Which comes first: fragmentation or personalization?

Which comes first: fragmentation or personalization?

Chicken or egg?  Hand holding a number of eggs with many chickens in the background

Pictured: Daniel Tuttle

If you are currently managing your organization’s email marketing efforts, you are undoubtedly involved in email segmentation in some way. You may also be involved in personalization. However, there is some confusion about the distinction between segmentation and assignment. A good way to think about this is: segmentation is a way of working with customer data that benefits the marketer, while personalization is about benefiting the customer.

For example, email segmentation allows marketers to divide a large customer list into groups with similar general interests. This may be an interest in a particular product category, those in a particular geographic area, or those that have taken a specific action in the past. In other words, you can look at segmentation in behavioral, demographic, geographic, or psychographic ways. Aggregation in this way helps marketers reach people who are more likely to respond to a particular message or offer.

On the other hand, personalization takes segmentation much further by looking for certain behaviors and actions of the individual to provide him with the information needed to move to the next step in the buyer’s journey. Thus, personalization benefits customers by giving them a specific offer, opportunity, or piece of information based on their specific behavior or needs. In this article, I will discuss when and how to use both email segmentation and personalization to get the most out of each approach.

Which comes first: fragmentation or personalization?

When you’re email segmentation and personalization, you should make sure to prioritize segmentation as a first step to narrowing down your audience is most likely to respond to your message. Segmentation allows this because its primary purpose is to create groups of customers who are known to share a common interest or challenge. You can also think of segmentation as something that comes up earlier in the marketing funnel because you simply know very little about the customer at this point, and there is no history yet.

After fragmentation comes personalization. Think of personalization as an increase or addition to the benefits that segmentation brings. Since personalization is about the customer, it should use more specific information about them and their intent. Think about what stage they are in in the customer journey, the specific concerns they might have, what actions they’ve taken and the platforms they’d prefer to act on (eg, would they prefer using live chat versus phone support, or a mobile app versus a private website your). When customization is done well, it feels natural to the client, and the results are increased responses to the actions required.

This way, you can see the timing and sequence of how email segmentation and personalization work together.

Related Article: 10 Common Email Marketing Mistakes That Are Easy To Fix

Make your personalization meaningful

Some marketers may read this, thinking that they are involved in email personalization because they include each customer’s first name in the messages they send. While this is technically a form of personalization, just showing someone their name does not unlock the real benefits of personalization.

Marketers who understand personalization know that its power comes when a brand makes it clear that it truly understands who the customer is and what they want. To do this well, be sure to track and understand where your customers are in the buyer’s journey, as well as their communication preferences. When you suggest content, products, offers, or actions that the customer feels are tailored to them, you will also get better response rates.

It’s not enough just to repeat some of the information you have in your CRM about a customer. Make your customization more rewarding by putting your customers in the right place in their journey and offering them something useful based on their specific circumstances.

Related article: Preparatory work for customization: Is your content ready?

Learn how to use segmentation and personalization together

Seasoned marketers should not view this as a question of whether to use segmentation or personalization or not. Instead, you should consider how they can best be used together. Just as we saw earlier when we talk about which comes first, personalization can sharpen your audience segmentation.

This means segmentation can bring us to a general audience group, while personalization can take things much further and attract their individual interests within a larger segment or category. Keep in mind that this also helps with your content creation process as well, because creating truly customized content can take more effort than doing it for large segments.

Email segmentation and personalization are not limited to each other, in fact, they work best when they are used together strategically to define broad categories of customers, then customize messages and offers more specifically for the individual.

Although they each serve specific purposes, email segmentation and personalization work well together, and should be approached that way. Think of email segmentation as the first level to make sure the right overall message gets to the audience, and personalization as a way to further customize that message to more precise individual needs.

Greg is a bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur. He has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations on customer experience, employee experience and digital transformation initiatives, before and after selling his award-winning agency in 2017.

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