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We marketers tend to know a lot about a few people, and a little about a lot of people. Never is that more true than in B2B e-marketing. Historically, we entice fewer than 5% of email, advertising and search engine respondents to move beyond a first click. About those 5%, we'll know their email address and name—maybe more. About the other 95% we'll know next to nothing—home planet, IP address, country and browser choice. So how do you know that you're converting the best respondents? You might not know now. But you will.

Pre-conversion segmentation can shed light on who's responding versus converting. It's far more meaningful than what you learn from conversions, because it's taken on a much higher percentage of respondents.

Instead of having knowledge about only the 5% who actually convert, pre-conversion segmentation may yield high-value data on 40 to 80% of all respondents. What you learn from them can help you in two key areas. First, you can know who is not converting. Second, you can know which traffic sources are giving you the highest quality clicks.

Early segmentation works best when it's self-serving for the respondent. If you make your pre-conversion segmentation all about the user, he or she will choose accurately and, as a result, give you the data you need. In addition to being user-beneficial, early segmentation should be formless, easy and commitment-free. A very effective means of early segmentation is to make the first page the respondent sees a very simple choice closely related to the message that enticed their click. By making that choice important to the user, you earn the next click. By making that choice strategically significant to your marketing, you make that click extremely valuable to your organization.

Let's say, for example, you're marketing a product to hospitals and your offer to entice the click is a free white paper. Your means of pre-conversion segmentation could be to build on the free white paper promise by immediately asking if the respondent would like a white paper for smaller hospitals or larger hospitals (or if it doesn't matter because they're not affiliated with a hospital). After respondents make that next click, you know how many large, small and non-hospital respondents you're attracting. Compare that with who is converting and learn how effective your post-click messaging is at engaging your ideal prospect. Compare segmentation data across traffic sources, and see which vehicles are doing the best job of delivering the audience you want most.

Taking that example a step further can help you understand how valuable that early segmentation data can be. Let's say your conversion data shows that 75% of conversions are from large hospitals, but pre-conversion data shows that 70% of respondents are actually from small hospitals. Right away, you know that whatever you're saying after the click is much more engaging to larger hospitals than smaller ones. If you're targeting larger hospitals, that's great, but if you're after the smaller ones, it's time to make some adjustments. Without that pre-conversion benchmark data, you would have no way of seeing the untapped potential in your respondents.

Using pre-conversion segmentation, you can design simple decision trees that describe who's who by simply recording their choices. This is a formless and commitment-free process in which users engage to gain content or offers that they feel are very specific to their needs. As a marketer you can use this pre-conversion data to judge how good you are at converting the people who are the best fits for your products or services. Typically, pre-conversion segmentation works on 40-80% of respondents — a far cry from the 5% who are likely to convert. With pre-conversion segmentation you know a lot more about a lot more people. 

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Justin Talerico is CEO of ion interactive (, a company that pioneered in post-click marketing. Justin and his colleagues provided professional guidance and assistance in the development of SmartTools: High-Performance Landing Pages, specifically for MarketingProfs Premium members.