May 26, 2017

Using Marketing Automation to Segment Your Buyers

If you want your marketing campaigns to be effective and relevant to your audience, you can’t go without segmenting your database. How can you allocate campaign budget if you don’t know who your customers are and what they want? You can’t.

Luckily, a large part of the segmentation process can be done automatically, if you know where to start.

Why bother with marketing automation?

Recently, I’ve looked at how different brands use marketing automation to increase their customers’ lifetime value and how you can use this technology to get new customers hooked on your product or service.

If you look around, you’ll notice more and more companies are adopting marketing automation, trying to streamline some of their recurring processes in order to be more effective. In this article, we’ll explore how marketing automation can handle one of the most fundamental aspects of every campaign — namely, targeting.

Why focus on targeting? Despite the fact that most consumers prefer offers tailored to their needs, 51 percent of marketers still send the same message to everyone. And this figure hasn’t changed much in recent years.

There can be many reasons why companies fail to target their campaigns. Some may be related to budget constraints, lack of expertise, or the quality of available data. But marketers can overcome many of these obstacles by making the initial investment and setting up a marketing automation platform to bear the workload. 

Here’s how it works: 

1. Treat your new subscribers differently.

New users, customers, and blog subscribers aren’t like your regular audience. They may be exceptionally interested in your brand and everything surrounding it, but at the same time, they may not be ready for a full-fledged nurture campaign.

One option is to reduce the frequency of communication for new subscribers — to let them get used to your communication and not overwhelm them right from the start. They may not be ready for daily blog updates yet, so take it slow, and build engagement over time.

You should also create a different stream of communication for their first few weeks. Instead of presenting random content, show only the best pieces that have already been appreciated by others. This way your evergreen content will continue being discovered while new readers get a chance to catch up.

You can use marketing automation to run these processes automatically. Tag new subscribers appropriately, put them into the right “drip” or “nurture track,” and analyze engagement over time. You’ll probably see that the people you’ve shown your best side at the beginning of your relationship will stay with you much longer.

2. Evaluate new subscribers’ interests and engagement.

The first few weeks of your relationship with a lead should be used to gain as much knowledge about them as possible. Get into their minds by observing behavior — what they open, read, click, and opt out of.

Take welcome emails, for example. Many marketers use them to onboard new customers, and it’s not uncommon to see open rates up to 80 percent. That’s because most email subscribers read them — they’re still very engaged, and the content is highly relevant. 

What about the 20 percent that left them unopened? This may be a signal that you have issues with deliverability, or that these people aren’t going to be your most loyal readers. Investigate and act accordingly. Tag the leads, score them, and reach out again. If they don’t respond, you may want to consider removing them from the batch. 

At the same time, you should look at what makes your new audience click. Observe the offers they engage with, or even send them a survey. Use the answers they provide to put them into the right segments, and in the future, you’ll be able to take their interests into consideration for content and campaigns.

3. Evaluate long-term engagement. 

Most marketers want their audience to stick around, not just to go through the free trial or place one order and never return. That’s why you should evaluate long-term engagement and respond to it.

Build marketing automation workflows with this long-term evaluation in mind. Make sure you identify and score appropriately those who interact with your content, even after they’ve made a purchase. Distinguish the loyal buyers who return repeatedly from the subscribers who’ve never made a purchase, and those who don’t even bother to open your emails.

Once you have this information, serve content that encourages specific actions related to customer loyalty: to “wake up” or opt out, to make another purchase and gain more loyalty points, to place their first order, or maybe recommend your service to others.

customer reactivation email

Try to reactivate customers who haven’t engaged or made a purchase in a while.

4. Define customer profiles based on behavior.

You should track your customers’s digital behavior not just for the sake of cross-selling/upselling, but to also to find out what kind of customer they are and what kind of communication they respond to.

Find the customers who are price-sensitive and only react to special deals. Look for those who are trendsetters and early adopters, who care about the newest product lines. Identify those who buy in bulk or in predictable cycles — so you can send them replenishment emails or a more relevant offer.

5. Get personal, to provide even more value.

Sometimes knowing which products interest your users isn’t enough. Sure, you know they like custom sneakers or that they’re looking for a SaaS solution to help them manage projects across different departments. But if you dig deeper, you’ll find there are other factors that can help you make communication more meaningful.

Are they a jogger, or a tennis player? Will they be interested in a particular style of sneaker? What kind of company do they work for? Are they looking for a robust solution or maybe something small that can scale up as they grow?

There are many different factors that affect the decision-making process, especially in B2B. That’s why you should collect quantitative and qualitative data at every possible touchpoint, and add it to your customers’ profiles. Make it your mission to deliver content based on this data.

What data should you be looking at? That will depend on your product and how your customers buy it. Take hotel reservations, for example. Is it enough to know someone stayed at a hotel for a week in August? Wouldn’t it be better to know the purpose of the stay, whether they went there with the family, whether they chose a pool-side view room, or a pet-friendly place? 

Airbnb email example

Send offers customers can actually benefit from, like Airbnb does with their geo-targeted emails.

Start slow, and work your way up.

If you haven’t had much success with database segmentation in the past, or your process isn’t smooth yet, don’t worry. You’ll get there. The workflows you establish in your marketing automation platform can help you gather and distribute a lot of the necessary information. You just have to know what you’re looking for and what your customers’ actions mean.

Start with a simple onboarding process, and try to understand as much as possible from what you’ve observed. Scale from there, and you’ll soon find segmentation isn’t as hard as it seems.  


As content marketing manager at GetResponse, Michal Leszczynski is responsible for coordinating content marketing projects. Over the years, he’s planned, delivered, and optimized numerous email marketing campaigns for the brand’s enterprise clients. Connect with Michal on Twitter @mrleszczynski.

Looking for software? Try our Product Selection Tool