Inner Circle

Association Marketing  

Is Over-Segmentation Hurting Your Marketing?

by Shauna Peters

There are several different ways to approach segmentation, making it important to determine meaningful groups into which to divide your database. This could be based on individual characteristics like years in career or membership history. Alternately, you can segment based on targeted messaging when you desire to speak to audiences differently, like special offers for lapsed members or specific education courses targeted by job function.

In this article, we will review when the messages in your association marketing campaign should be segmented—and when to avoid over-segmentation.

Marketing Segmentation vs. Analytical Segmentation

Just because you can segment an audience and send a specific message to them, doesn’t mean that you should. If all the distinct groups within a segment respond similarly to your marketing efforts, then that segmentation may not be a useful one with regards to your marketing campaign. However, this does not mean it isn’t worthwhile to drill down into such segments in your analytics.

Valuable business intelligence can come from the analytical review by segment and can drive future marketing strategy.

For example, it may not make sense to create separate emails promoting membership benefits to each job function category in your database, however, analyzing how the email performed and which links were clicked by job function, could provide valuable information that informs future campaign strategy.

Avoid Over-Segmenting

Using segmentation to target can cut costs and increase campaign conversions. But it should be balanced with the opportunity to speak to your entire prospect database.

It’s important to be careful when segmenting to determine who to market to. You want to segment when a message is only relevant to that particular segment of the database, or when seeking data-driven rationale for decreasing audience size, such as minimizing direct mail costs.

Too much segmentation, in addition to requiring time and resources, can actually be harmful to your results.

Testing and optimization of campaigns requires critical mass. If you split your campaign into tiny segments you won’t gather enough data to infer trends and make informed decisions. To this end, if you are relying on too small of a sample size to make customization decisions, you could be over-customizing a message that actually reduces clarity and causes distraction.

Universal Segments

There are a couple of segments that are shared by most member-based organizations and should be given some consideration.

The first is member type, such as professional or student members, individual or company members. Given the way each group interacts with the organization, there are differences in the messages best used to reach and engage each. For example, students are seeking opportunities to launch their careers and networks, coupled with discounts and support finding a job. Whereas company membership should target the c-suite and HR job functions with responsibility for providing professional services that impact the entire organization.

The second audience that an association should consider for segmentation is lapsed members. This audience has a recent history with your organization and is already aware of your value proposition. Though, given the fact that they did not renew their membership, they likely need some reminding of the resources they are now missing out on as nonmembers. We recommend targeting this audience with benefit reminder offers that capitalize on the services, access and benefits they are missing out on by no longer being members.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t include these audiences in your general campaign outreach, it just means that there are times when it makes more sense to target these audiences through segmented campaigns. It’s the combination of these two approaches that leads to the greatest outcome.