Marketing 101 teaches us that we need to understand consumers and segment them for our marketing to be effective. The problem with this strategy is that today there could be a lot of sub-segments with your target audience, each with its own needs and wants. One message for everyone does not work well with consumers who refuse to be thought if as “segments” but rather individuals.
There are times when segmentation makes sense. When you are launching a new product, for example, you need to position your product based on the attitudes of key segments you’re targeting. But when it comes to social media I believe that any segmentation criteria go out the window and that you have to talk to people as individuals not segments.
One of the reasons so many CRM and email marketing campaigns fail is because marketers macro-segment when they should be micro-segmenting. Every time you interact with a consumer you gain insights into their behavior and you need to take what you have learned and optimize your marketing so that your engagement becomes more personally relevant. You’re not talking to a segment, you’re talking to a person and they want to be acknowledged as a person.
However, there are any number of online analytic tools that try and group people into segments because that’s what MBA marketers have learned. Now they have to unlearn segmentation and learn micro-segmentation.
Can you segment down to the individual? On mass media, like TV probably not, but you can on print (ads targeted towards the demographics/psychographics of people by zip code, and readers) and you absolutely have to on social media and on the Web. How many brands, for example, have different home pages that are served up by different key words on Google? Does someone who comes to your site from Google, get the same home page as someone who came to your site from Facebook?
Then there are the mass market mentality Internet ads. Click-through rates have been declining for years. The novelty of Web ads that helped fuel higher responses in the beginning has worn off as online marketing hit the mainstream. The truth about online ads is that precious few people actually click on them. And the percentage of people who respond to common “banner ads,” the ubiquitous interactive posters that run in fixed places on sites, is shrinking steadily. Now what if online ads were developed and targeted for the people who come to those sites ? A person who goes to the NY Times.com may not be the same person who goes to MSNBC.com or NYPOST.com and your online ads should take that into account.
When it comes to social media the micro-segmentation possibilities are even greater. If a user says on his Facebook profile he is interested in football and attends Harvard Business School, he might get ads for New England Patriots tickets. “Social networks have great insights into their users,” says Mike Walrath, CEO of Right Media, an ad outfit bought by Yahoo that works with social sites. “The more targeting options that are available to a social network, the more likely they are to be able to get better prices.” Even Google has announced that Gmail users are going to get more targeted ads based on what kind of mail they get and what they click on. In other words, more relevant ads.
Mass segmentation has its place, but please don’t use a macro-segmentation to the Internet because you’re just wasting money and hoping to land some darts in the bullseye while blinded.