Labeling is important


When we started on the quest for a diagnosis for my son to understand why his behaviour was different from other children we were met with the response from some people that you shouldn’t give people labels.


As I have been segmenting and profiling customers for clients for years, this is rather like telling an accountant that the best way to run a business is to put all your receipts in a shoebox.

The point of creating a label for my son is:

  • So that if there is a medical explanation we understand how to parent more effectively so that he does not suffer long lasting trauma; we can also advise his school and other professionals (dentists, doctors etc) about how best to handle him
  • We can help him with issues when they occur – minimize the pain points and come up with a solution that best fits his need
  • If we knew whether or not there was a reason for his actions it would make them more predictable
  • It would strengthen our relationship with him
  • If you do not give them a label then they still get one – on this case it would have been “naughty”. This is apparently a strict interpretation of NICE guidelines to send parents on a course, discharge them and when they come back on the system you send them on another one!

After over a year of running through hoops and generally banging our heads against a brick wall, (it appears the duty of all public institutions to avoid wasting taxpayers money in this area through inefficient bureaucracy and poor communication) we now have one diagnosis – namely that of ADHD.

The problem is that we thing that this may not be the dominant characteristic and we see more autistic traits in him. This means that the label is not actionable as, very broadly speaking, the definition of which is dominant is key to whether we adopt a strict form of parenting or a one focused on encouragement.

So what is the point of this story – well substitute “my son” for “customers” and the same key messages hold true:

  • Always take professional advice – the quality of advice received has been exceptional – although they are limited by antiquated and byzantine processes
  • Get the best evidence you can to understand their needs – this may be from data you naturally collect (EPOS, feedback forms or a focused research project). Staff are also a great source of information and may already be segmenting your clientelle – in fact that is one of the reasons why some sales staff are so effective.
  • Make sure your labels are actionable – demographics do not always provide this and the systems I like are more about aspirations, pain points and the jobs that need to be done (JTBD). They should also be based on the customers’ needs and desires, not primarily your own
  • Make sure the labels are not crass – when marketers labels become public they can cause offence – no one likes to be compared to Victor Meldrew or referred to as Disloyal.
  • Use them to support current relationships as well as for creating new ones. Labels can actually strengthen a relationship with customers, if you can understand quickly and easily what a client wants then you can demonstrate the right solution for them. This can also persuade new customers to try you out as the risk appears less.

However frustrating, it is worth spending time and money on getting this right – this is about the lifetime value of the customer rather than a quick fix.  One great way to get customer segmentation right is the jobs to be done methodology – which really does focus your thinking.  Here is an example of one such segmentation:


The big difference between my son and my customers is that my son cannot switch to a rival family so he is stuck with us until he is 16!

If you would like any more information about customer profiling or segmentation, then please get in contact at

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