Getting to know your customers--what they care about and what motivates them--is a powerful first step toward getting great results from your marketing efforts. You've worked hard over the years to create a qualified list of people who want to hear from you--the key is to really make use of that list. By segmenting your list you'll get a better response rate, as people are far more likely to pay attention to articles and offers in their areas of interest. In other words, it's important to your marketing efforts to start segmenting your customer list as soon as possible.
Selecting Your Segments
List segmentation is an easy and effective way of ensuring that your messages are targeted at the most receptive audiences. To be effective, most businesses need only two or three segments, and it's a simple process to begin. Start by deciding how you want to segment your list. What are the most important distinctions you make when deciding how to present your products or services to prospects? There are many questions you may ask yourself: What industry are they in? How big are their companies? What are their ages and genders? How old are their children? Where do they live? Form your questions based on the variables that matter most to your business.
Once you've selected your segments, assess what data you already have to help you put your customers into these buckets. If your list is small and you know your customers well, you might be able to accomplish this task by hand based on past interactions with them. Divide your list into categories based on purchase history, e-mail newsletter click-through and website registration data.
2 Ways to Get Started
If you don't have good data, there are two easy ways to begin your segmentation.
Survey your customers --Online surveys are easy to create and can be used to learn how your customers view your business. The information gathered from a well-executed survey can be invaluable, especially in a tough economy. By sending your customers satisfaction surveys on a regular basis, you can gather the intelligence you need to not only make changes based on what they ask for, but also help target your questions better.
Segment your list over time --By observing which items they respond to in your e-mail newsletters or promotions, you can write articles designed to appeal to different customer segments and use your click-through data to place them in the right buckets. For example, if you own a sporting goods store, you could include an article on improving your golf swing and offer a review of one of the best local ski slopes. Recipients who click on those articles are probably interested in those sports and should be placed in either your golf or skiing list based on the content they click on. You may also find that many of your subscribers will fall into all your segmented buckets. Over time, your list will get more and more segmented, allowing you to target future promotions to the most receptive audience.
Once you have a clear segmentation strategy, try to gather as much information as you can right up front as you meet new customers and prospects. If you meet them in person, take a few notes on their business card so you can add them to the appropriate lists. If you're signing them up online, use your registration form to solicit their interests.
By using segmentation to deepen your relationships with your customers, and by really taking the time to get to know their preferences, you can create a living, breathing database of information that can help your business succeed. You'll soon see that it offers you untold benefits as you gain a better understanding of your customers and what they want from you. The more targeted your communications, the more your customers will feel connected to you and the more likely they are to bring you more business.
Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.