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Unpacking Successful Segmentation Strategies

Today Jenny welcomes Courtney Mahlandt, Senior Director of Segment Marketing at Evernorth Health Services. Courtney discusses their journey into segmentation, driven by the expansion of their healthcare services beyond pharmacy benefits. They aim to understand their broader audience and their needs and emphasize the importance of involving multiple internal teams. This meant including sales and product right from the start to make segmentation an organizational effort.

Courtney explains how they used a combination of first-party data and external quantitative data analysis, surveying over a thousand existing and potential buyers. Courtney and Jenny discuss the benefits of segmentation in working smarter across teams and enabling product customization, targeted sales efforts, and more engaging marketing campaigns. Courtney also emphasizes the need for continuous data refresh and adapting to market changes. 

Connect with Courtney:

Connect with Jenny:

Jenny: [00:00:00] Hi, friends. Welcome to today’s episode of We Are, Marketing Happy. My name is Jenny Bristow, and I am the CEO at Hedy & Hopp, a healthcare marketing agency. I am so excited today to be here with Courtney Mahlandt. So she is the, let me find your exact title, so I get your title right. She’s the Senior Director of Segment Marketing at Evernorth Health Services, and I’m so excited to chat with you.

We had a lot of fun kind of doing a pre screening call figuring out what the topic was going to be because you not only launched a lead generation campaign that won you two DotCom awards recently, but there’s some really cool segmentation work that you’ve been doing. And so that’s a question we’ve been getting a lot lately.

So that’s the topic we’re going to dig into. Today, so I’d love for you just to give us a little bit of the background of why you decided to embark on a [00:01:00] segmentation project and some of the root causes that was driving that need. 

Courtney: Well, thanks, Jenny. I’m really excited to be here. Appreciate you asking me to be a guest today.

So segmentation has been quite a journey for us and the reason we started and kicked it off initially was we expanded our audience completely. We went from a pharmacy benefit-focused organization, Express Scripts for those of you that are familiar with the organization, and we extended and launched that into a broader health services offering Evernorth Health Services.

So we really needed to better understand our audiences and what their needs were beyond the pharmacy space specifically. 

Jenny: Absolutely. And so whenever you began to embark on this journey, how did you think about or how did you tackle all the different internal groups that were going to be involved in the process?

How did you [00:02:00] identify stakeholders? Did you just kind of go at it alone and then loop people in later? What was your approach? 

Courtney: Yeah, so I guess the very first conversation and where this really started was we had a conversation with our CEO at the time. It’s a really small, intimate group. And he said, marketing is really where we have the opportunity to best engage and understand our clients broadly, our buyers, what their needs are.

And of course, I’m sitting in the room next to them, across the table and saying, yes, thank you for that recognition. That is exactly what we do and where we are focused and how we can best help the organization. So, I reflected on that and I said, okay, but it’s not just marketing’s responsibility. 

As an organization, we need to show up together through all these different groups that are engaging with our stakeholders and our clients and our buyers. And so we really said, okay, if we’re doing segmentation, this needs to be not only marketing [00:03:00] driven, but also something that our sales teams, our till teams, our product teams are bought-in on from the very beginning.

This should be how we’re orienting as an organization. So we started putting together that the core team, myself, my partner in market research and my partners in data and analytics. We said, okay, what could this look like? How could we show up? And we worked with each one of those teams to say, how do we build this the right way?

How do we best solve all of our needs and got that buy-in and commitment from the very beginning so that when we were starting to activate it, it wasn’t a marketing only initiative. 

Jenny: That’s super smart in a place that I see so many people make the missteps. And I just want to say kudos to that CEO for understanding the importance of understanding the specificity of buyers and the persona and how that really weaves throughout the entire organization.

So that’s great that you had that executive level support. So talk to me [00:04:00] about as you started going down this process of understanding who the buyer is, what data did you use? Did you use a combination of first party data and third party data? Kind of how did you decide how you wanted to craft this?

Courtney: So we primarily used our own, we primarily used information that we could lean externally through quantitative data analysis. We actually surveyed over a thousand of our existing and potential buyers. But we really wanted to connect that back into our own data and analytics. That was always the goal.

So we wanted to kind of approach it from both angles and make sure that we could actually say, what does this really mean for our own and existing relationships? Because retention is such a critical part of our business for the organization, and we saw that cross-selling would be a huge opportunity for us as we expanded [00:05:00] beyond that pharmacy benefits into a broader health services viewpoint.

Jenny: Yeah, I love that. I feel like the identification of cross-selling opportunities is always a really fun gem that shows up when you’re doing this kind of work, right? It’s like an unexpected happy surprise sometimes if that wasn’t the primary initiative of the project. So talk to me about, so you had all of this data.

You had a really nice large data set. You had an internal analyst team. How did you tackle? How many personas did you create? How did you segment according to different areas of your business? I think a lot of folks that we talked to are really excited about the idea of creating personas, but they get really overwhelmed when it comes to meshing data with behaviors and key triggers of why somebody would make a purchasing decision.

And so they kind of stop or pause the project if they don’t have a partner to walk them through that. So walk me through kind of how you merge that and how you divided it up. 

Courtney: Yeah, we really [00:06:00] decided that from the beginning that we were going to need an external partner to help us through this while we had an expert in marketing research and expert in analytics and, really kind of helping us navigate what the activation process would be.

We knew that some type of cluster analysis and connecting all of those different data points together. We need the third party to kind of look over and see what are all the different connection points we could make to really pull up what are the key segments and then even from then. At that point, they looked at, I think they did like 40 different analyses to determine which would be the one we would advance and go with.

We wanted to make sure that they were mutually exclusive, that there wasn’t going to be overlap within the different segmentation elements. And then from there, we as a team said, Okay, well, while we have these different segments, we’re probably actually going to focus and prioritize a lot of our efforts on a handful of these efforts to really pull through [00:07:00] this insight across the organization and make this really understandable for the broad team that would be using it.

Jenny: I love it. That’s so smart. So then what would, what did the final deliverable look like whenever you actually presented the winning, let’s say there were four different personas or buyer profiles that you identified. What format did you use? Did you do storytelling? Like walk us through that. 

Courtney: Yeah, there’s a lot of socialization explaining probably where we’ve landed and netted out.

But I think the most important and pivotal step that we landed on that made this real was the workshop. We spent all day together, all these different teams saying, okay, how do we want to make this real? How do we actually activate this? How do we prioritize this and start integrating it into the way that we work today?

And we didn’t stop there. We actually stood up a very non-exciting, but we set up a weekly forum and we [00:08:00] said, okay, we want to make sure that we have one representative from each of these teams. And we keep it going and we held each other accountable. And we started pulling in, okay, where are the successes that we can show?

So in every socialization conversation that we kept getting invited to, because people were interested and excited about the insights, we had more information to show on how we continue to progress and build successes. And instead of us kind of really pushing it out to everybody, we really kind of started building with a snowball effect.

And people were saying, oh, this is a smarter way to do my job. I want to learn a little bit more about that. So, it was a really kind of a natural way to keep the work going, but, we had to keep at it. 

Jenny: Absolutely. And reinforcing those insights is really a never ending process, right? Just continues to evolve and change. So if you had to name the biggest takeaway or the biggest [00:09:00] win for your organization, as far as going through this process today, looking back over the entire timeline of work that you’ve done, what would that be?

Courtney: I think it’s all about working smarter. And every single team that’s using it today is incorporating this into existing strategies, existing work. It’s just helping them achieve their goals in a faster way. So for that product team, they’re creating products that are really going to resonate with the buyers for the sales team.

They’re prioritizing the buyers that these offerings will actually matter most to. So they have faster velocity when they’re trying to break through in those sales, and then, of course, for marketing, when we’re launching these campaigns, we can actually modify the way that we’re showing up to those buyers so that we’re getting higher click through rate, higher engagement and more [00:10:00] follow through.

Jenny: I love it. That’s so wonderful, Courtney. We did a segmentation and a persona project with one of our clients late last year. And just sharing an example to kind of make a palpable for our listeners. They thought that their average buyer, and this was a health insurance product, individual and family.

They thought the average buyer was a man married with children in his late forties. So all marketing was targeted to that persona. We found out it was actually a 62 year old single woman. And so that changed everything, right? That changes the images that you use. That changes the language, that changes the upsell opportunity cause they also provide Medicare, right?

And so, I think it’s really helpful just to have a real example as people start thinking about, yes, it’s a lot of work to go through this data and it’s a lot of work to then socialize it. But my goodness, the end result of marketing is so much more impactful. So, so what’s next, Courtney, what’s [00:11:00] next with your team?

So you’ve done all the segmentation work. You’re socializing it. Where do you see this project going from here? What do you think is the next iteration? 

Courtney: So I mentioned earlier that we use quantifiable data as our starting point. We know that that information isn’t just forever. It’s not evergreen.

We need to keep refreshing it. And one of the ways we really want to further augment it is using additional data, pulling that in and better understanding marketplace changes. I think all of us know that in a, especially those in large organizations, that if leadership changes, if the economy shifts, broader market forces, it changes how we buy and our appetite for other services.

So we really want to make sure that this can continue to live on and be relevant and strengthen the work that we’ve done by augmenting and adding in additional data and information. That’s step one. I would say [00:12:00] also in parallel, we want to continue to work with our company and their sellers, make sure that they feel really comfortable understanding this information and making sure that they can prioritize and bring the right offerings and information to their buyers based off of this, particularly, new people enter the buying group and selections are different, right?

You know, I think something like five to 10 people are typically a part of a buying group. So that changes as organizations evolve. So how do we make sure that everyone has the right information at their fingertips when they’re having quarterly discussions with their clients, for instance.

Jenny: Oh, Courtney. I love it. This has been so helpful. I think for all listeners that are thinking about embarking on a segmentation and persona development project, this has given them a lot of fodder and food for thought. So thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I’m going to link to your LinkedIn in the show notes so if anybody wants to follow up with more specific [00:13:00] questions that they’ll be able to reach out directly.

But again, thank you for being on. And for all of our listeners, be sure to tune in next week for another episode of We Are, Marketing Happy.



About the Author

Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Founder of Hedy & Hopp. Prior to starting Hedy & Hopp, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle and worked at Amazon. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at healthcare marketing industry events.

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