The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

Understanding your Audience

Businessman Looking up at Camera and Standing Outdoors Surrounded by a Large Group of Business PeopleAt the recent CASE Conference in Miami, Stanford’s Alumni Association shared their behavioral segmentation approach, what they call the “Relationship Model,” which allows them to communicate with their alumni in more effective and relevant ways.

The objective of the model was to identify how alumni interacted with the university and trying to understand shifts between groups and how to increase impact with relevant communication.

Instead of trying to migrate all alumni towards a higher engagement level, the point of the model is to better understand Stanford alumni and serve them better. 

What is the Relationship Model?

The relationship model is in essence a way to group your audience by type of behavior. In the case of Stanford, it is the how alumni interact with the university.

The team segmented alumni in the following group starting with the least engaged type:

Relationship MOdel stanford

The model with my notes from the CASE conference.

Find below a more detailed description of each segment:

  • In the Ether:
    • They have never participated in any activity related to the university
  • Remote:
    • Individuals in this group feel like outsiders. They identify with a particular piece of Stanford ( a lab, a team, a professor) but not with the whole unviersity as a whole. They seek relevance. They are neither emotionally nor geographically remote—some of them work on campus.
  • Steady Donor:
    • Just steady donors. They send regular donations but do not interact with the university nor visit campus.
  • Cardinal Spirit:
    • They engage with Stanford in a passive way by maybe using a coffee mug but does not interact with the school in any other way.
  • Quid Pro Quo:
    • This group seeks a value exchange.
  • Intellectual:
    • Individuals in this group feel passionately about a topic and might look to Stanford to provide the with content. The topic is more important than connecting with others.
  • Socials:
    • Some part of their social life revolves around Stanford.
  • Banner Carriers:
    • They take it as a personal responsibility to see that Stanford meet its goals. Altruism plays a key role.
  • Owners:
    • This segments feels a deep responsibility for the fate of Stanford and deeply believe in its mission and what role they can play to help Stanford and even leave their own mark.

Want to know more? Listen to Adam Miller, a familiar face to many of you, explain it in this recording of the session:


And in case the message was not clear, this tweet encapsulates it well:

While sophisticated and perhaps out of reach to many who are still grappling with database integration issues, Stanford’s example is a good reminder that knowing your audience is key to getting results.

So, what do you know about your alumni? How do they interact with the university? Do you know what they want or need from the university to better serve them?

Author: Florencia Prada

Florencia Prada is the Head of Digital Marketing at swissnex San Francisco. While she loves all things tech, she tries hard not to get carried away by shiny objects and new ideas that are all too pervasive in Silicon Valley.

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