster

Using the same naming convention, we’re adding a ‘PostPurchaseFlow’ property.

It is important to note that this flow above has a Flow Filter that stipulates that it must be the customers first order in order to enter the flow.

Just like we did with our Welcome Flow, we’re going to want to create a Post-Purchase exclusion segment for first-time buyers like the following:

This segment will provide a snapshot of how many first-time buyers are currently passing through this flow.

Step 3: Create a Global Campaign Exclusion Segment

This is where you start tying everything together to simplify your campaign strategy and streamline your onboarding process.

If you go back into your segments, you’re going to want to amalgamate the properties together to create one universal ‘Campaign Exclusion Segment’ like so:

Every time you then proceed to create a campaign, you would simply exclude this segment so that the customer has the opportunity to be onboarded correctly.

Your customers will be eligible to start receiving campaigns once they’ve completed passing through these flows.

(NOTE: if you’re wondering why the numbers don’t add up above to the earlier example I gave on the Welcome Flow, it was simple because I was moving between accounts we hav when screenshotting examples)

Step 4: Apply to all Relevant Flows

Depending on the client, I personally like to exclude all customers from receiving sales campaigns if they’re passing through a flow. The logic is simple: a flow has been designed in a way for a customer to pass through uninterrupted. By sandwiching them with campaigns, you’re reducing the effectiveness and cadence of that customer journey.

Step 5: “What if a Customer Exits a Flow Before the Custom Property is Updated?”

Depending on how you’ve structured your flows, it’s likely that not all customers will pass through as they may have took action that spat them out of the flow prematurely.

For example: let’s say on the “Subscribes to Newsletter” trigger on the Welcome Flow, you have a flow filter that is like the following:

How to Create Exclusion Segments for Email Marketing | Magnet Monster

This would ensure that existing customers cannot sign up to receive the 10% discount code in your Welcome Flow.

However, new subscribers who then went on to make a purchase would exit the flow prematurely (and probably enter the post-purchase flow). If this happened, they would not receive the opportunity to have the custom property updated, leaving you in the precarious position of leaving them out of your campaigns indefinitely!

To circumvent this issue, you will need to manually create flows that strip custom properties in case they don’t reach the end of each journey based on the projected time they would have been in the flow otherwise.

Let’s use the Welcome Flow as an example, and say that our existing Welcome Flow has a duration of 8 days. In this instance, we would want to set a flow up that updates the custom property after 8 days irrespective and acts as a fallback in case the customer has already exited the flow.

We would trigger this flow via a segment (based on our original set up), and then update the custom property accordingly like this:

How to Create Exclusion Segments for Email Marketing | Magnet Monster

This way, anybody that has entered the Welcome Flow will certainly have their custom property updated even if they exited the flow prematurely.

You will need to set up these safety fallbacks for all flows that have permutations that may spit a customer out of a flow prematurely.

Conclusion: Start as you Mean to Go On

This may look like a lot of extra work to get your account up and running but if you’re serious about lowering unsubscribes over the long term on autopilot and providing a better customer journey, then it’s imperative you set this up.

In a crowded field you must continuously work to differentiate yourself from the competition. Setting up exclusion segments allows you to improve email deliverability, lower unsubscribes and increase open rates. Surely all that is worth a couple of hours set-up for long term health?

You decide which journey to take your customers on. Remember that!

I cover this more extensively in Monster Email Marketing where I spill the beans on the exact strategies I've used to win deals with 8-9 figure DTC brands and continuously drive an additional 15% revenue from every email campaign you send.

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