Why Audience Segmentation is Crucial for Inbound Marketing

Vicki Woschnick
Posted by Vicki Woschnick on January 11, 2018
Audience Segmentation

Audience Segmentation

No matter how big or how small your audience is, today’s B2B buyers want a personalized buying experience. They crave information that’s tailored to their company’s specific needs, and the more you can meet those needs and answer their questions, the better chance you have at winning their business. For marketers, this requires having a strong understanding of your buyer personas and their buyers’ journeys, so you can offer the most helpful, relevant content that corresponds with their current challenges and questions.

Where does all this start? With audience segmentation.

As its name implies, audience segmentation is the process of breaking larger audiences into smaller, more homogenous groups, based on known attributes, suspected traits, and similar demographics or interests. From there, marketers can tailor their marketing messages and content based on the similarities of each segment, with the ultimate goal being personalization for individual prospects.

Audience Segmentation’s Value to Inbound Marketing & Business Growth

Audience segmentation has been a key part of marketing strategy for decades, and as more and more buyers conduct their research and make purchase decisions online, it’s become even more pivotal to marketing’s overall success. From highly targeted ad campaigns to personalized web pages for returning website visitors, it’s now easier than ever to reach a specific persona, group, or individual online, and with so many companies competing for buyers’ attention online today, knowing just where to find your prospects and how to best communicate with them is crucial.

In addition to having the capabilities to reach more niche segments, however, today’s inbound marketing software has helped make audience data more granular. Inbound marketers have an abundance of information at their fingertips any time someone visits their site or downloads a piece of content, and they can use that information to help customize their personas’ buying experience, rather than trying to appease all personas at the same time. By segmenting your audiences into smaller groups, today’s marketers are better able to:

  • Determine their distinct targets
  • Tailor their messaging to resonate with those targets
  • Meet specific prospect needs that help drive conversions
  • Build relationships & foster loyalty by making meaningful connections throughout the buyer’s journey
  • Warm leads to potentially accelerate sales cycle

Modern Audience Segmentation Strategies

When segmenting your audience into different groups, there are many different approaches you can take to get the results you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s as easy as segmenting your audience based on demographics, like location, age, company, job title, etc. Other times, it’s more complicated, like segmenting your audience based on similar interests, buyer’s journey stages, or account based marketing (ABM) plans. To help you segment your audiences more effectively, here are a few suggestions and tips for your marketing team:

Demographic Segmentation

As mentioned above, demographic segmenting is usually pretty straightforward, and the most basic form of audience segmentation. That said, just because something is less complicated doesn’t mean it can’t be incredibly effective when implemented properly. For example, if a construction equipment company is looking to maximize their sales, their efforts in the Midwest will be more focused during spring and summer, as operations for their buyers will halt in fall and winter. Buyers in southern climates, however, may be in demand year-round.

Behavioral Segmentation

While demographic segmentation focuses on a buyer’s traits, behavioral segmentation is based on segmenting your audience by their decision-making behaviors. For example, an industrial manufacturer’s buyers may fall under one of two main umbrellas: those who make regular, smaller purchases to replenish their inventory, and those who spend years researching the purchase of a new piece of equipment. Though the manufacturer hopes to serve both types of buyers, each segment will have very different needs based on what they’re looking for, and will ignore any marketing content that isn’t relevant.

Buyer’s Journey Stage

Segmenting your audience by their stage in the buyer’s journey is arguably the second most common form of audience segmentation behind demographic. Prospects at the attraction/awareness stage of the buyer’s journey typically have similar low-level questions and pain-points, whereas prospects in the education/conversion stage are looking for more advanced content that answers more specific questions.

Previous Interactions

One segment type that’s often overlooked, but highly effective is segmenting your audience by previous interactions. For prospects that are highly active and frequently engaging, it’s important that you market to them differently than those who haven’t engaged or responded in a long time. Likewise, you can segment your audiences based on where interactions typically occur, like social media evangelists, frequent email readers, and more.

Device Type

Almost going hand-in-hand with segmenting your audience by previous interactions, segmenting your audience by device type is crucial for maximizing engagement with your content. Do certain prospects mainly interact with your content using their mobile device? In addition to making sure your website, emails, and video are optimized for mobile, try optimizing some CTAs in your offerings to promote using their phone to contact you, rather than downloading a content offer.

Audience Segmentation Tips

While the suggestions above are a good start for considering how to segment your audience, there are hundreds of different strategies you can use, each with its own benefits. Regardless of what segmentation strategy you use, it’s important that you keep these four tips in mind:

1.) Don’t Overdo It

Once you start breaking your audience down into smaller segments, it’s easy to keep going and create smaller, more specific subsets to fit individual personas better. Unless your goal is to create a personalized buying experience for each, however, it’s best to keep your segments slightly more generic to help you make more meaningful observations.

Good Segmentation: Customers with 5+ purchases, purchased online, same product

Bad Segmentation: Customers who only buy in January, pay with Visa, purchase 3+ products, age 50-65, and located within 100 miles of headquarters

2.) Continuously Test and Improve

The data available to today’s inbound marketers is rife with clues that can help you better segment and target your buyer personas. That said, the best way to figure out the best segmentation strategies is to try different combinations and analyze their successes and failures. If a particular campaign does well, take note of how the audience was segmented, and what you did to optimize your message. Just as important, be sure to take note of what doesn’t work so you can avoid the same mistake in the future.

3.) Set Clear Goals

While analyzing and testing different segmentation strategies will help give you a better understanding of your audience, you can’t effectively tell what’s working and what isn’t unless you set clear goals for segmentation. What kind of improvements are you looking to see from a new test segment? Make sure you review your business’ overall goals to ensure your segmentation goals are aligned.

4.) Don’t Just Limit Your Segmentation to Email

Though email lists are some of the easiest contact lists to segment and test with, your audience segmentation strategy should go much further than just email. Don’t be afraid to dedicate entire webpages to different personas and segments, as well as blog articles, advanced content offers, social media posts, videos, and more.

In order to get the attention of today’s online buyer, marketers need to be conscious of the best ways to engage and attract those buyers. You can’t sit back and take a “if you build it, they will come” approach; you need to ensure your content gets in front of them, or you risk losing out. Make sure you take the time to evaluate and understand the unique traits of your audience, and then tailor your marketing approach to best meet their needs. In the end, it’s certainly worth all the effort to maximize your inbound reach and results.

Read the The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing for Industrial Manufacturers

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing

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