I am currently finishing up an audience segmentation project for a large multi-channel retailer. As usual, we’re trying to identify the key motivations for their various customer groups.
I was surprised to hear from my client contact that, when pursuing such a project was discussed in a team meeting, one of the team members was actually reduced to tears.
Because she was afraid the research findings would result in the abandonment of some current customers — people she credits, rightfully, with helping the brand grow to where it is today. She was sure that we’d pick the segments that seemed promising, steer the brand ship in their direction and never look back at the poor souls treading water in our wake.
It’s true that segmentation work seeks to identify the key differences between groups that help us understand them more individually. Candle buyers can be Fragrance Lovers, Decorators or Gifters — Chamber of Commerce members can be Socializers, Movers & Shakers or Sellers.
But another fascinating result of attitudinal segmentation is that you get to see what everyone AGREES ON. It’s like one of those optical illusions where you can see either a white vase or two profiles facing each other, depending on how you look at it. Segmentation shows you where groups differ, but also where they don’t.
All Together Now
And why is this information valuable? Well, for one thing, it can give you clear direction as to your brand’s umbrella messaging — those things that everyone should hear, know and believe about the brand. These messages are relevant to all segments, while segment-specific messages can be left to one-to-one communications like email and unique landing pages.
And the segmentation process can also help you recognize that, in most cases, there’s no customer segment you’d jettison. Our job as marketers is to nurture every customer we can — while admitting that, with a limited prospecting budget, we need to focus on bringing in more of those likely to be our most productive customers.
I hope to reassure the entire client-side team on my current project that segmentation is as useful in recognizing the shared motivations of their customers as it is in pointing out their differences. And perhaps offer a tissue.