Every marketing strategy should include determining the best way to narrow down the total addressable market (TAM) for that particular campaign. Audience segmentation is critical for using your marketing resources effectively. It’s how you make sure your message is shown to the right people — and only the right people.
Let’s explore what B2B audience segmentation is, some common challenges marketers face when segmenting, and how to overcome those challenges.
What is segmentation?
In B2B marketing, market segmentation is the process of separating your target audience into groups with common characteristics. Typical segmentation categories for B2B marketers include:
- Company size
- Company revenue
- Company structure
- Industry pain points
- Functional pain points
While these categories are often used to segment B2B audiences, they are far from the only segments.
Challenges in B2B audience segmentation
Segmentation is not always as easy as it should be. Here are six common challenges in B2B audience segmentation and how to overcome them:
1. Availability and reliability of marketing data
Effective segmentation hinges on data, and the first challenge to create effective market segments often revolves around simply trusting your data. That’s why it’s crucial to gather comprehensive and accurate information about your target audience. Still, no matter how much customer data you’ve collected, there’s always the chance that it has become out of date or was simply entered incorrectly.
How to overcome this challenge: The best way to help ensure robust and accurate data is to rely on multiple sources for collecting data, including customer surveys, CRM systems, third-party data providers, and social media insights. A diverse range of sources can help you gather more data and cross-verify the data you already have.
“The best way to help ensure robust and accurate data is to rely on multiple sources for collecting data, including customer surveys, CRM systems, third-party data providers, and social media insights.” — Art Allen @punsultant Click To Tweet
2. Lack of data expertise
Handling and interpreting large-scale data can be complex. Even with access to ample data, not all marketing teams have the technical knowhow to manipulate and interpret the customer data they have collected. This lack of expertise can result in poor market segmentation, leading to wasted valuable resources when your campaigns target less than ideal markets.
How to overcome this challenge: Data expertise can’t be faked, so the key to addressing this challenge is to invest in training programs focused on data analytics and interpretation. This should be done for anyone involved in working with market segmentation data. With these additional skills, segmentation efforts will be more precise and therefore more effective.
3. Complex buying cycles and decision-making structures
B2B buying cycles are uniquely intricate, and decision-making structures involve multiple stakeholders across functional teams. Navigating this complexity can be daunting when crafting segmented marketing campaigns. Presenting the same marketing message to each stakeholder — from individual contributor to C-suite executive — is a recipe for missed opportunities.
How to overcome this challenge: Perhaps the most powerful thing market segmentation enables is personalization of marketing messages. So instead of segmenting your target customers by industry, company size, or any other high level factor, segment them by role. This will help you speak directly to and build relationships with individual stakeholders regardless of where the overall organization is in their specific buying cycle.
4. Fluid market conditions
B2B markets are always moving — growing, stagnating, shrinking — and never in predictable ways. This fluidity can pose a challenge to segmentation efforts. Customer preferences, needs, and pain points may align one day and be totally at odds with each other the next. All this uncertainty means you are never quite sure when a particular customer may be in-market.
How to overcome this challenge: Continuous market research can help you understand which portions of your target markets are known to be in flux and in what way. You can then divide your segments so they present one type of message to targets more likely to be interested in buying and another type of message to targets who may be interested in a year or two.
5. Market fragmentation
Over time, markets are bound to evolve. When they do this, they tend to fragment into smaller niches, making it challenging to define broad segments. This fragmentation can make it harder to identify and target your ideal audience — and therefore more challenging to get the right message in front of the right audience.
How to overcome this challenge: One approach to correcting this is to conduct regular market analysis to identify emerging sub-segments early. When you discover a new fracture in the market, you can adjust your segmentation accordingly. This results in more, smaller segments, which allows you to be more nimble in how you target markets.
6. Failure to align with broader marketing strategy
Segmentation should be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. If segmentation is done in isolation, it may fail to align with your broader marketing goals. This can lead to disjointed campaigns and inconsistent brand messaging and a breakdown of your full-funnel lead gen strategy.
“Segmentation should be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. If segmentation is done in isolation, it may fail to align with your broader marketing goals.” — Art Allen @punsultant Click To Tweet
How to overcome this challenge: Segmentation needs to be weaved into the strategic planning process. Before the strategy is complete, you should be able to identify which market segments are high value to your brand. This will help you formulate your marketing more effectively, since you will already have a clearer understanding of your audience and what their needs are.
Bake segmentation into your B2B marketing strategy
Segmenting B2B audiences is a foundational component of an effective marketing strategy. Learn more about what it takes to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and how TopRank Marketing can help with our Marketing Strategy Guide.