In marketing, product development, and sales, conducting a market segmentation study prior to deeper research and releasing campaigns and products is one of the most essential steps a company can take. Without bucketing an audience into distinct groups, it’s a little like asking a teacher to go and teach a classroom full of students ranging from high schoolers to Kindergartners; understandably, their needs will be different, and the teacher will need to group the students into buckets based on their grade, competency level, and curriculum needs.
Interestingly, however, many companies still approach marketing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Customers are unnecessarily sent messages or sales materials that don’t apply to their needs, address their pain points, or apply to their lives. With some upfront segmentation work, companies can avoid this and work on successful targeting by grouping their audiences or “personas” into homogenous categories. Once this is done, targeted messaging, ad placement, and product development is far easier – and successful.
Audience segmentation: The first step of qualitative research
Prior to designing a qualitative research project, our first step (if it hasn’t already been done) is to first do a deep dive into the client’s data and conduct quantitative research so that we can appropriately bucket their audience into segmentation categories – or personas – as they’re often called.
At InterQ Research, we do this in a variety of ways. Sometimes we’ll use a company’s own online data and sort out users based on login frequency or other defining characteristics of a persona type; other times, we’ll rely on propriety database surveys, such as MRI, to help us sort defining characteristics of a population that align with a company’s audiences. If broad-base databases aren’t enough, we’ll create custom surveys or site intercept surveys to capture user data and perform an audience analysis.
Once we’ve sorted a company’s audience into appropriate personas, we’re ready to start designing the qualitative research study.
Focus groups with segmented persona groups
In a focus group, we aim for small audience sizes. Typically, we’ll host groups with 4-6 people per group, and we try to aim for 2-3 groups per persona type. By creating groups that are homogenous based on persona breakdowns, we can speak to consistent audience-types and pick up on reoccurring themes that this audience communicates. By focusing our efforts on high-quality recruiting that match our persona types, we’re able to derive insights from the appropriate populations that inform product development, messaging, and sales efforts. If segmentation and recruiting aren’t done accurately, it’s hard to trust the veracity of the data; this is a driving reason that we put so much emphasis on audience segmentation prior to conducting qualitative research.
Start with segmentation – then dive into qualitative research
Sort your audience into the appropriate persona categories prior to beginning any research project. Segmentation persona research and qualitative research are like two sides of one hand – so make sure that you don’t do one without the other. If you only rely on segmentation, but you’re not speaking to your audiences and seeking to learn their opinions, motivations, and the “why’s” behind their behavior, you’re only getting half the story. Likewise, if you attempt to conduct qualitative research without segmentation, you won’t have a reliable data set of homogenous personas, which greatly skews your results.