What came first, the marketing plan or market segmentation?
For many business owners, neither. Most start with a product they created or a service they can deliver—then they try to find customers to buy what they’re selling.
But this approach is all wrong. If your business hasn’t invested in market research, can you be sure who your customers are and what services or products would appeal to them?
You need to start with a niche market that’s an inch-wide and a mile-deep; otherwise, your marketing message will never connect. To do that, you have to figure out who is fun to work with, who’s most profitable to your business, and whom you can really help.
Download our FREE 1PMP template to flesh out your marketing plan.
Market segmentation is a great way to do this. But what is it? And can it mean the difference between success and failure?
What is market segmentation?
Market segmentation is the process of dividing a broad target market into subcategories or segments. Each segment consists of a group of customers with shared characteristics. So they have similar interests, needs, and problems that only you can solve.
By homing in on a tightly defined market segment, you’re better able to enter the conversation going on in your prospects’ minds.
As a result, your marketing strategies will target customers more effectively, and your marketing campaigns are more likely to generate a positive return on investment.
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Why is market segmentation important?
Let me ask you this first: Do you know why so many businesses fail? It’s not because they had a bad product or delivered terrible service.
Poor market segmentation is the reason why most startups and small businesses close their doors.
They make assumptions about who their customer is, what media they consume, which social networks they follow, the difficulties they face daily, and the messages that would resonate without ever having researched their target audience. They’ve possibly neglected any market-based research as well. So, essentially, it’s all guesswork.
Unless you are your ideal customer, your marketing efforts will be ineffective.
Any sales you make will be random at best. You’ll repeatedly be dipping into a fountain of cash (you likely don’t have) to pay for advertising costs and generating a host of low-quality leads who’ll never buy your product or service.
So correctly segmenting your market is vital because it gives you a competitive advantage. And here’s how:
1 - Find a better quality customer.
Not all customers are created equal. What this means is within your niche, you have suboptimal and high-quality customers. By identifying your customer segments, you’re more able to focus your marketing efforts on the segment that will bring in the dollars.
You can do this with the PVP index:
- P – personal fulfillment – How much do you enjoy working with this type of customer?
- V – value – Do these people value your service/product, and will they deal with you on your terms?
- P – profitable – Are they willing to pay you a lot of money for what you do, and will you make a profit in the end?
It’s not an exact science, but it’ll help to home in on your ideal market segment—to maximize your profit and have a better chance of success.
2 - Personalize your marketing message.
You know what your customer segments crave above all else because you’ve talked to them, you’ve asked probing questions, and you can weave this into your messaging.
Within a market segment, you’ll have different customers, so your message will need to differ. Let’s use my business as an example.
I’m in the coaching business. I help business owners get clarity as it relates to their marketing. So I have three market segments I serve, and they’re largely segmented by need and revenue.
- My entry-level offer is my book, The 1-Page Marketing Plan, which is for side hustlers, startups, and business owners trying marketing for the first time. They’re clueless about marketing strategy and tactics, and they want to know marketing basics and how to get the best return.
- Then there’s my Marketing & Business Academy, which is my professional offer. Members are looking for guidance. They want me to review their marketing strategy and suggest improvements. So these customers are willing to invest a monthly sum to take their business to the next level.
- Now my premium service is one-on-one coaching. It’s pretty much a done-for-you strategy for businesses doing well, but wanting to break through the $10 million barrier.
As you can see, they’re different customer segments, so my marketing message needs to address their needs. There will be some crossover, but the primary message will differ.
So personalized messaging leads to a higher conversion rate because your customers feel understood.
3 - Waste less money and time on bad marketing decisions.
Everyone likes to ask, “What’s your marketing budget?” But, I say, if you’re getting a return on your advertising, spend more.
When you get the segmentation of a market wrong, you make bad decisions. You create a laundry-type list of messaging that targets a broad audience, creating a knock-on effect. You get a lot of low-quality leads clicking on your Facebook Ads and Google Ads.
You’ll spend time and energy nurturing leads that will never convert to customers. And eventually, you’ll go out of business.
But if you’ve engaged with your customer segment, you can use their exact lingo in your campaign. You know where they hang out online, so it’s easier to reach them and entice them to join your mailing list or download your lead magnet.
If your lead-nurturing sequence is optimized, you’ll improve your campaign performance and have a clear direction of how to attract and convert prospects into customers.
4 - Differentiate your business from competitors.
When you’ve researched a market segment, you know what your competitors are doing, and you know what they’re not doing. Because of this, you’re able to deliver a world-class experience that surpasses any discount they may offer.
For example, would you rather go to a hairdresser that washes and cuts your hair or one that massages your neck while your hair is being washed, then hands you a cappuccino and biscuit to enjoy while having your hair cut? The latter will cost more, but it’s an experience that builds raving fans who love to be pampered.
And your repeat customers are where the money is made. So delivering a unique experience to a market segmentation that your competitors have failed can massively influence your success.
5 - Build a tribe of raving, loyal fans.
A tribe of raving fans is a customer segment that loves and trusts you. They’ll walk past a similar product on sale and purchase your full-priced product. They send referrals to your business or post about it on social media. And they do this because they’re brand loyal.
It takes time and effort to build your tribe of raving fans. You’ve got to nurture this master segment. You have to prove that you can fill their need almost to the exclusion of everything else.
Get this right, and they’ll care about what you do, and they’ll be fanatical in helping you to succeed. Think lifelong customer retention—the ultimate dream.
6 - Branch out and develop new products.
One of the benefits of having an engaged market segment is customer feedback. You get insight into the highlights and shortcomings of your product which you can use to inform product development.
You’re also able to identify a sub-niche of your segmented market that you’re not yet serving. This allows you to create a product that addresses their needs.
For example, Uber began as vehicles for hire. But soon they realized their customers wanted more than just the convenience of a taxi at their fingertips. They wanted to be able to order food and have it delivered. They wanted to be able to courier packages. And they’re still evolving. So this is a prime example of a brand branching into new services.
The four types of market segmentation
1. Demographic segmentation
Demographic segmentation is possibly the most commonly used form of market segmentation. It involves dividing a market by easy to discern characteristics, for example:
- What is their age?
- What is their gender (male or female)?
- What race (ethnicity) are they?
- What’s their annual income or earning potential?
- Are they religious?
- Are they well-educated?
- Are they married or single?
- What is their family size?
In a business setting, we might ask:
- What is the size of their company?
- What industry do they serve?
- What job function do they perform?
It costs very little to gather this information. You can ask your consumer base directly or through an online survey. While this method is more time-consuming, using your customer’s lingo in your marketing is very powerful.
Social media is also another great tool to find information about your customers.
And when you combine demographic segmentation with other types of market segmentation, you’re able to narrow down your target audience further.
So let’s look at an example of demographic segmentation. Take the beauty and personal care industry. Think of the leading disposable razor blade brand Gillette. It produces razor blades for men (the Mach series) and women (the Venus series).
Outwardly, there’s very little difference between the two types of blades. The greatest distinction comes in the form of the coloring of the product and packaging and its messaging.
For example, the Mach series focuses on speed, precision, and getting a close shave, whereas Venus talks about smooth and silky legs. Marketing to a female audience focuses on pampering and to a male audience, time-saving.
2. Geographic segmentation
Another commonly used type of segmentation is geographic segmentation, which targets a group of customers based on their location.
- Where do they live? Be specific. What country? What state or province? What city?
- What are the characteristics of the areas they live in? Are they based in a rural or urban area? Is it sparsely populated or overcrowded? What is their climate like?
- What language do they speak? Do they respond to particular phrases?
It’s an essential part of your segmentation strategy because understanding your customers’ location helps you to determine what to market and when.
For instance, someone living in the inner city would have very different buying habits than someone living in a rural countryside. And a small, local business would not need to target a global customer base.
So, understanding where your customer lives can help you to address their needs better and reach them through geo-targeted ads.
For example, an ecommerce platform wouldn’t market lawnmowers to densely populated inner-city areas. Those customers are more likely to shop for small, potted plants to place on their balconies.
Whereas, a customer living on the outskirts of a city probably has a small garden that requires regular maintenance and would be more interested in purchasing a lawnmower.
Another great example of geographic segmentation would be a global clothing brand. It has to take into consideration more than just the climate; it has to use the language of its consumers in its marketing.
For instance, in South Africa, flip flops are known as slops and slippers are often referred to as stokies. But if you were to use these words in the U.S. market, you’d create a lot of confusion and not many sales.
So it’s vital to understand how language, climate, and location affect the advertising and marketing content you create.
3. Behavioral segmentation
Unlike geographic and demographic segmentation—which focuses on who the customer is—behavioral segmentation looks at how consumer behavior relates to your product or service. So how do they make their purchasing decisions?
- Do they shop online or in-store?
- When online, what actions do they take? Do they read online reviews and compare prices across multiple e-commerce platforms before making a purchase? Or do they research the product online before booking an in-store appointment to talk with a salesperson and physically interact with the product?
- What is their attitude towards your brand? Are they brand loyal? An excellent example of behavioral segmentation is the Apple brand. Apple fans won’t just purchase an iPhone, they’ll buy an iPad, an iTV, an Apple Mac, and an Apple Watch. They’ll stand in long lines from the early hours of the morning, in rain or snow, to get the latest Apple gadget. And they’ll staunchly defend their brand against other technology brands. Brand loyalty is incredibly powerful because it’s guaranteed future purchases without needing to convince or win trust.
- How do they use it? Are they knowledgeable about your product or service?
- Is there a built-in bias for the way they make their decisions? Take engineers, for example. They’re very analytical. They want to know the specifications, the granular detail. In comparison, a CEO is more inclined to look at the big picture—how it’s going to make their life better. Therefore, the way you interact with and market to these segments needs to be very different.
- Are they motivated by rewards or discounts? Are they the kind of customers who want to be first to know about a new product or be invited to an exclusive early-bird sale? Being a member of an exclusive club can be a massive motivator when it comes to getting consumers to spend a lot of money.
Luckily, it’s not difficult to acquire this information. You could place cookies on your website to track user behavior or analyze the purchasing data from your CRM to see which products are more popular. You could also reach out to third-party datasets such as ecommerce sites.
4. Psychographic segmentation
Now psychographic segmentation shares similar traits with demographic segmentation, but it deals specifically with your customers’ personalities and intrinsic characteristics.
As you can imagine, this information is more challenging to identify. The best way to acquire it is to engage customers in conversation.
You’ll want to arrange interviews or focus groups with existing customers. You could also use surveys or monitor your website to see what types of content your users engage with. These, and even networking events, are all great ways to gain valuable insights into who your ideal customer is.
Here’s what you want to look for:
- What do they value?
- What are they interested in?
- What are their priorities?
- What motivates them?
- What lifestyle do they want?
Knowing this information will help you to understand what they care about and would motivate them to buy. So your job is to cater to the unique needs of each segment of your market.
For example, vehicle brands do a great job of segmenting their market by psychographic traits. A lot of people own a vehicle, but their tastes differ widely. A businessman in his 60s probably has no children at home. He wants to purchase a car that makes him feel younger, which cements his status as having made it. So he’s more likely to buy a convertible or high-end vehicle.
Now someone in their 30s and 40s with a young family is more likely to purchase an SUV. But perhaps sales conversions for this segment is low. When you apply psychographic traits, you learn that this customer segment also values safety, family adventure, and community. So you might show ads of families camping or taking their kids and their friends to football or baseball practice.
So those are the four types of market segmentation. But how does this vital market research influence your marketing strategies?
How to zero in on the right market segment
When segmenting your market, you want to choose the market in which you’re going to have the greatest success. Remember the PVP index?
- You need to enjoy working with them.
- They need to value your expertise.
- They need to be profitable.
So here’s how I determined my market segment…
I always knew I wanted to be in success education, but that’s a pretty broad market segment. My expertise was in building multimillion-dollar businesses, so it made sense to target a business segment.
But business education could encompass anything from mindset, personal development, sales training, managing finances, or getting funding.
I wanted to zero in on something I felt I could deliver the most value—marketing education. It’s a subcategory of business education.
Now marketing education could encompass advertising, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), branding, social media, whatever. It’s more targeted, but it’s still a wide sub-niche, and it’s already dominated by well-known influencers such as Neil Patel and Gary Vee.
So I thought, where are the gaps? Where could I make a difference and gain traction?
I’d spoken with hundreds of small business owners so I knew marketing planning was a largely untouched and unknown market segment. So that’s the segment I targeted. It’s an inch-wide and a mile-deep.
How to use your website to segment your email database.
A question I get asked a lot is: “How do I manage multiple target markets?” A great way to do this is to segment your email database. But how do you do that?
Remember, if you use the same email sequence for vastly different groups of subscribers, you’re going to have many people unsubscribing, which is pretty bad.
And trying to segment your subscribers after they’ve opted into your database is a nightmare. So you want to streamline the process.
Start by looking at past and existing customers. What are their common characteristics? So what problems routinely keep cropping up?
Let’s use James Schramko of Super Fast Business as an example because he does segmentation well. Instead of funneling his email subscribers into a single funnel, he uses questions on his website to allow his prospect to self-select.
- Do you need help with your business strategy (pricing structure, business model)?
- Do you want help with getting more traffic and sales?
- Do you need help with productivity (knowing where to focus your time and energy)?
- Do you want help with building your team?
As you can see, these are all very different needs. Now someone looking for help with building their business strategy is probably a startup. They’re nowhere near ready to talk about building a team. Sending an email campaign that talks about the best places to hire great talent will probably not resonate.
James has to write lead-nurturing sequences for all four market segments, but by allowing his target consumer to self-select, they’ll be separated into lists in his CRM and receive the right sequence.
Segment correctly to level up your business
Market segmentation is a great way to infiltrate an industry and really come to grips with who your customer is and what they need.
It touches on everything you do. It’s going to drive the marketing strategies you implement, the message you create, what media you choose to advertise or invest time in, how you deliver your product or service, and whether your customers become raving fans.
Getting the segmentation of a market right leads to rapid business growth and interest from investors (potentially your biggest payday). Do the work upfront (research thoroughly) and you’ll avoid the laborious and costly task of recreating your marketing campaigns. Good luck.