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Marchand--Segmentation - Man of Many Words Finds One

January 1999
Never known for brevity, I am thrilled to be able to reduce to one word my marketing advice for the new year now upon us: SEGMENT.

Life is observably complex. A walk in the woods, a stroll in the mall, a visit with a client in a downtown high-rise—they all reveal diversity and the complex relationships that affect our lives. So I intuitively mistrust reductionist approaches to difficult matters. They tend to oversimplify. Still, I say to all you printing sales and marketing managers, segment your customer and prospect lists.

It's true: My teeth are set on edge when I see brief guides to self-improvement or sure-fire paths to business success, whether they promise to take pounds off my waistline (yes!), grow hair on my head (no need there) or make me a tycoon (via 12-minute management techniques, the seven principles or the six secrets of the successful). Nevertheless, and despite my mistrust of programs that make difficult matters seem very simple, segment your customer and prospect lists, then target your marketing to each segment. (Wow, this keeps getting longer every time I repeat it.)

OK, so I haven't really reduced to laconic simplicity the advice I have for printing executives. Read on; it gets more complex if you stay with me through the following paragraphs. But it's fun to have gotten the idea down to one word.

What is Segmentation?
Your capabilities, products and services have certain commonalties. They are defined by the equipment you run, the kinds of products you produce and how you work with customers. Executives working in production-oriented industries know this so clearly that it hardly seems worth discussing. They have a short-hand that allows them to quickly describe their companies. Just eavesdrop when printers meet at GRAPH EXPO or a similar trade show.

"We run narrow web flexo label equipment . . . matched five-unit half-webs with finishing lines plus five- and six-color 40˝ sheetfed equipment . . . produce brochures, magazine and mail inserts . . . T-1 lines and ISDN capabilities . . . we're a high-end sheetfed house . . . do short-run annual reports, corporate identity and capability packages … digital prepress . . . fold and stitch . . . and end-to-end digital workflow."

A jargon only those who initiate it can understand. When I first heard it spoken, I wondered why customers weren't included in the shorthand. Who do these companies print for, I thought? What are their customers' industries? Are there any commonalities among them? Do they have any shared special needs (beyond wanting it fast, good and, oh yes, at the lowest price)?

 

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