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These days, the marketing department is responsible for more and more of the sales funnel. It is no longer acceptable for marketing to pass along just any lead or contact.

Sales wants leads to be pre-qualified and “as hot as lava”. What were once the exclusive funnel stages for sales are now a shared responsibility, due to the increased use of marketing automation.

How can marketing effectively play a bigger role in qualifying the leads that are passed on to sales? By scoring those leads and using segmentation.

However, one of the key findings of the email marketing census this year is that advanced segmentation at scale remains elusive for many businesses. While 78% of senders are doing basic segmentation, only one-third are doing advanced segmentation.

As far as leading scoring, 29% are scoring their leads while another 25% are only in the planning stages.

Segmentation is an effective marketing and sales tactic. One could say that lead scoring is segmentation - we divide our contacts into groups based on their lead score.

How can we use segmentation and customer data to bridge the qualification gap and identify the ideal next action? Here are five tips.

1. Set up a segmentation model based on the end result

Segmentation is of little use if you don’t use it. And the best way to use it is to be strategic about it, by starting with the end when you set up your segmentation model.

Determine what you want your marketing campaigns to accomplish and work backwards from those goals. When your goal is re-activating lapsed customers, for instance, think about which segments are high value. This means “save-able” versus simply “lost and good riddance”. Then look at which are likely to churn. That might seem like a crude approach, but now you have a starting point from which to gather the data during the relationship to get the segmentation and timing right.

2. Identify the funnel stage

Ask leads where they are in the buying process. A newsletter registration is a good time to do so. For example, a car dealership should always ask about the timeframe within which someone is planning to buy. This helps you gauge how far they are down the sales funnel and customer journey. You can then match up your actions and content with that stage.

This also helps you use your content more effectively. Review your assets and ask, in which buying stage does this particular piece of content sit? To which prospects does it appeal and how can it help move him or her to the next stage? That sounds like an advanced tactic, but realize it can be a filter for your lead scoring: you know whom should get an offer for a test-drive vs. a brochure vs. someone who should get a call within a few days.

This tactic also helps a company become intentional about messaging, reserving the more costly forms of contact for the higher value and hotter prospects. In situations where a lead is identified as “hot” and “high value,” you might even consider manually writing follow-up emails, as opposed to automating them. The personal touch can go a long way, and your leads will feel the difference.

3. Know one bit of data says a lot about another

Psychographics tell you about lifestyle, interests, opinions, etc., but remember that one piece of data can hold a lot of information about all of those. You can safely assume that a 65-year-old engineer will have very different interests and need for knowledge than an office manager who is just starting out. That means you can derive some information from data you already have.

As an example, consider the home address as a data point. You can deduct a lot from an address, such as income level, life stage, climate and weather, and even if they will potentially be interested in what you’re selling. From what I call the pillars of segmentation, a home address has a predictive power to inform information in demographics, psychographics and even behavioral information (like benefits sought or usage intensity).

4. Be wary of self-reported data

Although it seems like it should be 100% factual, data doesn’t always offer absolute truths, especially for self-reported preference data. If you ask for brand preferences, customers will often point towards the more luxurious brands or ones they like but won’t buy. When buying time comes, they will still go for the economical brand. They like the pizza from that fancy little family owned restaurant, yet they buy the frozen stuff instead.

People will tell you one thing, then go do another. Do they simply change their minds? No, they are simply doing what people do. We can blame part of it on flawed self-assessment and what is called the “above average effect”. For example, a study found that 93% of US drivers rated themselves as better than the average driver. (If you’ve ever driven in the US, you know this can’t possibly be true.) It is human nature to perceive ourselves as the better version of ourselves.

So ask your questions wisely. One way to improve is to ask about a customer’s buying or past behavior instead of preferences. A combination of data points will always give you a more accurate view. You can also test how accurate the self-reported brand preferences are. Look at your own database and where self-reported preferences and behavior overlap or contradict.

5. Make sure you can identify your audience across multiple touchpoints.

I know omni-channel is the hot term, but every time I see a 360-degree-customer-view presentation or blog post, a cynical part of me thinks, “Yeah, lame”. Those blogs and presentations seem to be made to make marketers feel bad about their data silos.

Software vendors and consultants state, “the industry is doing so bad” and push (a part of) their audiences into a fantasy-state using case studies. The reality is, there is no such thing as a 360 degree customer view. It can be at most 180 degrees, as it will only be the part that customers are letting you see.

Practical marketers will piece together customer behavior across multiple points to get the biggest possible view. Your email marketing, website, search engine advertising, social marketing, in-store promotions, etc. can all be brought together, allowing you to gather more information across those touchpoints as well as do segmentation at those touchpoints.

An identifier like a home address, email, customer number or browser cookie can tie it together. In fact, an email address works well as a universal ID, as email software systems can tie the email address to site behavior for you automatically. The software can carry over the ID from the email you sent through a click-through to the website.

A practical use is retargeting in search advertising (often found very effective). These systems can even store anonymous profiles of website behavior and later tie them together. If all of that is done in real-time, it is fancily called a customer data platform, a fairly new term and something every marketer should read up on.

Conclusion

With marketing being pulled into what used to be the domain of sales, it is a challenge to pass over quality leads to sales and generate the content or offer on the spot.

However, if you can start with the end in mind, identify the funnel stage, make sure to use the hidden information in your data set, trust the data you know to be true, and create a bigger picture view of each customer, you will be well on your way to bridging that prospect knowledge gap.

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Jordie van Rijn

Published 10 May, 2017 by Jordie van Rijn

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Comments (1)

Garry Lee

Garry Lee, Chief Executive Officer at RedEye InternationalEnterprise

Excellent article and completely agree on the importance of identifiers to tie your customers together. As you say, the email address has become the defacto digital passport!

17 days ago

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