How to develop needs-based segmentations for growth and success

by Lauren Waters

Should you rethink how you segment your audience.

How do you ensure your brand is successful for decades to come? It might be time to rethink how you segment your audience. At S&A, we’re a strong advocate of the power of needs-based segmentation to drive success. This kind of thinking can help you build a deeper connection with potential clients and could lead to the opportunity for category expansion. By evolving your research strategy beyond primary market segmentation (demographics, psychographics, buying behavior), you can develop a fully dimensional understanding of the needs, wants and expectations of today’s consumers.

Take a measured approach to gathering your data

Needs-based segments give you the ability to identify gaps and barriers to category expansion, and to uniquely position yourself within the market. An ideal approach includes both qualitative and quantitative components to articulate, validate and identify:

  • Category Decision Criteria: The criteria affecting movement from passive to active consideration, and the selection of brands/solutions
  • Rank Order Decision Criteria: The relative importance of each criterion
  • Segmentation: Needs-based segments and sub-segments, including how many, size, distinctive needs along with profiles identifying them by lifestyles, demographics

Next, you’ll want to conduct multi-phased research to uncover your segments. At S&A, we follow this approach:

  1. Discovery: Identify the true motivations of the consumer, not simply the features, products or services they seek when making choices within the category, as well as the consequences of making those decisions.
  2. Validation: Complete a national qualitative survey with a large sample size using a widely cast net to validate the decision criteria that were uncovered.
  3. Positioning Opportunity Profile™: Use the validation data to uncover: Decision Criteria using Factor Analysis, Segmentation using a Multivariate Analysis and Positioning Opportunities that arrayed the criteria vertically from low to high priority.
  4. Strategic Positioning Statement: Compile all of this into a comprehensive positioning statement to use as a foundation for future marketing, brand and business strategies.
  5. Persona Development: Put a human face on all of the data about customers to capture the living essence of the distinct needs-based segments.
  6. Creative Expressions: Provide possible ways each position could be delivered in the market to meet the needs of target personas.

Embrace your research to uncover new opportunities

When analyzing your results, you may find some surprising data that changes the way you view your audience segments. You’ll likely gain new insights into your current segments, which will help you refine your existing approach. Needs-based segmentation is also particularly useful for finding out if something isn’t working. Don’t be afraid to embrace the results and see what comes up.

Finding the holy grail of opportunity and expansion

After going through this process, one of our clients found an untapped segment within their category that was completely different from current targets. It had the highest levels of category awareness, positive category impressions and willingness to consider. And, perhaps most surprising, it had the highest levels of engagement with the brand. Talk about a gold mine of data — and potential for growth.

Put a human face on the data with personas

Now that you have your targets, you can develop fully dimensional personas, or composites of the key audience segments with the best opportunities to grow your business. The purpose of this is to give everyone within your company a deeper understanding of the needs, experiences, priorities and goals related to your brand. Personas can be used to guide your overall business and branding approach. You can also use them to think about potential ways to deliver your positioning to target segments.

Use findings to create actionable business metrics

  • Quantify the size of the current and potential prospect pool
  • Determine current equity of branded and non-branded solutions competing in the market
  • Identify the number, size and characteristics of existing prospect segments
  • Illustrate how the brand platform could be modified to better move segmented prospects through the purchase funnel
  • Uncover category expansion opportunities to increase your customer base
  • Leverage findings to operationalize internally to improve the customer experience