How market segmentation and profiling can boost membership numbers

How market segmentation and profiling can boost membership numbers
Jason Lark is co-founder and managing director at Celerity. Jason focuses on Celerity’s strategic and operational performance, and supports clients in achieving their goals.

No business can succeed if its marketing strategy is aimed at anyone and everyone. This is especially true for membership and subscription-based organisations with diverse target audiences.

After all, two people who support the same charity or advocacy group for example, will not necessarily sign-up for the exact same reason. One may be a passive supporter who is simply interested in staying up-to-date and aware of certain initiatives. While the other may show more active support and get involved in the actual cause.

A marketing campaign that takes the same approach to both people, won’t speak to either directly. Spray and pray is not just lazy, it’s a sure-fire way to lose support and convince already disinterested or lukewarm members to unsubscribe or leave.  

Segmentation and profiling your customer database can help your organisation gain a better understanding of its target markets.

You can then use this knowledge to deliver hyper-personalised content that keeps people interested, and attracts new support.

Divide and conquer

Simply put, segmentation is the process of dividing your customer database into groups that share certain characteristics.

These could include demographics like gender and age, or behavioural indicators like spending habits and buying preferences.

Once your database has been segmented, you can build various persona profiles and target each audience with relevant, personalised marketing communications.

However, this is not as easy as it might sound. Even organisations with armies of marketers and agencies battle to segment their target groups correctly – and then put the information they gather to good use.

The segmentation and profiling process requires a clear, careful and consistent methodology to get right. Let’s take a closer look at what each step entails.


In 2010, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) set itself a goal to grow its membership by 4 million UK adults by 2020.

Before launching any marketing campaign, it needed to better understand its potential for growth within different segments of the population.

To do this, it needed to improve its knowledge of its target audience and then segment it according to themes. This involved both qualitative and quantitative research.

The qualitative research was gathered through focus groups conducted among groups of adults across the UK, all representing people at different stages and ages, and with varying interests in nature.

The quantitative research involved a 20-minute online survey to gather numerical and demographic data such as age, family size and annual salary.

Build customer profiles and propensity models

The next step was to use the data gathered in the research stage, and develop segments. The RSPB’s segment themes encompassed passion, awareness & concern, and role & actions, resulting in the identification of six segments across the UK.

The RSPB was then able to identify which segments their target audiences belonged to so that they could build targeted persona profiles and approach each audience differently.   

Propensity models were put to good use here, scoring each supporter’s propensity to be in each segment until the perfect match was made.

Roll out

Armed with richer audience profiles and data-validated segmentation, RSPB was able to build hyper-personalised marketing campaigns that offered new and existing supporters content that best suited their individual interests, needs, preferences and behaviours.

Tailored supporter or customer journeys require good technology.

Superior marketing software allows an organisation to deliver a powerful cross-channel marketing strategy. It can pull company data from across your company’s entire business, unlocking any valuable information trapped in sales or marketing silos to create a single customer view.

Of course, the more detailed the view of each customer, the more successfully marketers can determine what a customer will buy, when they will buy it and how much they’ll spend over the course of their lifetime.

Segmentation and profiling helps marketing teams identify the most profitable personas and properly segment them without any bias.

Using relevant, up-to-date information on interests, demographics and channel preferences, you can create campaigns that build your organisations’ membership or subscription base significantly. If you can provide a truly personalised customer experience, you’ll encourage greater loyalty among your existing members and win more new business. 

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