Steps to Achieve Expert Database Segmentation for Every Type of Marketer

steps to achieve database segmentation

If you want your marketing to be effective and drive results, the first thing you need to figure out is who you’re marketing to. Seems pretty obvious, but if you’re among the hundreds (and dare I say, thousands) of marketers who have a database full of people you know nothing about, what’s next?

And, on the other hand, if you have a database full of people you have actually collected information from but there is no rhyme or reason to how they’re organized, marketing to them will be kind of like buying a lottery ticket hoping that you’ll beat the odds, get the right combination, and finally hit the jackpot (but you probably won’t).

Don’t get too depressed just yet, though – that’s what market segmentation is for!

What is Market Segmentation?

Market segmentation is “the process of dividing a market of potential customers into groups, or segments, based on different characteristics. The segments created are composed of consumers who will respond similarly to marketing strategies and who share traits such as similar interests, needs, or locations.”

So what?

So you can use custom marketing messaging and digital marketing strategy to close customers, grow your organization’s bottom line, and be a hero.

Oh, yeah, that.

Now that you know it’s time to get your shit together and actually segment your database, how can you actually do it?

Read on, dear friend.

Steps to Take to Execute Segmentation

I’ve broken this into sections for easy navigation based on your situation. If you have automation available to aid in your segmentation efforts, check out the steps using automation. If you don’t have automation available (I’ve shed a few tears for you), check out the steps for manual segmentation. And finally, if you aren’t event at a point where you can begin segmentation (automated or manual) because you have nothing to work with, check out the section on steps to take if you don’t have any information available for segmentation.

Automation Available? Here’s what to do.

  1. Build smart lists
    • Based on how you’re trying to segment your database, build smart lists that will collect these individuals in one place with common characteristics to make it easy for email sends, nurturing sequence enrollment, reporting, etc.
    • You can build lists by a singular characteristic (such as industry, persona, or lifecycle stage) or by multiple characteristics that, together, make up a particular segment (such as job title, marketing activity, and company size to determine a person’s persona)
  2. Use automated workflows to assign contact properties
    • Now that you’ve built smart lists and can see how much of your database currently meets certain criteria and how much of your database is still unknown, you can then use automated workflows to assign properties to get more of your database segmented and populating the lists
    • If you are trying to segment your database by persona, for example, but most of your database does not have this criteria assigned to them, you can use a combination of other criteria that you do know to retroactively segment them. (i.e. similar to the above example for building lists with multiple criteria, if this person has x industry, x job title, and x number of employees, you can assign x persona to them)
  3. Adjust forms
    • Now that you know the specific criteria you are using to segment your database and populate your smart lists for marketing sends, you will want to ensure this criteria matches what you are collecting from new leads through forms, surveys, etc. moving forward to ensure segmentation is always taking place and new leads are getting bucketed appropriately
  4. Rinse and repeat
    • You should have a well-oiled machine once you have everything set up. If your marketing strategy evolves and new segmentation needs are discovered, follow the same process as before to ensure you can begin identifying and targeting your database in a new way

Automation Not Available? Here’s what to do.

  1. Export your database into a massive Excel CSV file
    • Most marketing platforms or CRMs have an “export” function for contacts. Be sure to export all of the information that you can about them. Aside from basic contact info, be sure to export any previous marketing activity or conversions, and any additional information that has been collected from them or about them since they’ve been in your database
  2. Sort, organize, add, delete
    • Depending on the size of your database, this could be a huge undertaking.
    • Use the sort function in Excel to sort and organize your contacts by the most meaningful criteria you’ve collected. Look for any patterns you might see among contacts, like sharing a similar job title or a similar industry. Look for opportunities to also delete contacts that seem to be junk or unqualified
    • Once you’ve identified patterns, use this to segment your database. You can approach this a couple of different ways. You can split the Excel document into multiple documents to make different lists based on the patterns (i.e. everyone whose industry is “X” separate from the document and re-upload separately into an “X” industry list) or you can create a new column and assign all of those same individuals a new identifying trait (i.e. every person that has “X” industry, mark them in a new column as “X” persona)
    • You're ready for the next step once you’ve gone through this process. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you feel confident that you've made progress segmenting contacts most meaningful to your marketing efforts and criteria is separated into individual columns for each contact
  3. Re-import back into your CRM
    • You can now re-import your contacts back into your marketing platform or CRM and the new criteria will be assigned to them based on how you sorted them in your spreadsheet
  4. Build lists
    • Now that your contacts are updated in your database with new criteria assigned to them, you can build smart lists that populate with these individuals or you can use the manual lists you created if you chose to split your spreadsheet and upload individual lists
  5. Build a system
    • Since you don’t want to have to continue exporting, sorting, and re-importing contacts on a continuous basis (because it’s exhausting), you’ll want to build a system to ensure you start to collect this information upfront so you can continue to segment new contacts moving forward

No information to use for segmentation? Here’s what to do.

  1. Determine information that is important to know for segmentation
    • What would be helpful for you to know in order to effectively market to them and qualify them?
  2. Build and implement a form or information collection system
    • Taking the information you determined to be most important and helpful to you, build out forms or another system to collect this information from leads moving forward as you build your database
  3. Set the foundation for segmentation to begin once information is collected through lists and automated workflows
    • Build smart lists and workflows ahead of time, knowing how you want to segment your database, so that moving forward, all new leads will be set up for successful segmentation already

Starting from scratch on segmentation can seem equally as daunting as segmenting a large existing database – the trick is to know where to start and what steps you should take. The most important thing is to ensure you are segmenting your database effectively so you can get the most out of your marketing efforts.

If you aren’t sure how you should be breaking your database into different segments, I wrote another blog article that might help you get started.

If there’s a tricky segmentation situation you’re running into and you aren’t sure what to do, feel free to reach out; we love to solve problems!

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