Career Stage Segmentation Proves Lucrative for One Organization

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We've talked before here about marketing to niches by job titles. HCPro started an association called the National Association of Healthcare Revenue Integrity by looking at registrations for events they were already doing and noticing "a new title popping up that we had never seen before," Elizabeth Petersen, project director for Simplify Compliance, said. "It was revenue integrity specialist. We started picking up the phone and calling customers, [asking], 'What does that mean?'

"We started doing focus groups and shadowing, and after a year we said these guys need an association. Getting folks to truly opt into something these days is very difficult. The first month that we offered a free resource, 2,500 signed up for an e-newsletter. And in the first month and a half we had 400 people signed up for an association that didn't exist. It would not have come about... without talking to people."

The American Nurses Association also started talking to people in and out of their membership. And what they found was that a one-size-fits-all bundle of benefits wasn't attracting new subscribers and members. So they made a big change in their marketing. They developed benefits and marketing campaigns based on people's career stages.

"Before, ANA had a very bad habit of appealing to only a narrow slice of membership that was older and better educated," said Steve Fox, ANA's vice president of membership and constituent relations, in an article in Associations Now. "But over the last few years, we've been very good at getting the full representation of nurses, including younger nurses, new nurses and staff nurses."

The three primary segments they use are: early-career nurses, up-and-comers and nursing leaders. Much of the organization's growth—high single-digit to low double-digit for the last five or six years—in new-member acquisition is being fueled by early-career nurses.

"We're building a real value proposition up for this target," says membership director Carol Cohen.

Targeted benefits include webinars and community forums geared to those segments. A recent webinar on bullying—a big problem for young nurses—attracted 10,000 early-career members. Wow.

Attracting younger members/subscribers is, of course, a golden opportunity for any company or organization. Cohen said that by giving them specifically tailored benefits like advice on student loan refinancing and discount travel, they may stay with ANA—even when their jobs become more niched, and other organizations make plays for them to join.

There are a number of ways to get career-stage segmentation started in your company.

You can rely on the internal knowledge of your staff, especially the ones who deal most with customers. Ask them what resources they believe would be most helpful to those audiences. And similar to how HCPro started their association, use online surveys to gather demographic information, seek opinions about your products and services, and find out what really matters to your customers—whatever age or career stage they are in.

"When you start to look through the eyes of segments, you start to evaluate what is it that they really want and how you can easily reach them," Fox said. "A segment mindset can drive change and lead you to a new way of thinking."

An article last November on Social Media Link argued that too often we market by age and not by life or career stage. "While age range or generational marketing has long been the dominant form of segmentation, life stage marketing has proven to be much more lucrative for the savvy marketer," the article said. "Targeting life stages enables marketers to deeply segment a generation into specific phases of adulthood and craft a more relevant message and offering."

While they may be delving more into life changes like divorce, home buying and parenthood than career, the value of "stage" segmentation still resonates

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…