The thing about segmentation

I was in the city of Kolkata last week moderating a panel for an audience largely consisting of Heads or Principals of the leading Schools. Among other things, I also noticed that most of the School Heads in the audience knew each other very well - fairly evident from the bonhomie and back-slapping in view during the coffee and lunch breaks.

If you were a business, marketing your story to the Schools in Kolkata, you don’t need an MBA to tell that as soon as you sign up your first client from this community - others will generally follow as long as you execute well on your story. Why? Because your story is so clearly and immediately referenceable in the context.

What if you went after schools based in another part of India - say Bangalore (in the State of Karnataka) with Kolkata Schools as your only clients? Would it be as easy to secure an entry into this group? I doubt that. For the simple reason that the Bangalore Schools have no way to get a “credible” and “immediate” reference of your story. But with some struggle (read good sales effort) you could still manage it as - however dilute it may be - the story is still referenceable at least from a cultural standpoint. 

But what happens if you train your sights on Schools in China? or the States? The model breaks completely. Your Indian story may not have any referenceability with the School community in these regions.

The ‘ability to reference’ then becomes a critical data-point for every marketer to test the veracity or the consistency of their ”target groups”. Which means if you find that a customer/ cluster from a certain target group can not credibly reference your story with some one else in the group, it could well be a red flag indicating a broken segmentation exercise.

Even In the world of Internet or online marketing, marketers typically use what is called as viral marketing  (using a sticky concept with a pre-designed hook/ idea virus) to ”zero-in” or uncover a high potential target group - which is nothing but a segment or community that is able to reference your story with each other! Same idea but a different application.

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