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Avoiding Bad Practices. Part 4: Segmentation And Targeting

As a treat, I’ve written a true story.

A Christmas ten years ago in a sleepy town south of London…

I remember when we would write up a few paragraphs of copy, stick in a link to the website homepage, attach our database and click the send button. Nice and easy. One message, one creative, one database.

We were all happy campers back then, but disaster struct when analytics burst into our lives and suddenly we saw the failure that was in it. Our emails were being received, but no one was reading or interacting with them.

Why?” we all screamed. Why is Alan Smith not interested in our email on pretty candles, why is seventy year old, Tom Gavin not buying when we’re discussing the latest technologies? Then, bam! Like being hit by the 8:50am express train, we got it.

Our content isn’t working because we’re not segmenting our database and targeting.

So, we gathered around the ‘thinking’ table and began to look at ways of targeting. This included a bunch of scribbles and diagrams, a discussion on who our customers are and how we could categorise them. We looked at:

  • Demographics – age, single, couple, family, retired, social status, income
  • Geographics – local, regional and global
  • Purchasing behaviours – what, when and how much
  • Level of interaction – loyalty and regency on the website, number of purchases and website visits
  • Behavioural patterns – Visits resulting in a purchase, visits that didn’t, ave’ sale amount, how many pages were viewed prior, referrers

Basically, we didn’t sleep for six days until we had exhausted all possible segmentation ideas and the number of databases were well over one hundred. On the seventh day we rested.

The following month we took each version and asked some business-style questions:

  • Who does this target?
  • Why should we target them?
  • What offers/incentives/products/services could we include?
  • How many segments should we use?
  • What results can we expect?
  • How will this increase clicks and sales?
  • Should we use this/these segments continually or on an ad hoc basis?
  • How can we assess the response rates

We fired questions back and forth until an impatient owl hooted outside and the clock struct 8pm.

The next day we started a stategy plan which included our chosen segments. We were now targeting smaller groups of people with similar purchasing patterns. We took into consideration the best times and days to target them and our creatives reflected the message and customer type.

Almost immediatly, sales were up. Loyalty increased over time and we were back to being happy campers.
But we learnt something vital in the process. Segmentation and targeting works, beause:

  • You focus on a smaller number of people with something in common
  • You improve click through rate by closely matching interests
  • You set creative and copy which appeal to the target
  • It stops your target switching off
  • It persuades targets to be loyal
  • It lets you set specialised content
  • It allows you to track segments independant of each other

What are your experiences on segmentation and targeting?  Did it work for you?

Christina is a complete geek, hence a perfect web + online marketing consultant. After ten years working with Premier Recruitment Group, LA Fitness, Monarch Airlines, Thomson Travel and a host of other companies, she now owns CG Online Marketing ( in Ireland and is an associate of the Ahain Group. She's qualified in most things online such as web server management, digital design, Google Analytics and SEO. Specialties: Social Media Marketing, SEO / PPC,Google analytics (qualified in GA IQ) Web trends + insights, Data segmentation and targeting, Customer Behavior analysis, Digital design, Writing, Ethical marketing Green marketing / Sustainable tourism and Hotel + travel online marketing

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  • Great post Tina.nSegmentation is everything nowadays. Especially because it breaks finally with the old school, blanket coverage approach of the industrial age. nThis doesn’t mean rebelling at all. Mass-marketing simply doesn’t work any more, effectively. Even huge corporations that, loyal to their traditional methods, keep spending top dollars on it, obviously don’t see the same impact (and ROI) as it used to.nSpan of attention has changed drastically, therefore, segmenting, working on niches, talking to relevant people… leveraged by the power of real-time communication: makes a tangible difference.nIt has worked very well for us.

  • Great story Christina, knowing how to segment and appeal to your audience is critical to a successful marketing approach. This is a real educational post for any small business out there. Thanks for sharing!

  • By the way for anyone that wants to read parts 1, 2 & 3, here they are: n

  • Thanks for your comments Niall. Knowing how to segment is vital for conversions and holding interest. They can apply to promotions, monthly ezines, SMS messaging and social media.

  • Hi Fred,nnSegmentation has overtaken mass marketing. The targeted approach is optimal, but takes much more time. We have to research which groups are worth targeting.nnSean O’Sullivan and I had a discussion on my FB page as to why people target and how it makes your readers feel valuable. They’re more ‘switched on’ and likely to convert.nnThanks for your thoughts!

  • How timely this is. I’ve been niching down inside an existing niche I am currently researching and this gets posted, lol. As some of the top people in the marketing industry say, it’s better to have ten really good targeted repeat customers then one hundred general customers who many or may not buy from you.

  • Hey Mairead….Isn’t it great when you find something that matches what you’re working on, and how targeted is that! Come on over to my facebook page and ask any questions customers are more loyal because you’ve sussed out their needs. You’re giving them exactly what they want. Its easy to switch off if a topic doesn’t interest us, but when we find one that does, we can’t help but sit up and take notice.nnThanks for commenting ; 0 )

  • Great interview, Sian. I have to agree with Ivan here, It seems to me that the PR and having a proven mentor were the bigger wins from going on Dragons Den.   

  • Thanks Ivan. It’s good to hear a success story in these times

  • Thanks Niall. I think Kate was very brave in taking the risk in going on there too because if it goes wrong it can be quite bad. Thankfully it worked wonders and with her tenacity and hard work she’s taken it even further.

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