Every day we help our clients solve for as many needs possible while staying laser-focused on business objectives and decisions. It can be a tricky balance, but there is no better time to be in research—mobile stitching, AI, agile qual, etc.—are helping us extract more value in less time. So, with all that is available to us, why do we believe it’s so critically important to focus on best and highest uses?
The ability to make smart trade-offs is critically important in segmentation initiatives. The investment of time, money and resources mean stakes are often especially high. Here are a few recent examples of how we’ve helped our clients make appropriate trade-offs to get to a solution that maximizes impact.
- We can’t say it enough: communicate early and often. Our lift-off workshops spend a good deal of time surfacing stakeholder input that may indicate potential disagreement about the use of the insights and decisions that must be made. Often, once the different needs, wants, use(r)s are brought into the light, stakeholders can see and reconcile themselves to a greater good.
- “We know we need this segmentation, and we want it to be ‘actionable’ but our business handles customer type A through one department and customer type B through another, can we segment after splitting on this?” Yes, of course. But recognize you may be trading off tactical implement-ability against an incisive view that could change the way you approach customers—including not treating them in these silos. In other words, it may be fine, but let’s try to think through all the downstream implications and make the most informed decision.
- “We want to be able to track people by segment in our database.” Of course you do! We need to build in the elements that will create those linkages. Customer databases typically do not have some of the types of data we would include in a comprehensive segmentation—attitudinal and even behavioral can be quite sparse. We often find ourselves helping businesses determine what is critical now vs. what can be done in stages, later. Creating a smart segmentation that can be used immediately for marketing but will need more work to develop an implementation plan for back tagging your database for the longer term is something we address often.
And what doesn’t:
- Looking through only one lens. True or false: running a demographics only model because that is the only way the business believes they can find the people later. False! We often need to work in some demographics, but more often they will lead you down an overly simplistic (and non-strategic) path.
- Underestimating how much time is needed to socialize the segments. We have been a part of some amazing socializations in our day. Keep the engagement and excitement building through a multi-faceted, communications plan that begins at project inception and continues well past the release of the new segments. Have a release party, where people can “type” themselves and see, feel, hear, what it is to be the segment. In one of my favorites, posters were placed around the halls, updated over time to go from fuzzy to sharp images—to show how the business was gaining clarity on who its targets were but also just to build excitement through basic human curiosity. A common thread for successful socialization is to keep conversations going, planting seeds, and listening for pockets of resistance, so that when the full release is ready it has allies, and has lowered the risk of unexpected roadblocks. This is sometimes a hidden investment of time that researchers don’t adequately factor in.
- Overestimating accuracy. We will often find a desirable solution that resonates and feels actionable and sensible, but then in implementation, panic! Some of those typing into segments don’t feel exactly right. It’s important to deeply consider how a learning segmentation that has firm roots and a clear strategic vision, may need to be fine-tuned to become fully incorporated into business practices.
Smart trade-offs take careful planning, communication, and partnership. Taking the time to focus will make all the difference! Let us know your thorny trade-off challenges!
Kate is a CMB Account Director.
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