There’s a basic principle of marketing that’s so foundational, that’s taught so early in the the journey to becoming a marketer, that’s something you just have to know if you want to be an awesome marketer, that most marketing blogs skip right over it.

That principle?

Pie chart cut into sections (also, maybe Pac Man eating a few wedges of cheese) — One basic principle of marketing is to know your audience inside and out and then to segment that audience, much as this pie chart has been segmented.

Audience segmentation.

Honestly, this is the stuff that separates the professionals from the amateurs.

Though I recently wrote a blog post about audience segmentation, I really didn’t dive into it the way I’m about to.

The truth is, audience segmentation is a fundamental, basic principle of marketing that every young marketer learns from the beginning of their education.

However, if you’re learn this stuff online, if you’re getting your education (as many modern digital marketers do nowadays) by reading marketing blogs (like this one), it’s very possible you’ll skip right past this stuff.

So let’s dive in and talk about audience segmentation, some examples, why it’s so foundational, and how you can put it to work for your business.

Audience Segmentation — A Basic Principle of Marketing

At its most basic, your audience is that large mass of human beings out there in the world who might be interested in what you have to offer.

What you have to offer varies from business to business, so the audience varies as well. Depending on what you sell and the nature of your product, you might have a vastly different audience from the business next door.

At its most basic, your audience is that large mass of human beings out there in the world who might be interested in what you have to offer

Audience segmentation is the process of breaking your audience into pieces so that you can market more personally to each one. For instance, a baker in Boston with a physical store and an online business already has three clear segments based on geography:

  • Everyone within their physical delivery area (a 30 mile radius)
  • Everyone outside that area but within Massachusetts
  • Everyone out of state
  • Everyone outside the U.S.

That’s a simple audience segmentation example that’s easy to implement — the deals I market to my international customers are going to be somewhat different than what I market to my out-of-state customers, and my deals for people who actually come into the store are going to be different as well.

Audience segmentation — the difference between successful and failed marketing — silhouettes in blue in orange of head and shoulders of three people

That’s basic audience segmentation — you can do this with just about any property of your audience, but these are the more common ways to segment:

  • By geographic area
  • By demographics (age, sex, ethnicity, education, number of children, income, job)
  • AIO (activities, interests, opinions)
  • Psychographics (personality, lifestyle, values)
  • Behavior

But this is all beginner-level stuff — this is what you need to just get started. To create really targeted segments (and correspondingly more-effective marketing), you need to consider something else.

If You Want to Segment Your Audience Properly, Stop Thinking of People as Stereotypes

One of the most common mistakes I see when it comes to audience segmentation is an incredible focus on demographic information, AIO, psychographics, and the like, at the expense of… basically everything else.

Marketers and business owners spend absurd amounts of time slicing and dicing their audience as though the information gleaned will provide some sort of magic bullet for their marketing.

You’re not selling products or services to stereotypes

Now, don’t get me wrong — demographic information is important. AIO is even more important.

But, when that’s the extent of your segmentation efforts, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Because all you’ve really done here is create 2-dimensional characters to represent your potential customers…

In other words, you’ve turned your customers into stereotypes.

A persons silhouette underneath a magnifying glass — finding your target audience can be difficult, but the payoff is worth it.

But you’re not selling products or services to stereotypes.

You’re selling to 3-dimensional human beings, and human beings are not defined simply by their race, their interest in skydiving, or their opinion on current and former presidents.

Your Customer’s Success

The only thing that matters to your audience when it comes to your product or service is their success — and how the product or service you sell is going to get them there.

A customer isn’t coming to you to buy a new home because they’re a middle-aged hispanic couple who go kayaking on the weekends and have a little extra money to spend now that the kids are out of the house.

They’re coming to you because they need, want, or are at least thinking about buying, a new house.

They have a problem.

They need you to solve it.


What’s much more important to these folks (and much more important to you) is two-fold:

  • Their location on the buyer’s journey
  • What success looks like to them

Divide Your Audience by Their Position in the Buyer’s Journey

If those folks come to you while they’re still just considering the mere possibility of buying a house, but you’re only really interested in speaking to people who are ready to buy today, then there’s a serious disconnect that likely won’t be solved with a simple walkthrough of a property.

It also influences how you market to them

If you know that this house is going to be sold within the month to someone, then what good does it do your business to market to, and bring in, leads who aren’t even close to interested in buying?

Whether or not they fit the demographic you’re looking for doesn’t particularly matter if they’re not ready to buy today, in this example.

This doesn’t just influence whether or not you market to someone — it also influences how you market to them.

An arrow hitting a target, silhouette in the background — if youve got marketing problems, weve got marketing solutions.

And this is true in many different industries with many different types of products or services. If you’re selling x-ray machines, for example, the buyer’s journey is going to look very different compared to someone selling yoga pants.

The Buyer’s Journey Should Strongly Define the Segments You Create

How you market to someone in the beginning of the buyer’s journey for an x-ray machine is just going to look different, is going to be weighted differently compared to other portions of the journey, and may be more or less critical compared to how you market to someone in later stages of the journey.

A 25% off coupon emailed to someone who visited my website a week ago to look at yoga pants might be just the thing to entice them into a sale, whereas I might try a different tactic if I notice they’re actively perusing my website, clicking through multiple pages, and checking out a variety of styles.

But even considering the buyer’s journey isn’t going to ensure your marketing is awesome

My x-ray buyers might take years to make a decision, and my ability to get in front of them well before that decision takes place may be the difference between success and failure.

But even considering the buyer’s journey isn’t going to ensure your marketing is awesome and that you’re sending the right message to the right person at the right time.

Here’s the mindset you need to cultivate if you want to create marketing that’s truly impactful.

The Secret to Audience Segmentation, a Basic Principle of Marketing — Defining Your Audience’s Success

Everything I’ve discussed up to this point — demographics, psychographics, the buyer’s journey — all of this adds up to one thing:

Your customer seeks success.

A target over a silhouette of a person — customer-centric language results in more effective marketing

Success over a problem, maybe, or maybe an improvement in daily life, something that brings them joy, something that makes life easier, something that changes how they feel.

Whatever that success looks like, if you can define the variations of it, all the different possible successes that members of your audience can experience, you’re going to be able to clearly define:

  • The right marketing message
  • The right person to deliver it to
  • The right time to deliver it
  • The right way to deliver it
  • The right method by which to deliver it

It’s a different way to think about things. It turns our usual method of audience segmentation upside down.

Start With Your Customer’s Success and Work Backwards

If you stop thinking from the beginning of the sale (from the product/service I want to sell and how much I want to sell), and instead think from the desired endpoint backwards (a customer who is happy because of your product/service), you’re able to more clearly define those items listed above.

Speak, in a deep, impactful way, directly to the people you are best positioned to help

Stop doing this:

“We have 20 widgets! We need to sell these widgets!”

Start doing this:

“We have 100 potential customers! What can we do to bring them success?”

Thinking from the endpoint backwards looks like this:

  • Who are these people?
  • What do they look like/act like/think like/talk like?
  • What do they care about?
  • What is their position on the buyer’s journey?
  • What makes them happy?
  • What makes them unhappy?
  • What, ultimately, does success looks like for them?
  • What does success look like for all our potential customers?
  • What are the different possible successes that we can deliver?

Suddenly, our marketing isn’t focused on us and what we’re selling, what we need and want.

Instead, our marketing is much more likely to speak, in a deep, impactful way, directly to the people we are best positioned to help.

The Most Basic Principle of Marketing — Satisfy Your Customer

Everything I’ve talked about in this blog post is the foundation of our Ultimate Customer Persona Template. It’s something that’s so important for marketers and business owners to understand that I just felt compelled to share it with you.