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The Most Powerful Tool In Marketing

Today is the birthday of Sarah’s brother John. I love Johns birthday. I have no idea who he is and I have never met Sarah.

But I know where he lives, what team he supports, that he has a loving sister and of course when his birthday is.

You see for the last two years I have saved Sarah a ton of hassle by delivering to her door a designer t-shirt, in Johns size, in plenty of time for John as a birthday present. All it took to make that sale was a


This is what makes Segmentation the most powerful marketing tool you have. At its simplest segmentation is getting more data on your customers so you can better target them based on their likes and dislikes. Lets look in detail at how we do this in the email programme for online GAA sports t-shirt retailer Sheepstealers Clothing.

When getting a subscriber to sign up we ask for these key details.

  • Name (If you can personalise a message with a prospects name it will greatly increase the number of opens and clicks. Not to mention reduce the unsubscribes)
  • Email address (Absolute basic and the most important)

This is where most companies stop. Their next step is to add as many subscribers to that list and send them an email every month.

But what if we added “Team” to the list of subscriber details?

This we decided is the absolute basic information we require to make the email program perform.

The team information is the first step in segmentation.

From this we can ensure each person will only get an email for the team they support and will not be annoyed with irrelevant information about other teams ensuring they will open again next time.
This also provides business intelligence back to the product team. If team A have 2000 subscribers and Team B have 10 then we can spend time producing more products targeting A.

Build deep instead of wide.

Now you have an interested subscriber what if you worked to add more details to their profile?

You do not always have to annoy a subscriber by asking. With a bit of programming and hidden fields in your form you can detect what country a user is subscribing from or what site referred them before they signed up. For example you might see that 50% of your subscribers are from outside your country. Maybe it’s time to adjust your advertising strategy to better target this market. If you see that three times as many people subscribe to your email when they come from Facbook? Now you know where to concentrate more of your efforts.

How else can you get more information?

This answer surprises everyone. Ask.

Ask each subscriber to add to their own details. There are a few reasons why they might do this.

  1. So you can send them more relevant information or offers.
  2. Internet marketer Chris Penn added a ‘Premium content’section to his email newsletter. Only those who completed their profile information get to see the premium section. A large percentage of people did this.
  3. Run a competition or other incentive.
  4. Or tell subscribers you will send them a special birthday gift. To get it they need to give you their birthday and address.

Extreme segmentation tip:

Track what time a subscriber opens your email newsletter at. Chances are they will be at the computer same time next week or next month.


  • The more information you have on your subscriber and customer base the more you can target your marketing.
  • The more you target your marketing the better results.
  • People are happy to give you this information but not all at once and only in return for value.
  • The added bonus of all this customer information is that it feeds back into the business and lets you tailor your products and service to your customers needs, or even spot gaps in the market that you see are not being addressed.

Target image cc: Cliff1066

Alan is the creative lead and founder at Spoiltchild, an award winning digital design agency and founder of international email marketing company He has over 10 years of online business development, design and customer development working with clients such as Jet Blue, Virgin America, Eircom, RTE and National Galleries of Scotland.

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  • Hi Alan, Not a topic I knew a lot about but thanks for giving me the inside track, I can now see that segmentation in the right hands can be a potent marketing tool, thanks for sharing.u00a0

  • Paula Ronan

    Great article Alan, thanks for sharing.

  • For me the most powerful question in life or business is “why not?”

  • Anonymous

    Great post Mairead.  I’ve just read a few of Seth Godin’s books and the message of going against the grain is great stuff.  In my day job most of my activities are centred around getting people to see there is more to communicating with colleagues than just email.  It’s unbelievable the amount of resistance that this message is met with.  I guess people just feel comfortable in doing things the established way.

    I love your example of Nelson Mandela.  It’s interesting how perception is everything.  I remember reading a biography and being struck by the difference in how he was perceived while still a terrorist versus his status as a statesman. 

  • As my father always reminded me; “Rules are for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of fools”.

  • A great read, thank you Mairead.
    It’s also a  great debate. If the world was full of rules, and we obeyed them 100%, we would be all stifled. However, no regulation would produce a free for all.

    But ultimately, the processes and etiquette that are established around business were never written in stone, and a business owner needs to look into their hearts, question their value system, and then, based on what they truly believe, do what’s right for their business.

    The big issue is when starting out, we often ignore our intuitiveness and gut reactions in favour of learning how things were done before (and what worked for others).

    Compliance and condonation, in fear of doing things wrong may guide us to where  we should not be heading. The abyss may be a frightening alternative, but there were many there before us (some great examples given in your piece).

    So I have come full circle – we shouldn’t follow what always worked, or what was always done, but follow the people who fought exactly that. Ultimately, we should be making our own path in the business world, however, as you state “The worry of the consequences of breaking one of them can be a burden for some business owners” and burdens can weigh a lot!

  • Very true Elaine.  There is also the other side of that coin, the business owner who decides to cut their own page and are so different to other businesses that nobody will deal with them.  I think guildlines are their to help, like you said they’re not set in stone (unless they are law) and deviating from them is a learning curve.

    Social media is a great one, @Niall’s last post is a great example of how changing the rules of engagement can and does work with great results.

  • I didn’t hear that one before Ian, it is certainly be a phrase I’ll be using in the future.

  • Perception is key Frank.  If you feel like you will be berated for breaking the rules and that is an issue for you then you are less likely to do it.  If you have the attitudet that you are forging new exciting methods then you are more likely to give it a go.  Institutionalisation is both comforting and restricting, depending on your perception.

  • After 14 year peddling the corporate hamster wheel (I left to go self employed back in 2001) I am a big fan of breaking the rules, challenging conformity and rocking the status quo in business and life. Not just for the sake of doing it but because it is too easy to run with the crowd but it not be right for you or your business. Always good to challenge the thinking, look at the other options/possibilities than make the decision that is right for you.

  • You do need to go outside the box to be innovative.  I always felt hemmed in as a child without realising that I was a natural rule breaker and couldn’t figure out why I always seemed to be bucking the trend or struggling to.

  • We think alike Ali.  I like to get people thinking and one of the best ways to do it is to rock the status quo and be un-apologetic for it.  Sometimes it’s fun to watch the thought process of some people as the assimilate the new order of that.  There is always more than what we currently know and to access it we need to go way beyond the boundaries of what we know.

  • Anonymous

    Important post, Mairead! It’s so easy to assume that you must fit a certain mode in business. It’s more about finding your mode and letting it fit you instead. It’s also important to know that breaking the rules doesn’t have to be dramatic or loud. It can be simply in how you go about your day-to-day tasks and interactions with other people Quiet rebels have a way of opening doors and inviting people to see things with a new lens. Knowing the rules and choosing which ones (keeping it legal and ethical) to follow is about honouring your own judgement and self.

  • Hi Mairead

    Saddly breaking etiquette will not get you anywhere, etiquette is what works, its what is accepted and endorced by the population.  As far a Nelson Mandel is concerned, he would still be considered a terrorist if he went out today on a bombing campaine even if the cause was right and just the means are the same, why Nelson Mandela and the ANC are no longer considered terrorist is because they conformed to the rules.   

  • Really good idea Helen in terms of how items can ‘make the cut’ for Evernote. Glad you like it and thanks for sharing.

  • I’m an android user,but here’s a few apps you should look into. I’m sure there is a iOS equivalent for all of these.

    Prey – Free security app for finding and tracking your phone

    Pomodriodo – Nice productivity apps for the Pomodoro method

    Sleep as android – Tracks your circadian rhythm while you sleep,and wakes you up when you’re not in deep sleep so you don’t end up feeling groggy

    Aldiko – turns your smart phone into a e book reader

    Mighttext- Not really an apps so much as a chrome add on,but it lets you see texts coming in and reply from your computer

  • Connor: Thanks for sharing this list. I will bookmark this post and show it to the fellow members of the Apple user group in Sweden called, Got a Mac.

    Thanks for the reminder of Xmind. I need to learn how to use mindmaps in my worklife. I will test Skype Recorder for future podcasts. I like memes too and it could be great to mix it up your blogging a bit now and then. I definitively have to check out Pocket! I am sending URLs to my email on a daily basis, using Chrome plugin “send this link to Gmail”.

    I am developing my own productivity system called F.I.X IT! and Evernote will be an integrated part in it when I get the Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine. I have heard about Wunderlist before. Check out Note app by Squarespace! (“A free minimalist iOS app that anyone can use to capture all their thoughts, ideas, and inspirations.”)

    Thanks for the tips on the coding site. I am not into programming, but it this site could spark my interest to learn a little bit in the future.

    I agree with your browser option! I get chuckles when I mention it to my fellow Got a Mac members! 😉

  • Many thanks for reading the post. Great to hear. When your own system is up and running let me know. You’ll catch me on Twitter: @Con_Keppel

  • Hi Nik.

    Thanks for reading. Some great ideas there. ‘Prey’ – we have iCloud which tracks your phone. Comes as standard (thank God – lost too many phones to date).

    Mighttext sounds great. Will definitely try it out.

    Chat soon

  • Tirrell Payton

    Thanks Bengii!

  • Welcome! Question: your advice to your earlier self was related to stamina – the need to plan for a marathon not a sprint. Do you have advice for folks who have given it (close to) everything and are wondering if they have really made a mistake, to cut their losses?

  • Is Kaliki available in Europe?

  • Jana Joplin

    Congrats on your idea coming to fruition with Ford. Glad to see your partnership with Bruce blossoming into such a success. Best Wishes!

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