Why List Segmentation Yields Better Results Than Mass Contact Lists

Tami Wessley
Posted by Tami Wessley on November 3, 2014


While I can certainly be a girly-girl, I love fishing. I admit, I’m fonder of catching a few rays in the boat than baiting my hook but I can’t deny I get a rush from a live one on the end of my line. Bringing that fish to the boat feels like a major achievement. It’s not completely unlike the feeling of securing a conversation with a new prospect.

Think about it: the art of fishing is in understanding where the fish are, when they’re likely to be biting, and what they’re hungry for. It’s also about knowing what you’re fishing for and how to attract the “right” fish. If I’m pan fishing, I don’t want to waste my worms on bass or bullheads; I’ll actually get a little irritated. If I’ve taken the time to figure out my desired fish, I’m likely to toss my line in a smaller, shallower cove of the lake than the big, deep, open waters – even if there are more total fish out there. Getting it right eliminates the need for fish stories about the one that got away.

Okay, I’m done with the fishing analogy, but you get my point.

Inbound marketing follows a similar philosophy. It’s about knowing who your targets are, how to attract them and engaging in the same online places they do. On a tactical level, the process of separating out and pinpointing your target is called segmentation.

List segmentation is the art of identifying important subsets in your list of contacts so that you can offer very specific content bait to segmented groups of your prospects.

Most marketers were introduced to the field when traditional marketing was it. We ran ads, distributed direct mail pieces and maybe even paid for a few local sports teams’ sponsorships in the hope that a few people in this huge audience we were reaching would be valuable connections. Cost per thousand impressions was low but cost per qualified lead was huge! The most frustrating part of traditional outbound tactics was that we had few ways of actually segmenting the population to offer them targeted, relevant information. Thank goodness, that was then.

Unfortunately, the more-is-better mentality hasn’t completely disappeared. People still believe that trying to communicate with the entire prospect universe will reap the best rewards—old habits tend to die a slow, painful death. Even with all the advanced targeting at marketers’ disposal, many companies still rely on mass email blasts, untargeted online messaging and broad-based social media platforms filled with generic or at least unspecific messages. Trust me, that isn’t going to work any better than the old traditional marketing tactics.

Use List Segmentation to Your Advantage

  • fishing-lead-segmentation-mapSlice and dice your contact list by industry vertical, target persona, buyer journey stage, questions he/she is likely asking or any other distinctive characteristic. But, remember that prospects you know little to nothing about will need to help you out by self-selecting into certain categories during their engagement with you so plan ahead to make the process efficient and accurate for you while still being painless for them. There’s no limit or minimum to the number of lists you should have, only that they are analogous and likely have the same needs.

  • Silo your lists and identify 3-4 very specific pain points the targets in each list have. For example, a purchasing decision maker at a global OEM looking for solutions prior to the next fiscal period is going to have very different needs and experience expectations from an administrative-level person at a local contract manufacturing facility.

  • With those silos in place, craft your user experiences. This doesn’t mean old-fashioned email copy, although that may be one tactic. Inbound marketing, and our favorite all-in-one tool, HubSpot, allow a completely customized (but unified) experience—i.e. personalization—for members of each segmented list. Those global OEM purchasing decision makers will see nothing but web pages, calls-to-action, advanced content download options, blog posts and even website navigation specifically designed for them. This kind of personalized buyer experience on your website means that one group of leads will see a completely different set of content than leads in other segments. You can even welcome repeat visitors by name!

  • The promotion experience follows the same idea off-site. Apply the experience you’ve carefully crafted for each segment to campaigns consisting of social media interaction, email nurturing, and sharable content like web-based events and published downloads (whitepapers, eBooks, etc.). Most companies promote their more general content on a broader scale, particularly in social media, but through careful campaigning, you can also use your very specific, talk-the-talk content to single out each prospect type. Email is a natural option for segmented messaging, but it’s also increasingly possible to do targeting on social media—in industry forums on LinkedIn, through targeted posting on Facebook, or using vertical-specific tagging techniques on Twitter. Social Inbox is a great tool to keep track of those activities. 

Why Does Segmentation and Personalization Matter?

What’s the best online experience you’ve encountered recently? For me, it’s hands-down Amazon.com. Even before I log in, they recognize who I am, my buying habits, products I might be interested in and even reviews that may impact my buying decision. I guarantee my experience is completely unique and unlike what is presented to anybody else. Their goal is obviously keeping me as a loyal repeat customer and they’re performing well against that goal.

If you could make just 5% of your customers more loyal or, better yet, 10% of your prospects feel valued and ready to talk to you, what would that meant to your business? Think about the impact that extra value would have on attracting qualified leads. If it improves the rate of sales opportunities per marketing qualified lead, that’s a direct bottom line impact

List segmentation is not a one and done assignment. You’ll have contacts progressing through the buyer journey and as they do, their needs will change. However, with the right bait, the right timing and narrowing the pond, you’ll be able to reel them in and land them in the boat! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist just one more).

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Topics: Marketing Automation

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