We’ve recently run a series of blogs on the challenges that firms face in implementing a segmentation strategy that is relevant, useful and not overly complex.   In this, the final in the series, our Directors’ Briefing Room, we’re going to summarise the key issues and make recommendations for how to address these at your firm.

The fundamental issue is that there is often a disconnect between the firm’s overall business strategy and CRM technology.  This has led to decisions being made about segmentation that are system or sometimes process driven but do not line up directly with what the firm is trying to achieve.

So what are the key issues?

  • There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of clarity when it comes to designing the segmentation model.   The firm needs to consider what are the elements that are actually being used to segment clients and contacts and do they line up with the way in which those audiences are described in the firm’s overall business plan?


  • There does not seem to be firm wide ownership for segmentation, or to put it in system speak, taxonomy.   Whilst it may be true that a lot of data does not originate in CRM, it cannot really be argued that CRM and therefore by definition, Business Development, does not own the way in which we segment are key audiences.  Yet this does not seem to be happening.  Often it’s because Business Development actually see this as an IT  issue and not a part of segmentation strategy and don’t want to own it.


  • There is confusion between terminology.  Firms say industry when they mean work type or practice area, they say job title when they mean function, level or decision making role.  If you’re going to be able to invite people to the right events you’ve got to get to grip with the terminology.


  • For those of you operating in a global firm, you’ve got the additional challenge of trying to allow flexibility to encourage participation in the CRM system whilst trying to achieve consistency of approach.


  • There is a culture of recycling lists within marketing.  This is heavily influenced by the issues described above but there is also an element of using these issues as an excuse not to use the CRM system.

And the solution is?

  • Simplification of the segmentation model is vital.  Start with a list of the audiences with which you have relationships (or are targeting) and write a narrative of how you define them.  For example, “A current client is any client with positive financial activity in the last 2 financial years”.  Once you have completed this it becomes a great deal easier to work out the criteria you need to identify and segment them.


  • Get your team to map out which system or which process is responsible for maintaining which piece of information.  Many firms are either manually replicating information in CRM that exists elsewhere or integrating “everything” to make sure that there are no gaps.  Either way you’re wasting resource which you probably don’t have sufficient of as it is.


  • Engage at the senior levels within Finance, IT, HR.  Chances are you’ll need to get cross functional agreement when it comes to changing segmentation and so Marketing/ Business Development should not try and go it alone.


  • Communicate why you’re doing this.  Being able to articulate the objectives of a rationalised, well-structured segmentation model in terms of the wider business issues that will be addressed is vital.  Selling this in terms of the efficiency savings in marketing has a value but that value is limited and will generate little interest beyond your immediate team.