Market Targeting

There are many statistical techniques for developing market segments.10 Once the firm has identified its market-segment opportunities, it must decide how many and which ones to target. Marketers are increasingly combining several variables in an effort to identify smaller, better- defined target groups. Thus, a bank may not only identify a group of wealthy retired adults but within that group distinguish several segments depending on current income, assets, savings, and risk preferences. This has led some market researchers to advocate a needs-based market segmentation approach. Roger Best proposed the seven-step approach shown in Table 6.3.

Effective Segmentation Criteria

Not all segmentation schemes are useful. We could divide buyers of table salt into blond and brunette customers, but hair color is irrelevant to the purchase of salt. Furthermore, if all salt buyers buy the same amount of salt each month, believe all salt is the same, and would pay only one price for salt, this market is minimally segmentable from a marketing point of view.

Rating Segments To be useful, market segments must rate favorably on five key criteria:

  • Measurable. The size, purchasing power, and characteristics of the segments can be measured.
  • Substantial. The segments are large and profitable enough to serve. A segment should be the largest possible homogeneous group worth going after with a tailored marketing program.

TABLE 6.3 Steps in the Segmentation Process


1. Needs-Based Segmentation

Group customers into segments based on similar needs and benefits sought by customers in solving a particular consumption problem.

2. Segment Identification

For each needs-based segment, determine which demographics, lifestyles, and usage behaviors make the segment distinct and identifiable (actionable).

3. Segment Attractiveness

Using predetermined segment attractiveness criteria (such as market growth, competitive intensity, and market access), determine the overall attractiveness of each segment.

4. Segment Profitability

Determine segment profitability.

5. Segment Positioning

For each segment, create a “value proposition” and product-price positioning strategy based on that segment’s unique customer needs and characteristics.

6. Segment “Acid Test”

Create “segment storyboard” to test the attractiveness of each segment’s positioning strategy.

7. Marketing-Mix Strategy

Expand segment positioning strategy to include all aspects of the marketing mix: product, price, promotion, and place.

Source: Adapted from Roger J. Best, Market-Based Management, 6th ed. (Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall, 2013). ©2013. Printed and electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

  • • Accessible. The segments can be effectively reached and served.
  • • Differentiable. The segments are conceptually distinguishable and respond differently to different marketing-mix elements and programs. If married and single women respond similarly to a sale on perfume, they do not constitute separate segments.
  • • Actionable. Effective programs can be formulated for attracting and serving the segments.

Long-Term Segment Attractiveness Michael Porter has identified five forces that determine the intrinsic long-run attractiveness of a market or market segment: industry competitors, potential entrants, substitutes, buyers, and suppliers.11 The first is the threat of intense segment rivalry. A segment is unattractive if it already contains numerous, strong, or aggressive competitors. It’s even more unattractive if it’s stable or declining, if plant capacity must be added in large increments, if fixed costs or exit barriers are high, or if competitors have high stakes in staying in the segment.

The second is the threat of potential entrants. The most attractive segment is one in which entry barriers are high and exit barriers are low. Few new firms can enter the industry, and poorly performing firms can easily exit. When entry and exit barriers are high, profit potential is high, but firms face more risk because poorer-performing firms stay in and fight it out. When entry and exit barriers are low, firms easily enter and leave the industry, and returns are stable but low. The worst case occurs when entry barriers are low and exit barriers are high: Firms enter during good times but find it hard to leave during bad times.

The third is the threat of substitutes. A segment is unattractive when there are actual or potential substitutes for the product. Substitutes place a limit on prices and on profits. If technology advances or competition increases in these substitute industries, prices and profits are likely to fall.

The fourth is the threat of buyers’ growing bargaining power. A segment is unattractive if buyers possess strong or growing bargaining power. Buyers’ bargaining power grows when they become more concentrated or organized, when the product represents a significant fraction of their costs, when the product is undifferentiated, when buyers’ switching costs are low, or when they can integrate upstream. To protect themselves, sellers might select buyers who have the least power to negotiate or switch suppliers. A better defense is developing superior offers that strong buyers cannot refuse.

The fifth force is the threat of suppliers’ growing bargaining power. A segment is unattractive if suppliers are able to raise prices or reduce quantity supplied. Suppliers tend to be powerful when they are concentrated or organized, when they can integrate downstream, when there are few substitutes, when the supplied product is an important input, and when the costs of switching suppliers are high. The best defenses are to build win-win relationships with suppliers or use multiple supply sources.

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