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Segmentation Makes It Personal

In 1988, a friend of mine decided to pass my contact information along to an organization that supports retired people. They blanketed me with all sorts of print literature ranging from retirement savings tips to lodging discount coupons. I was well on my way towards significant senior living, except for one teeny-tiny issue. I was 19.

It was a case of mistaken identity caused by a friend who pulled a prank on me. I think he put me down for 68 at the time. While the organization was not at fault in this situation, it has caused me to wonder how often we are not reaching the right people with the right messaging.

Reaching the right audience with the right message is a key marketing goal.

In this blog, we are going to cover how email list segmentation allows for more personalized messaging. We will explore why segmenting your email lists is a valuable step in reaching the right audience. We will also provide an example for bequest marketing to get you moving in a good direction.

Why Segmentation? 

Segmentation is the process of categorizing the audience you aim to reach. It involves knowing what message to send and how best to approach the target audience. It also includes an understanding of what platform(s) to use and experimenting to achieve the best connection and response rates.

The more you deliver the right messaging to the right audience, the more relevant you become. By appealing to a 1) specific demographic in a 2) specific stage of life with 3) specific interests and 4) specific pain points, you may then use these data points to better tailor your messaging to those you aim to reach, ever warming them to the offer you are promoting.

What is the difference between being a nuisance and becoming more personal? Segmentation. What is the difference between mass marketing versus targeted needs marketing? Segmentation. What is the difference between “email fatigue” and increasing click-through rates? You guessed it…. Segmentation.

The thoughtful time you spend in marrying your audience to your messaging is the difference between caring and spamming. Imagine, providing helpful solutions to the concerns — the pain points—of your targeted recipients. That is what personalization — what segmentation —allows you to do.

The Elephant in the Room

Before moving into the details, we need to address the elephant in the room — namely, your contact lists. Over time, your contact lists can grow unwieldy and outdated. At an organization where I previously worked, our database had the names and contact information for over 15,000 people, though only a thousand were active members. Unfortunately, our database was not routinely updated, so our mailers were unnecessarily expensive, and our email unsubscribe and bounce rates were exorbitantly high. Many did not wish to hear from us, simply because our messaging was not relevant to them. While this had something to do with our approach to messaging, it also showed us that our messages were being sent to the wrong people. Having an updated “clean” list would have delivered much better results.

This naturally happens with time.  But it can become especially challenging as an organization goes through a growth spurt. On one hand, a growing email list is a good sign; it means you are actively trying to grow your audience. Please, keep doing that! However, without allocating the right resources to keep our databases updated or “clean,” our lists can quickly fall into disrepair, ever drifting away from accurately representing our true audience.

Maintaining an Updated List

Your contact lists, specifically email addresses, are key to your stewardship efforts. Your goal here is to maintain a clean list because this will help clarify who your real audience is—those who open and respond to your marketing messages. Using a survey tool and/or a lead magnet (a giveaway item) can be a helpful way to update and maintain your database. These may generate beneficial responses from those you are aiming to reach. Strategic survey questions can be used to help shore up any communication gaps between you and those on your list.

Assuming you are working with a clean list, let’s look at an example of how segmentation might work for bequest messaging.

Segmenting for Bequest Marketing

With charitable bequests comprising 80-90% of all planned gifts made by donors, it would be helpful to segment your mailing list for a bequest marketing campaign. Bequest marketing will cover a broad range of donor profiles because a large percentage of Americans with families are concerned about having some level of estate and family protection in place. Marketing for bequests from such a large range of donor profiles is a great first step for organizations aiming to develop their planned giving programs. While segmenting here can be pretty generalized, there are benefits to reaching different audiences with more focused messaging.

To begin, you can segment by age or stage of life. Different stages of life will require different messaging, simply due to the nature of what life looks like at any given time. For example, a donor in her mid-40s is likely to identify with messaging pertaining to her current stage of life. She may still have children at home while simultaneously working to further her career. Retirement is likely to be far down the road for her, so sending her an email or a postcard with an image of a retiree engaging with grandchildren, including the use of language to reach an older individual in his retired years, is unlikely to help her in any way.

In her mind, this message is not for her. It does not solve the pain points she is currently wrestling with—namely her children’s well-being should she pass away. So, it will not resonate as a need in her mind. The postcard is likely to be thrown away and the email deleted. She may even unsubscribe from the list because irrelevant messaging of this sort is often seen as spam.

On the other hand, if this woman in her 40s has children who would benefit from her proactive efforts to create a will, she would be much more likely to act if she were reached with messaging that offers to solve this pain point. The sender—namely you—is now seen as a bit of a mind reader, someone who understands the current matters that concern this woman in her 40s. In this instance, segmented messaging makes all the difference.

Generally speaking, you may wish to begin by segmenting into three major groups—though messaging can become much more specific among the sub-groups within these three larger groups. The three major groups are: Gen-Xers and Millennials age 55 and under, Boomers age 56 to 74 and seniors age 74 and up.

Likely to have children still at home, the youngest group might identify with the example of the woman in her 40s. Boomers, however, are in a different chapter of life. Many Boomers are still working, but looking forward to retirement. They are most likely empty nesters at this point. They are more likely to be open to leaving a charitable bequest to the organization they hold as most important to them. Senior friends above the age of 74 are in yet another chapter of life. Most are at a point where they are keenly aware of their overall net worth. They are likely retired and living on a somewhat fixed income. Furthermore, many at this point in their lives are diligent in making sure their estate plan is both current and more comprehensive than ever before. While at this point, our senior friends have likely chosen to leave a bequest to their favorite organization(s), they are happy to make sure their estate plans and giving intentions are well in order.

No Age Records… No Problem!

Some organizations do not know the ages of their donors. You may represent a college or a school, so finding the ages of your key alumni donors should be pretty easy. Simply match their attendance time with an approximate age range. However, if you are a social service or performing arts organization, discovering the ages of your donors might be more challenging. My recommendation is to start with donors who have given faithfully over the past 15 years (no matter the gift size). It is likely that these donors are aged 55 years and older. While this approach will not account for all of your donors in this age range, it will account for those who have been giving faithfully over the years. As an important side note, these are likely to be your top potential bequest donors simply because they already know you, like you and trust you.

Additional Segmenting Ideas

For further segmenting consideration, you may wish to take a look at your loyal donors, those without children (they are likely to give more to charities), those who are single, alumni groups, board members, legacy members, current staff and/or retired employees. Remember, each of these segmented groups will likely require additional messaging customization—such as pictures, subject lines, text, offer, etc.

Segmentation Makes It Personal

Segmentation allows you to optimize your marketing messages, so you may deliver the right marketing messaging to the right audience. This categorized audience is composed of people who have certain needs—pain points—in common and wish to better understand how your organization brings timely solutions and offers to meet those needs. Resonate with the needs and you will find responsive donors. All of this begins with personalized messaging that comes from segmentation.

Andy Ragone

By Andy Ragone
Integrated Marketing - West Region, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.

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