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Jeremy has been with Maritz Research since 1998 and is Director of Marketing Sciences for Europe. He is involved in projects across all sectors and methodologies and brings this broad expertise to provide analytical and statistical consultancy to recommend the most appropriate methodology for all our research projects.
Read the full biography here.
what to look for in your prospective partner agency
By Jeremy Griffiths - 25th August, 2010
The best segmentation studies are team efforts, done by experienced researchers and marketers who apply their industry experience to make critical decisions. For segmentation more than for any other area of research it is vital to use an experienced agency and create a partnership between client and agency; a failed segmentation study is expensive both in terms of time and money.
But identifying the right agency can be hard. The ideal partner agency will excel in every step of the segmentation project - from the design phase to the delivery of results - and provide long-term support. As a client buying the services of a partner agency it is important to separate the wheat from the chaff; those agencies that say they can do, from those that really can.
Know your market
You need an experienced agency that provides adequate support to deliver throughout the project. A great understanding of your business and industry, especially in the data analysis phase, will ensure the usability of the results. This means an agency that has enough knowledge and expertise in your industry to complete the project efficiently, is enthusiastic about maintaining an ongoing dialogue with you, and values your business enough to ensure the specific people working on your project have a vast amount of experience and vision. Ensure their credentials demonstrate clear understanding of your issues; request access to clients they have worked with in your industry in the past. At the very least, expect testimonials from relevant clients.
Know your organisation
The best segmentation agency is one that designs a study that is aligned to the objectives of your organisation, your goals and KPIs. Their expertise will be indicated by their ability to develop an appropriate questionnaire design maximising the use of discriminating survey measures. Clearly it is vital to meet the people from the agency who will be actually working on the project (not just seniors who win the business). You will then be able to gauge whether you can work as a team and maintain an open dialogue with them. You will be able to see whether their style and approach is in line with yours and judge if they understand your needs as a business and will work with you to fulfil these needs both in the long and short term.
Clarity is an important factor in the process, ranging from the clear understanding of project objectives, to transparency on how the segmentation will be used to benefit the organisation, to ensuring there is a clear communication plan to engage end users with the segmentation outputs. Expect an agency to demonstrate insight into your particular issues and show ideas as to how to resolve them.
The agency should demonstrate the ability to identify and use appropriate statistical methods to derive robust and stable customer groups. The better agency will recommend the most appropriate mathematical models to fit the different types of variables you wish to segment your customers upon. As well as a proven process for validating the results, the agency will ensure results are both robust and stable. In execution phase a model agency will identify appropriate respondents, provide the most robust sample sizes, and will ensure all necessary data is collected. Finally, a skilled agency has the ability to take the quantitative results and translate them into qualitative segments to breathe life in to the segment descriptions.
Ask for credentials that include the results agencies got with their past studies. Within your Request For Proposal you should ask for case studies that demonstrate the techniques they have used in their previous projects. Ensure they have a rationale for the techniques selected. This would also give you insight into their technical competence and their ability to select the most appropriate statistical methods. Additionally it is critical for an agency to be able to communicate their technical skills in a language that your internal stakeholders can understand.
Finally, the process in which an agency delivers the overall results is one of the most important phases of the project. The agency needs to be able to provide key deliverables so seeing previous examples of their work is best practice. Expect them to be able to provide a clear framework to review and interpret your results. A good agency will work with you in the long-term to provide direction on how to implement the findings, and recommendations on how often the segmentation model should be refreshed in the future.
Segmentation is a process with a clear start, middle and end. Its outputs need careful review and appraisal to ensure business goals are met. Client and agency teams must use their experience and knowledge of technical analysis to draw out robust, stable descriptions of key customer groups that tell an improved story of how to go to market. To do this teamwork is vital and finding the right agency is the most important step to a positive outcome.
Comments on this article
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Thank-you Tim for adding your comment. It is great to get some feedback. I don't disagree with any of your points however, this document is discussing how to select an agency to work with rather than how to make a segmentation live and breath in the client organisation. The article stresses the need for a partnership and team work for a successful segmentation to be created. You rightly identify the bit either side of the research as a challenge and the extent to which research agencies are involved in this area is often not clearly defined by clients. So whilst creating segments is a process; making them live and add value within a client organisation is certainly a continuous undertaking.
"Segmentation is a process with a clear start, middle and end."
This is arguably the biggest mistake research agencies make. Good segmentation is a continuous, undertaking, based in consultancy and continual refinement, not an ad hoc process.
Done well, segmentation meshes with numerous parts of the business and acts as a touchstone for cross-functional strategies, customer-centricity and systems development. Importantly, segmentation models work best when regularly updated by new insights, or data making them living, breathing drivers of change.
Seeing segmentations as a linear, ad hoc project is why most fail to deliver. The research bit is by far the easiest what happens on either side is the challenge.
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