The zen of segmentation

In my previous post, I alluded to the fact that a market for a product (either a good or service) is generally segmented into distinct groups of consumers. Each group of consumers may receive a different marketing mix tailored to specifically appeal to them. This will attempt to maximize profit by:

  1. Targetting the most-likely potential customers. Which inversely means, minimizing the amount of marketing efforts spent on people who are not perceived to be interested in the product.
  2. Using communication mechanisms that are more appealing to the target consumers and presenting it in places where the consumers are more likely to see it.
  3. Selling the product in a distribution outlet or channel that the target consumer will use.
One thing to note, when using a segmentation strategy, not all segments may be perceived as being profitable. Some may be rolled together and a more general marketing mix may be used.

Ultimately, the goal is to do 1:1 marketing which means that everyone can potentially have a personalized marketing mix. In the past, this has not been feasible because it was prohibitively expensive using tradional means. However, the internet has changed this a little.

Companies are now able to move closer to the 1:1 marketing mix. This article goes into a lot of detail on the technologies behind 1:1 marketing on the internet. It is a very interesting read. The key point is that there are two different types of technologies being employed:
  1. Targetting - Attracting the consumers with the best predisposition towards purchasing your products (segmentation!)
  2. Recommender - Determine what is the best thing (i.e., product to recommend) to do at this moment.
I'll let the article speak for itself. The author did a much better job than I ever could.

Is there a cost to society from better segmentation?

This article published in the LA Times titled, Telling You What You Like, seems to think so. The main argument is that by only presenting things that are perceived to be of interest to you, in effect, you are not being given the opportunity to broaden your tastes and likes.

In concluding this post, I would like to provide some links to very good sites on marketing:

Segmentation, the art and the science

On my last post, I spoke of the 4 P's that composed the marketing mix. I left off where you knew what the components were but stopped before I said why you would want to manipulate them. The topic of this post will be to show why you would alter the variables in a marketing mix to reach your (potential) clients. Welcome to the art and science of segmentation.

Segmentation is the division of a market into smaller homogeneous groups or segments - similar but not quite the same as dividing a cake into slices (for a more complete definition of segmentation check out Wikipedia.)

Individuals within the same segment share similar characteristics but those in different groups will have differences in their characteristics. Because there are differences between one segment and another, a marketing approach that works well for one group may perform poorly for another group.

Characteristics that can be used to define a segment include:

  • Physical - demographics (gender, age, region, income level etc...)
  • Behavioral - lifestyle, innovation cycle, social class, etc...
  • Product-related - product usage

In order to determine what is the best way to segment a market for a specific product the key attributes must be identified. It is beyond the scope of this post and my knowledge to delve into this discipline suffice it to say there may be a lot of analytical work and data mining activities. Eventually, you will be able to distinguish the different segments that compose the market for a product.

Suppose you have figured out that there are 4 different segments that seem like good fits for your product. You will need to determine which segments will be worth investing in based on their perceived value. By examining the different groups, it may become apparent that each group may require a different marketing mix composition in order to be appealing to each segment. By tailoring the marketing mix you can design an offering that matches & appeals to the needs, goals & wants for each group of consumers. This is the answer to the question, "Why would you want to adjust the components of the marketing mix?"

The opposite of market segmentation is market aggregation. As you can guess, this means that everyone in the market will get the exact same marketing mix. There are instances where this is an effective marketing strategy. For example, with a product that is a commodity such as salt.

Marketing basics - the 4 P's

What is marketing? What is meant by marketing a product?

The purpose of marketing is simply to sell a product or service. Most people associate marketing with selling physical products. We visualize Coca Cola advertisements, Best Buy flyers, for sale signs, posters on buses etc... Many also view marketing as trying to make a product stand out versus other competing ones.

However, you must understand that this also applies to ideas and concepts. When you are trying to get someone to "buy into" your idea you are subconsciously marketing it to them. The facts you use and the presentations you put together are in essence marketing activities.

To explain the basic tenets of marketing, I would like to go through an introduction to the 4 P's of marketing. Combined, these 4 items make up what is known as the marketing mix. The 4 P's are:

  • Product - The product or service being offered.
  • Price - The amount charged for the service.
  • Place - The distribution or location.
  • Promotion - The messages issued on behalf of the product (i.e., advertising, word of mouth, etc...)

Each component of the marketing mix has variables that can be changed. A change in one variable can result in a change in the perception of a product. Furthermore, different variations of a marketing mix will be more or less appealing to specific individuals or groups of consumers. The different variables of each P are:

  • Product variables: Functionality, Appearance, Quality, Packaging, Brand, Warranty and Service / Support.
  • Price variables: Discounts, Allowances, Financing, Lease Options and List Price.
  • Place variables: Channel Members, Channel Motivation, Market Coverage, Locations, Logistics & Service Levels.
  • Promotion variables: Advertising, Personal Selling, Public Relations, Message, Media & Budget.

How do you know which variables to manipulate? For the answer to this question you will need to read my next post on segmentation.

Epilogue: Other resources & tips for presentations

Whether your purpose is to convince people to purchase your products, explain a difficult concept or present research findings, ultimately you are trying to get people to buy into your message. If this is not one of your main goals... what exactly is the point of your presentation?

To wrap up this topic for now, I am providing some of the web sites that helped me out a lot.

My top sites for advice on presentations are:

Some good articles that you should consider reading are:
Special thanks!

On an aside, thanks to Scott at Tyner Blain for mentioning my last post on his blog posting Top 5 presentation tips. Tyner Blain is an excellent place for information on software development and requirements. I encourage anyone interested in those subjects to check it out.

Some tips on presentations

I have been working on improving my presentation skills. This post covers some of the learnings I have gotten from experience, other web sites, training materials and through direct observation.

Basic questions before you start:

  • Do I need to make a presentation deck at all? Garr Reynolds has an outstanding post on his blog Presentation Zen on this topic. Garr's blog is probably the best site on the art of presenting that I have seen.
  • Is this something that will be projected or will I only use hand-outs (because there is no projector)? Presentations using projectors differ from presentations without them as there are different things one must consider. For example, on hand-outs you should avoid using high quality pictures and dark backgrounds (unless conserving printer toner is not a concern.) For the purposes of this post, I will assume you will be projecting slides.

Prep activities:

  • Make up a plan for your presentation. A little forethought will go a long way. Set up your goals and objectives and use these as criteria to judge your success.
  • Know your audience. Understanding your audience can allow you to tailor your presentation to be meaningful and appealing to them. Some of my previous posts Give each of them something and Who are you? And should you care? cover off this material.
  • Gather your information & research. Make sure you understand it and have a plan to get any additional pieces you will need.
  • Know your material. This way you will not need to read your own slides. Presenters who read their own slides irk me.

Slide design:

  1. Minimize the amount of text on your slides. You do not want people to read your slides instead of listen to you. Slides are merely aids, you are giving the presentation, not them. Large volumes of text can be communicated on a hand-out; a more appropriate medium.
  2. Design your slides so that people do not read ahead. Their focus should be on you.
  3. Use nice big font sizes. Pick a good font, generally sans serif fonts are more difficult to read. When you see people starting to lean forward, reach for their glasses and squint, chances are they cannot see what you are projecting because your font size is too small.
  4. If you are using a non-standard font, embed it into your presentation so that others can see your presentation deck the same way you did when you created it.
  5. Minimize your use of bullets. Avoid having sub-points of sub-points of sub-points. Do you really enjoy sitting through slide after slide after slide containing bullet point after bullet point after bullet point? If you do not enjoy it, what makes you think anyone else will?
  6. Only one topic to a slide. Having more than one is confusing to your audience. Your slide should make an idea very obvious.
  7. Do not have too many topics in your presentation. Guy Kawasaki's blog has a good article on this concept. Guy argues that a human being can, "only comprehend 10 concepts in a meeting." By-the-way, Guy's blog is an excellent read.
  8. Just because something looks good in Rational Rose, Together or Visio does not mean it will look good projected on a screen. Be willing to make scaled-down simple versions to improve understanding. Showing a complicated schematic that has been shrunk a few hundred percent so it is not legible does not help anyone.
  9. Use a dark background and a text color that contrasts the background. It is easier to read white text on a dark background rather than dark text on a white background when slides are projected. Note this is opposite of what I said for hand-outs. Adding shadows to your text also improves readability.
  10. Avoid excessive slide transitions and animations. Just because you can do it, does not mean you have to do it. Keep animations and transitions simple and keep the number low. The first time you use one it might be cool but by the fifth time it is just damn annoying!
  11. Use nice high-quality pictures. When you stretch low quality pictures and then project them onto a screen the pixelation makes them look terrible. There are many sites where you can obtain good pictures. Here is a post on Presentation Zen and another from that have links to a lot of pictures. Make sure you respect the rights of the photographer. The majority of the pictures used on my blog are from Stock.xchg.
  12. Adhere to any corporate themes, logos or standards. Personally, I dislike this as I feel it interferes with individual creativity (though I would never muck with a corporate logo, on the otherhand with a theme...) I break this one a lot, I am a rebel (I guess.)

Before you present:

  1. Revise and rewrite as you feel necessary.
  2. Arrange your slides to flow together to meet your objectives.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. You do not want to have to read your presentation.
  4. Determine whether there are other props besides a presentation you can use. Having something tangible in a person's hands can really cement an idea.
  5. Can you integrate interaction with your audience into your presentation? Invite participation.
  6. If you want to provide hand-outs and you have used a very visual style, a lot of the information and context for the presentation will have been from things not on the slides. As such, be ready to add the additional meaning and information to your hand-outs. I suggest, taking pictures of your slides and putting them (along with the additional material) in a document. It is a lot more work but is more useful. If you choose to do this, I also suggest providing the hand-out after you have presented.


All of these things are just guidelines. If any of them work for you or help you, that's a bonus. Ok, now you are ready to take the plunge! Good luck!

Prepare thyself - make sure it's not you

Giddy up!

As a business analyst preparing to embark on a new engagement you have gotten yourself ready by:

  • Reading existing documentation such as charters and business cases.
  • Holding informal conversations with individuals knowledgeable of the project.
  • Researching external sources of information for background knowledge.

You have also got your wealth of experience accumulated over your career as a business analyst and beyond. So now you are ready, right?

I think I'm going to lose it!

Over my career as a business analyst, I have seen other business analysts pulling out their hair in exasperation over the lack of progress they are getting or the issues they are having dealing with their clients. I had the exact same thoughts go through my mind many times as well. You think,

  • "They don't get it!"
  • "They won't listen to me!"
  • "I know more about it than them!"
  • "That's got to be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard!"

Prepare thyself - mentally

I suggest some mental preparation for an engagement is also needed. Before you start:

  1. Remind yourself to stay open-minded and non-judgmental.
  2. Be ready to hear and understand, using stoic patience; if needed. There is a difference between listening to someone and hearing them.
  3. Treat this like a negotiation. Endeavor to maintain your composure at all times.
  4. Be willing to accept that your initial ideas may not be correct. Let them go.
  5. Read this poem, Rudyard Kipling's IF, and understand what's being said.

But what if you are already in the meeting and you are starting to lose it mentally?

  1. Remember your objectives.
  2. Remember you should always be building relationships.
  3. Breathe as deeply as you need to (try not to be insulting and do not roll your eyes.)
  4. Take a short break to recompose yourself. "Bio break anyone?"
  5. Cultivate ideas. Review and debate them later.

Make sure, that you are mentally focused and ready for the task at hand. If it was easy, they would not need you.

Give each of them something

My last post talked about how you could approach me when if you knew a bit about my personality. That was merely an example. Let us, generalize this to understanding how you would approach people with different personality types.

Sometime last year I received a presentation from PRI International, a company that specializes in human performance management. PRI has an Identity Mapping methodology that can be used to foster more effective communication. According to their methodology there are 4 major identity types. People have characteristics of each, however, depending on what is the most dominant identity type in an individual, they will be more receptive to certain approaches versus others. The major identity types are:

  • Action - People who want to do something.
  • Relationship - People who value relationships and working together.
  • Logical - People who need facts.
  • Organized - People who need to see a game plan.

Follow this link to PRI's web site, and click on, "What do we see!" and "What do we hear!" This will give you some ideas about the characteristic traits of each identity type. How does this influence your approach to someone?

  • Action - Tell them the end goal. You do not need to tell them how to get there.
  • Logical - Give them the objective facts.
  • Organized - Show them how you will get to where you want to be.
  • Relationship - This was the odd one, approach them using their second most dominant identity type (i.e., action, logical or organized.)

I do not want to elaborate much more than this as PRI offers courses on this material and they provide a free executive preview where you can learn all about it.

To dove tail this post, when you are thrust into a situation where you need to communicate a message to individuals that you do not know; it may be useful to try to add something for each of the identity types so that each of them feels you connected with them. Or, give each of them something.

Who are you? And should you care?

I am...

In the last little while it seems I have been inundated with requests to do personality profile tests. After recently changing positions, my new boss asked me to go and do a Myers-Briggs test. Normally, I am not one who does give much credence to these sorts of things but I admit I was a little curious. Furthermore, I had already passed my probation period so what was the worst thing that could happen to me?

After, locating an online test I diligently filled it out and awaited the results. My results were corroborated by a test on another site, Apparently, I fall into the most rare of the Myers-Briggs personality types; INTJ or the Mastermind. For full descriptions of what this means you can look at:

The high-lights (or low-lights) were:

  1. INTJs project an aura of self-confidence; which can be mistaken for arrogance.
  2. INTJs will tell you what they do not know.
  3. INTJs are perfectionists.
  4. INTJs are logical and objective which can make them appear to be detached or cold.
  5. Relationships are the Achilles' heel of the INTJ (my co-workers found this one very amusing.)
I am not very sure about the first one (I will leave that for others to answer) but items 2 through 5 fit like a glove. It's just a test but the results seemed reasonable. As a bonus, I got all of these little banners to put on my blog which illustrates just how interesting (Re: weird), I am.

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
Take Free Jung Personality Test
personality tests by

And it means...?
When I present things I will provide the facts and only the facts. Furthermore, I am not likely to respond to emotional arguments. I require facts and logic to back them up.

Armed with this knowledge you should now know how to engage me in a discussion or conversation. You can tailor your presentation or pitch specifically to me.

Now let's expand a little bit. Knowing how receptive specific individuals or groups of people are to different types of arguments will allow you to more effectively communicate your ideas to them. Of course the follow-up question is, "So what if my audience is composed of individuals who react to different stimuli (i.e., some like logical arguments while others like emotional ones.)?"

Perhaps the answer lies in trying to give each of them something. I'll continue this them on my next post.

As an FYI, here are my Enneagram scores from the 2nd test mentioned above.

Enneagram Test Results
Type 1 Perfectionism83%
Type 2Helpfulness53%
Type 3Image Awareness43%
Type 4Sensitivity70%
Type 5Detachment86%
Type 6Anxiety56%
Type 7Adventurousness26%
Type 8Aggressiveness43%
Type 9Calmness66%
Your main type is 5
Your variant is self pres

Requirement Gathering Techniques - Part IV - The end

Let's close the loop on this series of posts by recapping what I have covered.

  1. Understand the requirement gathering situation you are facing. What is the nature of the project? How urgent is it? Are there knowledgeable resources that can be leveraged?
  2. Choose the most appropriate requirement gathering methods for the task at hand based on your knowledge of the situation.
  3. Using the number of times you believe you will need to use a specific requirement gathering method, estimate how long it will take you.
  4. Set expectations with your clients using your estimates and aspire to meet them. You may need to be flexible and negotiate a mutually acceptable expectation.

I know all of this is common sense but it will go a long way towards managing your clients' expectations about your deliverables and building trust. Of course, you will still need to execute according to your plan and show how you are progressing.

Requirement Gathering Techniques - Part III con't - Time estimation

So you signed up (or were conscripted) for a project and the project manager asks you, "When will you be done? How long is this going to take?"

What do you do now?

In my previous post, I spoke about building a work plan and setting expectations. This post will go hand-in-hand with my last one. In fact, it is actually a subcomponent of the process mentioned. I spoke about selecting the different methods that were most suitable for a given project.

Then I mentioned that based on the size and scale of the endeavor you could develop an idea about how many different sessions one would need for each of the different methods of gathering requirements to be used.

For each method, based on your experience level, knowledge of the situation and other factors (such as your productivity level), you can start to build rough estimates for how long it will take for each session in the requirement gathering process. By this I mean,

  1. W hours will be spent gathering requirements using a specific methodology.
  2. X hours will be spent analyzing, revising and ensuring consistency with already captured requirements; Or in other words, preparing solid requirements.
  3. Y hours will be spent in a review process. This includes the time one spends waiting for clients to open their email and review the documentation as well as any formalized review processes that you have agreed to follow.
  4. Z hours incorporating any changes, modifications and processing change requests.

Now, W + X + Y + Z = the elapsed time to complete one full session using your chosen methodology. Since you have an estimate about how many different sessions you will need for each method, you can provide a rough estimate for the length of time for the entire process. Note that I am a proponent for adding a little extra contingency time.

I want to avoid providing specific timelines for doing components of the process because it will vary depending on factors such as:

  • Experience level of team.
  • Familiarity with the subject matter.
  • General productivity level of team.
  • Level of multi-tasking involved (i.e., how many projects are people assigned to simultaneously.)

As your experience level increases, your estimation skills will improve allowing you to provide better and more reasonable estimates on the whole. This is not to say you will be the perfect estimator (there is a reason it is called an estimate); but all things being equal you will be good at estimating the effort needed for your deliverables.

Requirement Gathering Techniques - Part III - Set expectations

One of the most important things that you can do with your clients is develop trust and integrity. The simplest way to achieve this is to say what you are going to do; and then go out and do it.

Build visibility into your process and acknowledge when things are not going according to plan. Visibility implies that people know what you are doing and your current status. Traceability supports this function by allowing people to quickly navigate through your work.

  • State the methods you will employ on the engagement. Negotiate for adequate time and resource availability commitments. Then build your work plan.
  • State what software tools (i.e., Rational Rose, MS Visio, MS Excel, MS Word, Telelogic DOORS, Borland CalibreRM, Requisite Pro etc...) you will be using for the deliverables.
  • State how your deliverables will be distributed to stakeholders and users.
  • Develop agreement on a review process.
  • Negotiate a change management process.
  • Show your progress against your plan on a regular frequency.
  • Execute.

  • If you can set expectations and deliver upon them; then you will be well on your way towards developing trust and integrity with your clients.

    Requirement Gathering Techniques - Part II - Choose your tools

    I'm listing a few different methods that you can use to extract requirements from clients. In my previous post I talked about understanding the situation you are facing: the nature of the project, the urgency and the availability of knowledgeable resources. These factors will determine which methods are more suitable for your situation and what combination you will employ. By using your experience and factoring in the magnitude of your project, you will be able to estimate how many sessions you will need for each method.


  • Good for user interfaces.
  • Good for allowing visualization with clients.
  • Clients focus in on the details and look and feel. This is a good thing when creating functional specifications but not very good for getting high-level business requirements (i.e., understanding the general business purpose and objectives.)
  • Clients may develop expectations that final product can be developed quickly since the prototype was developed rapidly.

  • Observation
  • Good way to see and understand the existing workflow and processes that are used. Particulary helpful if the process is only known by the end-user.
  • End-users have a tendency not to behave how they normally would or feel that they may be being scrutinized.

  • Brainstorming
  • Good for faciliation and idea development.
  • Easy to lose focus and start going off on tangents.
  • Requires lots of different people.
  • Requires follow-up meetings to refine.

  • Interviewing
  • Short daily sessions are less distruptive to the lives of clients but take longer to reach end of job.
  • Inversely, longer half-day to full day sessions are very distruptive to clients day jobs but you can finish faster.

  • My next post will be concerned with setting expectations for your clients as to the production of requirement deliverables.

    Requirement Gathering Techniques - Part I - Know the situation

    My next set of posts will speak to the different types of techniques that can be employed to gather requirements for a project.

    It is important to understand which methods are appropriate (or conversely which ones are not appropriate) for a given situation and to choose accordingly. The selection of an inappropriate tool will hinder your efforts.

    I like to think that as I learn and experience more, I am refining my own approaches as well as learning new techniques. This allows me to have a larger repertoire of tools (in my "toolbox") that I can use to tackle future opportunities. At least, that's my personal philosophy on this subject.

    One of the first things that you should understand is, "What is the situation?" Usually this is fairly self-evident, however, you should always make sure you are at least pointed in the right direction before you start running.

    To understand the situation, criteria that you should consider are:

    The nature of the project

    • How much is known about the project (i.e., is there already a defined idea or are facilitative efforts needed?)
    • Are there user interface requirements?
    • Have similar efforts been done before (internally or externally) that can be leveraged?
    The urgency of the project

    • In a utopian society, we have lots of time. In the real world, sometimes we are already behind before we even start. Are you in that situation?
    • Are there hard deadlines that cannot be moved (i.e., legislative mandates?)
    • Is this an investigative or facilitative effort?
    The availability of knowledgeable resources

    • Who are the different people involved?
    • What time commitment can the key clients, end-users and subject-matter experts provide?
    • Are external resources, such as legal experts, needed?
    • Is potentially useful information available on research sites like: Gartner, Forrester, or the Yankee Group?
    • Are there user groups or independent communities that can be leveraged?
    • How much knowledge does the business analyst have on the subject?