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Segmentation Secrets

  |  July 23, 2003   |  Comments

Reader profiling for personalized newsletters.

A reader recently inquired about client profiling and segmentation. This newsletter publisher needs tips on audience profiling to personalize a newsletter. It’s a topic I’ve touched on before but certainly bears digging into.

Like many elements of a strong newsletter strategy, segmentation doesn’t happen overnight. You may be lucky enough to start with some key identifiers. For the most optimized personalization, you’ll establish a process to build up increasingly more information over time. Use it to drill down until you know every little nuance about your readers that relates to how they think about, evaluate, buy, use, recommend, curse, love (or hate) your product or service.

Of course, there are obvious ways to segment. Geography may seem like a pretty simplistic segmentation tool, but it can carry more weight than you may realize. In the high-tech industry, our clients around the country bought technology products differently. In pockets of high-tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley, Massachusetts’ Rte. 128 area, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, early adopters were always found. Think about geography not purely in terms of location and proximity, but also as an indicator of buying patterns and other influences on your product’s or service’s purchase cycle.

The same applies to job title and function. A CFO wants to know about return on investment (ROI), especially in this economy. A programmer/analyst just wants to find better tools to do more work with less. When combined with job title, job function sometimes goes beyond the basic information of what people do for a living. It often defines how they relate to your product or service. Are they potential users with no buying power? Or do they control the purse strings?

The most important segmentation category is the kind of information readers want from a newsletter. Do they want product specs, ROI analyses, functionality tips, or information about how other customers use your product? Do they want to hear the joke of the month?

How do you get all this information? Here are a few ways to start:

  • The registration form. The most obvious way to capture the baseline information is to have people register when they subscribe to your newsletter. As you gather basic information, ask a few questions about what’s most useful to them.

  • A re-registration form. If you’ve been publishing a newsletter for a while, ask people to re-register. Advise them you want to ensure their information is up to date. Include a question such as, "Who else should receive this newsletter?" Besides capturing segmentation data, it’s a great method for getting more subscribers.

  • An online survey with incentive. In the old days, we hired research companies to conduct extensive direct mail and telephone surveys. Now, a simple online survey gets immediate results. Ask 10 or 15 easy questions to help mold future editorial. To increase response, offer a premium, such as a white paper, or a fun prize. When set up as a drawing with one winner, it’s a very economical means of collecting intelligence.

  • Surveys and polling questions within the newsletter. These are best with only one or two questions. They can provide loads of information about what people are thinking.

  • Analytics. With good analytics you’ll know what the most popular articles and features of your newsletter are. Most important, you’ll learn who they are popular with. This reveals what’s important to each and every one of your readers. Make reporting tools a key utility of the segmentation process.

  • Old-fashioned research. If there’s money in the budget, try a direct-mail survey. Offer the opportunity to respond online. A key rule of direct marketing is always to provide a variety of ways to respond. By investing in a direct-mail program, you may be able to double or triple the response rate against an online-only survey.

This should get you started on segmentation. Done something interesting lately? Let me know!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathleen Goodwin

Kathleen Goodwin is the former CEO of IMN (formerly iMakeNews), specializing in customer acquisition and retention through permission-based e-newsletters. For nine years, she was vice president of marketing for Ziff-Davis' publishing division, where she oversaw the marketing of all print publications and their early online siblings. She also serves as an advisor to early-stage companies and has been responsible for several successful new-business launches.

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