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8 ways you can segment your audience - and why you should (08 Jul 08)

If you want more people to attend your meetings and event, try acting like an old fashioned corner shopkeeper. They knew their customers and treated each one differently. It always pays.

If what I am going to tell you is old hat and you’ve already tried it, please let me know what you learned. I would love to share your knowledge and experience with your colleagues.

Having said that, here’s a quote from a book with a very funny title: “Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive” by an American businessman called Harvey McKay.

In this book he said, “Something you know about your customer matters more than anything you know about your product.”

Why is this true? Because people are only interested in things that are relevant to them. So the more relevant you are, the better you will do in persuading them.

If you tailor your messages to different parts of your audience you will do better. You will find that more people respond to your requests to come to your meetings and events. That’s because they will find your messages more relevant to their interests.

Now I know that this may all seem basic and obvious but I know that most people working with residents simply bang out the same messages to everyone.

But it is a shame and a waste of money.

In marketing terms what you should be doing is called segmentation. It works like this. You split your audience into groups based on what you know about them in relationship to your particular marketing objective.

You then write to the groups varying what you say and how you say it according to what you think they will be most interested in. You don’t send the same stuff to everybody.

If for example your objective is to hold a big summer festival then you start by thinking how it will appeal to different groups. You might for example be having some events for children and some events for older residents.

It follows that older people are more likely to come if you are able to send them messages that highlight the events that will interest them. And the same goes for people with children. So rather than sending the one piece of promotional material to everybody you produce differing ones.

This doesn’t mean they have to be totally different, but it does mean you should at least do different headlines or openings, as the beginning is the most important part of any message.

The simplest possible example – almost childishly simple – is to begin a message with a phrase like “As a parent, you know how important it is – etc.”

If you are an older person and this arrives on your doorstep, surely you are more likely to come if some of the following phrases are used:

“Summer event – everything the over 60’s need to know – other older people will be there - help with fuel bills – how to make your house safe from burglar – find out what benefits you’re entitled to – advice on making the most of your retirement”

Similarly if you are a parent of young children and this arrives, you and your children are more likely to attend, aren’t you?

“Summer event – stacks of things for your children – face painting, clowns, bouncy castle, chocolate treasure hunts, free hot dogs and burgers, all sorts of rides”

Your message to older people could continue with testimonials from older people who have attended the event before, as well their photographs. In marketing every little bit helps.

The key to success

All this assumes you can store information about people on a database. How else would you know who was an older person and who had children? It means that you don’t leave things to chance or to memory.

I know that this may be a problem as Information Technology departments don’t always like software packages springing up like mushrooms. But have a talk to them - as the benefits of collecting and using data are huge.

Once you have got the go ahead you must think quite a bit about what information you should collect. The following tips should give you some ideas, but a word of caution. Don’t collect too much information, because you will probably never use it all.

So here are 8 things you could collect information on which in turn you could use to help you make your communications more relevant:

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