With the end of the financial year fast approaching and budgets being drafted, now is a great time to start reviewing your marketing and engagement strategies, ready to plan your investment for the year ahead.

If you’re providing services under the NDIS, the end of this financial year is a particularly important milestone – 30 June 2019 marks the end of transition of existing disability service clients to NDIS in SA. For many service providers, that’s going to mean a big shift in focus – from helping existing clients transition, to positioning your services to attract new clients to your service.

Perhaps your focus isn’t NDIS or people with disability. You might be providing services to a different community; or focused on advocacy, fundraising or community engagement. Whatever your mission, now is the time to review your plans.

You’re going to need a good market map.

How to map your market or stakeholders

First… Decide to explore

Your map might define stakeholders (if your purpose is engagement) or a market (if you’re selling services or products to customers). Both are similar in that they categorise groups of people based on common features.

If you’re operating in a volatile context, you might think there’s little point building a map, only to have to make it over again next year. But without a market map, you start each year either working on assumptions (never a good idea!), or starting from scratch to understand your market or stakeholders. That’s a lot of work.

A good market map is solid – it defines the communities you serve, based on factors that don’t often change. This saves you time, reducing the work needed to understand how change might affect stakeholders or customers each time you review your strategy.

Next: Sketch the terrain

Possibly the most important step is to choose the criteria you’ll use to sort people into groups (or segments) with common attributes or behaviours. Once you’ve defined the different groups that make up the market or communities you seek to engage, you have the ‘lie of the land’, and can make conscious choices about where to go, and which groups to prioritise.

It is vital to choose criteria that are real, meaningful and useful:

  • Real: based on actual facts and data, not assumptions.
  • Useful: it’s possible to reach or engage with people who share this criteria.
  • Meaningful: Your criteria shouldn’t be generic, but allow you to define groups with unique needs that can be answered to create value for the community. At the end of the day, creating market or stakeholder segments is only useful if it helps you tailor your approach  – through communications, service delivery, and service design – to more effectively meet people’s needs.

What’s real, useful and meaningful will vary depending on your unique context. A strategic marketing specialist can help your team design a market map that works for your organisation.

Navigate the numbers

Once you’ve got an accurate picture using the right criteria, the next step is to populate your map with hard numbers. This will tell you if the groups you’ve created are addressable – big enough to warrant designing a unique approach.

That need not mean costly market research (though if you have the budget, that’s great!) Most organisations can build a simple but effective market map using a combination of publically available data and information about their own client base.

If you’re an NDIS provider, you’re probably familiar with the challenges involved in getting accurate market data, particularly by location. Part of the issue has been the transition between state-based systems (each with their own means of recording information) and the NDIA. As transition nears completion, the NDIA will have data on the entire cohort. We’ve recently seen release of SDA data by State and Region and a new location-based demand map.

Finally – don’t forget to pack your humanity

Mapping your market or stakeholders, and defining segments is super-useful – and the start of all good marketing or engagement strategies. But it’s not without its pitfalls. Perhaps the worst of these is the tendency to stereotype.

As you use your market map, don’t forget that each segment is made up of individuals. And though groups share commonalities, every human is wonderfully, miraculously unique.

At the end of the day, a map is a guide. How to travel is up to you.