What are you doing with all the customer data you’ve compiled since your company’s inception?

Your answer should be a combination of:

  • Using it to inform upsell opportunities.
  • Feeding it into retargeting campaigns.
  • Personalizing content.
  • Adjusting investments to target sales-ready leads.
  • Optimizing media properties (website, social, etc.).
  • Running more effective paid ads.
  • Creating high-conversion landing pages.
  • Tapping into adjacent target audiences.
  • Prospecting with greater intent and lead quality.

And that’s just the beginning.

How you carve up, categorize and commodify the behaviors of your buyers (or ideal buyers) is the basis for commercial-grade market segmentation. You fundamentally understand how your buyers interface with your brand, how they prefer to receive information and purchase products, how likely they are to make repeat purchases and whether the reach of your marketing campaigns is sufficient enough to meet your sales projections.

What is behavioral segmentation?

Behavioral segmentation is the division of buyers into uniform groups based on shared traits such as customer loyalty, consumption occasion, device usage, purchase frequency and intent. Once segmented, buyer groups can be targeted more strategically by marketers and advertisers.

On a basic level, these segmentations occur along the lines of:

  • Psychographic: social, personal or lifestyle characteristics like opinions, interests, values and attitudes.
  • Demographic: age, gender, income, sex, education, family size, etc.
  • Geography: city, state, country, zip code, etc.

Knowing the above qualitative and quantitative variables immediately puts your business closer to its customers, empowering it to act more strategically and better serve those same customers through intelligent content, personalized campaigns and frictionless buying experiences.

Common market segments

Segmentation doesn’t stop at the aforementioned surface-level categories. You need to integrate your buyers’ actual behavioral patterns into your data analysis as well.

What that means is turning your two-dimensional buyer personas into three-dimensional avatars that clue you into how your target customers may act at any given moment, whether that’s moving down the funnel and toward a purchase with your company or abandoning online shopping carts and opting for a competitor’s product.

These segments are often broken down into:

  • Customer status: Is this a first-time customer? Or is he or she a repeat or returning customer?
  • Buyer intent: How does the buyer intend to use the product? For him or herself? As a one-off use? Will the product be integral to the buyer’s day-to-day moving forward?
  • Purchase readiness: Is the customer prepared to buy right now at this moment? Does he or she have all the information needed to move forward?
  • Occasion: Is this a one-time purchase just for the holidays? Is the purchase a rolling subscription? Is it meant to be a gift for someone else?
  • Loyalty status: Has this customer lapsed? Has he or she returned? Will he or she stick with you forever?
  • Reward incentive: What is sought/gained with a purchase? Is it cost savings? Convenience? Ease of use? Quality?
  • Primary/secondary attitude: Is the buyer enthusiastic to purchase or just mindful of poorer alternatives? Is he or she indifferent or potentially a single-issue buyer?
  • Adopter status: Is the customer slow to adopt a technology? Is he or she keen to purchase new items relative to others?
  • Customer journey stage: Is the customer still a nascent prospect at this point? Is he or she held up at a certain point in the buying process? Is he or she still considering other offers?
  • Frequency: Does the customer use the product often? Might the customer churn or swap products soon based on usage habits?

Your segmentation analysis doesn’t have to mirror these factors, though it will most likely overlap quite a bit.

So how do you capture all of this data in such detail?

Tools to track, record and investigate behavioral data

Market segmentation is not a perfect science. That data available to you may be scattered, incomplete or not immediately applicable in its early form.

But there are plenty of tools you may be already be using that can paint a solid picture of your customers’ behaviors.

  • Google Analytics: direct, referral and organic traffic metrics, along with conversion paths, goal completions, engagement indicators and dashboard-friendly device, geographic and demographic variables.
  • Google Tag Manager: custom events tracking and goal conversions that can be “tagged” with code that tracks users’ actions on your site and throughout the web and subsequently triggers additional segmentation events and rules.
  • Marketo: marketing automation platform that tracks end-to-end customer touchpoints from email and web to social and advertising. Companies can engage customers and prospects at any stage of the funnel to create targeted account-based marketing campaigns based on the trove of customer data.
  • MailChimp: automated email, social and survey platform that records responses and user metrics to help inform personalized marketing campaigns.
  • Pardot: Salesforce’s premier application, powering lead gen, customer relationship management and sales readiness via intuitive analytics dashboards that spotlight engagement metrics, user behaviors, lead scores and buyer intent.
  • Google Ads: Newly minted Google Ads, replacing AdWords, compiles customer inputs, assesses companies’ budget flexibility, projects ad ROI and streamlines the bidding process for paid campaigns.
  • LinkedIn Ads: Target B2B buyers by leveraging extensive psychographic information and a network of connections data. Use LinkedIn analytics to produce content for premium ad displays, sponsored InMail and text ads, then measure performance metrics for additional data capture.
  • AdRoll: Just 2 percent of site visitors purchase on first visit, so AdRoll uses anonymous cookies to track those visitors’ behavior across the web, serving them targeted ads and staying top of mind at all times. These processes are based explicitly on web behavior, essentially segmenting visitors further and further based on their actions.
  • Customer surveys: While you can automate digital surveys with ease, you can also conduct phone and social media surveys to gather the opinions and characteristics of customers, satisfied or not.
  • User reviews: Google My Business, Yelp, Better Business Bureau and other online directories contain practical responses and data from customers, which can help round out behavioral factors like attitudes, occasions and intent.
  • Social media engagement: In addition to paid social analytics, there are also organic variables at play that can shed light on customer thoughts. Just check the comments section of your Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn feeds and gauge how much engagement certain posts have over others.

Findings from the above methods can be graphed and visualized in what’s called a cluster analysis. By clustering together similar data points, opinions, behaviors, etc., you can quickly locate patterns. These trends are great for building out the initial skeleton of your buyer profiles and market segments.

Infusing behavioral segmentation into your content strategy

So how should you put all of this segmentation data to work? How does it factor into your marketing mix?

It may be easiest to start with your distribution channels, since these outreach vehicles are often the primary touchpoints with customers, followers, subscribers, fans, connections and prospects. In other words, behavioral segmentation at scale allows you to send the right content to the right people at the right time, and email and social media is your foundation for doing just that.

Email marketing

One-third of marketers believe personalization is the next frontier of marketing, and 74 percent of companies already personalizing their campaigns say it increases customer engagement.

This personalization is accomplished through segmentation – you know ahead of time that readers are much more likely to open your emails, respond to them and move down the funnel. Consider how much success segmentation has produced in the email sphere:

These figures speak to how powerful email marketing can be when it’s highly targeted and designed to reach specific market segments. The number of market segments within companies’ email lists rises each year, with averages hovering around five or six.

Can you divvy up your email readers into five or six segments based on their buyer profiles and behavioral data? If so, you can expect higher conversions and more revenue.

Social and influencer outreach

The primary user base of each social channel is demographically and behaviorally different – your content, outreach, purpose and messaging should be different as well. Here’s a look at how social media users differ, using LinkedIn and Facebook as examples:

LinkedIn

  • 56 percent male, 44 percent female.
  • 70 percent of users are from outside the U.S.
  • 44 percent of users earn $75k or more per year.
  • 61 million senior-level influencers and 40 million B2B decision-makers use the platform.

Facebook

  • 47 percent male, 53 percent female.
  • 85 percent of users are from outside the U.S. and Canada.
  • The average user has 155 friends.

Right away, you can see how your target audience may be on both platforms, but they use them differently. While LinkedIn is for “connections”, Facebook is for “friends.” This distinction necessitates diverging content strategies when publishing content and targeting certain segments.

The above variables are primarily demographic, however; determining actual behavior can be done through aforementioned methods such as using social analytic tools and monitoring online activity of followers. Armed with this information, you can interact with industry influencers online based on whether they match a target segment and have the potential to lift your brand on social through promotion and amplification of your content.

Mapping behavioral data to actual content creation

While you know who to send content to, how do you actually create it with a precise consumer market in mind?

Here are three key questions to consider, along with how you can convert your answers into content insights:

Which content formats does your target audience prefer?

We’ve found that our email subscribers are more likely to open emails with clever or non-jargon subject lines. For instance, here’s an email we recently sent out:

And here’s the subject line we used:

And here’s an immediate response we received:

How simple and effective was that? By adding a little personality, you immediately set the tone for subsequent conversations with prospects.

We also know that long-form blog articles with evergreen tips perform well in organic search. Like this article, which ranks first for the term “financial content marketing”:

This is all tracked via Pardot and Google Analytics, and it tells us that we can continue creating these types of assets in the future because our audience is more likely to engage with certain emails and formats over others. So, we continue to produce downloadable eBooks and A/B test our email subject lines for max impact, in addition to adjusting our content strategy to target keywords that lend themselves to longer, in-depth articles.

How do they interact and engage with your content?

Are users opening your emails but not responding? Are they liking your content but not sharing or retweeting?

You have an engagement issue.

Impressions (being seen) aren’t enough; you need actual interactions that indicate behavioral actions, like email forwards, demo requests, social media comments, networking requests, newsletter subscriptions, content downloads, etc.

Content that produces micro conversions – which signal potential customer actions –  should be prioritized over content that serves purposes that aren’t as commercial-driven (aka assets that drive only traffic and nothing more).

Which content types convert?

The overarching goal of segmentation is to produce content that is so precise in its target and scope that readers feel as if they are being spoken to directly, as if your brand wants to meet their exact needs in any way possible.

This is measured by macro conversion metrics, those that directly influence revenue:

  • Completed sale.
  • Adding a product to a shopping cart.
  • Met sales meetings.
  • Demo requests.
  • Bottom-of-funnel content downloads (case studies, customer testimonials, product guides).
  • In-person meetings.

Assets that nurture prospects toward taking the above steps should be reserved for segmented audiences that show commercial intent.

A note on segmenting B2B customers

The same degree of segmentation that occurs for ordinary consumers is achievable at a business level as well.

It just requires a reframing of data in the context of an organization (a multitude of stakeholders) rather than viewing target customers as individual agents of consumer markets. This is where the term “firmographics” is derived.

Firmographic variables include:

  • Industry (the market from which they generate revenue).
  • Location (regions targeted).
  • Size (how many employees).
  • Performance (growth rates, profits, etc.).
  • Structure (franchise, LLC, subsidiary, publicly owned, etc.).

Digging into more behavioral indicators provides additional insight. These factors may be:

  • Type of product or service that’s often purchased.
  • Reason for purchase of product (to resell, to complement existing products, etc.).
  • How purchasing decisions are made (by a team of stakeholders, a single executive).
  • Time to purchase (length of sales cycle, obstacles).
  • Preferred service attributes (price, quality, savings, efficiency).
  • Level of technical support (integration/account manager needed).
  • Desired vendor relationship (full-service partnership, ad-hoc requests).
  • Emotional attributes (perceived prestige in marketplace, passion/loyalty toward products and company).
  • Carryover intent (previous vendor experiences, impetus for switching suppliers).

Think of every market segment as its own source of revenue. You’re no longer targeting leads; you’re targeting sales-ready, high-value enterprise firms in your region because you provide superior service and fast uptime.

See the difference?

Mike O'Neill is a writer, editor and content manager in Chicago. When he's not keeping a close eye on Brafton's editorial content, he's auditioning to narrate the next Ken Burns documentary. All buzzwords are his own.