A Priori or Post Hoc: How are You Segmenting Your Alumni?
In terms of marketing communications efforts, there are two primary ways of segmenting your target audience: a priori and post hoc.
A priori segmentation classifies people into groups based on variables that are considered most relevant. For college and university alumni, such variables include age, gender, class year, academic major, ability to give, etc. The a priori approach provides broad behavioral insights about a population, but it rarely explains why people make particular decisions or engage in specific behaviors.
Post hoc segmentation is typically based on primary research regarding people’s activities, interests, and beliefs. Segments emerge from this approach because of similarities in participants’ responses across multiple variables rather than “a priori” intuition for specific, pre-determined variables. Because the post hoc method is based on underlying motivations, it provides a very rich description for explaining the behaviors and developing more powerful marketing programs.
In response to a higher education fundraising environment that is contending with a major shift in alumni demographics, fierce philanthropic competition, an economic downturn, and decreasing state support, Converge Consulting felt that the time was right to question conventional paradigms of donor research. Where much investigation has adopted the a priori approach and focused largely on variables such as gender, class year, academic major, and ability to give as major predictors of giving behavior, Converge felt that attitudinal and motivational examination had been largely left out of the equation. Therefore, we selected the post hoc segmentation to guide our research.
Times are changing. New methods of inquiry are required to inform marketing communications. For more information about our research approach and how more than 2000 alumni responded nationwide to our donor motivation study, please learn more here