Though they have the same goal — to help you understand your customers so you can market to them effectively — personas and market segmentation strategies have notable differences.

Market segmentation identifies pieces of your audience based on broad commonalities like geography, profession, or marital status, while personas are highly specific representations of particular individuals within segments. For high level strategic planning, market segments are the way to go.

When it comes to tactical daily operations, personas will guide your approach. For this reason, personas will be most accurate and most useful when they are based on clearly defined and well-researched market segments.

Market Segmentation Strategies

Market segmentation typically serves one of two primary functions:

  1. Establish the size of particular market segments so you know which ones to go after (e.g. married women, students, apartment dwellers).
  2. Give insight into shared needs, buying tendencies, and lifestyles that will allow you to target your marketing message more efficiently and effectively (e.g. married women want to be more organized, students want cheap meals, apartment dwellers need more space).

In general, a market segmentation study should be able to divide your big picture of your target audience into more specific segments with common needs, interests, and priorities, etc.

Examples of Effective Market Segmentation

You can segment your market in a lot of ways: “by product or service needs, by sensitivity to price, by geographic area, by demographic segment, or by psychographics and lifestyles.” The bottom line, however, is that in order to be successful, market segmentation strategies should be based on an understanding of three crucial aspects of your market:

Why They Care: what your customers need and want
Demographics: how various groups within your overall market differ from another
Buying Process: how consumers/customers decide among products or services

For example, if you sell running shoes and your target demographic is the very broad category of women 22-45 years old, your segmentation strategies should revolve around effectively breaking that group down into manageable pieces.

One segment might be based on the first criteria above: what those women need.

Do they need motivation to workout? Comfortable all-day shoes? Stylish footwear that transitions from the gym to everyday use? You could use market segmentation to break your message down to meet all three of those needs via various channels.

You could continue your segmentation strategies further by determining how these women differ from one another.

What to do With Market Segmentation Data

The motivation needs group may need more push-style messaging such as emails or texts, while the comfort and style groups might respond better to inbound marketing efforts like infographics or how-to articles.


Market segmentation can even help you determine whether some pieces of your audience are too small. For example, if you discovered via your research into the women’s differences that only 5% were students, then it may not make sense to develop marketing messages aimed solely at that group.

On the other hand, if 52% are married and 72% are working full time, then you should make sure to be using channels on which these particular groups are very active. That might mean a heavy focus on Pinterest and LinkedIn, but not so much on display ads.

Using Strategic Market Segments to Make Tactical Personas

Persona creation should come only after you have dialed in some specific features of your target demographic through market segmentation. These biographies are highly detailed, imaginary representations of particular people from your target audience, which you should use to guide equally specific marketing and product choices.

Creating Useful Personas

Personas have their roots in programming and user experience design, in which programmers use them to make sure the features they’re creating will benefit actual users instead of just being super cool.

Marketing personas act the same way. They should be used to make sure that the content we’re putting up on Facebook, for example, speaks directly to someone in our target audience who is likely to be an avid Facebook user.

You’ll need to play around with exactly what kind of data you want and need in your personas, but they should directly relate to the kinds of marketing you’re trying to do.

Our concerns are mainly about a person’s professional life, so that’s where our personas focus.

Some personas can get very, very specific: Andrea the Working Mom likes to drink Pinot Noir, watches reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in her spare time, and has two kids. She wants to have more time to herself but also more time for her family.

If you’re going to be trying to connect with your audience on a personal level, particularly on social media, these kinds of personas can be valuable.

Others focus solely on the demographic data that is relevant to marketing: Andrea the Working Mom works out twice per week in her home but wishes it was more often. She likes to wear her workout shoes to the office but worries it’s not fashionable.

Whatever information you choose to include in your personas, they should help you vividly visualize those people. It’s a lot easier to craft meaningful messages if you’re writing directly to “Andrea the Working Mom” instead of “working moms between 30 and 39.”

Conclusion: Why Personas Need Market Segments

Market segments are a strategic marketing tool: they allow you to create a broad strategy that will appeal to a large group within your target audience.

Personas, on the other hand, are tactical tools. Because they are a single, high specific individual profile they let you focus on specialized messaging that can connect with your audience.

This progression from broad to narrow focus, and from general demographics to particular characteristics is why personas work best when they follow good market segmentation. Market segments are a strategic marketing tool, while personas are tactical.

See how Marigold can help you make the most of your segmentation strategies.