Green Acres and Milk and Cookies

I’ve already blogged about the topic of Market Segmentation, but as Gina Millsap, director of Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library says, it’s so sexy that I can’t resist writing a bit more.  Plus, knowing your residents’ needs is just too important a topic for only one post. 

Gina and Eva Calcagno of Washington County (OR) Cooperative Library Services are both using market segmentation to get hard data to explore their entire population’s needs, not just those who frequent the library.  The results of this process let you communicate with and serve your service areas more effectively.  And you gain insight into your area so you can position your library to be  truly customer-centric. 

A market segmentation system needs to be robust to reveal customer differences and be stable so it’s reliable and predictive and can paint a picture of the customer to inform your organization’s strategic decisions.  The system should look at characteristics of your peeps – who are they? what do they look like? what do they need, buy, want?  how do they act?  The Bureau of Labor Statistics does consumer preference surveys every few years and that’s where they get the info about buying preferences, activities etc. from.  ESRI’s Tapestry system is used as CIVICTechnologies has found it’s most affordable and it segments people down to the census block level.  These segments describe the lifestyle and life stage of people living in specific areas.

Eva, Mark & Gina

Washington County, where Eva’s the director, goes from just west of Portland to the sea and is the fastest growing county in OR.  It’s the economic engine of OR and includes Intel and Columbia Sportswear facilities as well as the Nike world headquarters.  They have a shared library catalog, do outreach to special populations, member support services, courier service and operational funding to their libraries and have over 300,000 registered patrons in nine cities.  Eva wanted to know who wasn’t using their libraries and she wanted her libraries to start thinking about “our” patrons rather than “my” patrons.  Segmentation let them chart checkouts, patrons and population so they could send targeted newsletters to specific groups.  Overlaying the data on a census map let them see where they should have library locations and what kinds of services and programs they should offer e.g. offering digital camera workshops to a gadget oriented population meant that this class quickly filled up six times.

Gina talked about how the process let her shape their strategic planning.  She was interested in using GIS data to get to know her customers better so used BCR, their regional services provider, to find CivicTechnologies.  Their market sementation project made her realize that many of her assumptions were incorrect.  Areas she thought didn’t use the library did and in fact had high checkout rates.  This let her know that they weren’t an underserved segment that needed to be targeted.  She also thought that customers living furthest from the library used the mailing services most.  They didn’t – distance was no predictor of who used their free materials mailing (!) service.  This let them save hundreds of thousands of dollars as they now charge residents $2 for this service. 

They thought rural Shawnee County (Green Acres) preferred films over books, but market segmentation data made them realize that they actually check out more books than films.  So, to test the effectiveness of market segmentation they are developing a marketing plan that targets this segment.  Green Acres actually has a volunteer run community library, so obviously the weekly stop from the bookmobile is not serving their needs (TSCPL has one building and several bookmobiles (including an Adventuremobile for kids) to cover the 528 or so square miles of their service area).  

Market segmentation data lets you hone in on not just a town or zipcode – you can profile a census block and or even a household (for those concerned about privacy issues here, this data is not made public – and individual profiling is not the intent of market segmentation).  Of course not everyone exactly fits the profile, but it really allows you to make much more accurate assumptions about the needs of your various markets and what programs, materials and services they’ll use and appreciate. 

For more information, here’s their PowerPoint, or contact Mark Futterman at for a copy of the white paper (unfortunately it’s not online anymore).

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