When you survey prospects and subscribers, you try to profile them, hoping to focus a message around what they want from your product. Profiling can also clarify your offering to advertisers. The more description you can give about your subscribers’ buying behavior, and the better you can slice this out by profile, the more worthwhile it becomes to advertise in your magazine.
In segmenting your subscribers during a survey, where do you start? It helps to think in terms of the profile data on which you could act (or on which your advertisers could act). Basic demographic data like sex, marital status, age and income can be useful for large-scale branding initiatives that cover all households in a certain geography. But if you’re a specialty publisher, you need to be more specific with targeted demographics like job title or industry sector. In fact, there is a whole array of data you can acquire through effective market research, which are not limited to demographics.
- Customer segments: Do subscribers in different stages of your customer life cycle value the attributes of your publication differently? If yes, develop different content for approaching customers who are prospects, free trials, have subscribed for 6 months, or for 5 years.
- Behavioral: This data applies to some action your subscribers have taken. This includes segmenting responses by web pages viewed, original source, or whether they have showed interest in other publications. In addition, segmentation applies to buyer behavior that helps advertisers. For example, are certain types of subscriber more likely to look at advertising, or be more inclined to purchase certain products? Does this change by season, demographic, magazine, or by some other dimension?
- Psychographics: Some data offer a psychological profile of your subscribers. They may consider themselves as part of a generation (ie. Baby Boom, Generation X, Generation Y) or belong to a group that defines them in a way that a simple demographic does not (ie. Veterans, the LGBT community, Cosmo readers, Retirees, Environmentalists, etc.).
- Demographics: These are basic data like age, sex, marital status and income. Large consumer magazines trade on this type of information, targeting huge segments of the population at large for new subscribers and advertisers.
- Business demographics: B2B specialty publishers will want to use data like job title and industry sector to segment subscribers. For example, what do pulp and paper industry business intelligence analysts value in a newsletter? Or to which associations do executive secretaries in service industries typically belong?
In terms of market research, this profile data will be transcribed against the rating questions you include in your survey. You will start to know that sales professionals really value competitor reports while C-level managers want industry forecasts. Or that retired men particularly enjoy reading about home improvement. While segmentation of your market is a useful concept for other forms of market research like panels and focus groups, if you want quantitative validation that your ideas about a segment hold true among everyone in that population, then you will need to conduct a subscriber survey. And as you design your questionnaire, make sure to ask questions that will give you relevant dimensions with which to segment your subscribers. Some rules apply:
- Don’t ask what you already know: If you ask your subscribers for a job title classification when they originally subscribe and can track that data back to responses, then there’s no reason to ask it again during a survey.
- Don’t ask what you have no possibility of using: If there is no way that you can differentiate marketing tactics for different segments, don’t ask the question. Survey space is precious. Although we may be curious about some inane demographic or another, only ask for it if you can actually use the information.
- If you ask something very personal, leave an opt-out option: Some subscribers may not want to share information about their income or lifestyle or race. If you have a survey question that is more personal, then add in the option “I prefer not to say.”
- Don’t be afraid to identify the needs of a tiny part of your audience: Some marketers think that they only attract a certain type of customer, so why even try to delineate responses by some other dimension. However, a small segment of subscribers could lead you to a new opportunity; you can use different messaging to attract that audience to your existing publication, or even launch a new publication catering to that particular segment.
- Slice your data any way you can: When you’ve finished collecting your survey data, slice each question by all segments. You may be surprised at which segments correlate (or don’t correlate) to different ratings.
- Don’t assume anything: Just because you believe something to be true doesn’t make it so. At all companies, anecdotal evidence can take on the mantel of established fact. It gets repeated so many times that everyone believes it without checking the evidence. Market research may challenge these assumptions. Let it.
Now that you’ve thought about how to conceptualize your subscriber segments, you’re ready to include the right questions into your survey, and be ready to slice satisfaction, importance, determinance and any other measure by these segments. You can then approach various types of subscribers with content relevant to their needs, enabling you to generate new business and retain existing customers.