Market segmentation, marketing lists, and subscription lists

Applies to Dynamics 365 (online), version 9.x

You can define your various target groups by setting up segments and lists. Each list or segment represents a collection of contacts that you can use to target a customer journey. You'll also use marketing lists in your subscription center to enable contacts to manually opt-in or opt-out of various types of newsletters and other marketing communications.

Segments in Dynamics 365 for Marketing

A market segment is the collection of contacts that you target in a marketing campaign. In some cases, you'll simply target all the contacts you have, but in most cases, you'll choose who you want to target based on demographic or firmographic data and other considerations. For example, if you're opening a new store in San Francisco, you'll probably promote the opening-day event at that store only to contacts who live near San Francisco. Or if you're running a sale on dresses, you might only send related marketing email messages to your contacts who are female. Decisions like these will typically also affect the way you communicate with the segment in terms of which channels you'll choose, what kind of graphics you'll pick, which kinds of arguments you make, and more.

Dynamics 365 for Marketing uses segments to target customer journeys. Most customer journeys start with a segment tile, which establishes the collection of contacts who will experience that journey. You can combine multiple segments here.

Types of segments

Segments can be dynamic, static, or compound.

  • Dynamic segments are set up by using logical expressions, such as "all contacts from New York" or "all contacts who like The Mets." Membership in dynamic segments changes constantly to reflect new or removed contacts and updated contact information.
  • Static segments establish a static list of contacts who are selected on a per-contact basis rather than created logically based on field values. Marketers and salespeople might create and populate a static list based on private knowledge or offline interactions.
  • Compound segments combine existing (live) segments using logical operators.

Segments are synced with the customer-insights services

Dynamics 365 for Marketing works together with a set of external customer-insights services that operate using their own, external, customer-interaction database to provide advanced segment definitions and customer analytics. The integration is seamless and results in powerful combined functionality when the two systems work together. Your contact records and marketing lists are continuously synchronized between the two systems, which lets the customer-insights services apply their powerful data processing and analytical tools to your contacts, and combine these with information from other types of Dynamics 365 records and information from other systems.

Segments must be live before you can use them

When you first create a new segment, it is in a draft state, which means that it is unlocked, so you can work with its definition and other settings, but you won't be able to use it in customer journeys or compound segments. When you are ready to use your segment, you must open it and select Go Live from the command bar, which enables it and moves to the live state.

If you need to edit a segment after it has gone live, open it and then select Stop from the command bar to put it back into the draft state.

View, create, and manage your segments

To work with your segments, go to Marketing > Customers > Segments. This opens a standard list view, which you can use to search, sort, filter, create, and delete your segments. Open any segment to view its details, or select New to create a new one.

The General tab for segments

Segment records provide several tabs for describing, defining, and reviewing the segment. Tabs are shown as a set of headings under the header, which shows the name of the segment. Select any of these headings to go to the relevant tab. Each tab is described briefly in the following subsections.

The General tab

The General tab provides general information about the segment, including:

  • Name: Enter a name that will make the segment easy for you and others to identify while working in Dynamics 365.
  • Segment Type: Set the segment to dynamic, static, or compound. This setting controls which types of settings you'll see for populating the list on the Definition tab.
  • Status reason: Shows whether the segment is draft or live. Only live segments are available for use in customer journeys and compound segments.

The Definition tab

Use the Definition tab to establish membership of the segment. For dynamic segments, you'll get a query builder here. For static segments, you'll select specific contacts one at a time.

The settings on this tab are described in more detail later in this topic.

This is actually a drop-down list that you can use to find other types of records (such as customer journeys) that use or reference the current segment. When you choose an entity name here, a new tab named for that entity opens, showing a list of all found records. The Related tab remains available, and you can still use it to find other types of records that reference the current segment.

Define a static segment

To create a static segment, set its Segment type to Static on the General tab. Then use the Definition tab to find and add contacts to it, one at a time.

When you are working with a static segment, the Definition tab lists all of the contacts from your database, with a check box shown for each. Select the check box for each contact you want to include in the segment, and clear the check box for all other contacts.

Because your database probably includes a large number of contacts, the Definition tab can't show all of them at once. It provides paging controls at the bottom and a search filter at the top. Select the filter button at the top of the list to open a form where you can build a query that can help you find the contacts you want to add.


Each time you adjust the filter settings, you must select the Apply button to update the list.

Define a dynamic a segment

To create a dynamic segment, set its Segment type to Dynamic on the General tab. Then use the Definition tab to build your dynamic segment by combing groups of logical expressions, each of which results in a set of contacts. Each group establishes a path through one or more entities that must end at the Contact entity (the order matters).

Define a segment group

Each group in your segment results in a list of contacts, which are selected by the logic defined in that group. For example, you might build a path as follows:

  1. Start with the Marketing List entity to find a marketing list named subscribers.
  2. Continue to the Accounts entity to find the accounts from that list, and find only companies working in the insurance industry.
  3. End at the Contacts entity to find the contacts from those accounts, and find only contacts living in California.

Because the path ends with contacts, the result is a list of contacts who live in California and work for insurance companies that are on the subscribers list. (Many segment groups that you create will probably query the Contacts entity only, but even groups such as these might employ complex logic that combines multiple AND and OR clauses.)

When working in the Designer view, you can build this query by using the + And buttons and various drop-down lists to produce the following:

An example of a segment group definition

Another way to work here is to use the Explore view, which provides a graphical map of the path you're creating. To use that view, select the Explore button for a group on the Definition tab. (It's also available on the Flow tab; more on that later.)

The segment explorer

The map at the top of the explorer shows the entities that are available for use when creating segments. The map is updated as you build your query group to indicate which paths are still valid. It uses the following colors and line weights to indicate this:

  • Turquoise circle: marks the target entity—all paths must end here (currently, always Contact).
  • Green circle: marks the currently selected entity. The attributes belonging to this entity are listed below the map. Use the drop-down lists and input fields here to build a query that finds the records you want from the selected entity. After setting up a row, select + on the right side to add that expression to the query.
  • Blue circles: mark entities that are not yet used, but are still available.
  • Gray circles: mark entities that are no longer selectable because of settings you've already made for the current path.
  • Blue, bold lines: mark paths that are not yet used, but are still available.
  • Gray, bold lines: mark paths that are already part of the query.
  • Gray, thin lines: mark paths that are no longer available because of settings you've already made.

Close the Explore view by selecting OK. Your resulting query is then shown in the Designer, just as though you had created it there (as shown previously).

The following image shows the previous query midway through construction, where we're adding the account criterion. Note how the map colors indicate where you are, where you've been, and what you can (and can't) do next.

The segment explorer map, showing progress


On adding the final Contacts entity to the expression we've been describing in this example, you'll be asked to choose which of the available paths to use.

The multiple-paths dialog

The correct one is contact_account_accountid_<suffix>, which establishes how the contact entity relates to the account entity.

Combine segment groups

A simple segment might have just one group, but you can create and combine as many groups as needed. As a result, you can create highly sophisticated queries.

You combine groups, working first group to last, by using the following operators:

  • Union: combines all members of a group with the results of the previous group.
  • Exclude: removes members of a group from the results of the previous group.
  • Intersect: removes all members from the previous group that are not also members of the current group.

When you're working on the Designer tab, use the + Add Group button to add a group and choose its operator.

The Flow tab provides another view of how your groups are combined. Here, you get a Sankey diagram of how your groups are combined, and how contacts flow into and out of the segment as a result of the operation from each group.

Sankey diagram on the Flow tab

You can also add new groups while working on the Flow tab, which provides the same Explore view described previously for defining the group.

Define a compound segment

A compound segment combines one or more existing segments into a single new segment. To create a compound segment:

  1. Create or edit a segment and, on the General tab, set its Segment type to Compound segment.

  2. Go to the Definition tab, which shows a drop-down list for selecting your first member segment. Choose an existing segment and then select the submit button next to the list.
    Choose the first segment


    Only existing, live segments are shown in the list. If you don't see a segment here that you are expecting, check to make sure it's live (not draft).

  3. Your chosen segment is added, and a new Add Operation block is shown. If you want to combine another segment with the current result, then choose an operation here.
    Choose an operation for combining a new segment with the current result

    The operations work as follows:

    • Union: will combine all members of the next segment with the results so far.
    • Exclude: removes members of the next segment from the results so far.
    • Intersect: removes all members from the results so far that are not also members of the next segment.
  4. A new block is added, which once again asks you to choose a segment. As before, choose a segment and select the submit button to apply it.
    Choose a segment to apply using the selected operation

  5. Continue to compose your segment by adding more segments as needed and choosing an operation for each. As with the Flow view for dynamic, segments, you'll build a Sankey diagram of how your segments are combined, and how contacts flow into and out of the segment as a result of each operation.
    Sankey diagram for a compound segment


    To edit or remove a segment already shown in the diagram, hover over the upper-right corner of a displayed tile to reveal edit and delete buttons, which you can select to edit or delete that tile.

Set up marketing lists for use with subscription centers

Subscription lists enable contacts to add or remove themselves from a static marketing list, which you can then use to create a segment that targets members of that list, for example to deliver a monthly newsletter.

To set up a subscription list, you must use the Dynamics 365 - custom app to create the static marketing list and mark it as a subscription list. Then you'll be able to set up a segment tile in a customer journey to use that list as a target segment. Lists marked as subscription lists are also available for use on your subscription centers, but static segments are not.

For details about how to create marketing lists and use them in subscription centers and segment tiles, see Set up subscription lists and subscription centers.

Create segments based on opportunities

The default Marketing setup does not sync opportunities with the customer-insights services, which means that opportunities are not initially included in the segment builder, but you can add them.


The sync settings are permanent, so once you begin syncing an entity you won't be able to remove it again later. Syncing occurs often, and each entity that you sync requires storage space and processing time, so you should only sync those entities you are sure you will need.

After opportunities are added, you'll be able to create segments that query the opportunities entity and find contacts associated with those opportunities.


After syncing opportunities with the customer-insights services, you'll also be able to use them in your lead-scoring rules by using the techniques described in Create advanced lead scoring conditions with traversals

Sync opportunities with the customer-insights services

If your Marketing instance isn't already set up to sync opportunities with the customer-insights services, talk to your admin about setting this up as follows:

  1. Go to Settings > Advanced settings > Marketing settings > Customer insights sync. (Admin privileges required.)

  2. The Customer insights sync page shows a list of check boxes, with one for each entity that you can sync with the customer-insights services. Find Opportunity (opportunity) in the list, and select its check box (if it isn't already selected).

  3. Select Publish Changes to apply your setting.

Allow some time for the new setting to be propagated and the sync to be completed. After the settings have been propagated, you'll be able to see the opportunity entity in your segment designer, and can use it to define segments by applying techniques similar to those described earlier in this topic. An example is given in the following section.

An example of a segment that includes opportunities

Here's an example of how to define a segment that starts by finding a collection of opportunities and, as usual, ends by finding the contacts that belong to that segment. In this example, we'll find contacts associated with opportunities valued over $10,000.

  1. Create a new segment (or edit an existing one) as described earlier in this topic, and then go to the Designer tab.

  2. Start with an empty group. If you're creating a new segment with just one group, remove the default group by choosing its close box; otherwise, select Add Group to create your new group.

  3. Your group should now start with a drop-down list set to Select a profile or relationship. Select Opportunity here, and then complete the row to create
    Opportunity | Total Amount | Greater than or Equal To | 10000.
    Start with the opportunity entity

  4. Select +And to add a new clause to the group. Now you must choose the relation between the opportunity entity and the contact entity, which is where we need to end up. Choose opportunity_contact_customerid_<suffix> and set it to All*.
    Set the relation from opportunity to contact

  5. Select +And to add a final clause to the group, which must end with the contact entity. Set the new clause to use the contact_<suffix> entity and set it to All* to find all contacts associated with the selected opportunities.
    Finish the path to the contact entity

  6. Your group will now find contacts associated with opportunities valued over $10,000.


If you leave the Designer tab and then come back, you'll notice that the middle (relation) clause has disappeared. Don't worry, it's still there in the background (and you can still see it on the Query tab), but the interface hides it to make the group easier to read.

See also

Create a segment
Set up subscription lists and subscription centers