Segmentation is OVER!

I realize I haven’t ranted about this one on this blog yet… segmentation segmentation segmentation… if I hear segmentation one more time, I think I’m going to puke. Didn’t anyone get the memo? Segmentation is OVER. Done. What put me over the edge on this subject?

I just got an email with the following sentence from CU vendor, promoting an upcoming webinar about improving your CU’s web site: “Two findings illustrate the importance of examining segment differences: 1.) Satisfaction levels vary by age. 2.) Members with incomes over $100,000 give the lowest ratings except in terms of providing up-to-date information, where satisfaction levels are similar. Members with higher incomes do tend to visit a wider range of areas of the credit union website and issues related to these experiences may be impacting their ratings.”

So what are they implying? That you need to create different pages depending on age? We’ll show page A to 18-year-olds, but show page B to 35-year-olds and page C to 65-year-olds? And we need to create different pages for high-income earners versus low or middle income earners? If we create a basic 3×3 grid, for young, middle-age, and seniors, and the other axis is for low-income, middle-income, and high income, that’s 9 different Things We Need to Make. Oh, wait, we forgot gender. Let’s add a male/female axis, and now we’re dealing with three dimensions and 18 variations on the web site. Now, is that 18 different looks for each existing web page? Or is it 18 completely different web sites? How does the content vary by segment? Does the look and the content vary? Is your head spinning yet? Does anyone see how this makes no sense whatsoever?

Your members want one thing: That your site is clear, easy to use, easy to navigate, and accurate. We don’t want or need MORE complexity, we want SIMPLE, CLEAR, and UNCLUTTERED. Think of Google as the gold standard. Did you know that Google has a senior-level executive whose primary job is to keep links OFF the home page? Can you imagine the pressure she’s under as scores of product chiefs of a multi-billion dollar company want THEIR link to appear on the home page?

It no longer makes any sense for a company to be segmenting. The most successful companies DO NOT segment by demographics, nor by psychographics. They pick a SINGLE psychographic. In addition to Google, another good example is Starbucks. Starbucks does not have a separate strategy for teens, college-age, Gen Y, Gen X, or baby boomers. Instead, they make a great experience for people who need an oasis in their lives. Period. (That’s why drive-ups and flourescent-lit stores with uncomfortable chairs within a Barnes & Noble are off-brand for Starbucks.) People who like Starbucks want to perceive themselves as hip, cool, trendy, environmentally-conscious, and making a difference to change the world in a postive way. When Starbucks does things that fit people with that mindset, they succeed. It’s not about how old you are…. check out the wide range of ages the next time you are in a Starbucks.

I don’t know why the financial world still hasn’t gotten the memo that you can’t be all things to all people. If large corporations such as Starbucks, Nike, Apple, Google, and Amazon aren’t segmenting by demographics, why does a financial institution think it can? You can’t be a chameleon and appear to be different depending on who you are talking to… because THEY are talking to each other, and they don’t understand who you are when you try to be different things to different people. There’s one other profession that tries to do this and get away with it — and that’s politician. And we all know how highly they are thought of when they deliver different messages to different audiences.

Here’s another thought-exercise: What would you think of a restaurant that claimed to be a Mexican/Sushi/Italian/Indian/Greek eatery? A restaurant that was both family-friendly, and also great for the singles scene? A restaurant that was both a greasy-spoon diner and boasted a world-class wine selection? Does it make any more sense in the financial industry?

Advice: In World 2.0, pick ONE target audience person and revolve your world around him or her. Create a great experience for your favorite customer/member, and others that share the same psyographic characteristics will appreciate it too.

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