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Posted: May 24, 2013

Best of CoBiz: Selling to birds of a feather

They flock together -- and buy the same stuff

Neil McKenzie

The concept behind consumer and lifestyle market segmentation is that "birds of a feather flock together" - people generally live around other people with similar lifestyles, beliefs and product purchases.

If you can profile your customers, it becomes much easier to find new ones using tools like Nielsen's Prizm or Tapestry from Esri. Demographic data is coupled with lifestyle, purchasing, psychographic and geographic information to create descriptive segments.

An example of one segment is Prizm's "Upward Bound," this segment has an upscale income level, most households have children, occupations are management with mostly college graduates, ethnicity is mixed, they order goods online from Target, they watch Nickelodeon and they are likely to own a Honda Odyssey - pretty cool, huh? We are fortunate in Colorado that many public libraries have a free resource based on the Esri model for neighborhood segmentation called Business Decision - ask for it!

So what does this have to do with clustering? Years ago when I used these tools to help market top financial brands, we referred to it as neighborhood clustering. So when I did a search on Google neighborhood clustering, customer segmentation was nowhere to be found, but I found something just as interesting and very timely as we seek to set a course to grow our State's economy.

The Brookings Institution is pushing forward the concept of Regional Innovation Clusters. In the recent article "Innovation Clusters Can Foster the Next Economy," they stated that, "a different kind of growth model that depends less on bubbles and consumption and more on the production of lasting value in metropolitan economies and the super-productive clusters within them." The idea behind this concept is actually simple, capitalize on your strengths to grow the economy using the resources you already have and don't chase the next "big thing." A lot of regions want to be the next Silicon Valley - but do they have the necessary ingredients to make it a reality?

The Brookings' model puts a major emphasis on business and not government in growing the clusters. Government should provide a supportive role by providing information, pulling the players together and fostering policies which enable current clusters and not try to invent clusters. Clearly there is a role for policy makers, business and a cluster's "inhabitants" to make these sectors grow and prosper.

In Colorado we seem to have several clusters that can provide a great foundation for future growth and economic development. Some of the major clusters that come to mind are: energy (with a growing emphasis on renewable), IT & telecom, biotechnology & biomedical, tourism and of course our creative sector. If you know of others please leave a comment.

We are fortunate in Colorado to have a highly entrepreneurial population. It is these companies and individuals that are going to lead our future growth and prosperity. They need the support from our business community and government to make sure that they have the proper resources, an educated workforce and initiatives to capitalize on our strengths and not chase the next biggest thing.

In the end it seems to me that neighborhood segmentation and economic clustering have a lot in common - birds of a feather DO flock together! If you want to sell more of your product or service look for customers like the one's you already have. If you want to grow your economy, concentrate on promoting and growing the sectors where you are strong, you will develop a good reputation and customers will seek you out.

In a recent conversation with Dr. Barry Martin, Dean of Professional Studies, Regis University he left me with an interesting idea that technology and capital are highly mobile and people are not. It is up to us to develop an environment where we attract both capital and technology - we already have the talented and creative people. I don't want to move from Colorado, do you? 

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations in the areas of business and marketing planning.  His recently published book, The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox, was written to take the mystery out of business for artists and other creative professionals. He has more than 30 years experience as a management consultant and corporate marketing executive working with hundreds of organizations including some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a visiting professor at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he developed and teaches Artrepreneurship; and at University College at the University of Denver, where he teaches the graduate course, Marketing for the Arts.  He is a frequent guest lecturer to artists and organizations in the creative sector and writes about the creative economy including several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization.  Neil can be reached at 720-339-3160, or






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