Defining a customer segment for cold emailing – targeting in online marketing

Monika Chmielewska in

Blog/IT Lead Generation/Defining a customer segment for cold emailing – targeting in online marketing

Tracking down the perfect customers for your company is quite an effort. Don’t spend your marketing budget to test strategies at random. It’s easier when you define your target customer segments first. 

On average, to run a long-term cold email campaign you need to find a customer segment of about 5.000-10.000 companies. So if you’re already writing emails, there’s an important first step that you’re missing – defining target customer segments that you will write to.

Great copywriting doesn’t win leads by itself. But when it’s combined with great targeting, even a mediocre cold email campaign has a big chance of generating customer interest and sales leads.

Why targeting is important in online marketing

Using the example of cold emailing,  a viable campaign needs great execution and a special ingredient. The ingredient is a hook – point of mutual interest between you and potential customers in your target segment. 

Finding an interesting hook for an email campaign to connect with 100.000 random companies would be a serious challenge. But once you pick a specific segment, that number reduces to 10.000-20.000 companies around the world that you can easily find a hook for.

Defining your target customer segment starts with picking market verticals to focus on. 

Vertical Markets

Let’s explore the most fundamental verticals.

1.Company type

What type of company could use your offer the most? 

Sometimes it’ll be many types of companies – great! They can be the foundation of several separate customer segments. The type means that your customer has to be an “agency” or a “fund”, a “service vendor” or “product company”. Don’t specify the company type too much – use other verticals to better define a customer segment. Otherwise, once you reach a decent definition of your customer segment, you’ll realise that there are only 10 companies like that all over the globe.

2.Company size

Depending on the size, the structure of the company will be different. That means that when you organise campaigns to big companies, targeting the right decision maker becomes tricky. In:

  • 1-10 companies, cold email campaigns target Founders most often.
  • 11-50 sized companies it’s still mostly Founders, sometimes Managers and Chiefs come into play.
  • 51-200 sized companies, the target decision makers become VPs, C-Suite, and department managers with separate budgets.
  • 201-500 and bigger size companies, it’s more complicated because there are people responsible for each part of the process – approving, controlling, etc. The best tactic is to ask for referrals upfront. Assume you reached the wrong person and work your way through the corporate maze to find the right decision maker.


It’s not just about a place on the map, it’s also about the business culture of the place you’re targeting. For instance, campaigns targeted at Switzerland don’t work well unless they’re from a Switzerland-based company. The Swiss prefer to keep business within the borders.

Or, if you’re writing to Scandinavian countries, it’s seen as professional when you write long and descriptive (essay-like) emails, because they appreciate information. When approaching German companies, keep it formal and use the German language to increase conversions.


Your target customers might need to be users of a certain technology to be able to benefit from your offer.

In this case it would seem particularly useful to know, ahead of time, whether or not you’re wasting your time completely by sending cold emails to people that will never be interested. Designers of WordPress themes seem like a good example here – they wouldn’t be able to sell a WP theme to a company that doesn’t have anything to do with that particular CMS. Instead, they should target only companies that use WP and write personalised emails to convince them that their themes are the most reliable.


Meaning the industry that your customers are from. Automotive? Finance?

It’s the most basic choice that is made as you define your product/service. But it’s interesting to explore various possible markets for your offer. You might find unexpected niches that are waiting for a high-quality vendor, like your company, to fill them.


In online marketing, you don’t pick a target segment once

It’s impossible to control how a target customer segment will respond. Sometimes you hit the right one the first time, other times you have to switch verticals and verify results of your cold email campaigns for different segments.

For instance, at one point in the past I noticed that companies with a sales team are better customers. The sales cycle was shorter, and negotiations went more smoothly.

The best performing campaigns are contextual – for instance, in one campaign our target were companies featured in the “Deloitte Fast 50”. The common hook was simple – it was a congratulation for being recognised as one of the top companies in the region. It was a very successful campaign, and proves that it’s worth to keep experimenting with targeting. 

When a cold email campaign isn’t generating positive replies (leads), and you can’t improve it for up to a month, then you should look for a different customer segment to approach. 

Customer segment in cold emailing – basics

When you have trouble finding a target customer segment, reconsider your offer – you probably don’t offer a business viable solution.

But if you’re confident that you can add value (and have data to back this assumption), then the best first choice is to make an educated guess picking the target customer segment. It’s a starting point. 

If you can only help a very specific, niche target segment, then an automated cold email campaign is pointless. It would be much more effective to email each company individually after thorough research. 

Between 5.000 and 10.000 companies around the world is the average, workable segment for a cold email campaign. 

Even when you can target hundreds of thousands of companies, the best practice would be to group them into specific customer segments that you can approach with personalised hooks.

Be reasonable 

Sending emails to random people or companies is spam and it means bad performance. Annoying busy people is not a way to sell. Cold emailing is about a much more personal connection, and pushes you to learn more about your customers. To convert 10 decision makers into clients, you might need to approach 1000 properly targeted companies – and the number would grow to 10.000 if they were poorly targeted. Without a customer segment that you can tailor-fit emails to, you’re emailing in the dark.

Pick the right customer segment and marketing will work much better. Couple that with a great offer and you’ve already got the foundation for a highly effective cold email campaign.

Image sources:; RightHello’s prospecting software

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Monika Chmielewska

Chief Marketing Officer at RightHello, inbound marketing specialist with the focus on lead generation. Passionate about content marketing and social media. Obsessed with personal development.

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