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If you’re not thinking segmentation, you’re not thinking

Having a background in market research I’ve been lucky to work on a number of customer segmentations in my time but working in creative communications it is still too rare that I come across what I would call a proper psychographic or ‘mindset’ segmentation. Instead, many marketers simply group customers into the brand adoption ladder or different levels of competitor loyalty – with mixed results.

I spoke to Craig Galloway, an Associate Director of Marketing at Allergan on what he thinks the challenges are with implementing segmentation.

Written by Paul Townley-Jones, Director of Brand & Strategy @ Page & Page

“The challenges,” Craig said, “are many fold.  I think first is getting alignment across the organisation of the value of it.  We often use a quote by Theodore Levitt ‘If you’re not thinking segments, you’re not thinking’ in terms of your marketing strategy.  But getting that across to the whole organisation can sometimes be challenging.”

Communicating the value of segmentation across the organisation needs to be supported by senior leadership.  As we have seen in digital transformation strategies, segmentation needs to filter throughout the organisation, driven from the top so that the right people, processes and platforms are put in place to implement and execute segmentation effectively.  When done correctly, sceptics of segmentation will start to observe its value as they then proceed play catch up with colleagues or competitors.

Accept that there may be segments you shouldn’t be targeting

The next challenge is convincing sales and other functions that there will be some customer groups you won’t be successful with as they simply won’t be interested in your product.  This concept can be alien to some:

“I think it can be challenging from a salesperson point of view.  You never want to admit that there are sections of customers that perhaps you shouldn’t be visiting because your offering isn’t going to engage them in the same way.” said Craig.

Individualisation thwarted by resource and regulation

In an increasingly data-driven digital world we are able target, tailor, automate and personalise more than ever, but at what point does ‘the segment of one’ start to over-complicate marketing?  I spoke to Craig about the movement along the spectrum from homogenous segmentation towards personalisation.

“It’s a question of cutting your cloth accordingly.  I think the individual relationship is very valuable, however it takes a lot of resource and time in terms of ‘how do you do that?’.  I think from the point of view of pharma… digital… and reaching out to customers in that way is incredibly interesting but regulations are still to catch up in terms of how you have these conversations through different channels.”

Marketing-led organisations take a customer-centric approach

Wondering why pharma is perhaps behind consumer organisations when it comes to segmentation, I wanted to explore the reasons why.  It seems that the imperfect combination of pharma being both R&D and sales-led does not help the segmentation situation.

Craig said, “Consumer companies tend to be marketing-led organisations, so from that point of view it is the question of ‘Right, go out and find what the consumer is missing, follow them very closely and get some deep insights into what would make their lives better, then bring that back in-house and then we will go and make it’.”

“In pharma often that’s not done. R&D will discover an interesting candidate molecule/technology or work to incrementally improve on the current standard of care.  In my experience it’s more R&D led than Marketing led.” said Craig.

If you want more sales, have less customers

Craig then raised a pitfall of sales-led organisations who struggle with the concept of not approaching some segments of customers as part of an optimised marketing strategy.

“I’m going to use an old phrase in marketing which can sometimes be alien to non marketers which is ‘If you want more sales, have less customers’.  It’s the idea that if you found this smaller group or groups that really got it, they would embrace your brand fully.”

I draw parallels with Craig’s comment and the diffusion of innovations – by persuading the Innovators and Early Adopters you then start to win over the Early Majority through influence.  It also goes back to what was said earlier in terms of accepting there will be some segments you shouldn’t bother targeting.

However due to their nature this concept doesn’t resonate with some sales people, where the mindset very much is “But what about them? And what about them?  We’re not selling very much to them so let’s go and see them!”

Prince Charles vs Prince of Darkness

charles ozzy osbourne
There was an article by Mark Ward of the BBC titled ‘What do Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne have in common?’ which goes on to explain how both ‘Princes’, to most advertising engines, belong in the same segment.  Both are in the same age range (born the same year in fact), are self-employed with high disposable incomes, spend a lot of time in London, travel often, like dogs, sports cars, fine wines, have married and remarried, and have children.  However, it is safe to assume that in most occasions you would not want to serve both Charles and Ozzy the same ads.

This is where a good segmentation coupled with individualised personas can come into its own.  By relying less on segmenting with easier to obtain but less relevant characteristics such as demographics or brand adoption, marketers should invest in gaining qualitative and quantitative insight on the psychographics and behaviours of customers.  In the case of Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne, understanding they are a part of a target segment, yet treating them as different individual personas instead of one homogenous group will offer a better experience for the customer with the obvious benefits that come with tailored and personalised communication.

If you would like to explore more about personas and why they are useful, why not download our 33-page personas booklet which provides insight into eight specialist nurse personas we identified. Simply submit your details at the link below!
specialist nurse personas

15th August 2018



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