5 Elements to Move from Segmentation to Personalization

Is your website or outbound campaign compelling enough to capture the attention of each and every reader?

What if the first reader is in financial services and the second in retail? What if the first lives in California and the second in Atlanta?

It’s easy to see how those two visitors or subscribers would have totally different perspectives and needs. Yet, both of these people could end up in the same segment of male director-level titles with an interest in golf.

In an age that is increasingly driven by data, beacons, and automation, relying on segmentation alone is not going to connect your brand with customers.

Most marketers do segmentation pretty well – they use some sort of marketing database or CRM system to identify audience members who will receive an outbound campaign.

Sometimes a particular segment is identified as a persona: a term which describes a fictional member of the segment and is used to gain clarity and consensus among the teams. This helps align the content that will best resonate.

However, segmentations alone are static because they are based on a marketing calendar. They solve yesterday’s marketing challenge. People don’t interact with brands along a calendar.

They interact across channels and in non-linear methods based on a multitude of stimuli – many of which are not controlled by the brand.

Personalization is an additional layer on top of segmentation to ensure that campaigns are responsive to audience behaviors and relevant to their needs.

To move from effective segmentation to engaging personalization, there are five elements to consider:

1. Effective Content

Content must sell – always. Too much of the marketing content out there is merely interesting.

That has value, except it isn’t realistic to think that anyone has time to read everything that is interesting. We’ve got to set the bar higher.

Content must be viewed as part of or aligned with the product. It must help solve the same problems that the product solves.

This includes reevaluating how offline media assets get turned into digital experiences. If you break up a TV spot into dozens of snackable visual elements with hyper-local additions for price, store locations, and availability, it turns content into commerce.  

This also brings the content marketing closer to the analytics-driven marketing that drives revenue.

2. Revisit Cross-Channel Data Collection

While still complicated, cross-channel data is starting to become more actionable. A big part of the early success has nothing to do with technology, but with people.

CMOs are realizing that there are efficiencies and opportunities if all channels are working toward the same goal, with the same view of the customer.

To improve the maturity of these solutions, we will likely need more experimentation around both data collection and insight-driven campaign management.

This unified, actionable view of the customer is still ahead of most companies, but most of us can get started by combining channels at key moments of the lifecycle.

3. Dynamic Targeting

Our multi-device browsing habits and constantly shifting interests will break traditional segmentation models. Broad segments like “gadget enthusiasts” or “Millennial” will no longer work.

We must use the automation technology to create dynamic and agile models that can adapt to behaviors as they occur.

This automation technology must also personalize the content at the individual level, not the segment or campaign level.


Our goal is to target individuals based on a collection of identifiable characteristics and behaviors, rather than targeting a collection of individuals who share characteristics.

As I’ve often said in planning meetings, “The way customers act, you’d think each one was a different person!”

4. Customer-Level Media

Several campaign management vendors are tackling the challenge of analysis and customer engagement across owned, earned, and paid media. Ask your vendors about their plans for improving customer journey mapping.

Traditional linear customer journey maps are obsolete. You need technology to help you dynamically associate content and campaigns across the myriad individual experiences.

At the same time, media buying is increasingly at the customer level, via hashtag identification and CRM-based targeting.

Bring your own data to Facebook and Twitter, and find your key audiences across the Web in a context that makes sense for your product and brand.

The rest of this year will continue to see integrations through the various data services platforms (DSPs) and ad retargeting programs.

5. Brand Promise Ubiquity

Every interaction with a brand must live up to the brand promise – not just in terms of how and what we do, but the why we do it.

Marketing data can’t stay in the marketing department. It’s got to be utilized throughout the organization.

Marketers are more curators of experience than controllers or broadcasters of message, and our brand promise must be the banner under which every employee, agency, and partner interacts with people.

A recent study by research consulting firm Software Advice found that using big data to match sales and service reps to the individual needs and personalities of customers will significantly increase satisfaction, call efficiency, and sales revenue.

That is just one example of how marketing must collaborate with other departments to optimize customer experience across every touch point.

How are you using integrated data to turn your segmentation strategy into a personalization strategy?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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