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The Segmentation Research Crisis

Posted by Rich Schreuer

Mon, Mar 25, 2013

A lot of time and money is wasted on segmentation studies. Here’s why, and what to do about it.

Segmentation Secrets CMBLast November I partnered with a banking client for a conference presentation on a segmentation study we conducted to help guide his organization towards greater customer-centricity. The study provided market insight to help transition from a product-based to a customer-centric organization by identifying need, attitude, and behavior-based segments.  The results helped them develop value propositions customized for each segment, which addressed products, messaging and customer experiences. 

The study was a great success. It’s used by our client in many ways, and was “actionable” in every sense of the word.  But rather than dwelling on our very great success, it got me thinking about why segmentation studies are often not acted upon.  In my 25 years of market research experience, I have found that segmentation studies are often found “interesting” but not “actionable.”  And it’s often not a function of the quality of research.  Poorly executed studies are never actionable.  But even well executed studies may not be actionable.  (And, by the way, when a client finds a study “interesting,” for me, that’s code for “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you failed.”)

Back to the conference presentation…at the start of our talk I asked the audience how many had worked on  well-executed segmentation studies (either as a supplier or a client) that were ultimately deemed “not useful.”  I knew the situation was bad, but I was shocked when about four-fifths of the audience raised their hand. So, here are a number of things we at CMB have learned over years about how to make segmentation actionable.  Note they don’t have anything to do with the mechanics of execution.

  1. It’s the process, stupid (apologies to James Carville)
    While any good market research firm can write a decent questionnaire, structure a sound sample, and use state-of-the art analysis techniques, it’s the process that usually determines the project’s fate.  Simply soliciting client input, executing the study and presenting results is not enough.  The study will be a success if the process involves making information-users partners by capturing their definition of success, upcoming decisions and hypotheses, and then including these partners in selection the final segmentation solution.

  2. Articulate and agree on business decisions
    Our experience shows that while, many research consumers are good at listing information needs, few actually identify the decisions they intend to make with this information.  Most seem to believe that if they have enough information they will find insights to help make as yet undetermined decisions.  This problem is especially acute in segmentation studies, because different types of decisions (product development vs. messaging vs. targeting) require different type questions and measurement techniques.

  3. Many options, but no silver bullet
    Over many years and many studies I have never had an engagement where one segmentation solution worked equally well for all decisions.  For example, solutions that are stronger for targeting will typically be weaker for messaging.   At CMB, our process involves examining and rejecting up to 50 solutions, and then presenting four or five really good ones to our client. This is where management art blends with science.  By understanding competing decisions at the start, we make rational tradeoffs to select the best solution.

  4. Real work begins when the study ends
    A segmentation study is typically treated as a discrete project with a beginning and end date.  If the final presentation is well-received the supplier and client may have celebratory drinks or dinner, if not the supplier quietly slinks off to the airport.  But the reality is that no matter how positive the initial reaction, segmentation studies can die on the vine if planning for implementation doesn’t occur before the final presentation.  In successful segmentation engagements, the final presentation is not “the end,” but rather “the end of the beginning.”  Segmentation often requires managers to think differently about the market, and this can’t occur without a process to support and reinforce this way of thinking.  We typically use a set of cross-functional workshops in which participants work with the information and participate in exercises to develop plans with input and support from the group

If you can internalize and act on these principles you’ll never have to slink back to airport after a final presentation. 

Rich is Senior VP and Chief Methodologist at CMB, he also knows the secrets of raising chickens, and the lost art of ski ballet.

You didn’t think we’d give away all our secrets did you? Join us this Wednesday the 27th at noon to learn more secrets to successful segmentation.

Topics: business decisions, research design, webinar, market strategy and segmentation

Upcoming Webinar February 28th: Segmentation as a Change Agent

Posted by Mark Carr

Fri, Feb 22, 2013

describe the imageAs with many financial services firms, SunTrust Bank has had to re-consider its strategy over the past several years. My colleagues at Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB is South Street’s sister company) and I had the privilege of recently working with the company as it shifted into a decidedly customer-centric approach to the way it designed its products and services.

Next Thursday, I am pleased to be co-presenting a webinar with Jeff VanDeVelde from SunTrust and Rich Schreuer from CMB. We’ll be covering SunTrust’s use of customer segmentation to drive its shift to customer centricity.

What’s a strategy consulting firm doing talking about segmentation, you might ask?

Well, strategy is as much about saying “no” as it is about saying “yes” to opportunities for growth. Being able to identify, understand, and then remain true to your target customers is at the core of any good strategy. Clarity around target market segments helps businesses crystallize and rally around the strategies that will drive the most value for their best customers, profitably.

At some point, all our projects hinge on being able to answer the question: will this product feature/marketing message/overall initiative/etc meet my most valuable customers’ needs? Because we believe customer-centric strategy and innovation leads to more profitable growth, all our work contains a strong foundational element of re-grounding the client in the market and their best target segments – for today and the future.

We hope you will join us to learn more on the 28th, and please drop us a line to let us know what you think! Click here to register.

Posted by J. Mark Carr, Mark is co-founder and managing partner of South Street Strategy Group.

South Street Strategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, webinar, market strategy and segmentation

New Webinar: The New Age of Television on Wednesday 9/12 at Noon

Posted by Megan McManaman

Wed, Aug 29, 2012

New Age of TVJoin us Wednesday September 12 to discover the who, what, and how of the new rules of television viewing.

CMB's Chris Neal maps out the needs and priorities of different consumers to help forecast how they'll react to future technologies, platforms and service bundles as the industry continues to evolve.

Topics include:

• Online viewership of TV shows and movies among age segments.
• Device viewership scenarios.
• Preferred TV viewing device by occasion.
• Online viewing pain points and barriers.
• Needs analysis of new technology platforms.

Register here

New Age of TV CMBDownload our free Consumer Pulse report: The New Age of Television



Topics: technology research, television, webinar, digital media and entertainment research

Don't Miss our Upcoming Webinars

Posted by Megan McManaman

Wed, Jan 25, 2012

Join us for CMB's first webinars of 2012!

Tools and Techniques:  Mixing the Science of Quant with the Art of Conversation to Gain Richer Insights

CMB and iModerate WebinarFebruary 2nd from 12 to 12:30 pm

CMB’s Jeff McKenna and Christine Tchoumba from iModerate Research Technologies share their tips and tricks for taking advantage of one-on-one online conversations to gain more insight from traditional research projects. Jeff and Christine will cover: the benefits of using online conversations to add color to quantitative, how the Consumer Pulse Program case study uses conversation to deepen insight into the most interesting consumer trends, and the challenges and considerations you need to be successful.

Click here to register

Turning Customers into Advocates:  GE CareCredit Increases Customer Loyalty with ge carecredittheir Advisory Panel

February 16th from 12 to 12:45 pm

Learn how CMB helped GE CareCredit redesign their online customer panel, and create a community with high engagement and even higher returns. CMB’s Vice President of Financial Services Jim Garrity and GE CareCredit’s Consumer VOC Leader Sheila Dreyer share how GE CareCredit’s online community of Cardholders has become a group of not only trusted advisors, but strong advocates for the brand.

Click here to register

For more of our upcoming webinars, and to download the ones you've missed, click here.

Posted by Megan McManaman, CMB's Content Marketing Manager.

Topics: webinar

Can Quantitative Methods Uncover Emotion?

Posted by Megan McManaman

Wed, Sep 14, 2011

Grocery shoppingPicture yourself pushing your cart down the grocery store aisle, you’ve planned your meals and are making choices that suit your family’s tastes and budget. The decisions you make are rational and logical. But as anyone who’s ever felt a sense of nostalgia over a chocolate chip cookie, or empowered by their choice of the natural peanut butter, can tell you, they are also emotional.

As market researchers we’re interested in knowing what decisions consumers make, how they make them, and why. Traditionally, we’ve used quantitative (survey) approaches to discover the “what” and the “how,” and turned to qualitative methods (IDI’s, focus groups) to understand the “why,” including the emotions underlying these decisions.  But merely asking people to name their emotions is not enough, language biases, the tedium of having subjects choose from lists of 50 or more emotions, and the dangers of self-report for something so nebulous, are all difficulties faced by researchers. To address these biases, scientists and quantitative researchers have come to recognize the extent to which decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. The question is: how can we apply rigorous measurement to what seem like the most irrational, unpredictable human characteristics?

Medical science has offered new possibilities using relatively established technologies to gain insight and understanding into the relationships between human emotion and brain activity. EEG’s, eye tracking, and even MRI’s have helped us understand the nuances and complexity of the brain’s response in very concrete and visual ways. An fMRI like the one pictured below, and other technologies, are valuable in their ability to measure brain responses that the subject might not even know they’re having. But there are limitations, beyond being prohibitive from a cost perspective, the results lack the nuance and detail necessary for effective application for market researchers.

fmri measuring brain response
Researchers from AdSAM, a research company focused on Emotional Response Modeling, have developed a methodology using non-verbal techniques to identify and measure emotional response to understand consumer attitudes, preferences, and behavior. This approach uses pictorial scales to capture emotional reactions and predict behavior while minimizing the language biases common in verbal approaches and contextualizing the results of more costly brain imaging approaches.

Guy thinking resized 600Want to know more? Please join us on September 21st as CMB’s Jeff McKenna and AdSAM’s Cathy Gwynn discuss the development and application of this new approach to emotional response measurement.




Posted by Megan McManaman. Megan is part of CMB’s marketing team, and she isn't proud to say buying ketchup makes her happy.

Topics: emotional measurement, webinar, quantitative research

Selling to Small Businesses "The Educate First Challenge:" Guest Blog Post from Constant Contact

Posted by Josh Mendelsohn

Mon, Jun 20, 2011

There are 11 million small businesses with 20 or fewer employees in the US.constant contact chadwick martin bailey 

And while every small business owner has always had to be hyperaware of their expenditures, the instability of the economy over the past few years has made spending the right amount in the right way a constant struggle for those who want to compete and succeed.

The truth is that the drivers of small business success haven’t changed – great customer service, personal connections,  and high quality products and services that lead to positive word of mouth. Social Media Marketing has changed the landscape.

Some small businesses have been quick to adopt, while others are struggling to find the time and information they need to get started.  And for those companies selling social media and other online marketing tools to small businesses the questions have become not just “why should I buy it?” and “why should I buy from you?” but also, “what the heck are you guys even talking about?”

So while those of us at larger organizations are lucky enough to learn best practices from industry leaders at conferences, it has also become our responsibility to educate our potential customers about what social media marketing can do for small businesses.  We need to help them get started.  We need to help them be successful.  Then we need to help them do it better.

The truth is that even large businesses with dedicated teams and agencies face challenges and make mistakes. So for the little guys the challenges are even greater.

Selling to small businesses has never been easy, and with the help of some of Chadwick Martin Bailey's research, we’re taking on the “educate first” challenge.  Join us for a short webinar on June 29th at 12:00 EST to hear about some of what we’ve learned and how CMB has helped us get smart so we can get our customers and prospects smarter.

describe the imageJoin us for a webinar with Constant Contact to learn more:
Wednesday June 29th
12:00 to 12:30

Learn how Chadwick Martin Bailey helped Constant Contact understand what small businesses need when it comes to social media marketing. Register today


Guest post by Josh Mendelsohn at Constant Contact. Josh is a Senior Product Marketing Manager, Social Media Marketing at Constant Contact.  He loves live music, tv, great food, market research, New Orleans, marketing, his family, Boston and sports. You can follow him on Twitter @mendelj2.

Topics: marketing strategy, webinar

Segmentation: Applying Experience, Consistency, and an Open Mind

Posted by Kristen Garvey

Tue, Apr 26, 2011

Segmentation researchLet’s face it – it’s no secret that segmentation can be a complex issue.  There’s no shortage of opinion or collection of best practices to pore over before embarking upon the segmentation process.  On one hand, that’s a great thing.  It’s always better to have the option of sifting through peer experience (and learn from their mistakes) than it is to start at zero.  On the other hand, the sifting process is a lot of work.  You’d be surprised how quickly you can find yourself down the rabbit hole.

At CMB, we do our best to make that process easier for our clients.  When we talk about segmentation, we draw on 27 years of experience to inform a distinct opinion.  You see that in our  5 “C’s” of Great Market Segmentation (clout, confidence, collaboration, cognizance, & communication) and, our belief that segmentation should always begin with the end in mind

Segmentation is anything but static.  We learn something new from almost every project.  When we’re finished, we do our best to incorporate the key takeaways into how we view segmentation as a methodology and, perhaps, a discipline. 

Something we really enjoy is taking the time to share those unique lessons with the larger research community.  On Wednesday, Jim Garrity and Ameriprise Financial’s Bob Biancamano will conduct a webinar that reviews a strategic/attitudinal segmentation project.  They’ll take you through a grassroots project from soup to nuts.  Ever wondered what to do when questions need answers and there is no obvious champion?  This is your chance to find out.

As a preview, I’ll leave you with the ideas that guided the research design. 

  1. Start with the End in Mind: Establish your business objectives and how research will be used before you begin
  2. Allow for Multiple Bases: Take a comprehensive, model-based approach, that incorporates all potential bases
  3. Have an Open Mind: Let the segments define themselves
  4. Anticipate Tradeoffs: Each scheme has different strengths
  5. Leverage Existing Resources: Harness the power of your internal databases
  6. Evangelize:  Demystify the segments to executives and users

How many “C’s” can you spot?  What’s the first idea they kept in mind?  Experience, consistency, and an open mind.  That’s how we “do” segmentation at CMB.

Join Bob Biancamano of Ameriprise Financial and Jim Garrity of Chadwick Martin Bailey as they present B2C Market Segmentation for Intermediated Businesses: The Case of Ameriprise on Wednesday April 27th at noon ET.  Register here.

Topics: financial services research, webinar, market strategy and segmentation

Upcoming Conferences and Webinars

Posted by Kristen Garvey

Thu, Mar 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day…

We have a lot of great events coming up here at CMB that you might be interested in.  In addition to April 27th's webinar with Ameriprise Financial on BtoC segmentation, we will be speaking at Social Media and Community 2.0 Strategies right here in Boston next month. In May we are heading to the windy city for The Technology Driven Market Research Event where CMB’s Jeff McKenna will be speaking. And that’s just the beginning! We hope to see you at one of the many events coming up…Social Media and Community 2.0

Social Media and Community 2.0 Strategies

April 4-6, Boston

The Other Side of Social Media:  How Small Businesses are Getting Social
Join CMB and Constant Contact to understand the social media landscape for small businesses. Learn how social media is impacting consumer decisions to buy and recommend and what small businesses are doing about it. 


Technology Driven Market Research EventIn May CMB’s Jeff McKenna will be speaking at the Technology Driven Market Research Event in Chicago. Jeff will be discussing the latest tools and technology (available at little or no cost) that add tremendous value by turning data into a visual story.

If you’re interested in attending any of these conferences let us know, we may be able to get you a discounted price.


Posted by Kristen Garvey. Kristen is CMB’s VP of Marketing and is as Irish as they come with the maiden name of Moriarty. For the record she still doesn’t like corned beef and cabbage.

Topics: webinar, conference recap

Health Reform Offers Both An Opportunity and Threat for Insurers

Posted by Kristen Garvey

Wed, Jan 05, 2011

As we enter 2011, the confusion and uncertainty around health reform only seems to be mounting. Amidst this uncertainty, consumers are looking for a reliable and trusted source of information, and they have the expectation that insurers will fill that role. Insurance carriers have the opportunity to become a trusted partner by providing the information consumers are so desperately seeking.

Consumer insights around healthcare reform

CMB conducted consumer research in mid 2010 which shows there is a clear gap between the level of knowledge consumers have around reform, and how they think reform will personally impact them. The result is that many consumers feel helpless.  As one consumer said,

“While I have tried to keep up with the legislation and have read articles and watched news programs on the topic, I'm not sure I know all the details.  For that matter, many of the ''experts'' don't seem to know everything either!” - Male, 50-54

Insurance carriers have an opportunity to become more than just another information source— they can become a trusted partner. In fact 61% of consumers expect health insurance companies to inform them about healthcare reform.

Join us for a webinar to learn more about the expectations consumers have towards reform. For Insurance carriers with foresight, health reform represents a rare, one time chance to grab market share and position their organizations for future growth.  

CMB Webinar on health reformWebinar: Challenges and Opportunities for Insurance Carriers in the Face of Health Reform

January 13, 2011 at Noon ET

Join Amy Modini of Chadwick Martin Bailey and J. Mark Carr of South Street Strategy Group as they look at how Americans are feeling about health reform and share consumer perceptions about the role of insurance carriers going forward. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, healthcare research, health insurance research, Consumer Pulse, webinar

Three Tips for Planning and Budgeting for 2011

Posted by Kristen Garvey

Tue, Dec 21, 2010

South Street Strategy GroupEvery year I say I am going to start the marketing planning process earlier than the last, and every year I find myself in the  trenches, still working on the plan the last two weeks  before  Christmas.  So I am going to take some advice I heard listening to a recent webinar Mark Carr of the South Street Strategy Group (CMB’s sister company) gave for the Market Research Association (MRA). In the webinar, Mark talked about how to take the drudgery out of annual planning and get more out of the process itself by re-energizing the planning approach. Whether it’s research budgets or a plan to sell more widgets in 2011 I think the principals are the same. While Mark shared a lot of great tips there were a few that really stood out to me.

1. Don’t Get Budget Myopia - Be careful not to use the words or think about budgeting and planning as interchangeable. They are related, but not the same thing. You should have a separate process for both, and – if you want new approaches and innovation - the budget should come second.  Start with a realistic plan that includes the strategies and tactics needed to reach your goals. The budget should be more about implementation of those strategies. 

2. Circle Back to the Corporate Goals - Connecting your plan to the overall corporate goals is key, but ironically by the time many of us plan, we have often added in initiatives that may be good ideas but are ultimately off-strategy.  Keep yourself honest by taking a fresh look at the plan at the end of the process, and see if a direct line can be drawn from each strategy (and eventually tactic) to a business objective. Your plan should be able to map its strategic objectives down to the key performance measures that are being used as indicators of success across the business, including longer-term goals.

3. Don’t Set it and Forget it - In today’s fast moving world, goals and strategies should be reviewed on a regular basis. Moreover, the best way to show your accountability and success is to measure your progress. Marketing measurement is becoming easier and more accurate with all the tools that are out there today. Make it your goal to take advantage of the wealth of information and to check in and tweak your plan throughout the year.

Visit the South Street Strategy Group web site to learn more.

Posted by Kristen Garvey. Kristen is CMB's Director of Communications, a mother of two, and is looking forward to spending the holidays with family.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, webinar