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 dozens of emails.
How many of these do you read and feel detached from the brand? Such emails do not address any of your problems. In fact, they seem to mention everything unrelated to you. They may also be shabbily formatted: a mess of colors and graphics. The content may speak to you once in a while, but most of the time not.
Isn't that why you just click "Unsubscribe"?
What's worse for the senders is that you mark some of these emails as SPAM.
Matching your emails to reflect the interests of your leads is an essential element of a successful email marketing campaign. As your list grows, you will attract different audience groups. Each of those groups will have its own characteristics, interests, pain points, and even their own preferred style of communication or engagement. We don't want to lose any lead. We have to market our products and services in tandem with the attributes of each group.
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. In this chapter, we are going to explain customer segmentation (also called audience segmentation) in depth.
"Buckets" is simply another word for categories or segments, commonly used by inbound marketers. They define how you’re going to organize your audience. Your customer buckets can be as broad or as hyper-specific as you like. The number and types of buckets depend on the diversity of your audience and the types of customer segments you’re trying to reach.
Every company you’ve ever done business with has used a customer segmentation software. For instance, let’s say you’re a man and you opt in for email updates 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. There: you've just been segmented by gender.
You can easily get more specific with customer 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. Your answer: suits.
Sometime later, you might get an email informing you about a sale for men’s suits. Now you 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 customer segmentation in action.
As we wrote in our inbound marketing guide, nurturing your leads is key to converting them into 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 of this chapter. When you receive emails that don’t take your unique needs/pain points into account, you feel left out. You might turn away from 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 customers 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.
There’s countless criteria you can use to segment your customers. 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.
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 your company is based in Chicago, you’d want to write special copy and make specific offers for locals at your brick-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.
This segment is created by asking one simple question: what do your customers do for a living? If you’re selling a marketing eBook, it could be helpful for public relations professionals, bloggers, and other marketers. A marketing blog or eBook wouldn’t be so useful for accountants and 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 may not be interested in it.
You want your webinar to be useful to 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.
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.
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.
You may 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 customer 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.
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, they could be ready to make a purchase. There is no guarantee, though. You can send them an email introducing your first level (i.e., the least expensive) product.
If the lead responds to it, they have progressed to the next stage of the funnel; their purchase intent is stronger than that of 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 can do away with small offerings and pitch your core offer to them.
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 deliver different content to each of them.
This was just an example of why you should segment customers based on their buying intent. You need not keep your customer segmentation so basic; you can make it granular and extensive, especially if you use a good customer segmentation software.
Once you get paying customers, segment them for other offers. The next time you have a new product or service that they might like, 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 salesy on this audience segment, but do remind them of their buying history when you make your offer.
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, so they should receive every new offer update from you.
Yes, you want to keep a bucket called 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 their first or second 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 write follow-up or reminder emails to them.
Every few months, you should check the unresponsive customers bucket. If a few follow-up attempts don’t work, drop them from your email list.
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 send them reminder emails instead of product offers. If certain leads reside in your business's location, you can target better offers and content for them.
We've mentioned that a reliable customer segmentation can do all this for you, and more. In the next chapter, we'll discuss automated emails, email templates and email personalizations. Keep reading.