Your Best Segmentation Tool Is a Salesperson
A cool deliverable of many segmentation studies is a “typing tool” that allows you to input data on just a few dimensions (usually six to twelve survey questions) in order to predict which segment any customer belongs to. It works because even though segmentation algorithms sort through tons of data to find the best clusters, ultimately just a few of those data points drive the differentiation of one segment from another.
The problem is that often the most interesting, strategically relevant segmentation schemes (or personas, as we often call them) are based on attitudinal or behavioral data you do not have easy access to. You gained visibility into these data from carefully designed qualitative research and quantitative survey research. With your cool typing tool in hand everything seemed awesome until you realized … wait, how are you going to get answers to those survey questions from all of your customers?
Well, you probably can’t. Try surveying your entire customer base. If you haven’t alienated them with too many surveys already, you’re likely to get response rates of just 3% to 4%.
Here’s another idea, though. Take a look at your typing tool. If it’s a decent segmentation, almost certainly the questions focus on things like: the value they place on the types of products or services you offer; the investments they are willing to make; how many similar purchases they have recently made, even if not from you; what is most important to them in choosing who to buy from; and so on.
These are exactly the kinds of questions salespeople probe for (or should be probing for), with or without your segmentation tool. Even if you don’t want to deploy your sales force as a “census-taking” operation hitting up every customer with a short survey on tablet computers (yes, some companies do this!) at the very least, your cool new segmentation tool can help train them on what matters most for your key market segments.
The huge bonus is that salespeople are out there in the field, not just gathering data about the market and your customers, but building relationships. That makes them the best, most valuable segmentation tool you could ever want.