This is one of a series of posts about a real-life attitudinal audience segmentation project. See other posts in this series.
One of the biggest challenges I find companies have with market research is how to make it actionable. The fact is, you can have a lot of great data about your customers and prospects and what they want, but many organizations don’t really know how to use it in their day-to-day operations without completely turning their business upside down.
Actually, this is one of the main reasons I believe in marketers learning to do market research. Without the insight of a marketer before, during and after the actual analysis, companies are often left with great information that no one — not they and not their often very capable research providers — can figure out how to use.
Any researcher will tell you that there are always options in terms of how much detail you seek in a research project — they call it the “level of granularity”. In no case is this more evident than in audience segmentation work. The fact is, the math doesn’t care — it can differentiate your audiences into 3 segments, or 30 — and, depending on how many respondents you have, even that many can offer statistically significant insights.
The problem is, there aren’t many organizations that can adapt their marketing and operations to 30 different segments. At the same time, only looking at two or three probably doesn’t offer much in the way of insight that will actually make a difference in people’s purchase decisions.
The spectrum of “how far do we go with this” is wide indeed. I have had clients who invested a great deal of time and money to gain incredible insights into the desires and motivations of their audiences — and then continued to run advertising creative that the research had proven was motivating to none of them. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, organizations like Best Buy have spent millions of dollars to completely revamp store interiors and train their personnel to identify and cater to different segments.
In truth, most organizations should probably start somewhere in the middle — especially if it’s the first time they’ve really thought about dividing up their messaging to different audiences. But there are many impactful changes that can be made that won’t require a raze and rebuild on your company:
1) Email segmentation
The nice thing about an audience segmentation survey is that you will know virtually every respondent’s segment when you’re done. Assuming you’ve asked for (and been granted) the approval to email them about your company, product or service (something you can incorporate into the segmentation survey design), you have a beautifully segmented email list just waiting for some targeted messaging.
Once you know what your segments are, it can be fairly straightforward to ask your incoming email registrants which one best fits them. While this isn’t as sophisticated as running everybody through a full segmentation analysis, it’s a lot more practical. And in my experience customers are happy to tell you which shoe fits if you let them know it will lead to more relevant messages and offers.
Segmenting your email messaging can be as simple as setting up a few different versions of your standard email communications, ensuring that all of them contain the universal “umbrella” messages that appeal to all segments and adding a space on your template for segment-specific information — a recent case study that will resonate with their segment in particular, or a special offer based on their interests and priorities. You might also consider adding emails that are only sent to certain segments about news that will be relevant to them — a new product introduction, an article they might find interesting or company news that would resonate with them. If you have customers who like spicy food and some who don’t, the fact that you won the state salsa competition is great for the former, but not something you’d necessarily want the latter to receive.
2) Website content
My friend Jason Baer of Convince & Convert argues effectively in this post for the value of the two-click rule: ensure that your site visitors can find the content they want within two clicks.
Of course, this is tough to do if your website is set up under the assumption that all of your visitors are interested in everything about your organization and its products or services. Inevitably customers looking for something that speaks to their needs is going to be buried in content that tries to speak to somebody else’s needs, too — especially if your site navigation has generic tabs such as “Products” and “FAQ’s”.
Imagine the power of having your spice-loving audience arrive at your website to find a tab named “Love It Hot?”. What if your B-to-B prospect sees something called “Realtor Tools”? One of my clients, a tourist destination, reorganized their site to provide a section for those visitors interested in relaxing spa weekends, vs. a section for those seeking outdoor activities (which features a large weather widget front and center).
And, of course, understanding how your customers use your products, and what need they fulfill, is a huge benefit when crafting copy that is optimized for search engines. Inevitably clients discover new topics they can use to improve their search rankings in key areas and generate new visitors.
3) Traditional Media
Like digital marketing, traditional marketing works better if it’s relevant. Items such as brochures, advertisements, direct mail and other traditional media can benefit from the insights of segmentation in many of the same ways that digital media can. In the case of SCU, they were preparing to redevelop new collateral pieces when they began the segmentation research project; its completion provided them with specific guidelines regarding the types of different audiences that needed information, the kind of information they would be looking for and the messages that would be most relevant and compelling to them. The insight allowed them to eliminate some pieces they had planned, consolidate some efforts, and develop new recruiting tools to reach the groups they most wanted to reach.
4) Social Media
Social media is particularly well-suited to helping people find information that matches their interests. Ensuring that your key prospects can find you through social media requires that your SM content is relevant to them. And the wonderful thing about SM is that you can set up multiple touchpoints so that each of your audiences can get the information they want, without having to sort through a bunch of information they don’t. Segmentation shows you who your audiences are, what’s important to them and the kinds of questions they want answered about your product or service and your brand. Who says you should only have one Twitter feed? Or one Facebook Fan page? There are successful companies out there doing amazing things with segmented social media profiles to help their audiences get just the information they want to hear. Take one of my favorites, ThinkGeek: Want to join in their super-geeky celebration of geek culture? Follow their @thinkgeek Twitter feed for “Today In Geek History” and other entertaining tidbits. Rather get their new product announcements and promotions? Follow their @thinkgeekspam account. Want both? Perfect! There couldn’t be a better roadmap than segmentation research for understanding where to reach out to each of your audience types and what kind of content to offer them.
5) Customer Service
Customer service is one area that’s often overlooked when considering how your segmentation insights can help your company connect with your customers. When a customer or prospect contacts your organization, you have one more opportunity to build your relationship with them — or break it. If you add segment information to your customer database and can access it when a customer calls, terrific. If you don’t have a caller’s segment information it can be a matter of a few short questions to quickly identify their likely segment and ensure that their concern, information request or other issue is handled as effectively as possible.
The fact is, YOU don’t decide what your brand represents — the marketplace does. Your brand identity is an amalgamation of customer opinions, prospect assessments, former customer complaints, competitor messages and your own marketing efforts. Understanding how your customers and prospects see your product or service offering, against whom they measure you, and where they find your greatest strengths is terrific fodder for looking at your own branding efforts. The simple fact is, you can’t MAKE your brand anything — you have to convince the market that you deliver on your promises in order to gain brand recognition for a particular feature or benefit. Understanding how your key audiences feel about your brand can help you understand the kind of changes you need to make to your product or messaging to move that brand identity in the direction you want it to go.
I had a client whose segmentation research showed that their prospects believed they could buy comparable products at major big-box discounts stores. This was particularly upsetting given that my client’s products were of a far superior quality and a great deal more expensive. While his first instinct was to complain that people were idiots and discard the insight as ridiculous, he came to understand that, like it or not, the perception was out there among his key target groups. He had three options: 1) Abandon the audience completely, assuming that they were too “cheap” to buy his product; 2) Significantly discount his product to reach the same price range as those competitive products; or 3) Help the audience understand the significant (and real) difference between his products and those they were comparing it to. Since the research clearly showed that the target audience wasn’t price-focused but quality-focused, he knew that there was an opportunity to make his case and convince them his product was worth the money. They just didn’t have the information they needed to understand how his product was a better choice for them. In the end, he was able to effectively message to and convert these prospects and drive new revenue without forfeiting his brand’s luxury positioning and price.
These are just a few of the options for making segmentation insights actionable in your organization. In reality, well-executed and well-communicated segmentation data can touch all aspects of your organization and help build your relationships with your customers and prospects in every way you contact them.
Do you have questions about how to improve your customer relationships, about attitudinal segmentation or whether it might make sense for your company? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Chris Sietsema says
This is a great post, Susan. Really helpful for many of us audience segmentation newbies. It’s a great resource for clients to help them undertand how to put this crucial information into play. You noted in the website content portion that attitudinal research can be applied to SEO content. Any specific applications to paid search?