5 Steps to Create Surveys to Segment Your Subscribers

It’s every email marketer’s challenge: creating just the kind of messages that subscribers will enjoy and respond to. The straightforward solution is simply asking each subscriber what they’d like to receive. Asking at sign up can make your form too long and off-putting. So ask for preferences in an email survey instead. Here’s a nuts-and-bolts look at how to set it up.

It’s every email marketer’s challenge: creating just the kind of messages that subscribers will enjoy and respond to.

The straightforward solution is simply asking each subscriber what they’d like to receive.

Asking at sign up can make your form too long and off-putting. So ask for preferences in an email survey instead.

You’ve seen how surveys can help you deliver more targeted email campaigns; now here’s a nuts-and-bolts look at how to set it up.

Survey Says: Put a Little Work In Now

Setting up an email survey is going to take a few minutes. But we do mean it when we say few – it’s not complicated. Plus, do it once and you’ll get answers from subscribers forever! Here’s how:
First, write up a broadcast for your current list with your survey questions in it. List the optional answers people can choose from.

Then, link each answer to its own thank-you page. By tracking visits to these pages, you’ll see who clicked on each answer.

Don’t worry about tracking visits to those pages yourself – our system will do it. Just toss our email analytics onto each page, and you’re good to go.
You’ll want to make sure to get these answers from every subscriber possible. So copy the HTML of your broadcast into a follow up message so future subscribers can choose their preferences as well. Remember, the earlier you set the message in the follow up sequence, the sooner each subscriber will get emails customized to their preferences.
Ready? Send out your broadcast! Now next time you send an email, you’ll have data to segment by. Make sure the message goes to the right group: just search your subscribers by “web page visited,” choose the page related to the right group and send to that segment!

(And if you’re not sending this as a follow up, you can use your broadcast’s QuickStats for even easier segmentation!)

Survey Says: It’ll Pay Off Later!

You can use that to send custom versions of your emails out to the different segments you’ve found with your survey. You’ll be able to customize your emails according to…

…who wants only coupons and sales offers, and who wants all your emails no matter what they are

…who wants updates on a specific topic, and who’d rather not hear about it

…who wants weekly emails, and who only wants to hear from you monthly

And Survey Always Says Thank You!

You may have noticed that every time a survey participant clicks on an answer, they’ll be taken to a new page.

This gives you an opportunity to thank people for answering. Also, confirm that you’ve noticed their preferences – they’ll be getting your emails their way from now on!

What Would Your Survey Say?

Surveys let you gather lots of data to segment by. You’ll also get a look at your list’s interests and habits as a whole.

What sort of information should an email marketer ask for from their subscribers? What would you ask for?

Tell us in the comments!


  1. FL

    5/12/2011 11:13 am

    I think that most online marketing don’t understand the value of surveying their visitors and knowing how to take that data to segment their lists

  2. Empresas

    5/13/2011 12:36 pm

    One of my concerns in email marketing strategies is to segment the message according to people. I really take care to not send a beauty offer to guys, especially between 18 and 35 years. In other hand, i would like to say that i like a lot this post.

  3. Andre

    5/17/2011 9:56 am

    I really like your whole survey idea. I will need to get a response from an articles and public speaking learners. Thank you

  4. Aaron Schulman

    5/17/2011 10:07 am

    I like learning how to do more segmentation processes with Aweber-

    When someone signs up for our new 35 page report 101 Powerful Profit Strategies – they are set in an automated follow up sequence-

    One survey that we just set up in our automated follow up sequence asks them to click on the one that is most important for them.

    Since we offer web marketing / development services in 4 areas, we actually first teach an email lesson on what segmentation is, and then ask them at the end of the email –

    we ask them if another topic is of more interest to them – to vote on 1 of the 4 topic areas that is most pressing for them at the moment and then they will be led to an article on our site with that specific topic.

    At the end of every article, of course is a multiple call to action-

    It’s a way of giving more information (teaching)- based of self-segmentation without hard selling-

    We’ll see how this new report and follow up method works in the ensuing months.

  5. Dianne Swanson

    5/17/2011 6:10 pm

    Thank you for the free email marketing tool, however as you stated, we can request a different industry. Please see my website above for specific details. I am marketing my product to both
    consumers [w/ cars, loan mowers, boats, etc…],
    retailers [gas station owners, Autozone, automotive stores],
    schools [buses],
    small businesses & churches (w/bus, taxi, limo, truck fleet owners].

    If you would send me anyone of these potential markets that would be GREAT!

    Thanks in advance…

  6. Ana Lucia Novak

    5/19/2011 9:02 am

    This is a nifty tool. We’re inundated with info sp helpful to learn what our visitor really want!

  7. Todd Farmer

    5/19/2011 11:32 am

    Using this process, can we update our user’s data with their answers to the survey questions?

    “What is your gender:”
    1) Male
    2) Female

    The custom field “gender” would be updated with their response.

    Then, I could segment my lists via gender and send messages to each.

    Is this possible?


  8. Paul Counts

    5/20/2011 4:01 am

    I love this blog post! I honestly had no clue this was available for your system. It is super powerful and something that may reduce my unsubscribes drastically!

    Thanks for sharing this step-by-step tutorial. I love it!

  9. Amanda Gagnon

    5/23/2011 8:46 am

    Todd ~ To make the custom fields automatically update, you’d actually want to sk those questions on your web form. Then you could search subscribers by those custom fields and segment.

    Using this method, you’d just search by link clicked instead of the custom field.

  10. Karl

    5/27/2011 2:50 am

    Not really a good way of doing this in my opinion.

    Especially now that there is an API, the best option is to either use a third party survey tool, dump to a spreadsheet and batch update Aweber, or have a custom page sent out that will then update Aweber.

    Custom fields are your friend.

    The method described in this article is a kludge, and very limited.

    For example, if you want to target/segment by postcode/zipcode it would be almost impossible using this method.

    Just my 2 cents.

  11. Nassim

    1/21/2012 11:08 am


    This is really a great approach but I have one question : How is it possible to track the answers without having multiples thanks you page opened if there are more than 2 questions ?

    Thank in you in advance!


  12. Paul D. Guyon

    5/2/2012 8:07 pm

    I agree with Karl, this is no way to run a professional survey. You could create a new list with the opt-in form being the survey questions but they would have to enter their name and email for it to work. Then, using automation, you could have them unsubscribe to the first list when the join the other list. This is not ideal either.

    Karl, you mentioned using 3rd party software, eg. Google Docs then batch updating aweber from the spreadsheet. Is there a practical way of doing that? Can you point me in the right direction for doing batch updates?

    That would probably work but is still a kludge in my opinion.

  13. Enoch Sears

    6/15/2013 8:50 am

    I can already see how this strategy will be valuable to get the most out of my list. Is there a way to make it easier to click multiple options in the email?

  14. Amanda Gagnon

    6/17/2013 2:40 pm

    Karl and Paul,
    This was written before the API was available. You could, of course, use any other tool to run your survey, but subscribers would have to click out of your email to get to it – a step they might just skip.
    Enoch, They can of course tab back into the email, then click any other option.