Most consumers today would say that satisfaction with products and services is not enough. Not only do our customers want to be delighted, but they want to be so excited about a product or a service that they are eager to share their experiences. Jan Carlson of Scandinavian Airlines popularized the notion of delighting the customer. The idea has moved well out of the realm of customer service to encompass everything that is customer-facing.
Market researchers now talk about influencers in social media networks. Influencers are the people other users in social networks tend to pay attention to when making decisions about products or services. Market Probe has added a few new terms to the market research lexicon, and I believe the terms can be used to clarify market segmentation outcomes and consumer profile construction.
Market Probe recently published a case study of their market segmentation work with an IT vendor in Survey, the market research bulletin. This resource can be accessed online and is on par with subscription-only periodicals.
Market Probe suggests that consumers can be categorized into four distinct groups according to their customer attitudes and levels of support: Advocate, Allegiant, Ambivalent, and Alienated. The percentage of "share" that a brand has with regard to each of these segments is a good indicator of how the brand is faring and how it is likely to perform in the future. Advocacy Share, as Market Probe refers to the percentage of customers identified as Advocates, is an important measure of brand equity -- and it is a guide to developing segment-specific business strategies.
From A Plus Plus to A Minus Minus -- What Do These "A" Ratings Mean?
- A++ Advocate: As you might guess, a customer who is labeled an Advocate has the most positive regard for the brand and exhibits the highest tendency to consider interacting with the brand in the future.
- A+ Allegiant: This customer considers the brand with a reasonable level of positive regard, and is somewhat likely to consider interacting with the brand in the futures.
- A- Abivalent: A below average level of regard for the brand and week brand support are evidenced by this customer.
- A-- Alienated: A source of negative buzz for the brand, this consumer prefers the brands of competitors.
According to Market Probe, these four categories are based primarily on three measures: "(1) Favorabiity of brand; (2) Future consideration, and (3) Intensity of vocal support for the brand."
In order to gauge where consumers fell with regard to the four categories, market researchers at Market Probe made the usual sort of queries: The questions were designed to measure future intent with regard to continued use of the service provider, the percentage of spend in the forthcoming year with specific vendors, and whether they were likely to recommend the brand to others. Intensity of vocal support is measured by a frequency count of negative and positive word-of-mouth mentions over a specific period.
Should You Let Market Segments Drive Business Strategy?
- Advocate: Customers in this group offer the best opportunity for extending and solidifying relationships with your brand. You want to continue to provide excellent value to these customers -- the focus should be on retention.
- Allegiant: Here lies an opportunity to work toward greater emotional commitment to your brand -- hone customer service provided to these consumers with an eye toward moving them into the Advocate category.
- Abivalent: Getting these consumers off the fence and moving up the ladder to advocacy should be the primary focus. Importantly, effort should be directed toward reducing their vulnerability to the action of competitors.
- Alienated: This customer goes around humming Can't Get No Satisfaction and does your brand damage wherever he or she goes. Effort must go into neutralizing the negative outputs and erasing the reasons for the poor experiences that drive this customer toward negativity.
The bottom line, naturally, is that "Advocacy Share" translates into share gain. A small percentage change in the advocacy share can result in a substantial increase in future spending. in their case study, Market Probe projected the value of one point of Advocacy. According to Market Probe's calculations, an absolute increase of 5% of the Advocates would result in a 3% increase in revenue or profit. Clearly, paying attention to the four A's of market segmentation can result in important short-term and long-term business development outcomes.
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