By Louis Tanguay, Special to California Business Journal

The most under-utilized and one of the most powerful marketing strategies is the segmentation of customers and leads. To have a database, customer list, or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform listing out different categories and groups of customers is extremely vital to your marketing efforts.

Some segmentations can be performed automatically if you use Facebook, Google Adwords or a number of advertising platforms (assuming you have the correct lines of code added to your website). Other segmentations can be performed when a Lead fills out a contact form on your website. There are dozens of different segmentations you can create. Each will help you send better marketing messages to that Lead or Customer and create a shorter timeline to the next sale, build stronger relationships with customers, and keep them coming back.

Since there can be an entire novel written about the different types of segments one can use, I’ll just list out the basics here. If you aren’t using these basic groupings of customers, then you should start. Now. Today. Immediately.

Last note as to “why?” should we segment our contact lists. When you communicate a generic message to your customers or leads, you can only be successful up to a certain point. However, when you specifically address their spot in the marketing/sales funnel, you build a stronger relationship, know more about them, and can shepherd them into converting quicker and with higher ratios than you’re currently doing.

Past Customers: Basic, yes. Segmenting your past customers into their own list can help you communicate thankfulness, special up-sell offers, and more. You can even segment out this segmented list. For example, customers who have bought more than once, customers who haven’t purchased in 30+ days, 90+ days, or customers who just bought something last week. You can send a number of different communications to each one, personalized to their exact spot in your funnel or sales cycle. It’s far easier to sell something to someone who’s already purchased something over someone who’s never made a purchase (assuming they have been pleased with their purchase).

Contact Form Leads: When someone fills out the contact form on your website, how much information have you gathered on them? Do you know what exactly they want, and how powerful of a lead they are? Adding a simple drop-down menu, or check boxes, or another “tell us how we can help you” field will greatly help you understand who’s reaching out to you. For example, on my marketing company’s contact form, I have a drop-down menu for marketing services a person might be interested in. This way, I know exactly what they want, and when I write back, I can address that need.

Website Visitors: Here’s where modern internet marketing power is most useful…at least for now.  Apple and others are threatening to take away the current power of cookies and user data tracking. However, until that happens, we can utilize Facebook and other platforms to re-target/re-market to visitors of your website. The theory makes sense from an advertising (and user) perspective. If you visit a website, there was something you were initially interested in. It’s better to show you a re-marketing ad from that website you just visited over a completely different website and product you have never seen before. There’s no data that you’d like that new product.

Advertising platforms are getting smarter and smarter, and by compiling user profiles and data, advertising platforms can better serve you ads which you would most likely be interested in. If you browse around different training shoe websites, then Nike, Reebok, and Under Armour will probably want to get their ads in front of you, while maybe Dog flea and tick medication might not be served up. Of course, you might need that new product, too. However, without user profile data on that need, it’s more likely to be a wasted ad impression over something more similar to your search history. For the record, NONE of your personal private data or identification is stored here; only generic history of websites you have visited and ads you have clicked on. Nothing to tie you, personally, back into this general user profile. Just to put you at ease there.

These are just three of the most powerful ways you can use Segmentation to better understand your customers and leads, and increase your marketing effectiveness.

Louis Tanguay is Managing Director of Circle Marketing. He founded the agency seven years ago during the recession. Having over 20 years of marketing and business experience, Louis wanted to help businesses acquire and retain the essential abilities and strategies to survive in any economy. Circle Marketing is a full-service marketing agency for small businesses and serves as a one-stop shop for all marketing and advertising needs.