This is one of a series of posts about a real-life attitudinal audience segmentation project. See other posts in this series.
This project was undertaken for a small faith-based university in the midwest (I’ll call them “SCU” – Small Christian U – for the purposes of this discussion). The university offers undergraduate, graduate, adult professional and online programs. They have been working with Higher Ed Growth to develop targeted, relevant strategies for lead generation, and the strategic big brains at Monsoon Strategy came on board as well to conduct an audit of their existing marketing activity. Both were helping SCU determine how they could better identify, reach and engage with their target audiences – and do it economically.
During stakeholder interviews at the university, it became apparent that there was a lot of internal debate about how best to message to prospective students – adults, undergrads, graduates and online learners. There were differing opinions about what those messages should be, and where they should be communicated. With such a diverse audience, it was key to understand which messages were most relevant to develop better marketing and avoid wasting advertising dollars. The folks at Higher Ed Growth and Monsoon were familiar with my work and called me in to consult with the client.
I immediately liked that this client was actively implementing tools that could make the most out of segmentation. Their website was fairly robust, but they expressed an interest in adapting content to specific segments to make it more useful to them. They were preparing to develop a wide range of new collateral materials for potential students, and were in the process of implementing a new CRM system that would allow them to extend their current database to include all sorts of prospect-specific information — including audience segment, communication preferences, and areas of interest. After just a few minutes on the phone with them I knew they were a terrific candidate for attitudinal audience segmentation.
A key issue was the scope of the research. While the university was primarily interested in learning about their adult prospects (both at their offsite locations as well as in their online program), many of their potential communication channels would necessarily reach potential undergraduate students as well. It seemed important to identify the needs of adult learners, but also to determine how they differed — or didn’t — from undergraduates. And I was interested in finding out the characteristics of their current students. so that we could compare them to those of the students in their prospect database.
One of the most valuable aspects of segmentation research is that, in identifying how messaging needs to differ between segments, it also reveals which messages are powerful for ALL audiences. This information is extremely valuable in crafting umbrella messages that the brand can use in any and all venues, media and materials and ensure that relevance remains intact. In order to determine the best umbrella messaging for SCU as part of this project, it became clear that we would need to include adults, undergraduates, prospects and current students in the study.
Next: Survey development — and how a very complicated survey was made easier with the help of some creative tools.