A beginner’s guide to segmentation

A beginner’s guide to segmentation

This is the second video in our Ugly Data series where we are bringing you the best practices in data stewardship. View all the videos in this series here>>

Only you can prevent ugly data

Video 2: Organize it. Segment it.

How does a well-planned and consistent segmentation strategy make your job easier? It will help your organization effectively market to patrons, targeting certain segments for certain offers, and help you understand your patrons’ behavior. In this video, Claudia van Poperingen of TRG Arts explains how to organize and segment your data so it’s strategically divided into easiest-to-use groups. 

How does a well-planned and consistent segmentation strategy make your job easier? It helps your organization effectively market to patrons, targeting certain segments for certain offers, and help you understand your patrons’ behavior. 

Once your CRM system or systems can collect the data you need, the next step is to think about your segmentation strategy. A segmentation strategy is a consistent approach to organizing the patron data that supports your campaigns and analysis strategy

Our goal is to send the right offer to the right patron at the right time. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The work of developing your segmentation strategy is like sharpening the axe. Take the time to develop your tools; then the work will be easier.

What is a segment?

A segment is a group of patrons that share common characteristics. These characteristics may include performances they have attended in the past year or particular subscription packages they have purchased. 

Here is an example: 

A segment consists of three components:

  1. Season/Year: identifies the annual 12 month period in which transactions occurred. This could be simply 2016 for organizations that run on a calendar year or 16/17 for organizations whose calendar is split between two years.
  2. Buyer Type/Segment Type: identifies the types of buyers in this segment. Examples are donor or single ticket buyer.
  3. Campaign/Segment Description: consists of one or more attributes that provide further detail of what is included in the segment. The name of the show, the of the subscription series, or the title of the donation campaign are all examples of information that can be included in the segment description. 

These three components result in what you can call segmentation schemes. Segmentation schemes are templates that define the format and level of aggregation of each segment like: 


Your own patrons likely appear in multiple segments. A patron may have bought a single ticket to productions in 2013 and 2014, and also donated to your capital campaign in 2014.

How to determine a segmentation scheme for your organization

To help you determine the segmentation schemes for your organization, think first about how your patrons engage with your organization. What types of purchases do patrons make? This work can’t be done alone. Understanding all of the ways patrons engage in your organization will likely require involvement from various departments like marketing, development, box office, education, and others. You will also want to consider how you want your current patrons to engage with your organization in the future. And finally, this conversation should lead you to define what strategic goals your organization has and how you plan to measure success.

Engagement includes purchases that patrons make. Taking that a bit further, begin to think about the specific attributes needed to measure your patron purchase behavior such as venues, types of packages, and so on--all those details and nuances that might impact how you talk to your patrons. Below are a few questions to get you thinking about the attributes relevant to your organization. The answers to these questions are your purchase behavior drivers and can be used to determine your segmentation schemes.

Questions to ask to determine purchase behavior drivers:

  1. How many Events does your organization perform each year? 
  2. In how many Venues do you perform?
  3. How many event Genres do you present, such as Theatre or Dance?
  4. How many Series do you have, such as Classical or Pops? 
  5. How many Seasons do you have in a year?
  6. How many Subscription Packages do you offer (if any)?
  7. What type of revenue generating Sales do you have? Single Tickets? Subscriptions? Memberships? Group Ticket Sales? Donations?
  8. Do you also have Comps and Education tickets?
Your list of purchase behavior drivers might be very long, but it’s important to remember that you may not need one segment per driver. You’ll want to determine which common characteristics to choose and understand the effect those choices will have on the group of patrons that end up in your segments.

Your first steps: How to begin forming a segmentation strategy at your organization

Thinking about revising your segmentation strategy or forming one for the very first time? Start with these 3 steps: 
Step 1: Identify the drivers at your own organization. What goals are you trying to accomplish with your campaigns? This could be the same list as the one we talked about earlier with a few additions or omissions, or it might be completely different. 

Step 2: Identify the gaps. Are there any drivers you identified that are not currently captured in your CRM system? For example, if your organization has group sales but you can’t identify them in your CRM system, you may not be able to target this group of patrons. 

Step 3: Think future-forward. Make a plan for closing any gaps you’ve identified. Also, make sure your segmentation scheme is not too highly focused on the next campaign your planning, but instead, try to design a segmentation strategy that will still be valuable and useable next season and the season after that.  

Systems enable results, but even the most sophisticated systems don’t do all the work for you. YOU are the one who makes data a priority. Data doesn’t do the work. People do the work. 

Remember, only you can prevent ugly data. In our final video in this series, we will show you how to optimize use your clean and segmented data. Next video coming June 7th. 

Featured in this video: Claudia van Poperingen

Other videos in this series:


Video 3: Optimize It. Use it. 

Once you know what your needs are, you’ll want to be to calibrate the size of your segments for a given campaign. In this case, size does matter. In the last video in our Ugly Data Series, Amelia Northrup-Simpson, Director of Strategic Communication, will show you how to use your patron data after it is cleaned and organized.

Video 1: Capture it. Clean it. 

Is your data ugly? Your arts organization may have terrific branding, a high converting website, a top-of the-line CRM system, and beautiful photos of your productions or exhibitions. Unfortunately, if the data you have on your patrons is dirty, incomplete, or poorly segmented, building patron relationships and loyalty is much harder. That’s why data stewardship, the ongoing process of maintaining data for action, is so important. In this video, Kevin Replinger of TRG Arts explains the beginning steps of data stewardship: capturing data and keeping it clean.  

Posted May 31, 2017

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