Optimizing Lead Nurture: The Marriage of Automation, Segmentation, and Personalization

Most marketers agree that segmenting audiences is an intuitive practice that yields undeniable results. Commonly this is seen in advertising campaigns where audiences are selected by demographic factors like location, age range, or gender. As with most common practices in marketing, the difference between the good and the great is how well they understand and implement its nuance. The saying goes: a novice knows what to do, a journeyman knows how to do it, and only a master understands why. In this article, we explore some of the “why, what, and how” of psychographic segmentation.

The Why: Psychology of Personalized Experiences

Humans are social creatures by nature, literally; it’s in our biology. We are communal creatures sorting the world into ours and theirs, friend and foe, safe and unsafe. It’s in our nature to trust the familiar and, by extension, trust that which seems to be like us. It’s the same instinct that makes us want our “usual” server at a restaurant or feel embarrassed to forget a coworker’s name. We are social. We want to belong.

As marketers, our goal is to impress on our chosen audience the idea “this company gets me.” We want to create comradery with them. In our ideal case, prospects see our products and think, “it’s like this was custom-made, just for me.” We aspire to brands like Apple, with lines of people willing to wait hours for our newest release, or Forbes’ whose authority over definitive content goes largely unopposed.

The pinnacle of marketing is a buyer’s desperate desire to be part of our culture. It’s a bad look when we’re begging to be a part of theirs.

Regardless of who is a part of whose culture, the buyer must feel connected to our brand, our messaging, and our content. “Marketing that attempts to connect with everyone connects to no one,” this means being specific and personal. Great marketing teams are careful to single-out an audience for whom their service is a perfect fit, then personalize the customer journey.

Psychographic segmentation focuses on the latter, “personalizing the customer journey.”

For more about identifying a target audience, check out our article on personas: Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

The What: Personalized Lead Nurture With Psychographic Segmentation

We’ve discussed before how demographic attributes are foundational when building personas and identifying markets. When it comes to lead nurture, however, demographic segmentation quickly breaks down. Selecting the right audience allows us to target the right people, but nurture needs to be more personal. Effective nurture requires observing and measuring how each individual responds to our messaging.

Psychographic attributes measure behavior, inferring interest and views from that behavior, including held values, political beliefs, perceptions of brand, and how a message resonates. Psychographic attributes are far more challenging to collect than their demographic counterparts and are, in turn, far more challenging to develop campaigns around. They are, however, far more personal and practical in the current marketing landscape.

The How: Marketing Automation Decreases Funnel Leaks

As we’ve discussed, buyers gravitate toward companies whose messaging reflects their own values, beliefs, and perceptions. What converts one lead will often nix another. Historically, marketers have run A/B tests to find what converts “the most,” and the rest are counted as a loss. But there’s a better way.

With marketing automation tools, we can attain those powerful psychographic insights and immediately put them to work. For example, a recent campaign we ran for a client had two audience targets. We knew that one of our audiences was “gritty” and another more “professional.”

We tested a theory that one audience may respond better to Rich Text Only marketing emails, rather than the full HTML versions our client had been running exclusively up to that point. The results were fascinating. After our very first send, we noted the “gritty” audience responded in an overwhelmingly positive way to the Rich Text nurture email and our clickthrough rates tripled from that same message in an HTML form. However, our “professional” audience showed a massive 85% drop in engagement.

Using profile and behavioral segmentation, we built the mechanics of this division into all nurture campaigns going forward, ensuring that subscribers are on the correct path based on their demographic and psychographic traits. We are now maximizing results in both audience segments and using marketing automation (Act-On Software in this use case) we were able to automate these campaigns without the need to manage lists or individual sends going forward.

We launched two very successful (and very different) campaigns to these audiences. The campaigns performed 800% higher than those tried by a previous agency.

Additionally, by translating all psychographic and behavioral markers into a lead score formula, we configured an automated alert system for the sales team. Anytime there’s a spike in interest level from a lead, or a lead reaches the set threshold, our client’s sales team is pinged, thus accelerating the progress of MQLs through their marketing funnel.


Demographic segmentation is useful, but it’s a very 1950’s way of thinking about marketing. Marketing in a global world requires knowing your audience and knowing when to act; otherwise, they’ll fall for the next company vying for their consideration. With the array of marketing technologies that exist in the world today, we can leverage powerful insight to know what resonates with our audience without expensive focus groups or market research. Measuring and interpreting the data correctly is key to reading audience signals, and marketing automation technology gives us the ability to segment these data signals and build incredibly powerful marketing campaigns.