Stakeholder Segmentation
October 6, 2017

Stakeholder Segmentation: Why you need one and video personas

By Paul Laughlin

Do you have a stakeholder segmentation? Had you even considered the need for one?

Perhaps you think segmentations are just for customers or other parties external to your business. Does creating one for your key stakeholders sound like ‘over engineering‘?

I’ve heard that response before. Yet, in this post I’ll make the case for how a stakeholder segmentation can help. I’ll also provide an example of one option, a simple segmentation designed for this purpose.

If you’ve already read and applied the advice in our earlier post on Stakeholder Mapping, this is a good next step. You are hopefully in the position of having a prioritised list of ‘key player‘ stakeholders. Those you want to manage carefully. Your next challenge is they are not all the same.

Why bother with a stakeholder segmentation?

The reasons why you need one, are akin to the reasons why a consumer segmentation is often needed. For many businesses, at its simplest, there is a need to provide a better CX and to do so in a cost efficient way. In other words, to communicate with their customers in a way that feels personal & relevant to each one; whilst not needing to have a different version for each customer.

Identifying groups of customers, who are similar enough (in life-stage, affluence, behaviour or attitudes) has been key to CRM. Once identified they have enabled segmented communication, propositions and even CX journeys. When done well, this can enable a positive experience for each customer, who feels valued.

I’m sure you can see that achieving such a positive impact, for your priority stakeholders, is as important. Plus, as we explained in post on stakeholder mapping, you don’t have time to do everything differently for each one. A stakeholder segmentation, that enables you to group them in ways that work for them, is a powerful tool. It should enable you to develop a few variations of engagement/influencing approach, that feel personal for them.

Which tool can I use for segmenting my stakeholders?

If you’ve been convinced that segmenting your stakeholders makes sense, your next challenge is how? Unlike consumer segmentations, the market is not awash with advertised solutions.

Historically, leadership development programmes have tended to advocate a psychographic segmentation. These have also been popular for team building. I suspect you have already been profiled by more than one. The most widely used variants are:

Myers Briggs segmentation

Based on the work of Carl Jung, this segmentation places you into one of 16 possible segments. Each person (stakeholder) needs to answer a questionnaire, that enables identification by a four character code. For instance, I am an INTJ. The first letter stands for Introversion (rather than Extroversion). The second for iNtuition (rather than Sensing). The third for Thinking (rather than Feeling). The last for Judging (rather than Perceiving). It is a rich understanding, with lots of resources available to help you analyse. But, it does need that questionnaire to be completed.

Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die

My name is Adam Grant, and I am an INTJ. That’s what I learned from a wildly popular personality test, which is taken by more than 2.5 million people a year, and used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies.

Belbin Team Roles

This is based on work at Henley Management College. With this approach, individuals again answer a questionnaire. This time, that scores them against 8 possible team roles. An advantage over Myers Briggs, in my view, is you are not allocated into a category. Rather you have insight into those roles you are stronger in & those where you may struggle. This helps when designing complementary team mixes. For example, I score highly on Plant role, but much lower on Completer Finisher, so it helps to collaborate with others with that strength.

Helpful, but it does again need a questionnaire to be completed.

The Nine Belbin Team Roles

The nine Belbin Team Roles; their strengths and weaknesses, and how to use the nine Belbin Team Roles when working with a team. To find out your Belbin Team Role profile you need to complete the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory and ask for feedback from those you work with.

Strength Finders

This is based on work at Gallup research agency. This time the focus is on helping individuals to identify their top 5 strengths. The underlying principle being that you will have more success ‘playing to your strengths’. We’ve previously reviewed the handy little book published by Gallup to enable people to take & understand this test.

It can be a very helpful tool, especially when coaching clients, but once again requires the completion of a questionnaire.


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Plato’s Four Humours

There are many four-segment solutions marketed for business teams, based on this wisdom from the ancient Greeks. You’ve probably experienced workshops or team exercises based on these. Some use four different colours, some animals, some shapes. A few also allow for a virtual fifth segment for people who are more balanced across all four. These are simplistic, based on a dominant preference, but do have the advantage of not requiring a questionnaire.

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What is wrong with these solutions?

So, if there are already at least four popular solutions on the market, why am I suggesting another? The reason is the difficulty applying any of the above solutions to your stakeholders.

First, is the problem of requiring a questionnaire for most of the above. If you are seeking to better influence many senior leaders across your business, don’t start by asking them to fill out a questionnaire. A great first experience is not making them feel like your research project. So, although the top three above can all yield valuable insights for individuals, they rarely work for stakeholders.

But there is a second limitation, that applies to all the above solutions. Their psychological basis and application applies to the whole of people’s lives. They were not developed to focus on behaviour and attitudes within working life.

If you’ve worked for any time in corporate life you will know that most people are different in work to outside. Despite what idealists may advocate, most people do not bring ‘their whole selves to work’. For some corporate environments, that would not work & you need to better understand attitudes & behaviour in work.

So, is there a solution? Well, unusual though it is for me to recommend the work of one of the big management consultancies – Deloitte have done some good work on this. Let me share their segmentation and explain why I think it fits the bill for pragmatic stakeholder segmentation.

Deloitte’s Business Chemistry segmentation

You might be feeling like giving up on a pragmatic solution, one that focusses on working life & doesn’t need a questionnaire. But, fortunately, Deloitte have developed such a solution.

Their “Business Chemistry” segmentation has been exclusively designed for us in a business context. Using research and data on leadership behaviour, they also applied learning from neuro-anthropology & genetics. The result is a segmentation that can be self assessed using 20 questions. But, more importantly, the segments are richly described, encouraging the ability to assign others. This enables you to predict the segments for each of your stakeholders, based on your experience & observation.

For a bit of fun, Deloitte have also published four short videos describing the four main segments. There are also four others as interim stages between these. But, if you grasp these four then you should be able to use this tool to help segment your own stakeholders. Let’s take a look…


These leaders seek possibilities. They spark energy and imagination in their quests. Like, Ernest Shackleton…


These leaders seek challenge. They generate momentum in their determination for success. Like, Theodore Roosevelt…


These leaders seek stability. They bring order and rigour, focussing on the details and ensuring completion. Like, Queen Victoria…


These leaders seek connection. They bring teams together, listen & achieve through collaboration. Like, Abraham Lincoln…

To learn more about each of these segments and how to use them, take a look at Deloitte’s Business Chemistry blog. There are plenty of useful infographics and other resources there. These include a Stress Study, to understand how different segments may behave under stress. Worth considering if you are sometimes shocked by reactions:

Digging deeper on Business Chemistry

Want to know more about Business Chemistry? Check out these resources. Business Chemistry | Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships A guide to putting cognitive diversity to work. Ever wonder what it is that makes two people click or clash? Or why some groups excel while others fumble?

What about you & your Stakeholder Segmentation?

Which segment do you identify with? When you think of your own difficult stakeholders, do they fit in one or two segments? What does that tell you about where you may struggle or need to change tack?

I hope those resources help you. We will talk more in future posts about what you might flex for different segments. Situational leadership requires adapting your style, as you better understand your audience. This is one of the key skills of stakeholder management.

Do you have an alternative solution for stakeholder segmentation, that has worked well for you? If so, please do share in either the comment boxes below or on social media. There is too little focus on this need, let’s start a conversation…