The creation of a target market strategy is integral to developing an effective business strategy. The concept of market segmentation is often cited as pivotal to establishing a target market strategy, yet all too often business‐to‐business marketers utilise little more than trade sectors or product groups as the basis for their groupings of customers, rather than customers' characteristics and buying behaviour. The purpose of this paper is to offer a solution for managers, focusing on customer purchasing behaviour, which evolves from the organisation's existing criteria used for grouping its customers.
One of the underlying reasons managers fail to embrace best practice market segmentation is their inability to manage the transition from how target markets in an organisation are currently described to how they might look when based on customer characteristics, needs, purchasing behaviour and decision‐making. Any attempt to develop market segments should reflect the inability of organisations to ignore their existing customer group classification schemes and associated customer‐facing operational practices, such as distribution channels and sales force allocations.
A straightforward process has been derived and applied, enabling organisations to practice market segmentation in an evolutionary manner, facilitating the transition to customer‐led target market segments. This process also ensures commitment from the managers responsible for implementing the eventual segmentation scheme. This paper outlines the six stages of this process and presents an illustrative example from the agrichemicals sector, supported by other cases.
The process presented in this paper for embarking on market segmentation focuses on customer purchasing behaviour rather than business sectors or product group classifications ‐ which is true to the concept of market segmentation ‐ but in a manner that participating managers find non‐threatening. The resulting market segments have their basis in the organisation's existing customer classification schemes and are an iteration to which most managers readily buy‐in.
Despite the size of the market segmentation literature, very few papers offer step‐by‐step guidance for developing customer‐focused market segments in business‐to‐business marketing. The analytical tool for assessing customer purchasing deployed in this paper originally was created to assist in marketing planning programmes, but has since proved its worth as the foundation for creating segmentation schemes in business marketing, as described in this paper.
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