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Great Segmentation

Paul Metz, Executive Vice President

A segmentation study is a major undertaking for any brand – but the payoff is great as it provides a wealth of information and insight. Who would not want to understand the differences among their consumers and what drives different groups of them? In this sense, segmentation research is almost always "good." Although the segmentation may be “good,” it needs to be more than a highly detailed snapshot. It needs to ground your stakeholders in insights that can drive innovation, communications, and other decisions. That is what a great segmentation does. Remember “good” is not enough; learn the four keys to a great segmentation.

  1. Up-front planning is crucial. The brand team knows the brand, the category, and the relevant issues; the research team knows the methods. They need to come together in a serious discussion to ensure all involved are aligned about the objectives. They need to share what is known and what is unknown about the brand and the category. They need to be sure all of the hypotheses are on the table. If the team is new to the category, perhaps some initial exploratory research, such as in-home ethnographies, needs to be conducted so that hypotheses about the brand and the category can be clarified and be made tangible.
     
  2. A major segmentation analysis rests on a relatively long survey with a significant sample. It will not be successful without high quality data. Time and care must be taken in the development of the survey; nothing good ever comes from rushing through the development of a segmentation questionnaire. A pilot test of survey attribute lists will help reduce survey length and assure the data collected is meaningful. During the main survey itself, data quality protocols should be used to invalidate participants who provide insincere responses--a common problem in lengthy surveys.
     
  3. For the brand team to fully leverage its investment in the research and act on guidance provided by the segmentation, it needs to have a vested interest in the results. A report cannot simply be dropped in its lap when the study is completed. Therefore, iterative analysis assures the final product is usable. Both the brand and research teams need to "dig in" to the preliminary segmentation analytics together to arrive at solutions that make sense. Hands-on work-sessions with preliminary results to profile and name segments are obvious parts of this process. Working together to identify insights and focus the development of the report always yields big dividends.
     
  4. Finally, the results of the segmentation need to "live" with the brand team. Being able to see the "real person" behind a segment guarantees the new product or communication will be on target. The segmentation needs to tell a story. So the process should not end with a "report." A separate research effort should identify archetypal representatives for each segment. Then, creative approaches - such as in-person consumer panels or consumer documentaries on video--can be used to tell their stories succinctly and bring the segments to life.

These are the strategies we use at C+R Research to assure that our segmentation research is not simply "good;" we make it "great.

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