Audience segmentation: What is it and why should you do it?
Updated: Jan 17
It’s a simple rule of digital marketing – communications, be they emails, social posts, web pages, or other – are more effective when they are targeted. And it’s a simple rule of life – people pay more attention to things that interest them or are relevant. These two statements create the reasoning for why audience segmentation should be part of your digital marketing strategy.
Audience segmentation is the marketing practice of dividing your target audience into groups based on factors they have in common so you can communicate with them in a way that’s more specific, and therefore they’re more likely to relate – and respond – to. Segmenting allows you to message more directly and target different groups’ needs (which you can learn about by using personas) to increase the likelihood that they will make a purchase.
“…we often end up doing marketing in general instead of marketing in specific," said Seth Godin, author of This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See in an Inc. article. "Worse, we worry about disappointing, missing, offending or otherwise leaving behind someone who might become our customer. So we become mediocre instead."
By segmenting audiences into groups, organizations are able to use customized language and images to attract targets. It requires more upfront work because it means creating multiple versions of marketing materials that are tailored to interest each segment. But the results are typically worth the effort since response and conversion rates are likely to be higher. According to Accenture Interactive, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.
How to segment
For a B2C organization, segmentation factors could be things like geographic location, age and other demographics, past buying habits or expressed interests. For example, if you own an ice cream shop, you may want your promotional email advertising a two-for-one offer to have a different look and feel when sending to parents of young children versus when sending to teenagers. You’ll want to use language and images that appeal to each group in the different emails.
If you’re a B2B organization, you’ll likely want to tailor your communications based on the target audience’s role in the company. By segmenting, for example, executives from line-of-business workers, you can tailor your communications to the specific concerns and challenges each group has. And by understanding what role each group has in making buying decisions for the company, your communications can include specific information they need to play that role and make buying decisions.
One way that organizations of all kinds will want to segment is existing customers versus prospects, or potential customers. If a person has already purchased from your organization they will expect your communication to recognize that and build off of the existing relationship. If a person has never bought from you before they are likely to respond better to introductory language and learning a little about the company before making a purchase.
Segmenting marketing communications has become popular enough that these days many content marketing tools have segmentation features built in. Email automation software typically has features to help you set up different segments and manage the communications you send to your target groups, making the practice easier to adopt. And social media platforms such as Facebook offer custom audience tools.
Learn about simply ways you can target audiences on social media channels, and check out our services page to see how we can help your organization build more successful digital campaigns through audience segmentation.