Segment your leads. We hear it, and we read it, all over the web. I’m betting that 8 out of 10 marketing consultants have told their customers that they need to segment their leads in order to be…. oh, words like “relevant” and “responsive” come to mind here. So, like dutiful advice-followers, marketers attempt to segment their leads – putting different people into different buckets to get different emails based on what the marketer perceives the leads’ interests to be.

Yeah, that is a huge time-waster.

The fact is, unless you’ve had a direct conversation with every lead in your database, and they’ve each told you their precise interests, trying to segment your leads on your own is like trying to divide the ocean into warm water, cold water, extra-salty water, dark water, dirty water, clean water, and… well, you see what I mean, right? The fact is, the ocean waters move around too much to be easily categorized (well, except maybe to an oceanographer, which I am not, and, if you’re reading this, I’m betting you’re not either).

So do your leads. Move around a lot, I mean.

Would you segment them by job title? One promotion takes that out at the knees. Would you segment by department? One organizational shift and your segmentation is meaningless. How can you know what your leads are truly interested in?

You let them tell you.

When you segment your leads, tt’s all about crafting the journey. Think about it this way – imagine walking into a store that sells four things: shirts, shoes, ties, and handbags. You head straight for the shirt display, thus displaying your interest to the shopkeeper. The whole time you are in the store, you look at shirts, and you never look at shoes, ties, or handbags. What should the shopkeeper do now?

Most email marketing programs would have that shopkeeper sending you emails about handbag sales, the latest ties that came in last week, new shoe styles, and, oh, by the way, some information on shirts. But… what if that shopkeeper sent you information about shirts and things related to shirts – like the latest trends in button covers (okay, I just made that up) or cuff-width trends, or button-down collars? You would feel truly engaged with and by that shop, wouldn’t you?

Okay. Your first email is the store. We call that a “broadcast email.” Your four things are four links in your email. We call them ‘attractors.” Your lead clicks on what interests them.  In the magical world of real marketing automation, that lead has just been segmented – and they did it themselves.

Now the magical world of marketing automation is yours to conquer. You can create emails to respond to the topics that are most clicked, while not spending time crafting emails on topics that your leads tell you they’re not interested in (because they didn’t click it, see?). Your leads will magically move themselves from bucket to bucket because your emails allow them to do it – and they’re doing it themselves. They declare their interests, and you respond. You walk them through the journey of becoming your customer.

When we talk about being the most efficient you can be with the slice of time you have available for marketing, this is a big part of it – understanding the process, automating the emails, and making it all feel personal for your leads and geared to the interests that your leads have displayed.

In the process, you learn more about your leads, because they’re teaching you.

You just have to listen.