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 Riverwoodinn.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.