How to Optimize Your Marketing Automation

List Segmentation: The key to automation success

One of the toughest challenges that marketers face is understanding who is in your database, how your contacts are different, and then deciding how to best market to them. The best place to start is by grouping your contacts by similar characteristics, and then building a strategy for each group.

Defining these different groups is the art of segmentation, and getting it right is no small feat. You need both a framework to do it properly, and the tools to actually put your segments to use.

As a term that gets tossed around a lot, you probably have an idea of what segmentation means: breaking your audience into groups of like people. But it’s good to take a step back and acknowledge all of the things that segmentation helps you do better. Your segments should be used to:

  • Define the topics and tone of the emails you send. (Example: if you segment your database based on industry, the way you talk to your leads in different industries can be significantly different.)
  • Plan your content strategy. (Example: if one valuable segment is underrepresented in your existing database, you might create more blog content that appeals to that segment to attract more of those people to your website.)
  • Hone the messaging that appears on your website. (Example: Why not show the most appealing call-to-action to each particular segment.)


These are just a few examples that marketers should think about. There are a lot more ways that you can apply segmentation to drive better results.


The First Dimension of Segmentation: Buyer Persona

Buyer personas are groups that you define to represent the different buyers you commonly come across in your marketing and sales process. Your buyer persona might be defined by things like industry, company size, location, and other details. It’s up to you to figure out what is most important.

The Second Dimension of Segmentation: Lifecycle Stage

Lifecycle stage refers to where in the buying process an individual lead or contact currently is. It’s a great starting point for segmenting your audience, because how you communicate with different contacts should be largely dependent on their lifecycle stage.

For example, the conversation you should have with a new lead who you know nothing about should be very different from the kind of conversation you might have with an established sales opportunity who is considering a purchase in the near future.

If you are just getting started with segmentation and already have some clues about the lifecycle stages of your leads, using lifecycle stage to segment is a good way to get started. We’ll talk about how lifecycle stage fits into the larger picture in just a minute.

Combining Buyer Persona & Lifecycle Stage to Define Your Segments

At DNS, after trying many different approaches on our own and with our customers, we’ve found that the most effective way to segment is by looking at these two dimensions together. In other words, we define segments based on lifecycle stage and persona.

This approach looks at who an individual lead or contact is (their goals, interests, demographics) and how they expect to interact with your organization (through lifecycle stage).

Executing Your Segmentation Plan

Once you’ve set up your personas and classified your leads, it’s easy to start putting your new segmentation plan into use. There is a lot you can do with your personas, including …

  • Create workflows to nurture leads of a certain persona
  • Create Smart CTAs (Call To Action) or Smart Content to target what certain personas and lifecycle stages see on your website
  • Write blog content that caters to different personas & lifecycle stages
  • Monitor list of contacts with certain personas & lifecycle stages on social media

You can also use your personas to set your greater marketing strategy. Once your personas are set up, you’ll be able to see the makeup of your entire contact database at a high level on your dashboard. Ask yourself, which persona buckets do most of my leads fall into? Which lifecycle stages? This information can be an easy way to prioritize your marketing efforts.

For example, if you’ve got a large number of early stage leads, you may want to focus your time on building nurturing workflows to move them along to becoming MQLs (marketing qualified leads). If you have a lot of MQLs and very few earlier stage leads, maybe you need to spend time on blog content and an educational offer.

The Limitations of Legacy: Marketing Automation Tools

Look back at the last five marketing emails in your inbox. How many of them are generic and uninspiring, or way off the mark on who you are and what you care about

Everyone can relate to receiving bad marketing emails because bad marketing automation is so common. And it often isn’t the fault of the marketer – they were set up for failure by flawed tools and a lack of guidance on how to use them. Here are just a few problems with most legacy marketing automation tools.

  • Legacy tools only work with one channel: email. Their targeted message extends only to the inbox, leaving you with no way to deliver anything but a generic, uninspiring messaging on your website.
  • Legacy tools are designed for situational nurturing, not strategic nurturing. Legacy tools take a reactive approach to nurturing leads based on their actions, not who they are and what they care about. Nurturing without context or strategy is little more than a sophisticated spamming operation.
  • Legacy tools only pay lip service to social media. True social media integration isn’t just about icons in your emails or publishing to Facebook, it’s about leveraging timely insights to have more relevant interactions with your prospects.
  • Legacy tools ignore the person on the other end. Branching campaigns are designed to trigger emails based on actions like clicks on links and email opens. They aren’t built on a solid foundation of context about who a lead is and what they are interested in.

At the end of the day, legacy marketing automation tools can be useful for situational nurturing, but they fall short in a number of key areas. In a world of ever shortening attention spans and more power in the hands of the buyer, you need to take a strategic approach to nurturing that leverages context about your leads.

Happy Automating!


Gas up your sales funnel with tiered automation features. Get more marketing mileage.

Whether your need the apps, automation, campaign execution, marketing insights, or all of the above, we’ve got it covered. Introducing subscription-based tiered service packages that get you the tools, drive the marketing, and deliver the results. DNS is offering four subscription-based packages. Schedule discovery to find out the price.

  • Marketing campaign assistance (10 hours)
  • Backend app (D365 for 1 year)
  • Marketing hub
  • Website automation for RFQ and contact us
  • 5 Branded email templates
  • 2 Branded blog templates
  • 1 Marketing automation template
  • Social media engagement
  • Marketing campaign assistance (40 hours)
  • Marketing collateral (forms, pages, surveys)
  • One-on-one training

Let DNS help you

As a Microsoft Certified Partner, DNS helps companies get up and running with Dynamics 365, ClickDimensions and Executed Marketing Services. We don’t just install and configure the business tools – we train your staff to use it to create the reports they need, so they can analyze data as needed. Our solutions give both technical and non-technical employees the information they need to do their jobs well — wherever they are, in whatever application they choose to use. Take the next step towards growth with Dynamics 365 in the cloud or on your servers—the choice is yours. Contact us at DNS to learn more.

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