Email Segementation: Make Your List More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Segmentation is also one of the most powerful and often under-utilized features of email automation applications. Though automation makes the process simpler, many marketers are put off by overhead in the form of upfront work required to develop and deploy rules and testing scenarios that result in more effective targeting and conversion. Should they bother?

Segmentation is the process of grouping names within your list into like interests, position in the buying cycle, demographics or other criteria relevant to your business.

Segmentation is also one of the most powerful and often under-utilized features of email automation applications. Though automation makes the process simpler, many marketers are put off by overhead in the form of upfront work required to develop and deploy rules and testing scenarios that result in more effective targeting and conversion. Should they bother?

Simply put: The answer is a resounding yes.

Using forms and engagement tracking, marketers can collect more information than ever before, and advanced data collection—progressive profiling—lowers form abandonment while acquiring new data through the querying of only data that has not yet been collected. When forms alone are not enough, email messages can be designed to A/B or multivariate test whole groups in order to garner specificity that leads to segmentation.

Segmenting lists using all of this type of data means you can selectively choose your most active (or profitable) groups, deselect the inactive, and develop campaigns designed to specifically reengage those who still hold promise. Data combined with automation means we benefit from better conversions and our prospects and leads benefit from messages in which they are truly interested. Targeted emails translate to better ROI in virtually every study.

Not only does segmentation make money through higher conversions, it saves money, too. When audiences are not separated into segments and are sent generic messages, open rates are lower. According to a study from MarketingSherpa, segmented emails get 50 percent more clicks than their untargeted counterparts.

Despite all the benefits of segmentation, not all marketers are onboard. For instance, Experian found that even though targeted email campaigns have a 40 percent higher open rate, 80 percent of marketers email the same content to an entire group.

Are businesses and marketers overcomplicating the process? Segmentation can be as simple or as complex as fits your needs, but customizing the process and making it unique to your business can give you the edge over competitors.

6 Steps to Segmentation

  1. Set a quantifiable and measurable goal for your campaign.
  2. Ensure your list contains enough names that it will still result in meaningful data, even after segmentation.
  3. Create segments using any data important to your business, such as: behavior, demographics, position in the sales funnel, and so on.
  4. Identify the most valuable segments—those that present the greatest opportunities.
  5. Create targeted messaging specifically designed to engage each segment.
  6. Track and measure results.
  7. When you treat new and current subscribers in the same manner and send them the same messages, you are missing one of the most important ways to nurture your lead to purchase. Segmentation can be as simple as dividing your list into new and current leads, but other ideas include:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Presence of children
  • Owner vs. renter
  • Length of residence
  • Lifestyle segmentation
  • Past purchase
  • Last visit to website
  • Pages visited at website
  • Resources downloaded

Explicit data are demographics such as company size, industry segment, job title and geographic location.

Implicit data are the recipient’s actions or interactions, such as those who open, click, download a resource, watch a video, visit your website, share your content, and so on.

For some businesses, even though they have a large list, the list does not contain enough data to enable meaningful segments—but all is not lost. Many companies provide list-append services that allow you to add data to your current list by matching on a unique bit of data you do have, such as the email address.

Another segmentation idea is to identify those within your list who are returning customers and those with the highest value order. These two groups are generally the most valuable to your company and therefore warrant especially targeted messaging and hand-holding.

Segments can even be divided further into sub-segments, and those sub-segments divided again, and so on. However, creating relevant content for each segment is not without effort, so it’s best to not subdivide your list to the point where there are not enough names in the sub-segment to justify the work required.

With segmentation; you can greatly improve message relevance; set up better A/B and multivariate testing; target your audience with subject lines, designs, and images that resonate with the individual; and acquire higher click-thru and sales rates.

3rd Pick in the 2013 Marketing Cloud Acquisition Draft Is …

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Gosh, it is almost getting boring around here waiting to see where the next selection will go. Salesforce grabbing up ExactTarget with the first selection was the first big surprise. Not so much the ExactTarget side, because there had been rumors for some time that ET was on the market.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Gosh, it is almost getting boring around here waiting to see where the next selection will go.

Salesforce grabbing up ExactTarget with the first selection was the first big surprise. Not so much the ExactTarget side, because there had been rumors for some time that ET was on the market. The surprise was more about Salesforce jumping into the fray. Oh, they definitely needed this acquisition or one like it. For all the great tools that Salesforce has for gathering, organizing, prioritizing and listening to your contacts and gathering data, what they have never had is a robust and efficient way to segment and actually reach those valuable contacts. ExactTarget gives them that one big missing capability through the ET campaign management platform, along with many fresh concepts and ideas in social opportunities.

The other gem in what Salesforce picked up in this acquisition, and what likely drove the total price of ExactTarget so high, is ET’s recent purchase of Pardot to strengthen their own marketing automation growth plans. Even the Salesforce CEO gushed about the inclusion of Pardot in his Twitter post around the purchase, thrilled that the transaction included: “The fastest-growing marketing automation and lead nurturing company for Salesforce users.”

But that price. Wow—$2.5 billion. Worth it? Yes, most likely, in the long term. But in the short term, it is a real drain on the cash flow for Salesforce; probably severely limiting other expansion plans or possibilities. It seems painful enough that now, just a month later, they have had to take out a $300 million loan to carry the cost. I have to believe that Salesforce is certain that the long-term cross-sell and integration possibilities for both companies will make it all worthwhile.

Then a few weeks later, an even bigger shock when Adobe slips in to scoop up Neolane. Another big matchup that fits the overall strategy needs of both organizations. While I hadn’t heard of any open shopping of Neolane, it makes sense that they would be eventually in the crosshairs of a larger enterprise. A strong set of campaign management tools, a top-line roster of satisfied clients, a steady string of industry honors and awards during the last four or five years, and continuous innovation of the product line toward achieving “visionary” ranking across three separate areas in Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant” reports and named a “leader” in Forrester’s “Wave” report. There was a whole lot of upside potential waiting there for the right suitor. Like Salesforce just a little earlier and Oracle in 2012, before the Eloqua acquisition, Adobe was the big man on campus in its primary business, but has stumbled about in efforts to build a suite of contact management and execution tools that would translate to the market segments outside of its solid base of agency clients drawn in by its creative leadership. Neolane will certainly be able do that and bring powerful new strategic offerings to the Adobe table.

So the 2013 first- and second-round picks have been completed. Where do the prognosticators think the next two or three picks will fall? Silverpop, which had also flirted with Salesforce in the past, seems primed. But who trades up to get them? SAS maybe? Or are they completely satisfied with their own marketing automation tool? They might jump in to keep up with the Joneses in finding a way to up the game on their existing marketing automation capabilities. Or maybe SAS goes for top-gun Marketo, which is always talked about in merger potential conversations, but never seems to work out the final details of a deal. How about Microsoft? Do they take their time, because they had the last move in 2012 when they picked up Marketing Pilot, or do they decide to make the bigger splash with one of the big dog free agents—either before SAS moves, or will they wait for one of the other choices? There are plenty of potentially available independents out there ready and willing to be courted. And there is never a shortage of companies looking to add a ready-to-serve subsidiary to their arsenal.

So who do you think will be the next CRM/Marketing Automation data darlings to join forces toward World Marketing Domination? Take a guess, email it to me, and I will dig up a special prize for the first one—or ones—to get it right.

Augmented Reality, Wearable Electronics and the Postal Service’s Future

In my previous blog post, I commented on the United States Postal Service and its announced plans for five-day delivery, discussing the importance of hard-copy communication and a commitment to deliver such communication on a daily basis. In extending this commentary, I claim no nostalgia for daily mail delivery, rather simply recognition that such communication has its unique position as a vehicle for superb brand engagement. The Postal Service is not standing still in the digital age.

In my previous blog post, I commented on the United States Postal Service and its announced plans for five-day delivery, discussing the importance of hard-copy communication and a commitment to deliver such communication on a daily basis. In extending this commentary, I claim no nostalgia for daily mail delivery, rather simply recognition that such communication has its unique position as a vehicle for superb brand engagement.

The Postal Service is not standing still in the digital age.

Last October, when the Postal Service announced its intention to raise rates this past January, it also announced its schedule for postage promotions through 2013. And in the mix is a bevy of technology-driven, multichannel “positioning” of direct mail that leverages mobile and interactive channels.

Discounts
Look at this selected line-up from the USPS promotion calendar:

  • March-April 2013: Mobile Coupon/Click-to-Call
    This promotion seeks to increase the value of direct mail by further highlighting the integration of mail with mobile technology in two specific ways. First, the promotion would encourage mailers to integrate hard-copy coupons in the mail with mobile-optimized platforms for redemption. Second, the promotion will drive consumer awareness, and increased usage, of mail containing mobile barcodes with “click-to-call” functionality.

    Provides a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards and flats sent during the established program period that include a two dimensional mobile barcode inside or on the mailpiece. The barcode must either lead the recipient to a coupon that can be stored on a mobile device, or enable the recipient to connect by telephone to another person or call center via a mobile device.

  • August-September 2013: Emerging Technology
    This promotion is designed to build on the successes of past mobile barcode promotions by promoting awareness of how innovative technology—such as near-field communication, augmented reality and authentication—can be integrated with a direct mail strategy to enhance the value of direct mail.

    Provide a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards, and flats that are sent during the established program period and include print that allows the recipient to engage in one of the following:

    • an augmented reality experience facilitated by a smartphone or computer,
    • authentication of the recipient’s identity, or
    • an experience facilitated via Near Field Communication.

To receive the discount, mailers must comply with the eligibility requirements of the program.

  • November-December 2013: Mobile Buy-it-Now
    This promotion will encourage mailers to adopt and invest in technologies that enhance how consumers interact and engage with mail, and demonstrate how direct mail can be a convenient method for consumers to do their holiday shopping.

    Provides a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards, and flats which include a mobile barcode inside or on the mailpiece that facilitates a mobile optimized shopping experience. To receive the discount, the qualifying mail must be sent during the established program period by mailers that comply with the eligibility requirements of the program

Augmented Reality
Next, in January during the media-frenzy of Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this Venture Beat post appeared, reporting on a USPS mobile app that uses “augmented reality” (subject of the August-September 2013 promotion) to integrate direct mail promotions with interactive programming on a mobile device and give recipients an enhanced digital experience with the mail piece. In augmented reality, a physical ad and an interactive ad comes together by way of an app, developed by Aurasma, rather than a QR Code. Augmented reality can be applied to any visual cues.

The apps keep coming. Associated Press then reported that Val-Pak, the company that sends blue envelopes stuffed with coupons, also wants consumer households to save money while driving. Valpak has partnered with Roximity, a Denver-based app developer, to bring coupons and deals to drivers of newer-model Fords and Lincolns who use the voice-controlled Sync AppLink connected to their mobile phone. The app allows people to hear about personalized deals from stores, restaurants and other businesses as they drive. The “coupon” appears on the driver’s smartphone and can be redeemed once the car is stopped.

Wearable Electronics
And how can you keep it all connected—the mail, the apps, the augmented reality, the mobile coupons? Why through wearable electronics, of course, article courtesy of The Atlantic Wire. The fashion verdict may be out, but the Postal Service is clearly thinking hard on how to keep mail relevant in an increasingly digital—and mobile—age.

I still maintain that the six or seven direct mail pieces I receive a day are precious real estate. They represent a tiny portion of the thousands of advertisements and brand “touches” I’m exposed to each and every day. Yet this is advertising that is largely targeted, and one with which I have a tactile experience—reading, responding, recycling as I deem appropriate. This is a powerful consideration, one that I certainly pay closer attention to. Will I be running to the app store to integrate this experience with my smartphone? Not anytime soon, but a hoodie for my iPod, ThinkPad and Samsung to tote and plug into would be nice.

“Dear David … Oops, I Mean Carolyn” – Blunders in Marketing Automation

Ah, the blunders of automation. In the “old” days, when direct mail personalization was the shiny new penny, there were critical quality control procedures in place to ensure the right personalization data was being ink-jetted/lasered onto the right creative package/offer. We made sure the address data in each record matched the personalized salutation and output on the order device. Now that the email world has collided with database automation, QC efforts seem to be non-existent. As a customer, I’m insulted. As a marketer, I’m embarrassed for our entire industry.

Ah, the blunders of automation.

In the “old” days, when direct mail personalization was the shiny new penny, there were critical quality control procedures in place to ensure the right personalization data was being ink-jetted/lasered onto the right creative package/offer. We made sure the address data in each record matched the personalized salutation and output on the order device.

Now that the email world has collided with database automation, QC efforts seem to be non-existent. As a customer, I’m insulted. As a marketer, I’m embarrassed for our entire industry.

I first noticed the problem about 8 years ago when I got an email that started “Dear First Name”—it took everything I had to not choke on my morning latte. “Hmmm,” I thought, “somebody’s going to get fired for this one.”

Apparently, this “somebody” packed their bags and got a job managing email at yet another company, because their next email faux pas was an email personalized to me, but read, “Since you live in Arkansas …” Really? I don’t think I’ve ever even visited Arkansas, so either you’ve got the wrong Carolyn, or your data is really, really bad.

Or how about those sales people who look like they’re sending a 1:1 email, but the results have gone completely awry? The sender is so lazy, they’ve clearly just cut and pasted different text together—different fonts, different font colors, different font sizes.

My favorite one started, “Dear Carolyn, We get it too!” Huh? Did we meet and have a conversation about something and I dozed off?

Roger Connors, Author, Co-CEO/Co-President, Partners In Leadership at Ozprinciple.com, emails me regularly with a “Dear David” salutation. Absolutely no idea who these folks are, why I’m on their email list and why they think my name is David. And it seems Roger isn’t trusted to email by himself because his emails always come from Roger Connors and Tom Smith. Who is Tom and why won’t he let Roger send out an email alone? Perhaps because he’s never accurate with the name of his target? Nice QC supervision there, Tom.

Other organizations seem to get my name right, but miss the mark on personalization within the body copy of the email. Take this one from the Director of Retail Sales at Dixon Ticonderoga Company, who emails, “I hope to meet privately you and others to discuss the options you offer for building a non-traditional marketing strategy for .” Wow.

Then, there’s the Subject line. One of my favorites? Subject: “=?utf-8?Q??=Carolyn, Are You Right on Time, Right on Target?”

And let’s not forget those images that don’t download properly, so I’m looking at a big box with an “X” in the middle of it. Or how about links that don’t work (spinning … spinning … spinning … ) or link to a page that has nothing to do with the content in the email?

Or better yet, really examine your copy to make sure you’re not insulting anyone. The one I received this morning that reads: “Younger is better. Marketers need new technologies …To keep customers happy … To make numbers … To keep u p… Old technologies are clunky. Non-agile. Old technologies are old. Like our fellow Chi-town native, Kanye, we don’t like it unless it’s brand new.”

Hey, I may not be a spring chicken, that just rubbed me the wrong way.

So here’s a tip for all you marketers that use email in your mix: Set up your email campaign and then blast to test names in your campaign list (use a variety of email accounts so you can see how the email renders after passing through gmail, AOL and other email servers). QC it. Fix it. Send a test email again. QC it. Fix it. Send a test email again. Repeat until everything is perfect, because your first brand impression may be your last.