Segment Your Audience for Marketing Relevance: Goodwill Splits Its Base 25 Ways

Segment Your Audience for Marketing Relevance Goodwill Splits Its Base 25 WaysWow, 25 segments (specific audience groups) is the most I’ve ever heard of, but that’s how Goodwill of Greater Washington (GGW) is slicing its fundraising. According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the organization "now tailors its appeals to different audiences, and has increased the number of repeat donors by 60 percent over the past five years [by doing so]."

Well, it’s hard to argue with stats. I also have great faith in the marketers and fundraisers of Goodwill of Greater Washington. You may remember them as the innovative marketers who produce a fashion blog that has nurtured a whole new group of buyers for certain Goodwill goods. These folks are great at what they do!

Tailoring messages (and the visuals that go with them) is more important that ever when prospects are stressed like they are now. According to Brendan Hurley, GGW’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, the org is customizing its campaigns (specifically, the benefits to each group) to "25 distinct groups, including donors of used goods, buyers of goods, affluent people who could make big donations or planned gifts, and leaders of corporate foundations."

Here’s one great example of the benefits conveyed to specific segments: "Donors who give to Goodwill’s training programs help low-income learn the skills they need to earn more money. They, in turn, are able to spend more money, improving the local economy and the quality of life for residents."

Segmenting is powerful, and an approach you should always take when shaping your marketing campaigns too. But I urge you to take one step further to flesh out the demographics traditionally used to shape such segmentation with personas.

I’m a big fan of developing fully-fleshed-out fictitious characters (aka personas) to understand your base and other groups your org wants to engage. Shaping personas is a practice that enables you to "know" your target audiences far beyond segmentation, which is limited to demographic definition in most cases. Most importantly, personas are a great lead-in to audience research, and a useful ingredient in product/program/service development and testing. Use them to hone your approach as precisely as possible before you dive in with pricey and hard-to-find focus group participants or testers. 

This guide to shaping personas will help your org reach your base more effectively.

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Nancy Schwartz on July 22, 2008 in Audience Research, Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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  • brendan hurley

    Thank you for the kind words. The 25 different stakeholders you mention are actually a combination of all the stakeholder groups that Goodwill interacts with, not just those from whom we seek direct fundraising dollars. That would include sub-segmenting funders (foundations, major donors, etc), shoppers (vintage shoppers, book and music collectors etc), used goods donors (household donors vs. vehicle donors), government agencies, employees (retail, contract, administrative), etc. The idea is really just to identify who we are speaking with every day so that we can appropriately position our organization to meet the needs of our constituents, not just the needs of Goodwill. By understanding and engaging our stakeholders on their terms, we feel condident that we will generate greater understanding and passion for our mission and/or sources of income (retail, contract services, etc). It is the primary and essential element for an effective customer relationship management program. There are many organizations who are more efficient than we are, but we’re trying to take the steps necessary to meet the evolving needs of the people we serve.

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