Segmentation is a useful technique to help organisations manage a range of relationships, and forms a cornerstone of a good audience development plan. It is worth taking some time and effort to get this right. This guidance will help you to do that, using Audience Finder insights as well as the companion article on meaningful mapping.

What is segmentation?

Segmentation is simply the process of dividing and organising the population into meaningful and manageable groups – or segments - so that you can tailor your cultural offer and communications to the preferences of each group.

We often talk about ‘our audience’ but in reality we have multiple audiences with different expectations, who come for different reasons and behave in different ways. We need to be able to identify and understand the significant differences before we can respond to them. Segmentation enables us to do this in a coherent way.

Why segment?

If you want to persuade someone to do something (like attending an event), the more you know about them, the better your chances of success. You can make sure, for example, that you tell them about something that interests them, or that you use their favoured means of communication, or even that you don’t put them off by telling them about something that they’re definitely not interested in.

The trouble is, not everyone is persuaded by the same things. Making assumptions about what all audiences/visitors want on the basis of what only SOME people do or say could limit the size and diversity of your audience. Segmentation helps make sense of these variations so that you can devise strategies to engage particular audiences based on the appropriate behaviours and characteristics which they share. It is in effect a recipe for reaching wider and different audiences, more often and more cost effectively.

So what does this mean for my organisation?

Segmentation needs to be workable for your organisation, based on things you can track and do something about. The level of detail at which you segment needs to be appropriate to the level and variety of programme you are able to offer your audiences. Broadly speaking, large organisations with complex offers, bigger budgets, audiences and staff will need more intricate segmentation. Smaller organisations will require simpler ones.

What makes a useful segment?

We all like to think of ourselves as individuals, but it is not manageable for any organisation to treat each individual audience member as a separate segment.

So part of the art of segmentation is to make judgements which are appropriate to your own situation. A useful segment checklist should be:

  • Relevant: identified by things that your organisation can respond to
  • Distinguishable: with characteristics demonstrably and measurably distinctive from other segments
  • Sizeable: of sufficient size to be worth the effort of targeting them
  • Locatable: once identified, you have a way of being able to communicate with them directly

Segmentation Criteria

There are lots of ways of segmenting an audience, and plenty of advice on doing so. The guidance here is simplified to make the most of the information available through the Audiences section. Essentially it is a process of grouping people based on a combination of shared characteristics in the following table:


  • This usually relates to how people have engaged with your organisation:
  • frequency of attendance
  • type of activity or content used
  • level of purchase
  • communication preferences
  • Age
  • Social grade
  • Life stage
  • Family circumstance
  • Place where people live
  • Place where people work
  • Personal interests and values
  • Lifestyle values and choices
  • Attitudes towards culture / your organisation

Getting the information you need

You can collect information to help this through audience surveys and booking/ticketing systems and from some external secondary sources. Audience Finder is designed to make the collection of such data easier.

A development of using booking data for distinguishing between segments on your database is to use geo-demographic profiling. This approach works by looking at what people are like, rather than, or alongside, how they behave as bookers. Two of the leading geo-demographic profiling tools you can use to help profile audiences are Mosaic and Acorn.

Both of these systems classify the entire population of the UK into different Groups and Types of people who share attributes based on key demographic variables and selected lifestyle characteristics. As both systems use postcodes to classify people, you can identify the Acorn or Mosaic profile for anyone on your database, or from survey data with a postcode. In this way you can learn which are the most and which are least represented people within your data. Once you know this you can then go about finding more like them, using this knowledge to help identify geographical areas for targeted audience development activity.

The Audience Agency's new segmentation system Audience Spectrum, which replaces Arts Council England's Arts Audiences Insight, can tell you more about the attitudes of groups of people in your catchment area with different levels and types of cultural engagement from those who are highly engaged through to ones that are least engaged. Whilst Culture Segments is MHM’s, sector-specific segmentation system for culture and heritage organisations. Their Audience Atlas system covers 60 art forms and leisure activities and up to 200 individual arts and heritage venues across the UK and is based on people’s cultural values and motivations.