January 12, 2015

10 Fool-Proof Ways to Segment Your Contacts


It's become common knowledge that segmenting your contact base increases open rates and click-through rates. Both of those factors are high drivers of email's overall ROI, which can directly be pointed to revenue. Taking a glance at your contact base, there is a high chance that you aren't coming across two individual contacts that have the exact same qualities with each other. And more times than not, they'd probably receive different messages from you too. So why would you segment them into the same group?

A common question that we get from users at Contactually is how to segment your own contact base. What Buckets should you set up? How should you group your own lists? What factors should you consider when you are segmenting?

I wish I could tell you the perfect formula for this; unfortunately not every contact base is created equal and this "formula" is every changing.

Out of all of the marketing channels, email remains one the top channels with the highest ROI and marketers are forever trying to optimize this channel in order to get the most out of it. In 2015 segmentation is one of the top priorities in order to improve this ROI. Ultimately, to keep all of the things running, segmenting your contact base allows you be proactive with your relationships and then let's you send the right messages at the right time. So, what are the best ways to set up this segmentation?

10 Fool-Proof Ways to Segment Your Contacts

1. Relationship

Who is this person? How did you meet? What is their relationship to you? Relationship based segmentation can come in handy for personal to small-midsize lists.

For example my buckets in Contactually are set up with Family/Friends, Digital Marketing DC, and Team Contactually. Or for realtors maybe the segmentation is based on buyers, sellers, and other realtors? The relationship segmentation is up to you and what your relationship is with that contact.

2. Company

Do most of your contacts work at a few different companies? Then this is probably the segmentation for you.

One example that comes to mind for this segmentation can be for consultants or agencies. If you have different companies you work with, you can then group the individual clients by their respective companies.

3. Region

Image via Litmus

Did you know that Thursdays at 8-9am is most optimal time to send emails? However, if your contacts are based all over the US or globally...that's not the time they'll receive your emails. Granted, there are many studies out their that have differing views and at the end of the day it's based on what's best for your audience. And organizing according to your contacts' timezone is a good place to start.

Segmenting based on region can be extremely beneficial in ensuring your email arrives at the optimal time to guarantee higher open rates and click-through rates. Litmus tested this segmentation strategy when they were promoting their conference and saw a 68% open rate for the emails they sent out.

When obtaining your contact's information ask what state/region/country/city they reside in or ask for their zip code for easy segmentation after.

4. Job Titles

What are each of the contact's job titles? Are there similar ones that can be grouped together?

This segmentation might be more beneficial for marketers, business development folks, or people in sales, as knowing the titles of key stakeholders can help outline decisions for better messaging. For example a CEO, VP, Director, and Manager all have some type of influence or decision marking in if a deal closes or not. By segmenting these contacts with the dedicated message in how they will be affected can help progress the sale positively in your favor.

Tip: Seeing commonalities in these job titles with your segments can help with marketing practices. Are you noticing that your product is mainly attracting C-suite level individuals or just managers? If you are using some social paid ads try adding that segment with those job titles.

5. Social Media Networks

The content that is shared on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, is just as different as all of your contacts are. Everyone treats each of these platforms different areas and most likely chooses to share differing things on each.

If you notice that some of your contacts are very active on Facebook and others are active on Twitter, this is a creative case for segmentation. Would you tell the Facebook active group to follow you on Twitter? Or would you message the Twitter active group to like you on Facebook? Probably not, because that's not where either hangs out.

A marketing best practice is to create individualized pieces of content dedicated to each of the social media platforms' needs and you can repurpose some of that content depending on the social media segments you set up with your contact base.

6. Value

Segmenting by how much the contact or deal that this contact plays an effort in is worth is important to organize each within. The contacts that have a higher value will amount to more in your business, so they may have a higher priority and a different set of messages. This is not to say your other contacts who aren't worth as much monetarily are less important, but maybe they require less touch points.

Warning: I read an article about how CVS segments their customer base and it's very advanced for their large customer base. The article made an argument that value-based segmentation may be beneficial to you, but it may not fulfill your customer's wishes in terms of messaging. This is just a small warning though because if you are providing a message of high quality and segmenting properly, you won't need to worry about this. (Now, I just wish CVS would work on the length of their receipts... ).

7. Deal Stage

Where is this contact in terms of your sales cycle? Is it just a first introduction or are they on the verge of closing?

Deal stage is an incredibly important segmentation for sales and tailoring the right messaging for each stage and each contact within can make or break the deal. You wouldn't want to send the introductory message to a contact who is about to close. Or contacts at the middle of the funnel may need more content or guidance in order to move onto the next stage.

8. Timeframes

Time based segmentations can be anything from the date you met this contact, the time he/she came into your system, and/or the schedule in which these contacts will receive messages from you. According a MailChimp study, segmenting contacts by when they signed up for the list last improves the open rates by over 11%.

Let's say you have a group of people who don't require as many touch points, maybe they go into your "Once A Quarter" segmentation? And then you have another group that needs more contact and they'll fall into your "Once A Week" category? This type of segmentation will allow you to stay on top of your appropriate follow ups and will make crossing off your to-dos easier since these messages are scheduled according to your groups.

9. Activity

Are these contacts "hot"? When was the last time that you spoke? Are they now "cold"?

This segmentation is similar to time frames, but it's dependent on how much you've spoken to them. I have a couple buckets with old and cold contacts. These contacts are people who I haven't spoken to in over a year (and I don't plan on having contact with them unless the conversation is relevant), and/or we've had conversations recently, but our relationship is cold.

Segmenting contacts by activity can be efficient and is a simple grouping. Cold, warm, old, and/or new can be used to organize these individual to then send the corresponding follow ups to in order to keep your network up-to-date.

10. Interests

Marketers are usually charged with building personas out identifying who potential buyers would be. These personas not only encompass what the person does professionally, but also what his/her hobbies or interests are.

Maybe some of your contacts are into football? And some are into basketball? You then have the opportunity to provide them with a timely and sincere message that shows you are paying attention.

As I mentioned earlier, the way you segment your contact base is really up to you and what your contact data looks like. But, these segmentations are not set in stone. If you segment your contacts one way and it doesn't work well in a month...it's ok. Recognize that these segmentations are living breathing things that can morph into other groupings in order to best optimize for your business and for your audience.