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How to Use Market Segmentation in Your Content Marketing Strategy

There are two common flaws I often observe in agency content marketing plans, and they stem from the same challenge. The hardest part about content marketing is making the time to do it. For many of us, writing is a creative muscle we don’t often have time to flex. And when we have to do it in order to better market our businesses, the stakes feel high. That leads us to spend an inordinate amount of time producing the content we do manage to make time to write, which leads to those two persistent problems I mentioned:

  1. Expert firms just don’t publish valuable education frequently enough
  2. The content they do write is rarely focused on the interests of the firm’s target market

We’ve explored problem #1 at length, so if you’re still struggling to make time for your marketing, I encourage you to check out this articlethis article, or this podcast. Today, I’d like to focus on problem #2.

Market Segmentation Strengthens Your Messaging Strategy

How intentional are you with your content marketing messaging strategy? Would you say you’re as thoughtful as you would be with your client’s messaging strategy? I’m guessing probably not. And that makes sense. Your clients have you! A smart team who has the time to think deeply about how to help their organization best express their expertise. They pay you to bring that rigor and intentionality to their messaging strategy.

But you’re not somebody’s client, so you’re squeezing in your marketing somewhere between client calls, new business pitches, and payroll. When you do find a quiet moment, you’ll write about whatever topic comes to mind that day or week, which might or might not align with the interests of the reader you’re trying to intrigue.

This is why market segmentation matters. When you begin your messaging strategy with market segments, you articulate the most important characteristics and behaviors of your target personas and then observe the trends and patterns that exist across various prospect sets. You might have several distinct types of personas who either purchase or influence the purchase of your services, and they all have their own respective interests and challenges at various stages of the buying cycle. Market segmentation allows you to observe the themes that unify those interests and use that as the foundation of your messaging strategy, so that you’re proactively and consistently developing insight that resonates.

To help you in your own persona interviews, we’ve created a ten-question guide you can begin using today. You can download it below.

How to Implement Market Segmentation

Here’s one way you might practically apply this concept:

Let’s say you’re an agency that specializes in helping higher education institutions like colleges and universities market themselves. Typical personas or prospect groups for you might include the President of a higher ed institution, a CMO, and maybe a Head of Enrollment. During your market segmentation process, you might ask these types of questions:

QuestionPresidentCMOHead of Enrollment
What does success look like in this person’s career?Achieving fundraising and revenue goals. Keeping the board of trustees happy by managing the budget well and maintaining a positive brand reputation.Creating and sustaining a rigorous, prestigious, positive brand reputation, while clearly communicating our institution’s value proposition.Attracting a surplus of qualified applicants each year.
What is a common challenge this person faces in their work?Keeping the institution academically competitive and relevant among competitors.Justifying their marketing budget to the President or board. Adopting and implementing smart marketing tools and strategies that drive successful campaigns.Communicating value to pique the interest of their “right-fit” prospective students.
What questions or objections might I hear during the sales process from this individual?How can you help me justify your fees to my board of trustees?How do you measure success when working with institutions like mine?How successful have you been with other institutions facing similar problems? What level of investment is required to see similar returns?

 

In this example, our three prospect types are distinct in that they’re asking different questions and measuring their career success in different ways. But when we look closely, we can begin to see patterns emerge among their various responses. For instance:

  1. They’re all interested in understanding how their marketing investment will yield tangible returns and help them meet their respective goals and responsibilities, particularly because they’re all on the hook for justifying their budgets.
  2. Each prospect is interested in articulating and communicating the unique value proposition of the institution. The CMO needs to differentiate the institution’s brand in order to drive marketing success. The Head of Enrollment needs to be able to compel prospective students to choose their school over another. And the President uses the institution’s UVP as a way to combat competition in the market and sway donors to invest.
  3. They’re all concerned with the brand reputation of the institution. Some, like the President, are more motivated to sustain a healthy brand image in order to keep the board and investors happy, thus making them more likely to meet their fundraising goals. Others, like the Head of Enrollment, are more interested in how the institution’s brand reputation is influencing the decision-making process of their most highly sought after prospective students.

If I were advising this agency on their content strategy, I’d encourage them to first design a messaging foundation that included broad, categorical message focus areas like “Reputation Development & Management,” “Marketing/Branding ROI,” and “Brand Differentiation.” Then, when it was time for the content team to make content assignments, I’d encourage them to ideate on topics that are related to those areas.

These messaging categories are broad enough in scope to accommodate a number of specific topics, but they’re narrow enough to relevantly speak to the interests we know the various prospects share. For instance, you would never write an article titled “Reputation Development & Management.” But, you might write an article titled “Strategies to manage a public relations crisis through social media” and know it’s going to be relevant because it relates to the strategic message focus area of “Reputation Development & Management” that your market segmentation exercise determined was of interest to all of your personas.

Of course, this is a mini-example, so your market segmentation exercise might yield 4-6 message areas of focus, but you get the idea.

When you approach your messaging strategy through the lens of what’s most interesting to your prospects, you’re bound to produce insight that’s much more resonant and effective long term.

Market Segmentation Improves Prospect Engagement

When you approach your messaging strategy through the lens of what’s most interesting to your prospects, you’re bound to produce insight that’s much more resonant and effective long term. Starting with market segmentation is a smart way to design the messaging foundation that’s most relevant to your target prospects.

And remember, we help firms like yours with this stuff all the time. If you’re interested in learning more about how to design a messaging strategy that better targets your prospects, let’s talk.

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