Are you making these mistakes in your CRM?

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Back in 2006 when I first found Infusionsoft it had this amazing ability to sort contacts into all these buckets called tags.

Tags were a game-changer. You could add and remove them easily. You could have as many as you wanted. You could even organize your tags into categories.

I soon discovered that I could tag people who clicked a certain link in an email, who filled out a form, who had an interest in this or that. It was so exciting that I sat down and mapped out an entire tag structure, which I ultimately published as an ebook.

But there was a serious problem with this business of tagging contacts.

Soon, we hit tag overwhelm. We had so many. A lot of our tags (groups of contacts) were documented, but even more, were not. It seemed innocent enough. We’d create a tag for something that seemed important to track, then, six months later we had no idea what the tag meant.

Some tags had zero people, some had just one or two, and a few had everyone in our system.

What a mess. And it missed the whole point.

The purpose of segmentation (and tags are a way to do that) is to help you know who should get which message, and when they should get it.

For most businesses, that’s actually pretty simple. But, now with over a decade of experience segmenting our own CRM, and untangling the CRMs of dozens of clients, I can tell you with confidence that there are two approaches to segmentation “in the wild.” See which one fits you…

Approach #1: You have a newsletter segment and not much else.

Approach #2: You have 1238 tags/buckets/categories and it gives you a headache every time you open your CRM because you have no idea which tags you need right now. (Heck, you probably look at most of them and don’t have a clue why they exist…but you’re afraid to delete them aren’t you ??)

No matter where you are, I’m here to grant you segmentation absolution. It’s time to start with a clean slate.

How to create meaningful segmentation?

There’s an important word in that headline, did you see it? The word is meaningful. That’s what we’re going for. You don’t need to track everything. You won’t use it. The only businesses I’ve ever seen that could justify having hundreds or even thousands of segments are businesses with over 50,000 customers. If that’s not you, let’s figure out how to create simple and meaningful segmentation.

Reverse Engineer Your Sales Process

The way to approach this is to start at the end of your sales process and work backward towards your new leads. This is often the opposite of what most do.

Pull out clients first.

So, starting at the end, we begin with a segment for your clients, active and inactive. You might tag them like this:

CLIENT – Active

CLIENT – Inactive

Track sales conversations.

Next, you want to segment all of the people you’ve had a sales conversation with and (possibly) sent a proposal to. There are a few more options needed here.

PROSPECT – Scheduled Consult

PROSPECT – Completed Consult – Not a fit

PROSPECT – Completed Consult – Proposal Out

PROSPECT – Completed Consult – Didn’t Close

We could add five or eight more categories to track nuances of the sales cycle, but I find that it usually just adds extra work and overhead, without any real value. Unless you’re doing dozens of proposals a week or month, these four tags will be enough.

So why these categories? The first is rather obvious: you want to know who has scheduled a consultation or sales call.

Then, it’s important to know which contacts you’ve spoken with and determined are not a fit (for some reason, these tend to keep coming back, so it’s a useful filter). It’s also helpful to know who you have sent proposals to—these people need daily attention. And finally, you want to know who seemed like a fit but didn’t close. Often, if you stay in touch, they’ll come back around.

Identify the key step before the sales conversation.

This is where it becomes difficult for most businesses. They don’t know what really happens before the sales conversation. Prospects just show up at random intervals. That’s a completely different problem that I address in my guide to selling professional services.

For now, let’s assume you’re following my advice and using a presentation to turn prospects into appointments (a webinar or live seminar). That’s a key milepost on the buyer journey.

So we need to identify who’s passed the milepost.

Here’s how to do it…

WEBINAR – Registered

WEBINAR – Attended within 30 days

WEBINAR – Attended within 60 days

WEBINAR – Attended within 180 days


Remember our goal—to know who the important people are right now in our CRM. That’s why knowing who’s attended a presentation within the last 30 days or 60 days or 6 months is vital. If someone attended two years ago, I don’t care. That action is no longer relevant.

In marketing terms, we’ve just tagged for “recency.”

Is anything else important? Funny you should ask. It’s also important to know how many times someone hits this milepost in our sales process. Why? Because we’ve observed that prospects will often get to this point in the sales process and then attend the same presentation three to five times before scheduling a consultation.

Seems silly, but it happens. These prospects are selling and reselling themselves on making the leap and working with you. And we want to know who’s exhibiting this behavior.

There are two ways you could do this. The simplest way is to create six tags:

WEBINAR – Attended 1

WEBINAR – Attended 2

WEBINAR – Attended 3

WEBINAR – Attended 4

WEBINAR – Attended 5

WEBINAR – Attended 5+

Then use automation to add and remove the appropriate tag, based on the existence of the previous tag. For someone who has already attended two webinars and has now attended a third, the logic works like this:

If the contact has the tag “WEBINAR – Attended 2” then remove tag “WEBINAR – Attended 2” and add tag WEBINAR – Attended 3”.

You then setup similar logic for all six tags.

The other way to implement this in ConvertKit is to create a custom field called “Webinar Attendance Counter” and each time someone attends a webinar update that field using some Liquid code like this:

{{ 'Contact.Webinar Attendance Counter` | plus: 1 }}

Then you can simply create a ConvertKit segment (like a saved search) to pull all contacts with a “Webinar Attendance Value” of 5 or more.

If you use another tool, there is likely a way to accomplish something very similar.

Finally, identify your subscribers.

This is the proverbial “top of the funnel.” It’s important to note, that when someone jumps into one of the buckets we’ve already discussed, they should be removed from your subscriber tag. That DOES NOT mean you stop sending them your regular communication. In this case, “subscriber” describes the lowest-priority place—the starting point—on the buyer’s journey.

And, if they jumped up to the level above by attending a presentation, but haven’t attended one in six months, I’d move them back to “subscriber” status, so you can focus on only the prospects who are acting interested now.

The only people I would never bump back down the ladder of categorization are customers/clients. Once a client, always a client. They might be inactive, but you’ve done business. You want to know who these people are and treat them differently.

Do you need more than this?

It depends. I’d only add more when absolutely necessary, and only when you know how you’ll use the information. That’s where most people get into trouble with segmentation. They think, “I’ll track everything, in case I ever need it.” This is a huge mistake. Most never use all of this, yet they’re saddled with the operational overhead from all of these categories.

And it’s easy to assume that “it’s just tags” but there is a factor of maintenance that’s necessary, and honestly, a factor of confusion and overwhelm that comes from having hundreds of seldom-used tags.

If you do add to what I’ve laid out here, this is how I would do it.

First, I’d focus on clients/customers and tag based on the product or service they purchased (one for each product or service).

Second, I’d create a list of no more than five areas of interest that would help you know what topics you should send to a particular prospect.

Third, if you have different groups of prospects, or different size companies, or some other demographic grouping that is an important qualifier, I’d consider adding that. Here’s how we handle industry and company size.

BIZ TYPE – Accountant

BIZ TYPE – Consultant


BIZ TYPE – Marketing Agency

BIZ TYPE – Financial Advisor

BIZ TYPE – Other


BIZ SIZE – 2-10

BIZ SIZE – 11-25

BIZ SIZE – 26-50

BIZ SIZE – 51+

We use the fewest meaningful categories to describe the information we need.

What’s coming up…

As you can see, I’m making fast progress on The Follow-up Formula book. Segmentation is a key component that enables powerful (and relevant) follow-up. If there’s a particular thing that trips you up when you try to follow-up, email me. I’d love to address it in the book.

Since I started sending these weekend articles last month, I’ve had lots of replies from people like you. And some have had really good questions about how to apply the ideas to their own business. All of that has encouraged me to keep pushing forward on the creation of a forum where you can ask your questions and get very detailed answers from me.

I’ve now committed to building such a place. There’s much to do to make it a reality, so, please be patient. We’re aiming for an August launch. Stay tuned.

And, in the meantime, keep sending your questions.

Note: The link to ConvertKit in this email is an affiliate link, which means they’ll send me some coffee money if you buy using that link. If you’d rather keep me under caffeinated ??, just Google the company directly and sign-up that way if you need an email marketing tool.

If I offered to write a great lead-generating book for you in the next 60-days would you take me up on that offer?

Interested? Get all the details, including a $750,000 book case-study…click the button to go there now.

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