We Need to Motivate Those Segments

Market segmentation as a practice has been around for a while now, and companies and organizations around the world are using segmentation to identify those groups of customers who have similar wants and needs and to then try to fulfill those needs.

Motivate Market Segments

As segmentation has evolved, many types of segmentation schemes have been developed; there are segments by product or service needs, sensitivity to price, geographic area, demographic segment, or psychographics and lifestyles. Each of these segmentation types can have their benefits or place.

Regardless of how you have developed your segments, once the segments are identified, the question always becomes, ‘Now what do we do?’

Often we measure or assess these segments to see what they have been doing and what their past behaviors are. We try to predict what they will do based on what they have done or the way they think; we’ll make projections about things such as potential sales volume, the best price to offer, or the best product bundles to put together.

But what if we want to make fundamental changes to consumer behaviors and encourage specific actions? What if we wanted to be the disruptive force in the category?

Given that the goal of business is basically to get people to use or purchase more of our products/services motivating consumer change is essential. The days of “if we build it, they will come” are largely over. As an organization, we need to cultivate and develop buying and usage behaviors, sometimes we need to strengthen or increase what they are already doing, sometimes we need to alter or change behaviors, and sometimes we need to take smaller steps and educate or provide information to the consumer. Regardless of the behavior we want, motivation in some form or another is needed. In essence, we need to entice or encourage customers and potential customers to do things that we want them to do.

As I’ve grown older (still in debate on if I’ve increased on the wiser part), I have realized that raising kids is in many ways a case study in segmentation, though at a micro level. In the beginning as I was first having children, my thoughts were that there would be one way to raise them (or sell to them in a business sense) and that all of the kids (or segments) would then react the same. Somewhere early in the course of raising my children, I realized that though there are commonalities across all of my children, each is also very different—they react in different ways, they respond to different things, and they don’t always do what we want them to. Some want only to please you, some want to help you, and some will tell you the sky is red if you say it is blue. In some cases a carrot was often called for, and in some cases bolder actions were needed. As a parent, I needed to find ways to motivate each and every one; unlike with consumer segmentation, in the example of children we don’t have the luxury of only focusing on our top two or three.

Continuing with my analogy, two of the goals I had for my children (my micro segments if you will) were to help them to be as well rounded as possible and to expose them to different things. However, I can tell you without hesitation that each needed unique direction and motivation in this endeavor. I imagine many have experienced with children the bribes, the threats, and the pleadings needed to get them to do those things we as parents or guardians wanted them to do. Back to my example of wanting to have well-rounded children, my older two sons (twins) still point out the unfairness that many of their enticements and motivations were geared for studying and grades, while for my daughter, the encouragements centered on participating in team sports and being involved with others, which I thought would help her be more balanced. The key was that I knew my kids, and I knew what made them “tick.”

In the world of business, we have to get to know our consumers to find out what motivates them. It is important that we really understand our segments, not only their behaviors and what they are doing, but the underlying “whys” behind it. This is where the power of segmentation comes to bear. As we identify the right “motivating factors” within our segments, ultimately we can begin to understand and influence the consumer. We move away from saying something like “this segment is likely to buy X number of this product” to something more powerful such as “we’re going to get this segment to buy XXX numbers of this product.”

Only by truly understanding our segments can we help to motivate them. Getting to know them doesn’t come from things like sales data or tracking reports alone, it comes from research that asks questions, listens, and observes.


Clay Dethloff

Clay Dethloff

Senior VP, Insights and Innovation

Clay is an experienced marketing research professional with more than 25 years of experience in both leading and delivering qualitative research in the industry. As the head of qualitative research efforts at Decision Analyst, Clay is responsible for maintaining and improving the quality of qualitative research, identifying new/innovative qualitative research tools, and overall management of the qualitative team.

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