Your audience isn’t monolithic. It contains distinct subgroups or “segments” with very different needs, motivations, values, behaviors, and levels of potential engagement with your offerings. Segmentation is just the fancy name for identifying those segments, usually through statistical analysis of survey data or data you have on your audiences.
Segmentation first gained popularity in the commercial world, where it is used to group consumers with similar characteristics. The company then decides which segments to focus on and creates products, experiences, or marketing messages that will resonate with each target segment. It’s an antidote to “one size fits all” thinking.
In recent years, the technique has been used with increasing frequency in the arts, museums, and other nonprofit arenas. Segmentations in these fields have ranged from simple demographic or behavioral categorizations (e.g., families with young children, new subscribers, etc.) to more complex analyses that group individuals psychographically (e.g., by tastes, motivations, etc.).
A good segmentation gives your entire organization a shared, easy-to-use framework for making audience-related decisions. It lets you communicate and program more cost-effectively and more successfully because you have a clear idea whom you’re trying to engage and what they need from you.
Segmentation is often done in conjunction with a survey, using respondents’ answers to a wide variety of attitudinal, behavioral, demographic, and engagement questions. Yet segmentations can also sometimes be performed on transactional information your organization already has in its databases (e.g., of ticket buyers, subscribers, members, donors, etc.). Even better, we can combine survey and transactional data for a fuller view of each respondent and a richer, more action-oriented segmentation.
Even though it relies on a complex statistical algorithm called cluster analysis, segmentation is as much an art as a science. Slover Linett reserachers explore a number of segmentation possibilities with our clients to develop an optimally useful framework. It’s an iterative, exploratory process in which we try to maximize the similarities within each segment and the differences between the segments. Once the segments have been identified, we profile each segment in detail and compare them to understand how they think, feel, and behave. Only then do we assign descriptive names to each segment and develop recommendations for engaging each target segment.