Using audience segmentation to build a more effective marketing strategy

Make your marketing more effective by tailoring your messaging to a segmented audience.

segmenting audiences build marketing efficiency

Audience segmentation is a technique which makes any interaction with your audience and customers more effective. We all know the power of personalisation and tailored messaging but it can be hard to know where to start. Whether you’re in a team of 100, or a powerful team of 1 – there’s always room for improvement and new learnings.

In this guide, we will take you through why you should be segmenting your audience, help you understand the different methods of audience segmentation, and learn a few tricks for tailoring your messaging.

What are the benefits of segmented marketing?

the benefits of audience segmentation

Your communications are better received

Nine times out of ten, a tailored and personalised approach is going to prove more effective than mass marketing. You are able to efficiently communicate the values of your product and of your company in the language of the receiver in a medium suited to their habits.

Receiving information that is irrelevant to you is offputting. It’s better not to have received anything at all.

One major benefit from this is an increase in engagement – whether that’s through email open rates, social media engagements, or through people spending more time on your blog or your site. Expect to see an increase in time spent on your site, an increase in the number of pages visited per session, and a higher percentage of returning visitors.

Clearer, more relevant, messaging

When we plan out marketing strategies what we are really trying to do is bring the user on a journey. It’s far easier to do this if you’re aware of that person’s starting point, and what vehicle they’re in.

Dropping someone into the middle of an unsegmented, generic, campaign doesn’t encourage them to build a relationship with your brand. A much more powerful method is to guide the journey as specifically as possible by altering your strategy to accommodate the audience’s context.

Segmented and tailored marketing campaigns connect to the customer journey in a way that mass marketing cannot.

By planning out these interactions you are able to tailor this journey into an enjoyable and linear experience for your audience. By meeting your customers where they are in their purchasing journey, not where you are in your marketing cycle, you multiply your chances of success.

Get the right kind of traffic to the right pages

It starts with knowing who your audience are. Web traffic is great, but the right kind of web traffic is even better. This is as relevant when you are trying to get new visitors to your site as it is when you are encouraging the developing relationship of existing readers and customers.

Take the time to get to know your customers. The more you understand them and their motivations the more effective you can be in your communications.

Think about why someone is engaging with your business. Be mindful of their motivations and support them in achieving that.

For example, let’s think about someone who only ever visits your blog, never your marketing site. Pushing sales focused email communications towards them is the wrong move. It’s off-putting and out of the context of their relationship with your brand. This isn’t to say this person will never be interested in your product. Keep encouraging them to read your content. This will help them to become more comfortable with your brand and your services. They might be a great recommender of your product or find a use case at a later time when you’ll be front of mind.

Maximise your ROI

Audience segmentation and targeted marketing do take time and effort. Especially if you want to do it well. However, most things worth doing take time and effort – and this is certainly one of those things.

A lot of work goes into any form of marketing. So make sure that it’s worth doing by being as strategic as possible in your segmenting and planning.

The more specific you can be with your efforts the more specific the resulting actions will be. You have a far higher chance of getting customers to move to the next stage in their customer journey if you take their context and behaviour into account. Caring about the details is a great way to make your efforts count for more.

Get more valuable insights and build a better strategy

The more specific your data is, the more capable your team are in making stronger decisions. Audience segmentation allows you to access insights that you can truly rely on and use to improve your marketing strategy.

It’s clearer and smarter to experiment with smaller groups who share commonalities. The insights you get are far more valuable because they are far more precise.

We should all be learning from our data every single day. It’s a huge, often underused, resource for all teams throughout your business. Audience segmentation gives you a unique opportunity to strengthen your understanding of your audience and customer base, and to develop a more detailed, more effective strategy.

How do I begin segmenting my audience?

how do I segment my audience?

Every business and every audience is unique. Apply your own existing data and knowledge of your customer profiles and customer behaviour to pick which ways will be best for you. For example, segmenting by location might be irrelevant to your business which only operates and delivers in a local area. However, this same business might see value by segmenting by another demographic indicator like age, occupation, or behaviour.

Every business and every audience is unique.

Fundamental ways to segment your audience and customers

ways to segment audience

These demographic segments might not seem new and exciting, but the fundamentals exist for a reason. These are accessible, easy to tailor for, groups that can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your messaging.

Audience segmenting by age group

segmenting your audience by age group

The audience’s interests might differ

If you have a wide range of products and a diverse audience this might be the place to start. Think about the different things age groups are sensitive to: price point, interest, technical knowledge, style, free time (or lack thereof!).

Over our lifetime our interests and sensitivities change. Use your knowledge of demographics and research resources to segment based on age-related trends.

For example, baby and child-focused content and offers will fall flat with the majority of your audience under the age of 25. But the exact same messaging can be a hit with your audience of a different age.

Audience segmenting by location

audience segmentation by location

Your audience might speak a different language

An obvious difference between your audiences in different locations is language. Translating your marketing and sales work is a big job. It requires translators, knowledge of cultural nuance, and in some cases re-designing the format of your email. It’s not something to take on lightly.

However, if you have a large customer base in a country that doesn’t speak the same first language as your company it might be worth looking into. For most, this is more relevant if you are trying to communicate with large enterprise client and can balance the costs of the translation with the high value of winning a client.

Translating your messaging is a big job. It’s not something to take on lightly.

You don’t have to translate every single bit of your messaging to access this element of personalisation. You can still give a nod to your audience’s language and culture without the budgets and resources needed to fully translate messaging.

For example, changing the “hello” and the sign off in your email to the local language of the recipient can be a nice touch to show that you are paying attention and putting in the effort.

Be aware of your product availability

You’d be surprised at how many companies get this wrong. I recently received an offer from a yoga studio for 20% off when you booked a package of 10 sessions – and I immediately went to the site to do so. When the code was invalid I looked back at the email, and right at the bottom in tiny writing, it said that the code was for the Berlin branch only. Living in London this wasn’t much use to me.

The code was for the Berlin branch only. Living in London this wasn’t much use to me.

Make sure that when you are sending out location-specific offers or product releases that you don’t include people who aren’t going to be able to access it. Doing so gives the impression of being unorganised and careless, and worse, frustrates your customer who wonders why others are getting special treatment.

Pay attention to holidays and cultural days

If you find that you have a large number of customers in one region or country, take the time to look up their national holidays, themed national days, and important cultural celebrations. Remember that these are not always an appropriate opportunity to sell (although they can be – eg. Black Friday in the U.S!).

Think about how you can become part of your customer’s celebrations on these milestone days and stay front of mind throughout the year.

It might be through offering a discount in celebration of the day, or just simply acknowledging the cultural significance and wishing them the best. As customers become more conscious of brand values opportunities to put ‘your money where your mouth is’ and show that you care are not to be missed.

What time of day do you reach out?

Where in the world your customers are should be taken into account when you decide the timing of your messaging. We noticed a lift in our own newsletter open rates when we began tailoring the send time by time zone. Without changing anything else at all.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Don’t send someone an email when they are asleep.

There are products out there which make this incredibly easy to do. Mailchimp’s ‘Timewarp’ feature sends out your emails based on the time zone of the recipient, not the senders time. Alternatively, you can choose to send at the time deemed most effective for your own mailing list. All you have to do is enable the feature when you’re building the campaign. Mailchimp does the rest of the hard work.

Audience segmenting by occupation

audience segmentation by occupation

Tailor the promoted content according to occupation and interest

This has the most relevance in your blog content, and for companies who sell a large range of products or services.

For example, someone whose work is rooted in marketing is not going to find much value in content on engineering and product development. Curated content ups your chances of retaining the audience, and boosts the potential for meaningful engagement.

Make sure what you are sending will resonate with the person receiving it. There won’t be any one person who is interested in absolutely everything you’ve made or written.

It takes very few irrelevant emails for someone to hit unsubscribe or begin to delete without even opening. Every time you push messaging to your audience make sure that you are clear on the value that the receiver is getting. If this means less outreach – do that. It’s better to send curated, tailored communications with a high value than hundreds of emails that will be ignored.

Curate relevant offers and gifts

Keep an eye out for opportunities where your group will be sharing a common event. This could be a holiday celebration like Christmas or Valentine’s day. It could be work related – a global conference or a common deadline. Be creative. Go back to your customer profiles and think about shared experiences and cultural events that you can tap into with your own messaging and brand alignment.

This is entirely dependent on your product and your audience – there is no one size fits all answer here

For example, if you have a large audience of accountants and financiers the end of the tax year provides a good opportunity to promote a gift or offer that will be relevant to the whole group.

Using your data to segment your audience users by their activity and customer journey

using data to segment my audience

Here’s where things get really interesting. Using analytics tools to understand your audience opens up huge opportunities to communicate in the most effective way ever. Instead of sticking to demographic factors – which are based on mass, unpersonalised data – you are able to target your audiences based on what they actually do. Not what you think they should be doing.

This accuracy is something you can’t get using demographic audience segmenting. It will always be more effective to segment based on the behaviour of your actual audience and customer base. This also helps you to avoid the risk of stereotyping someone into a demographic they don’t align with.

We are able to target and segment our audiences based on what they actually do. Not what we think they should be doing.

There are hundreds of ways to segment your audience based on their behaviour. What’s most effective will depend on the type of business you’re running and the purpose of your marketing campaigns. To get started, here are a few audience segments that most of us will have in common.

The audience segment who are very active readers of your content

audience segment content readers or blog readers

Now that so many businesses are producing high-quality content as part of their marketing strategy, blog audiences have become a dedicated segment in their own right. This audience segment contains a huge amount of potential. They can become brand evangelists, help to distribute your content and brand through organic channels. And there’s always the chance they might become customers.

Your loyal blog readers are a unique segment of your audience. Even if they have little interest in your product or service. They are valuable in their own way.

It might seem counterintuitive, but don’t focus on their potential to buy. This audience is one where a longer-term strategy will pay off. The focus here should be on nurturing their interest and knowledge of your brand. Try this:

Send them more blog content

Whether via a newsletter or with emails that highlight your best pieces of content – make sure they always have something new to explore and read.

Send them invites and updates through your online communities

This audience who are already highly engaged in reading your content have a high potential to become an engaged community. If you don’t already have online communities around your brand this is the time to start them up. The platform you choose needs to be specific for your brand and the tone of your messaging. Sending exclusive community invites to this audience segment is a great way to nurture the relationship.

Test out long-form email and newsletters

This is a group who like to read. Their behaviour shows that they are enjoying longer form content that you are producing. Make this accessible to them in other moments. Sending a full post in an email can be a great way to distribute your content and allows the content to be read on a commute.

Don’t ignore your product, but don’t push it either

This segment of your audience aren’t actively looking to buy your product. They may never have visited the product pages of your site. Don’t spam them by pushing offers or free trials. Instead, weave the benefits of your product into your blog content.

You can be subtle whilst still demonstrating the why behind what you make. This is where you can be creative in displaying the wide-reaching value of your product in a way that feels natural and informative, not like a sale.

Invite them to events

Make sure to sub-segment by location for this one. This audience are already enjoying your content, and look to your brand as a source of knowledge and inspiration. Take this offline and invite them to an event. For this audience segment, a knowledgeable speaker or workshop along the same themes as your content is ideal.

The audience segment who always read your newsletter

audience segment newsletter or email readers

Loyal newsletter subscribers are a great audience with a high potential to being open to learning more about your product, content, and offerings. There is likely a significant cross over with your segmented audience of ‘content readers’.

When you find a newsletter that you like, you stick with it. You need to be sure that there is value in every newsletter you send out. Knowing exactly who is reading it, and why they read it, is the best way to be sure of that value

This segment is best served by ‘pushing’ content to them. They respond better when the leg work is done for them. Curate these segments into as many sub-segments as you like and serve them up tailored valuable content week on week.

Try out long-form emails and newsletters

Like engaged content readers it’s worth testing out long-form emails with this audience segment. There is even more of an argument for this because you already know that they have a preference for the medium of email. Keep delivering your content in the way that works for them and take the opportunity to highlight some of your best pieces and longer reports.

Think about other commonalities

This group has the potential to be very broad. Go back to your data and see if you are able to establish any other commonalities in this group, perhaps to sub-segment them. For example, if you find that a good portion of your loyal newsletter readers are marketers then you could sub-segment them into their own group. For each audience sub-segment change your tone and content picks to reflect their interests.

Take advantage of specific data points

We can get so much data from our newsletters – it’s a shame not to use it. The potential to make your newsletters more effective is all there in the numbers. Look at which links received the highest click-through rate and which subject lines were the most engaging. Pay attention to the length of the email and how it was distributed. Collect all this data and iterate on your email strategy every time you spot a pattern.

Make sure you’re including enough of your own content

If you are curating great articles from around the web for your newsletter make sure that you are also including enough of your own content. It’s likely that someone who trusts your choice in articles would also respond well to your own content. So don’t miss the opportunity to turn a loyal newsletter reader into a loyal content reader.

The audience segment who have been viewing your product and pricing pages

audience segment looking at your product and pricing

This is where it pays off to have a really strong alignment between your sales and marketing teams. When your data shows you that someone has been spending time looking at your product or pricing pages it’s a great indication that they are getting ready to buy. It’s one of the most important signals that we should be looking out for. It’s also the time where collaboration between sales and marketing is the most important.

When you can tell that someone is getting ready to buy you need a collaborative effort from the sales and marketing teams to make the final stages as effective as possible.

This audience might be in the consideration phase, or they might be really close to buying – it’s hard to tell. Either way, it’s important not to always go in with a hard sell in every communication. It can be very off-putting for customers to feel like they’re being heavily sold to. It’s important to make sure this segment still feels valued and inspired.

Don’t overdo the selling

Be careful not to make your messaging to this audience segment feel like a never-ending sales call. Selling isn’t bad – it’s an important part of the customer journey. But the best salespeople know when the time is right to push, and when it’s better to pull back. Mix in some inspiration and education content from your blog that shows how your product can be used to get the results they want. Alternatively, help them make their decision by pointing to useful product comparison one-pagers and feature lists.

Give them the knowledge to make decisions

This audience are going through a really important decision-making stage of the customer journey. Provide them with fair and balanced resources that show the use cases of your product and the problems you can help them solve. Try sending out detailed content on product comparison and product benefits that will help the customer to articulate the value of your product internally. Remember that this audience might need to sell in the product to their own boss – make this easy for them, and make them sound smart.

Consider individual attention for a large enterprise customer

Depending on the nature of your business there might be an opportunity for some one-to-one attention and messaging. Again, this is where it’s important to involve the combined expertise of the sales and marketing teams. If you spot a large enterprise customer in this segment who has the potential to make a significant impact on your business it can be worth reaching out personally.

The audience segment who use your product a lot

audience segment who use your product a lot

You might think that the happy, engaged, customer doesn’t need any attention. Well, if you want them to stay that way, then they certainly do.

Don’t ignore your happiest customers. This is a great segment for testing out new ideas and features amongst people who are likely to be receptive.

Continual learning and continual improvement should be a core part of any business. Give this segment the same treatment and inspire them to keep getting more and more value from your product.

Inspire them to read more of your content

This is an audience who will be receptive to your more complex and detailed content. They have already mastered the use of your product and are now looking for more ways that it can add value to their business. Inspire them by sending communications with long-form guides, tips, tricks and case studies.

Perfect your ask

Asking favours of this audience – like giving feedback – will feel the most comfortable. Because of their dedication and usage of your product try to speak to them in a language that reflects this relationship. Make them feel like the valuable insiders that they are. Be careful not to bug them, and keep to a maximum of two ‘asks’ per year.

Surprise them with early access to new features

Having an audience segment who have early access to your product development and new features is a great resource. An audience who is invested in your product will be more likely to give feedback and get involved in any tests. On top of this, affording them special access lets them know you appreciate their loyalty and business.

The audience segment who rarely use your product anymore

Audience segment who might be leaving or are a churn risk

It’s always sad when you see a customer become a churn risk, but all businesses deal with this at some stage. Customers who are at risk of churning are so important to communicate well with. Sometimes it means inspiring and educating them on the use cases of your product that they might have missed. Sometimes that means letting them go – gracefully and simply.

Customers who aren’t seeing the benefit in your product can be re-engaged by inspiring and educating them. Don’t shy away from them – get closer and give them unique attention.

It’s really important not to ignore these customers and see them as a ‘lost cause’. Remember that even leaving a service is part of the customer journey and that a good experience right to the end is important.

Educate and inform them

Try sharing product handbooks and guides, or giving the opportunity to schedule in a demo or product re-fresher. To save time, some of these could be pre-recorded videos. Sometimes your customers aren’t using your product because they don’t know how.

Another opportunity here is to create a flow of onboarding emails that help to guide customers through the setup and first few weeks of use. Make sure that customers are able to opt into this flow whether they are a new customer or not. You can find some inspiration in our mega guide to onboarding.

Inspire them

These customers might be feeling uninspired or confused about the value of your product. This is a great opportunity to get them reading your blog content and seeing the power of what your product can help them to achieve. It would also be good to share customer case studies with this segment as inspiration for their own use case.

Ask them what’s wrong and give them the chance to talk

If you feel like you’re not getting through to this segment it’s worth being direct and asking what’s wrong. Tailor your messaging in a kind and understanding way and offer to schedule a call to discuss why they aren’t using the product and find out how you can help to rectify this or help to cancel their account.

This is incredibly useful for feedback, and also establishes your company as respectful and considerate of your customer base. The way you treat your unhappy or leaving customer says a lot about the way you do business on a whole.

Top tips to make your targeted marketing matter

top tips for segmenting your audience

Here’s where it gets really personal. It’s so important to tailor your communications and messaging to the audience segment you’re publishing to. There’s no magic formula that will apply to all businesses and all demographics. Instead, it’s about gathering the tools to formulate your own strategy, personalised to your own audience base.

1. Get to know your customers better

If you aren’t sure where to start with tailoring your messaging start by getting to know your customers better. This post focused on how to attract the right kind of web traffic has some great tips on how to learn more about your customer base and write for them. Work through some of the exercises as part of your campaign planning.

Audience segmentation is the foundation of targeted marketing campaigns, but the magic is in tailoring the campaigns to your audience.

Go one step further and make different character profiles for each audience segment through the different steps of their customer journey. Remember that it’s not just about who the customer is, it’s also about the context that you are meeting them in.

2. Change the request

Not every email that you send needs to have a call to action, but when they do, make sure it counts.

Ask the right thing to the right person. Any request of a customer is like asking a favour – make sure you use them wisely.

Your ask needs to be appropriate for the segment that’s receiving it. You don’t want to ask a group of blog readers who don’t own your product to sign up to a webinar where they can learn how to get use a new feature. Whereas, with a group who are spending more time on your product and pricing pages might really benefit from a webinar or pre-recorded video invite that walks them through a product demo or explains the best product features.

3. Change the tone

A change in tone can make the exact same sentiment come across entirely differently. Think about how you can change the tone based on demographic factors and the behavioural cues of your audience segment.

Different tones are appropriate for different situations. Think about how you can edit the voice you write in to suit your customer, but without losing your brand identity.

Think about the style of language that your audience are comfortable with and try to emulate parts of this to make them feel more confident in your messaging. A great example to look at for inspiration is the difference between the ways start-ups and corporates speak.

4. Change the design and delivery

Don’t be misled into thinking that the copy is the only thing you can change. Playing around with format, design, and medium can be equally important.

Get creative with format and design. Marketers and start-ups are likely to be more receptive to unusual design, but a large multi-national might see the same content this as frivolous and unprofessional.

Take inspiration from publications that are popular with your audience segment. Do they use video or text? Are the designs lively and bold, or formal and subtle? There is a benefit in standing out from the crowd, but depending on the segment and your knowledge about their behaviour and preferences, there might also be a benefit in blending in.

5. Trust your data, trust your instincts

Trust that you know your audience and that you know how to talk to them

There’s only so much that someone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of your company and your audience can help you with. Trust that you know your own audience best and that you know how to talk to them. After all, audience segmenting is all about the personal touch.

To start with test out a range of different messaging on people you know who fit that demographic group or behavioural set you are tailoring for. Experiment with your audience by A/B testing the segmented groups with different content and keep a record of how they react. Be clear in what you are changing and how you are changing it.

Create your own playbook. No one knows your customers better than you.

Let’s get started

getting started with audience segmentation

Hopefully you’re now full of inspiration and knowledge on how to segment your audience and make your marketing efforts more effective. If you have any extra tips and tricks that you’d like to share we’d love to hear from you – reach out to us on Twitter, or via Live Chat.