The central question of modern marketing is: What do customers want out of branded touchpoints, and how can we, as marketers, meet their needs?
Increasingly, consumers demand offers, outreach, and an overall experience tailored to their preferences. They know we have data on them; they know they leave a digital trail of their interests and activities across the Internet. Consumers expect us to use that data responsibly. They expect us to recognize them and to know what products and services they already use. And they expect that their loyalty and celebration of our brand will translate to special treatment (and discounts).
I urge you to consider that segmentation is not enough.
Segmentation is, by definition, a static snapshot. It’s not a dynamic picture of the customer interation. For many marketers that have to pull segments from one database solution and import it into another to send email, SMS, or social messaging, that snapshot can be days or even a week old.
Marketing automation technology has now advanced enough to unlock the mysteries of consumer data, so that marketers can help enable and encourage fantastic and customized consumer experiences. The biggest challenge is to analyze that data to develop the most accurate view of a customer and merge each life stage with the most relevant content or interaction. At that point, the best thing a marketer can do is trust the data, use it—and get out of the way.
Think Outside the Channel
Developing a full picture storyboard for your digital customers requires thinking outside the channel. Although most of our data comes from email interactions, we can’t work from email data alone. The more channels a marketer is analyzing, the greater the chance for success. A truly comprehensive picture of the customer can only be created when marketers extract data from all sources, including email, text messages, and social. The best campaigns tap into these channels in real time, connect the dots, and develop a greater understanding of what customers want.
The next step is to divide your targets into the right segments. But what is the “right” segmentation? Well, if you define “right” in terms of customer satisfaction, response and spend (revenue)—and that’s certainly how I would define it—then accuracy is crucial because consumers and business professionals interact with our brands across a constantly evolving mix of digital channels, time spans, sessions, live events, in-store, and social networks.
Plus, they interact using multiple devices and in varied environments. Marketers who do segmentation from a combined marketing database have a single source of truth for understanding customer status and interest. What is segmentation but a snapshot of the customer’s interests and value? Isolating that segment point in time, marketers can engage and be part of the ongoing interaction stream, rather than responding to actions that are old, outdated, or overridden by more current events.
In reality, advanced segmentation is just another way to talk about good data management. Email marketers who spawn broadcast or trigger campaigns from a central digital database are more likely to get it right because they can respond quickly to the “complete customer,” rather than just the customer we know over email. No customer or subscriber only interacts with a brand via email. So, how could messaging that is limited to email data be relevant or engaging? The key is to send messaging from the same system that manages the data from multiple channels. While many point solution providers claim that they have a multichannel approach, marketers are not fooled by duct tape integrations.
Now that the data is manageable and accessible, marketers have the chance to stand up for our customer’s satisfaction. Refuse to send generic messages—even when it might seem easiest to just send an email blast. Don’t lose sight of the larger customer journey in the urge to get a quick hit response or to create some short-lived social bump of activity. Engagement yields much more promising opportunities. Don’t just send more messages. Send more relevant messages through more channels to address how prospects interact with your brand across email, SMS, social and in person. Let the automation technology analyze the data, providing new insights, and then improve the cycle again and again.
Is your team, technology, and data management solution ready to abandon static segmentation, and aim for engagement?