Segmenting Your Audience Into Buckets

How many company newsletters are you subscribed to? Probably many. In the course of your online browsing, you must have subscribed to countless blogs and websites. Every company sends you several emails.

Segmenting Customers

How many of these do you read and feel totally out of the loop? Are you subscribed to any newsletter that makes you feel completely detached from the brand? Such emails do not address any of your problems. In fact, they seem to mention everything else that is not even related to you. They may also be shabbily formatted, including a mess of colors and graphics. The writing might be customized for new customers, long-term ones, or some other part of the audience you’re not in.

Next time an email rolls in from that company, you might just click "Unsubscribe".

If you do not unsubscribe then, you might get more emails. If the subsequent emails do not match your interests, you would recognize that these emails are not adding any value to your life. You will either unsubscribe or mark it as SPAM.

Matching your emails to reflect the interests and the tone of your leads is an essential element of a successful email marketing campaign. As your list grows, you will attract different audience groups in your list. Each of those groups will have its own characteristics, interests, pain points, and even their own preferred style. We don't want to lose any lead. Hence, we have to market our products and services according to attributes of each group.

Therefore, segmenting your audience is a mandatory part of successful email marketing campaigns - automated or otherwise. Segmentation is how you appeal to the most receptive portions of your audience who are ready to buy. In this chapter, we are going to explain audience segmentation in depth. We will start with the definition of audience segmentation. We will then move on exploring its advantages. Finally we will end the chapter with some generic attributes attributes to segment your email list for.


What are Audience Buckets?

"Buckets" is simply another word for categories or segments. These define how you’re going to organize your audience. Your buckets may be as broad or as hyper-specific as you wish. The number and type of buckets depend on the diversity of your audience and the type of segments you’re trying to reach.

Every company you’ve ever done business with has used audience segmentation in some form. For instance, let’s say you’re a man and you opt in to get email messages from a clothing retailer. In the future, you might see an email in your inbox from said retailer about a men’s clothing sale. Even though this store sells women’s clothing, you wouldn’t receive an email about that. This is basic segmentation by gender.

You can easily get more specific with segmentation. Perhaps after you sign up for the retailer’s emails, you get a survey. It asks about the type of clothing you’re most interested in. You answer that you’re interested in suits.

Sometime later, you might get an email informing about a sale for men’s suits. Now you, the theoretical customer, are put into two buckets. The first is that you’re a man. The second is that you’re interested in suits.

That’s just one example of audience segmentation in action.


Reasons to segment your audience

Segment Your Audience

As we wrote in our inbound marketing guide, nurturing your leads is key to converting them to paying customers.

Engagement is another important part of the equation. How do you engage with your customers, exactly? You segment them and create content that appeals to each audience segment.

There are several reasons to do this. The first has to do with what we wrote about in the introduction section of this chapter. When you receive emails that don’t take your unique needs/pain points into account, you feel left out. You might get turned off from doing business with the company. If that does not happen right away, you’re certainly going to consider unsubscribing. As a marketer, you want to avoid being that company!

That’s no way to build a professional relationship with leads. By segmenting them and creating content appropriate for that segment, you’re outlining the problems they may have. Finally, you’re presenting a solution through your products and services. You’re telling them that their needs or pain points matter.


Criteria to use for Audience Segmentation

There’s nearly countless criteria you can use to segment your audience. As mentioned earlier, it depends on how diverse your audience is and what market segments you intend to target. These criteria might vary depending on your company, but here are some commonly-used buckets.


Gender

Segment Your Audience

In the clothing retailer example above, we showed you how you might segment an audience based on gender. It’s important not to be presumptuous with this segmentation, though. If you have a product that’s intended for both sexes, don’t assume that because it’s more “girly” or “masculine” just on the basis of cosmetic factors like color. That’s a good way to offend potential customers and long-term customers alike.

If you have a fitness service for women or a men’s retail clothing business, then those are times you will want to use segmentation by gender.


Location

If your company is based in Chicago, you’d want to write special copy and make specific offers for locals at your bricks and mortar store. You would then segment the rest of your audience by location. Since you’re a company in the United States, your second bucket might be the rest of your US customers. The last bucket would be your international leads/customers.


Occupation

This segment is created by asking one simple question: what do your customers do for a living? If you’re selling a marketing eBook, that could be helpful for public relations professionals, bloggers, and other marketers. A marketing blog / eBook wouldn’t be so useful for accountants or lawyers.

You could host a webinar about boosting sales in your marketing business. It would also be a good fit for marketers, PR pros, bloggers, and people in other similar professions. Finance professionals might not be as interested in it.

You want your webinar to be useful for all the attendees; that's your goal. So inviting accountants to your webinar on sales would obviously work against that goal.

That’s why it’s helpful to know the occupation of your audience.


Income

If you’re selling a very expensive product or service, there’s little point in marketing it towards customers in a lower income bracket. You should offer low income customers a mid-priced product or service.

It’s very important to never be overt about higher or lower income levels in your copy; you don’t want to upset anybody. Financial information is something people keep very private. So if you have this information, use it responsibly.


Pain points

Based on the occupational and income information you gathered, you can identify the pain points of your audience base. Let’s take an example of vacuum cleaners. Some prospective customers might want wireless vacuums with a long battery life; this is our first audience segment. Others might have allergies and thus want a vacuum with special filters for dust or pet dander; this is our second audience segment.

Yoe mu have to market the same vacuum cleaner to your audience, but your copy would be targeting individuals who are in either of these segments. Some individuals might be common to both segments.

For the first bucket, you’d illustrate how impressively long the battery life for your vacuum is. For the second bucket, you’d write about the hypoallergenic qualities of your vacuum.


Stages of the funnel

You will also want to organize your audience into buckets based on where they are in the customer journey. The first step of that journey is a lead opting in. Leads are not yet customers, so don’t treat them like they are.

Instead, all copy should be heavy on building engagement and nurturing the relationship with these new leads.

If the lead has consumed enough content through your website and your emails, he could be ready to make a purchase. There is no guarantee of it. So, you will send him an email, introducing your first level (i.e. the least expensive) product.

If he responds to it, it is your signal that this lead has progressed to the next stage of the funnel; his purchase intent is much stronger than a new lead. This is your second segment - based on the buying intent of the lead. Such a lead could convert on the first email or any of the subsequent emails. You shouldn't be sending him the same content as you were sending when he was a fresh lead.

Similarly, your new first-time customers might start buying more or might never purchase from you again. Both these are different levels of purchase intent. You will have to serve different content to each of them, to avoid being irrelevant to any of them.

This was just an example of why you should segment based on the buying intent of your leads. Real-life examples may vary. Some marketers may using different signals of buying intent. While some may have more granular levels of purchase intent - more than just three levels.


First-time customers

Once you get customers, they will eventually make a purchase. The next time you have a new product or service to sell, you should reach out to them. They’ve only bought from you once, so they may still have their reservations. You don’t want to get too sales-y on this audience segment, but do remind them of their buying history when you make your offer.


Long-term customers

With time, you can hopefully move the first-time customer to the long-term customer bucket. These customers have bought from you faithfully for a while. They may have purchased products of all price levels from you. You can rely on them to buy when you roll out a new product or service.


Unresponsive Customers

Yes, you want to keep a bucket for unresponsive customers as well. Why? You’re going to write totally different copy for these dead leads. You’re trying to gently nudge them into making a purchase.

What if you don’t hear from unresponsive customers? They may have opted in initially, but they haven’t done anything since. This is another reason to have your audience segmented into buckets. If you have a bucket for unresponsive customers, you can decide when to cut them off.

If they don’t respond to any follow-up messages, fail to engage, and never make any purchases, there’s plenty of reasons why they may be unresponsive. Perhaps your emails are stuck in their spam filter. They may have been thought they were interested in your products/services when they subscribed, then they changed their mind.

No matter the reason, you don’t want these unresponsive customers clogging up your automation process. It’s time to think of removing them from the email list. Every few months, you should check the unresponsive customers bucket. If a few follow-up attempts don’t work, cut them from your email list.


Conclusion

Segmenting your audience into buckets is important for a multitude of reasons. Leads never feel left out because they’re only receiving content and offers that appeal to them. If certain audience members are unresponsive for any reason, you can quickly take them off the email list.

Now that you’ve segmented your audience, it’s time to start working on your automated emails through templates and personalization. We’ll be discussing both those topics in the next two chapters of this guide.

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