Once every few years, most major consumer organisations revise their consumer or market segmentation. The strategic value of these projects cannot be underestimated – when done well, they help organisations to become customer-focused, drive their resourcing, speed up the process for new product development and innovation, improve products, enhance their marketing and ultimately deliver growth.
However, there are complex factors involved in implementing global segmentations and in our experience, where they often fall down is in their communication. Top-down, centrally driven segmentations make it hard to embed in your organisation in every market, but without this, your organisation will not be able to act on it. This means going beyond distributing nicely designed mouse mats and notebooks and even beyond workshopping the data with key stakeholders. It means engendering a broad understanding of the segments across the whole organisation and particularly within those local markets which might not have been involved in the strategy in the first place.
So, what do you do when segmentation is globally mandated and you are required to make it work locally? Here are our top pointers:
1. Know your audience
A global segmentation will deliver insight into your customers, but what of your internal audiences in your market? How much do you know about the roles, challenges and behaviours of colleagues and others within your organisation but outside your immediate team? When we work with large global clients, we often find they work in silos – departments and roles are typically not clearly understood beyond the immediate working team. Any successful communication campaign starts with your audience, so get to know your internal audiences first and group them so you can customise your communications appropriately.
2. Build a marketing campaign
Treat the internal communication of your segmentation as you would any external marketing campaign. Once you have identified your internal audience and have understood a) the type of information that they want to receive and b) the most effective way of communicating with them (point 1 above), you then need to create a marketing/communication plan to detail how, when and what you will communicate to each part of your audience. This marketing plan can be pretty simple, just a few slides detailing communication activities by the internal audience and over each quarter, but it is important to share and agree on it.
Be as creative as you like about how you communicate in order to bring your segments to life within the business. Along with infographics, videos, vox-pops, podcasts or animations, why not stage pop-up events for colleagues to ‘meet’ the segments or use games with participants playing the part of a segment character?
3. Do not have too many segments.
Clearly, if you are having to implement a global segmentation which already has multiple segments which you cannot change, this is going to be a political challenge. But in localising any segmentation, there are going to be some segments that are more important and others where the segment will not apply, as the data does not support it. So, push back on this and prepare your arguments as to why you need to prioritise (and therefore communicate) fewer segments than the 15 the global marketing director has come up with. In my experience, it is simply impossible for people to remember more than five segments, and if you really want your project to succeed, you have to focus on the top five based on profitability and your organisation's ability to meet demand in terms of local resources.
Where you have multiple segments, look at the data and group them. You can come up with no end of clever mnemonics and acronyms, but more than five will not stick.
4. Adapt your segments
Ensure you communicate in the language of your market as well as the lingua franca of your global organisation, but don’t just translate, adapt. This means not only coming up with local names (turning the naming into a competitive game with your local teams can work well) but also always providing local examples to bring your segments to life. Illustrate with local tastes, traditions and needs - brands, shops, social media, transport, food, activities and more, to ensure you make the segment totally familiar and recognisable for your local audience.
5. Use a communication agency that can understand data and market research.
There are many great internal communication agencies that can help you deliver internal communication campaigns, but when it comes to segmentations, you really need to work with an agency that understands data. An agency that can both deliver great creativity but also get into the data with you and create campaigns that use the insights is essential.
6. You can never overcommunicate internally.
Don't assume that just because you've done a launch that it's worked. Communicating segmentation is a long-term strategy that will hopefully provide you with successful results that will fulfil company goals and be valuable for future endeavours. Put a measurement system in place at the start to ensure you meet your goals and keep on communicating – expect the campaign to run for months, if not for years. Use the knowledge you get from your internal measurement to improve and change what you do. If your newsletters are not getting the response you expected, is it the layout, headline, copy or what? Adjust and tweak your activities to keep hitting those targets.
A global approach to segmentation offers organisations huge benefits, but it is on the ground in a local market where brands live or die. Segmentation, although super-effective when appropriately executed, is an imprecise science providing broad groupings, and local markets are becoming more and more dynamic. However, you can still be sure to integrate local cultural nuances to make your global segments work, no matter where you are.