It’s 2014 - Why Don’t All Brands Segment?

  |  May 27, 2014   |  Comments

Don't overlook the promise of segmentation, and don't let excuses like time and technology kill your potential.

In the past six years, I've worked with about 300 brands to help fine-tune their email marketing. A recurring suggestion that has applied to each and every one of those brands: segment your messaging.

I know several direct marketers who would probably read that statement above and say, "This advice applies to the thousands of brands who've been sending marketing messages for the past 70 years."

If this advice is so core to the collective experience of generations of direct marketers, why is it still applicable to every brand sending marketing messages today? For two reasons: some brands still aren't segmenting, and those that are segmenting can always improve their methods to drive even more success.

Some Brands Still Don't Segment

I'd say roughly 40 percent of the brands (even well-known brands) I speak to don't segment their messaging. Typically, this is because:

  • They don't think they have the time or ability to segment and manage the creation and mailing of different messages.
  • They don't believe that segmentation will give them better results.

In fact, I believe that those who feel they don't have the time or ability (due to technology or resources) to segment their messaging are actually just hiding the fact that they don't think the exercise will give them better results. If these brands felt that segmenting would get better results, they would find the time and acquire the resources. Saying "there's not enough time" is the same as saying "the amount of time it would take is too much compared to the value I believe we will get." It's a simple cost-benefit decision.

The cost of segmenting may go down now that customer data is more widely accessible and easier to leverage. But I find that, for most brands, it's not the cost of the technology or the time investment that prevents them from segmenting. Rather, it's a poor understanding of the potential benefits of segmenting. The cost is always too high when you can't quantify the benefit.

So do those who feel that there isn't enough benefit in segmentation have a point? Is it too difficult to quantify the potential benefit of segmentation (or increased segmentation)?

The Promise of Segmentation

Sending segmented messaging is treating your list like a group of human beings. The more data you collect and leverage in your messaging, the more respect you're showing to your audience.

You're a human (I assume). If your name is Mary, and I address you in a message as "Dear John," you're not going to feel as appreciated as if I get it right and say "Dear Mary." In the same vein, if you have no kids, and I send you a message full of ads for family-friendly vacations, are you going to feel heard? Appreciated?

People listen to and work with others they like and trust. Brands earn this affection and trust when they show consumers they've listened - listened in the form of capturing relevant useful data and delivering useful offers in return.

Now it's true that reaching the one-to-one ideal of segmented marketing is probably impossible (at least for now). But that doesn't change the fact that you should strive for it.

At its core, marketing is matchmaking - matching the customer's problem with the brand's solution.

Don't take my word for it. Test segmented messaging with your audience. Research others' results and see which approaches work the best. But don't overlook the promise of segmentation, and don't let excuses like time and technology kill your potential.


Justin Williams

As one of StrongView's in-house marketing strategists, Justin Williams helps email marketers develop and implement strategic lifecycle marketing campaigns that are continually optimized to increase engagement and revenue. For the past five years, Justin has applied his expertise in email marketing, social media, web design, and other interactive marketing disciplines across a variety of industries, including retail, finance, media, and technology. In addition to founding his own consulting company, Justin has built go-to-market strategies for early-stage startups and worked with brands like Cisco, Qualcomm, and Geeknet. Justin holds a BA in cognitive science from the University of California at San Diego.

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