engagement intiatives

Not Quantity but Quality: Segmenting is Key

Not Quantity but Quality: Segmenting is Key

When I was the Director of Alumni Relations at my alma mater I was often asked what my job entailed. Many thought my primary role was to raise money for the school. Others thought I was a party planner. While there is nuance to being an alumni engagement professional, at the end of the day we are all seeking one thing, to get someone to take an action.

Whether you’re a major gift officer or someone running regional chapters, at the end of the day your job boils down to convincing someone to change their behavior and take a strong action. Today, that seems even harder than ever. We all know how challenging it is to rise above all the noise and reach our alumni and constituents on social media or in their inbox.

Now, more than ever, alumni engagement professionals must be nimble and deliberate with their marketing. So how do you do that.


Chances are you’ve been blasting the same mailer or email to your whole alumni base, cities, or groups. Chances also are that “segmentation” is a bit of a scary word that makes you think you’re going to spend a day slicing and dicing excel spreadsheets. But modern tools and technology have changed this and currently allow us to reach our alumni in more meaningful ways.

In our recent Engagement 101 Workshop, we explored the different ways to segment. Many of the ways you probably already have the data for, including:

Geographic: City, State, Region
Demographic: Grad Year, Gender, College/Campus Affiliation, Industry
Psychographic: Lifestyles and values (ie Married, Children, Point in Career)

Other types of segmentation are a bit more challenging and require a deeper analysis. These include:

Occasion: Time in alumni lifecycle
Benefit: Functional and emotional benefit alumni are seeking (ex. Professional Development)
Behavioral: Frequency and recency of engagement

There is no doubt that even with the first three types of segmentation that you can start building meaningful segments for your marketing now. A 65 year old woman is not going to respond to a marketing outreach the same way as a 23 year old male. Think about how you can build different groups and what will make them follow through with your call to action.

For emails always think about what it looks like on mobile, regardless of the audience you are segmenting to, but then think about the language, imagery, and even timing for your different groups. An older audience might react more strongly to a text based email in the morning, while you might catch the eyes of a younger audience during their community with a graphic email and a subject line with an emoji. The beautiful thing about segmentation is that it gives you an opportunity to be behavioral scientist and see what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work.

Think of something as simple as a regional happy hour. It probably seems like the most straight forward event an alumni office can hold. But then think again of the types of people coming to the event. You have recent grads who may be looking to score their first job, you may have mid-career alumni looking to network, you have older grads just looking to come back to reconnect with their alma mater, and then you have people just looking to grab a beer with old friends after work. All of these personas are important and should feed into the way you market your emails and the way you run ads on Facebook.

Also, don’t forget how much of an advantage geography can be. There is tremendous value in sending out an email to a particular three digit zip code and saying “we’re coming to your back yard”.

At the end of the day it’s about personas and how we start to build these different groups of people and think about what their life is like and how their alma mater can fit into their life. Data is your best friend and if you want to stay nimble and continue to reach your alumni in the most meaningful way possible then you have to put the shotgun marketing aside and adopt a more targeted approach using modern tools.

Interested in learning more about segmenting? Schedule a time to chat with our team here!