Marketers may say all customers were not created equal, and customer segmentation makes it possible to understand and embrace the fact that it's human nature to be different. You may never know which customer segment will be the most valuable to your business until you've tried to match your marketing and customer experience efforts with the needs of your customer types.

This anecdote can help you understand why you need to identify the right way to engage with each customer segment.   

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Part 1: Understand Types of Engagement and Common Gaps in Data

Remember back to elementary school, how differently your classmates reacted to the teacher when questions were posed- It's likely that there were some kids who raised their hands, some who just wanted to shout out the answers and couldn't wait to be called on, and some that knew the answer but wouldn't raise their hand- but would offer it up if they were called upon.

Now flash forward a few decades: All those kids are grown up, and they're your customers.

You can probably imagine how those kids who used to just shout out the answer are the ones that always want to let everyone know when they had an amazing experience at a company, or when they feel wronged.

These people make great customers when everything is going great because they'll tell everyone about how much they love your company.

However, when they have a bad experience, they might tell their friends, post a review on Yelp or social sites, or raise the issue directly with the company's customer service department. Or they might do all three. 

Picture those kids who raised their hands but waited patiently for the teacher to call on them- All grown up, they represent customers who will readily give your company valuable feedback, and will go through the appropriate channels you provide to give their praise or make you aware of their concerns.  It's important to make the 'hand raiser' customer type feel as though your company is 'making it easy' to give feedback and takes customer opinions seriously.

If you don't, a truly negative experience with a company can push the 'hand-raiser' customer type towards other outlets, such as posting an inflammatory comment on a social media site, or submitting a lengthy description about where your company went wrong on Yelp.

Now take the students who wouldn't raise their hand, but would answer when called on- Imagine how they react socially to having positive or negative experiences with a company. They probably still don't like to be 'hand-raisers' and volunteer feedback, even if they've had a poor customer experience at a company. 

But, they represent a promising customer segment because if 'called upon' directly, they will engage with your company and give feedback and tell you exactly what they like and dislike about your brand.  If you don't engage directly with this customer type to get feedback on their experience, they're the most likely to stay silent and you'll never know what they think of you.

Even if they have a terrible experience, they're likely to react passively; they won't reach out and ask you to address their issue, but may never return to be a patron or customer of your business. 

After considering those three types of customers, you can imagine that it's easiest to get the most data from the answer-shouting bunch, and you may feel like you know much less about those that need to be 'called upon'.

However, don't let this discourage you- you can begin to create your customer segments using the plethora of data that you already thanks to the answer-shouting bunch.

Make the hand-raisers feel like you're focused on being attentive to their needs- Make direct appeals for feedback in email campaigns, and don't be afraid to be direct when asking them to try your new menu items or check out a new location you've opened. For the customer type that needs to be called upon, you can use incentive-based campaigns to elicit more information from them over time.

Once you factor in the best ways to solicit information from the three different levels of engagement, you're ready to start segmenting further. 

Part 2: Gather Additional Data to Develop More Accurate, Multi-faceted Segments 

As you begin to collect more customer contact information and additional data on who these people are, you will start to see some trends and consistencies across your customer data set.  Perhaps a lot of people found out about you on Facebook. Maybe many of them came to your website last month. Perhaps the most loyal customers often fill out surveys for you. Whatever the case, identifying these segments and maintaining them can mean a huge growth in your sales and strength of your customer relationships. 

Once you create segments, you can send targeted and custom messaging that relates to what that segment cares about. They will appreciate the tailored messaging and you will benefit from them coming and giving you more of their business. 

As a marketer, you may know a lot about one person- they like the cheese dip appetizer, come 1-3 times per week, usually redeems coupons during the dinner service- while, you may know much less about another person- say, just that they usually redeem coupons during the dinner service. 

If you usually send out special offers to 'usually redeems coupons during the dinner service', you should keep doing that to promote continual engagement. 

However, to continually improve your segmentation, it will be important for you to continue to learn more about your customers- such as maybe dividing that segment of 'usually redeems coupons during the dinner service' into 2 groups-those who come 0-1 times per week, and those who come 1-3 times per week.

So, you may need to get some more information from customers to create that second segmentation. To get that information from those 'wait to be called on' people, you may want to add-on another offer. Perhaps you offer a 'buy one, get one' coupon if you fill out a survey on your dining habits, that is targeted only to those individuals who 'wait to be called upon' so that you can show them that you value the opportunity to learn more about them.

Thus, the "creating context of engagement" can help you understand what you need to give customers so that they give you more information on themselves in return.

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