This short article identifies key shifts in gear when it comes to segmenting and targeting B2B audiences. Read on to discover how B2B marketing segmentation continues to evolve to deliver better results and return on investment.
Reading time: 3 minutes
Why do many marketers scoff at the notion of mass marketing and macro segmentation?
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘spray and pray’, and perhaps rightly so, it’s used to highlight the perils of serving broad-based messaging to a widely undifferentiated audience.
While it is applaudable to aspire to winning over your total addressable market (TAM), the reality is unless you have an inexhaustible marketing budget and operate in an entirely uncompetitive marketplace, it is better to aim to grow your market share by targeting the most attractive (and servable opportunities) looming within it.
This requires breaking your market down further into customer segments that represent the best and most profitable opportunities.
This calls for more granular data that steps beyond basic geographic or demographic segmentation. Cue micro segmentation…
What does ‘good B2B marketing segmentation’ look like?
As macro segmentation fizzled out, the application of micro segmentation techniques caught on, fueled largely by access to better data and adoption of account-based marketing.
Interrogating customer databases and constructing carefully thought-out ideal customer profiles (ICP) have enabled B2B marketers to better understand and identify those ‘best fit accounts’ worth investing resources behind.
The ability to leverage firmographic intent data to transform these ICPs into viable target account lists (TAL) marks another significant milestone in the evolution of market segmentation strategies.
Then entered the dawn of hyper personalization bringing with it the quest for 1-1 style communications.
This means micro segmentation techniques have to work even harder at uncovering individual preferences, behavioral nuances and physiological triggers shaping the way target B2B buyers interact, interpret and respond to marketing stimuli.
But is this really the holy grail of b2b marketing segmentation?
Trouble in paradise
Taking a hyper targeted approach to your segmentation strategy is great if you have huge confidence in your data, technology and teams. However, even then there are still downfalls in relying solely on this approach.
Going super granular to construct your target audience can leave you with very small (and quickly exhaustible) audience pools. This can make executing campaigns on your paid media channels extremely costly – and simply not that effective.
3 reasons why hyper targeted marketing campaigns might not be the most effective targeting tactic:
1. Complexity that spirals out of control
Many companies will segment their audiences into multiple mini account-based audience clusters, each with their own content strategy and creative executions. This can lead to managing many campaigns simultaneously which can be hard to monitor and control.
2. Viable lookalike accounts get missed out
When companies are too fixated on just a few select accounts, they may miss the opportunity to target viable lookalike accounts that share the same buying criteria, information needs and digital buying behaviors.
3. Forgetting the importance of other influential stakeholders in the DMU
Too many companies focus on reaching senior decision makers without considering the influential role of other members in the buying committee. Buying decisions usually kick off with the end users who both experience the product or are tasked with researching new opportunities. Failure to intercept these key players can leave a huge chasm in your segmentation and targeting strategy.
For further reading on targeting influential members of the B2B Buying committee read The B2B Decision Making Unit (DMU); The Real Faces of Persuasion
So what does ‘outstanding B2B market segmentation’ look like then?
We kicked off his article alluding to the fact macro segmentation was dated, however, there are examples of when, used in conjunction with micro segmentation and targeting tactics, macro segmentation works very effectively.
Success lies in matching your marketing segmentation to your funnel objectives.
For example, there are overarching top level agendas shared by most businesses, such as:
- safeguarding the bottom line
- improving efficiency
- increasing productivity
All the above strike a chord regardless of industry, geographical location and preferred device.
This means, when serving top of the funnel activity, you can afford to group multiple market segments and serve top level messaging to great effect.
Remarketing segments can also remain fairly broad when tackling early engagement. For example, website visitors can again be served top level messaging associated with your brand keywords.
Taking this approach will help optimize the volume of leads you can attract into the top of your marketing funnel. Once you have them, there are many granular micro segmentation targeting techniques you can deploy to keep them orbiting your brand.
When to use more granular targeting in marketing
As people progress down your buyer journey, you want to ensure they stay within it. This requires the necessary data to serve relevant messages that resonate with their buyer stage. This is where these 5 targeting tactics should be considered:
- Audience targeting
- Contextual targeting
- Custom intent targeting
- Predictive signals
- In-market targeting
If you have the ability to leverage progressive profiling, capturing more granular data (such as keyword intent tags) and storing this against each individual, then you are ideally placed to deliver more granular targeting to individuals and buying groups within your main audience segments.
This combined with access to a recommendation engine that leverages predictive AI to automatically support a series of touchpoints, enables marketers to deliver the right message, at the right time based on their past activity with relative ease and accuracy.
If you don’t have the current internal capabilities, it’s possible to outsource this data from third party vendors with an opted in membership base. This intelligence can be overlaid against your chosen target audience to enrich it and enable further segmentation down into priority tiers according to ‘readiness to buy’.
It can also be an effective way to identify other lookalike accounts outside of your ICP that are compatible – and also in-market!
It appears a hybrid of both macro and micro market segmentation techniques are now required to identify, capture and retain the best fit opportunities.
The criteria we use to segment audiences and steer campaigns is hugely dependent on our access to reliable data. This data helps us to unlock crucial knowledge about our audiences in order to effectively segment them into the most relevant and meaningful clusters according to our demand generation objectives. This includes the ability to switch between account, buyer group and individual level.
For more information on B2B segmentation best practices, including how to switch between account, buyer group and individual level, download our carefully researched Holy Grail of B2B Marketing Segmentation.