During 2011, we saw three main types of segmentation strategies on the data we serve from Get Smart Content, driven by a slightly larger number of targeting techniques. In this post, I’ll walk you through those three segmentation strategies and describe the different scenarios that can be used to succeed with each of the strategies. The three common strategies of audience segmentation that I will discuss are: visitor's intent, GEO location, and previous conversion behavior.
At the top of the funnel, perhaps on the first-time visit, before you have any historical or CRM data on a site visitor, the intent or interest of the visitor is best derived from their referring search keyword or, to a lesser extent, their referring URL. I’ll focus on the keyword since that is the lower hanging fruit for segmenting this visitor effectively.
Referring keyword gives you a good idea of either the problem the visitor is trying to solve or the solution (i.e., your product or service) that they think will solve their problem. At the top of the funnel, this is the most valuable data you can observe and act upon because you can tailor your content and CTA (i.e. your invitation to enter your sales funnel) to their interest, not your general attributes or benefits.
It's a win-win situation because when you target your content to address this potential customer’s interests, you're also optimizing their search process. In other words, they told you what they’re looking for, you segmented them by that intent/interest and served them the most relevant content and call-to-action.
We see that top-of-the-funnel segmentation by intent/interest is particularly useful when you have a diverse product line. For example, if you're a hosting provider whose main lines of business are colocation, scalable cloud servers and hosted email exchange, you will have visitors with three distinct intents/interests coming to your site. Broad match and group your referral keywords to define these three segments and serve them content specific to their intent/interest. This will reduce bounce and increase at least leads, if not sales, because you aided these visitors in finding the information they’re seeking.
Also at the top of the funnel, and a lot less personal, is proximity. We see companies prioritize referral keyword and URL segments, but when the visitor comes direct or the keyword is too broad such as general branded keywords, companies fall back on geographic proximity. Geographic proximity is also a common segmentation method for customers that primarily transact with their customers offline at a fixed geographic location. The targeted message delivered almost always states how convenient they are to the visitor’s location.
If you have multiple locations or you are targeting travelers from a specific location, then proximity can be a very effective alternative to serving the same content and call-to-action to everyone. From a consulting standpoint, it’s worth noting that proximity segments are often the ones potential clients inquire about first because geo-targeting is probably the most well known form of audience segmentation.
In the middle and bottom of the funnel are segmentation strategies based on the previous visits and conversions of a site visitor. This can include the number of visits without a conversion, specific conversions on the website, or a myriad of past interactions evidenced through CRM data.
At the website conversion level, I encourage you to think about the goals you’ve set up in your web analytics platform and the reports you use to determine how many people converted on those goals, signifying their movement through your sales funnel. Now imagine segmenting your potential customers by those goals, not in the past, but in a real-time interaction where you serve them content and a call-to-action based on the next step you want them to take.
This customized experience is targeted to the potential customer’s awareness of and interactions with your brand, and if done correctly, it enhances their experience. In other words, if you are aware of your sales process and the types of natural interactions that usually happen before a website visitor becomes a customer, then you can use segmentation by previous conversions to engage a site visitor as if you were talking with them one-on-one.
By starting with the three strategies described above, you will be able to see significant increases in engagement and conversions. Once you’ve mastered these, the next step is to consider advanced strategies such as external data integration.
If you would like to learn more about improving audience engagement using segments and targeted content, I encourage you to build some simple conversion-by-source reports in your analytics platform or feel free to use the Google Analytics API tool we support at http://opportunity.getsmartcontent.com.