Segmentation Stir Fry

2013-06-stir-fryHere at Market Strategies, we’re aw-shucks proud of our approach to segmentation research. Give us half a chance, and we’ll jump to tell you how our multi-platform approach integrates behavioral, emotional/motivational and demographic/firmographic segmentation into a single blended solution. Numerous elements contribute to how we deliver actionable results, from intensive working sessions with stakeholders and qualitative research at the outset of the process, to innovative deliverables that help land the research with business stakeholders. But we think the multi-platform approach is a big part of what makes us unique.

2013-06-segmentation

Cooking with IT Decision Makers

An experienced researcher might ask, “Is there such a thing as purely emotional or behavioral segmentation? Aren’t all segmentation solutions at least a little bit blended?” Great question! Like in many situations, this is where I turn to a cooking metaphor. (Other cooking-as-research pearls of wisdom include, “Sampling errors are like burning the garlic. There’s just no fixing it, you have to throw out the sauce and start all over.”)

When it comes to segmentation, I think our approach is like the perfect stir fry. Sure, stir fry dinners look easy, but they often go wrong when cooks throw everything into the wok at once and hope for the best. Each ingredient has a different cooking time. You can’t expect your tofu or chicken to cook in the same amount of time as your asparagus and broccoli. If you do, you’ll end up with a sub-par dish, with most of the ingredients either under- or over-cooked.

Let’s say we want to segment the audience of IT decision makers (ITDMs for short). Of course there are firmographic differences to include (company size, years in business, industry vertical, geography, workforce distribution and mobility). There are also emotional or motivational considerations like attitudes about Cloud and receptivity to BYOD. Finally, we have a variety of behavioral inputs such as the current IT environment, existing systems and processes and amount of influence of line-of-business on technology decisions.

If we were to incorporate all of these variables into a single segmentation solution, we could be making a big mistake. As in other areas of modeling, forces such as multi-collinearity conspire to mask the influence of similar variables or artificially inflate the impact of other factors. An ITDM from a financial services organization, with a high priority on data security and a distributed workforce of advisors, will have both highly correlated inputs as well as some that are intuitively contradictory, a situation that could interfere with the segmentation modeling.

Attending to One Ingredient at a Time

Our approach to segmentation assures proper attention to each input. First, we cook each ingredient separately and completely on its own.  Sure, we use the same pan (survey instrument), but we take the time to make sure each ingredient is attended to as it should be. Only in the final step do we combine our ingredients, make the sauce and bring it all together for the final, perfectly balanced meal.

Returning to our ITDM example, we conduct three individual and separate segmentations for behavioral, firmographic and emotional/motivational factors. Together with our clients, we iterate back and forth deciding on the best solution within each segmentation. Once the optimal individual segmentation solutions are identified, we combine those individual solutions to bring it all together for a segmentation that more holistically reflects the ITDM world and is relevant and actionable for business stakeholders. Expanding on our example, let’s assume the organizations in our sample frame have very different firmographic profiles. As a result of this diversity, the relatively smaller differences among emotional aspects measured in the questionnaire may not be reflected in the segment definitions if we were to conduct a single segmentation. However, by conducting firmographic and emotional segmentations separately at the outset, the emotional elements have a greater opportunity to play a role in the final solution.

Our clients make confident business decisions based on a well-rounded view of the customer that includes a rich attitudinal profile of customer needs and motivations, as well as clear profiling information for targeting and revenue forecasting.

Bon Appétit!

This entry was posted in Industry Expertise, Segmentation, Technology and tagged , by Carolyn Ahlstrom, Ph.D.. Bookmark the permalink.
Carolyn Ahlstrom, Ph.D.

About Carolyn Ahlstrom, Ph.D.

Carolyn Ahlstrom is a vice president of research and consulting in the Technology division of Market Strategies. She is a RIVA-trained moderator who has nearly 10 years of qualitative and quantitative research experience with B2B and consumer audiences. Prior to joining Market Strategies, Carolyn held positions at Phoenix Marketing International, TNS and Temple University's Institute for Survey Research. She earned a doctorate in social and organizational psychology from Temple University, where she taught undergraduate courses in statistics and worked as an independent statistical consultant for a variety of clients.

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