A recent con­ver­sa­tion with a friend I have had since sec­ond grade, Joel who now lives in Min­neapo­lis, illu­mi­nated the fact that seg­ment­ing and tar­get­ing on web sites is not the sole domain of big busi­ness.   The idea that you must be a big com­pany with many prod­uct lines for tar­get­ing to be applic­a­ble and valu­able is sim­ply not accu­rate, and it came out clearly in our con­ver­sa­tions about his business.

A cou­ple of years ago, Joel pur­chased a beau­ti­ful hotel and events cen­ter right on the Mis­sis­sippi River, just out­side Min­neapo­lis, MN.  The River­wood Inn hosts busi­ness con­fer­ences dur­ing the week and beau­ti­ful wed­dings on the week­end. He just dis­cov­ered that his river­front loca­tion offers some of the best drift boat fish­ing in the coun­try, so he’ll soon begin mar­ket­ing to anglers, as well.

We were talk­ing about the next iter­a­tion of his web site and what he wants to do with it, and as I explained what I had been doing over the past cou­ple years work­ing with the Test­ing and Tar­get­ing solu­tions at Omni­ture, it became clear that tar­get­ing to his main cus­tomer seg­ments would be incred­i­bly valu­able to him.  Joel has three clear and dis­tinct cus­tomer seg­ments: busi­ness and cor­po­rate con­fer­ence orga­niz­ers, engaged cou­ples and wed­ding plan­ners, and com­ing soon, fishermen.

Joel can’t real­is­ti­cally cre­ate and main­tain three dif­fer­ent Web sites, each tai­lored to a seg­ment, because of the amount of time and expense involved.  Of course, he could cre­ate a web site offer­ing all three options at the high­est lev­els of nav­i­ga­tion such as the home page or top and left nav­i­ga­tion bars, and allow vis­i­tors to self-select, but while this is com­mon, it’s not an ideal solution.

As you can imag­ine, a con­glom­er­a­tion of wed­ding images, corporate-friendly  bul­let points and fish­ing tales coex­ist­ing on a home page could be rather con­fus­ing.  If a bride and her mom were look­ing for wed­ding sites and saw a fea­tured photo of a great con­fer­ence room com­plete with white­board, they’d be more likely to look else­where than if they saw a pic­ture of the per­fect wed­ding venue.  In the same way, if an exec­u­tive seek­ing a spot for a con­fer­ence or meet­ing was greeted with pic­tures of flower arrange­ments and sun­sets, he might not take the facil­ity seri­ously.   And nei­ther image would get fish­er­men load­ing their tackle boxes.

Seg­ment­ing and tar­get­ing to these seg­ments with a vari­ety of pos­si­ble rel­e­vant con­tent options com­prised of images, text copy, and pro­mo­tions would be a per­fect solu­tion. By deliv­er­ing the rel­e­vant con­tent to each group spe­cific to their inter­ests rather than a selec­tion of things they may or may not be inter­ested in, Joel is far more likely to con­vert vis­i­tors into inquiries and even­tu­ally into bookings.

There are a cou­ple of ways Joel’s site could do this: He could use a tar­get­ing solu­tion that would detect what key­words a vis­i­tor used to find the site. For exam­ple, if the vis­i­tor searched for “fish­ing in Min­neapo­lis,” he would be served con­tent about the top-notch fish­ing con­di­tions avail­able at the Inn.  Another vis­i­tor per­haps whose search phrase was “out­door wed­ding venues in Twin Cities,” would see infor­ma­tion about the per­fect venue for a river­front wed­ding with a beautifully-tented reception.

If the vis­i­tor came directly to his site unaided by a search engine and their eas­ily detectable key­words, the solu­tion would watch for the first click and once a vis­i­tor effec­tively “chose” their area of inter­est, the con­tent would be tai­lored to that area sub­se­quently.  On all future vis­its, it would promi­nently fea­ture that rel­e­vant con­tent, car­ry­ing on that con­ver­sa­tion, in essence.

It’s easy to see that this new promised land of tar­get­ing dif­fer­ent con­tent to dif­fer­ent seg­ments has a good value propo­si­tion for all sized com­pa­nies, not just the For­tune 500. I’d be will­ing to bet that if Joel imple­ments a seg­mented tar­get­ing solu­tion, he’ll see a strong increase in inquiries for wed­dings, meet­ings and fishing.

(By the way, if you’re inter­ested in a Min­neapo­lis area get-away, meet­ing or wed­ding, Joel’s Web-site is River​wood​inn​.com).

Reuben Poon
Reuben Poon

Great post reminding us about the importance of targeting for companies big and small. I am reminded about how Web sites years ago began targeting language/geographic region subsets. When you'd first come to a global company site you'd select your language or region and that "setting" would be remembered and you would see that site in English, Spanish, Chinese, etc. As audience targeting is still relatively new to many people, I am interested how initial segmenting will evolve. For Riverwood Inn's Web site the first thing that jumped in my head was to utilize their home page rotating image section. What if they displayed three images that distinctly cater to each of their user segments? If I was planning a wedding, I might click on a picture of a beautiful wedding reception and voila - the site has a guess as to what segment I belong in.