5 Effective Audience Segments for Digital Marketing

Too often, we talk to marketers whose idea of audience segmentation is not just limited, but terribly egocentric. You are, I’m sure, at least a few steps ahead of the worst offenders, but you may still be leaving opportunities unaddressed. Here are some new ways to think about your audience.

Hitting the Target Audience SegmentToo often, we talk to marketers whose idea of audience segmentation is not just limited, but terribly egocentric. By egocentric, I mean that they view their audience segments in terms of their own product or service lines: Segment 1 is the folks we sell this service to. Segment 2 is the folks we sell that service to.

You are, I’m sure, at least a few steps ahead of the worst offenders, but you may still be leaving opportunities unaddressed. Here are some new ways to think about your audience.

1. Industry

Industry considerations are probably the grand-daddy of all segmentation. Even folks who think egocentrically about their audience are smart enough to realize that their products are likely to be appealing in different ways to different audiences. The features are the same, but the benefits change depending on the industry’s needs.

You can capitalize on this by creating content that is industry-specific and highlights the benefits that are most pertinent to that industry’s most common needs. As with all of the segmentation examples we’re discussing, this can be implemented in some combination of your website landing pages, email marketing subscriptions and even speaking engagements, among other things.

2. Company Size

Just as different industries will have different needs, so will organizations of varying sizes. Again, you’ll want to focus on differentiation of benefits of your product or service. For example, your product’s ability to eliminate the need for more staff as business grows is likely to be more valuable to a large organization than a small one — saving a few hours a week isn’t going to change the head count in an organization where those savings are multiplied by only one employee. But if the multiplier is dozens of employees, that’s a different story.

3. Role

The CFO may be the decider-in-chief when it comes to adding products or services for accounting and compliance teams, but her interests will be quite different from those of an in-the-trenches accountant in the same organization. If she’s smart, she’ll let those accountants have their say in what tools they get to use for their tasks. If you’re smart, you’ll position your solutions differently to each role. For one group you might want to highlight how your solution makes their lives easier day-to-day. For the other, cost savings or consistency across the organization might be the pain point to address.

4. Past Purchase Behavior

You don’t interact with your close friends the same way you do with acquaintances or complete strangers, do you? So why wouldn’t you differentiate your marketing for new prospects, lapsed customers and key accounts?

Technology is getting all the press these days, but good solid relationships matter, too. Talking to your customers can help you understand typical paths as companies grow (or contract) and mature or morph into new businesses. With that understanding, you can pro-actively engage with customers who are starting down similar paths. There’s real magic in knowing what a client will need before he does!

5. Content Consumption Behavior

Technology again gets a starring role in the realm of content consumption behavior. Tracking what content is most popular in aggregate is fantastic; it guides you to create more content like it. But tracking individual preferences is powerful, too, since it can help you make content recommendations that are most relevant to that prospect’s needs — and most useful to you in helping them through the buyer’s journey.

Not all of these segmentation approaches will make sense for your business, but technology continues to make tracking behavior and segmentation easier than ever, so you should be revisiting these concepts on at least an annual basis. As your business changes so might the ways you drill down into your funnel to best meet your prospects’ needs.

B-to-B Prospecting Data Just Keeps Getting Better

The most reliable and scalable approach to finding new B-to-B customers is outbound communications, whether by mail, phone or email, to potential prospects, using rented or purchased lists. B-to-B marketers typically select targets from prospecting lists based on such traditional variables as industry, company size and job role, or title. But new research indicates that B-to-B prospecting data is much more detailed these days, and includes a plethora of variables to choose from

The most reliable and scalable approach to finding new B-to-B customers is outbound communications, whether by mail, phone or email, to potential prospects, using rented or purchased lists. B-to-B marketers typically select targets from prospecting lists based on such traditional variables as industry, company size, and job role or title. But new research (opens as a pdf) indicates that B-to-B prospecting data is much more detailed these days, and includes a plethora of variables to choose from—for refining your targeting, or for building predictive models—to pick your targets even more effectively.

My colleague Bernice Grossman and I recently conducted a new study (opens as a pdf) indicating that B-to-B marketers now have the opportunity to target prospects more efficiently than ever before. In fact, you might say that business marketers now have access to prospecting data as rich and varied as that available in consumer markets.

To get an understanding of the depth of data available to B-to-B marketers for prospecting, we invited a set of reputable vendors to open their vaults and share details about the nature and quantity of the fields they offer. Seven vendors participated, giving us a nice range of data sources, including both compiled lists and response lists.

We provided each vendor with a set of 30 variables that B-to-B marketers often use, including not only company size and industry, but also elements like the year the company was established, fiscal year end, Fortune Magazine ranking, SOHO (small office/home office) business indicator, growing/shrinking indicator, and other useful variables that can give marketers insight into the relative likelihood of a prospect’s conversion to a customer. We learned that some vendors provide all these data elements on most of the accounts on their files, while others offer only a few.

We also asked the participating vendors to tell us what other fields they make available, and this is where things got interesting. In response to our request for sample records on five well-known firms, the reported results included as many as 100 lines per firm. Furthermore, two of the vendors, Harte-Hanks and HG Data, supply details about installed technology, and their fields thus run into the thousands. The quantity was so vast that we published it in a supplementary spreadsheet, so that our research report itself would be kept to a readable size.

Some of the more intriguing fields now available to marketers include:

  • Spending levels on legal services, insurance, advertising, accounting services, utilities and office equipment (Infogroup)
  • Self-identifying keywords used on the company website (ALC)
  • Technology usage “intensity” score, by product (HG Data)
  • Out-of-business indicator, plus credit rating and parent/subsidiary linkages (Salesforce.com)
  • Company SWOT analysis (OneSource)
  • Whether the company conducts e-commerce (ALC)
  • List of company competitors (OneSource)
  • Biographies of company contacts (OneSource)
  • Employees who travel internationally (Harte-Hanks)
  • Employees who use mobile technology (Harte-Hanks)
  • Links to LinkedIn profiles of company managers (Stirista)
  • Executive race, religion, country of origin and second language (Stirista)

Imagine what marketers could do with a treasure trove of data elements like these to help identify high-potential prospects.

Matter of fact, we asked the vendors to tell us the fields that their clients find most valuable for predictive purposes. Several fresh and interesting ideas surfaced:

  • A venture capital trigger, from OneSource, indicating that a firm has received fresh funding and thus has budget to spend.
  • Tech purchase likelihood scores from Harte-Hanks, built from internal models and appended to enhance the profile of each account.
  • A “prospectability” score custom-modeled by OneSource to match target accounts with specific sales efforts.
  • PRISM-like business clusters offered by Salesforce.com (appended from D&B), which provide a simple profile for gaining customer insights and finding look-alikes.
  • “Call status code,” Infogroup’s assessment of the authenticity of the company record, based on Infogroup’s ongoing phone-based data verification program.

We conclude from this study that B-to-B prospecting data is richer and more varied than most marketers would have thought. We recommend that marketers test several vendors, to see which best suit their needs, and conduct a comparative test before you buy.

Readers who would like to see our past studies on the quality and quantity of prospecting data available in business markets can access them here. Bernice and I are always open to ideas for future studies. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.