What Is an Audience Segmentation and Why Do You Need One?

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It’s Time to Get UR Content Personalization On

Get UR Content Personalization On

Today I thought I would talk a little about one of the most important, but least understood, components of a content marketing strategy: audience segmentation. A lot of folks out there just assume that developing a content marketing strategy is all about developing a buyer persona and a really good story. Sure those are essential to a great strategy, but they’re virtually useless unless you develop a good audience segmentation. They’re useless unless you develop a framework to get that story to your persona at the right place and time.

Here’s why developing intricate buyer personas isn't the end of your process to reach your audience. You not only need to know who they are, you need to divide them up. Segmentation is just a fancy term we use to get the idea across that each of your personas might be reached better in various campaigns. If you've got a male persona in his 50s and a female persona in her 20s, they're probably not on the same sites, using the same devices, or interested in the same content. Audience segmentation also known as content segmentation allows you to talk to each buyer persona in a way that’s both relevant and personal to them. It also allows you to measure the results more effectively.

By personalizing your content, you can better target your customer at a particular stage in the buying cycle. You've got Jane Doe. You have her segmented into a campaign directed at a specific buyer persona. Now, you can see where she is in the buyer cycle--has she already converted, is she interested but not following through, where in the funnel is she dropping out? These answers will allow you to add her to the right campaign for follow up. Your metrics here will also give you insights to fine tune your next campaign. Would another message work better? Did this one work so well you would reap massive ROI by doubling your efforts?

But before you begin to segment your audience, you’ll want to start with a deeper understanding of the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey or buying cycle is a framework that evolved naturally from the “sales cycle”. Once buyers had the means to conduct their own product research via the internet, they became educated and this education and the means by which they educate themselves fundamentally changed the sales cycle. You can read more about this in my blog post defining content marketing. There are many versions of the “buyer’s journey,” but the most commonly used one has 3 basic stages:

The Buyer Moves from Awareness all the Way to Decision . . . 

  1. Awareness: At this stage, your buyer not only isn’t aware of your company or solution, but is also not even aware they have a problem or need. Once a buyer becomes aware that they in fact have a problem or a need that must be filled, they begin an initial search in their browser for content. Your whole goal at this stage of the buyer’s journey is to make sure your content comes up when your buyer is doing initial research on a problem or question. This is what we commonly refer to as “top-of-the-funnel content” or ToFU for short.

  2. Evaluation: At this stage, your buyer has become aware they have a problem or need and is now actively looking for solutions. Your product or solution has come up in initial research and they are now looking to evaluate your product or solution against your competitors. Two fundamental questions need to be answered at this stage. Does your product solution solve their problem AND if so, does it solve it better than your competitors? If these two questions are answered affirmatively, the buyer moves on to the next stage in their journey. The content you develop for this stage is commonly referred to as “middle-of-the-funnel” content or MoFU.

  3. Decision: At this stage the buyer has decided to go with your solution, but still has final questions. These questions may revolve around “price” or “bundle” or subscription rates or even more practical questions such as once purchased, how will the company onboard staff to use the solution or how will the company determine ROI on their purchase? Whatever it is, content developed at this stage is commonly referred to as “bottom-of-the-funnel content” or BoFU.

What’s important here is that you understand the basic task in content marketing is to provide different types of content to your buyer to answer very specific questions at EACH stage of the buyer’s journey and that essentially what you’re doing is leveraging content to “nurture” them all the way from awareness to decision. If done correctly, you hold your buyer’s attention and keep it for a significant period of time until they finally purchase, donate, subscribe or perform whatever action you need them to.

Sample Buyers Journey

I actually developed a buyer’s journey model that includes 7 discrete stages B2B buyers go through and unlike other content marketers, I believe there is actually a stage in the journey before “awareness” which I like to call “browse” that is often not included in the standard journey framework. What I wish to suggest is that each business or consumer has its own particular buying cycle and journey and that you should develop one that works best for your situation -- your business model and the particular buyers you are nurturing.

After you set up the basic buyer’s journey framework, your next task in developing the content segmentation is to fill out a buyer’s journey for each buyer persona by assigning or filling in content at each stage of the buyer journey.

You may assign the same “ToFU content” for multiple buyer persona’s, while electing to customize “MoFU content”.  The final matrix, developed for multiple buyer personas, is your content segmentation. And this is essentially the most important aspect of your content marketing strategy. Some people choose to fast track key steps in the content strategy development. I would recommend allotting the most time to this area of your strategy as it will mean the difference between your buyers making a decision to purchase or not. I can’t stress enough how critical content segmentation is to the overall effectiveness of your content marketing strategy.

Sample Content Segmentation

As you develop your content segmentation, many questions will undoubtedly come up for you. One of the most common questions is actually what content asset should be assigned to which buyer at a particular stage in the journey. A webinar is a great example. Is the webinar ToFU, MoFu, or BoFU content in your buyer journey? Likewise is an infographic that actually serves as an in depth FAQ a ToFU asset or a MoFU asset? The answer isn’t always clear cut. A good rule of thumb to use when making these decisions is always asking if you believe the asset is answering the kinds of questions a buyer in your particular marketing context is likely to have at a stage in their particular buyer journey. I would also add that when a prospect isn’t familiar with your company and has only barely become aware there is a problem, shorter content is better. Generally, the more aware and more invested your buyer has become in solving a problem or filling a need, the more likely it is they will want to read “more” about the topic and the more likely it is that the content itself needs to be answering questions in a very specific way, rather than a general way. The more detail you can provide and the more concrete your answers, the better. Content that answers questions in a very specific way is always longer, and therefore shorter content tends to sit at the top of the funnel and longer content at the middle or bottom of the funnel.

So there you have it. A brief look into how to develop a useable audience segmentation that will help you get the right content to the right persona at the right stage in their buyer journey. Feel free to grab any of these examples I’ve used in this post to develop your own audience segmentation.  Happy planning!

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