Picking up from Tuesday’s post, the second part of the Yankelovich & Meer article in the Harvard Business Review [‘Rediscovering Market Segmentation’] includes their recommendations for six questions to ask yourself when you are developing your segmentation scheme.
What are we trying to do? Audience research is not about exploring the personalities of priority
audiences (or any of a host of variables that hold more theoretical than
practical value), but identifying groups of people open to trying the behaviors
we are suggesting to them. If, say, we want to increase physical activity among 12-16 year-old girls, then
segmentation strategies might focus on which subgroups of these girls are more
open to being active alone or with others, want structured activities or
convenience, or were more active when they were younger.
Which customers drive profits? That is, which priority audiences matter to and impact on an organization’s ability to meet its mission and objectives. For example, while many programs focus on ‘new’ adopters for target behaviors, it may actually be more profitable (achieve better reach and higher levels of efficiency and efficacy) in some circumstances to focus on “current” adopters who are asked to serve as the models and promoters for the behavior (the community health worker movement has certainly been successful with this approach for over 20 years).
Which attitudes matter to the buying decision? Focusing on what Y&M term “immutable personality traits” does not mean that lifestyles, attitudes, self-image and aspirations cannot be explored with potential audiences, just that these explorations be related to the behaviors (products or services) we are interested in offering, increasing or decreasing. Thus, for our 12-16 year-old girls, understanding that the change from elementary or middle school to high school has a number of impacts on self-esteem and social status; that striving for autonomy and independence from family influences increases over this age range; and that these girls lead overscheduled, hectic lives in which they believe they ‘need more energy’ to get through the day are important as long as they relate to understanding the context for increasing physical activity and suggesting elements of the marketing mix on which to base our intervention strategies.
What are my customers actually doing? Y&M point to the
enduring psychological principle that the best predictor of future behavior is
one’s past behavior as a reminder that formative research should strive to
create conditions or simulations for the audience to respond to as often as is
feasible. For physical activity we might
ask these girls to keep a daily log for a week prior to the focus group session
to record times and places where they thought they might have been able to be
more active “if only… [fill in the blank].” Or we could ask them to take photos with disposable cameras or their
cell phones of areas around their home or school neighborhoods that are ‘great,’
‘bad,’ and ‘could be made better’ places to be physically active and then
discuss these photos and ‘reasons why’ in any of a variety of formats
(individual interviews, dyads or triads).
Will this segmentation make sense to senior management? A point I don’t often see made about segmentation schemes but, as Y&M illustrate, can be a real stumbling block for marketing managers in proposing new programs. I can imagine what some public health officials have thought (if not said out loud) when presented with segmentations that went beyond the ‘known and safe’ demographic world. And I have been asked on occasion by leery senior managers to provide a reality check on their staff’s proposed segmentation strategy. Finally, imagine the resistance of managers who don’t trust the research designs, methods or data analytic techniques because they are unfamiliar with them?
Can our segmentation register change? Their point here is that segmentations should not be viewed as one-time, go-for-broke activities but as part of on-going research efforts to address important organizational questions and public health/social change issues. Not only can an 'all-or-nothing' approach be a barrier to reaching consensus on priority audiences, but it also undermines the important role and contribution this research makes to the overall program.
The takeaway from this article for social marketers and
How to Tell That Your Segmentation Scheme Needs Work
- It reads like a page from a census document.
- It is overly concerned with the consumers’ identities to the neglect of which behavioral features matter to current and potential audiences (for physical activity - what types of activities, under what circumstances, for how long, when and with whom are some of the features that can be considered).
- There is too little emphasis on the actual behaviors of the audience (these are the audience profiles where you feel all 'warm and fuzzy' about the audience but don’t have a clue about what they do when it comes to engaging in the target behaviors or any of the possible competitive ones).
- There is too much attention given to the technical details of creating the segmentation scheme that raise significant questions from the decision makers who have the ultimate sign off authority.
- There are no obvious implications for how to position the desired behavior versus competing ones, what incentives to offer, what barriers to address, where and when to provide opportunities to try and/or engage in the behavior, and what promotional strategies and messages may be most relevant for the audience.
- Remember that insight is the next step.