How to Create a Segmentation Strategy in Account-Based Marketing

A segmentation strategy has been a necessity of marketing plans for decades. A segmentation strategy is used to identify and define a target industry and often includes personas, which are used to define the traits of an organization’s ideal customer. Much has been made over the last decade or so about how Marketers can improve the definition of their market segments by gathering behavioral and demographic data from digital and online activity. The obvious conclusion is that the more information you gather, it results in better audience targeting, which will lead to increased engagement and thus higher sales conversions.

I can guarantee that nearly every Marketer has a segmentation strategy and at least a framework for customer personas, even if they are not formally written down. Therefore, it begs the question as to why so many B2B organizations continually struggle with demand generation and converting marketing leads to sales opportunities. I believe it’s because Marketers have been going about developing these segments and personas all wrong. B2B Marketers have been following a B2C model of segmentation which is focused on the individual buyers. Instead, B2B Marketers need to follow an Account-Based Marketing segmentation strategy and focus on an account segmentation model, not an individual customer.

What is an Account-Based Marketing Segmentation Strategy?

B2B marketers tend to create a segmentation strategy that is predicated on building buyer personas based on an individual’s demographic and digital behavior. Many experts often site the Amazon model of “If you like this, then you’ll like that” as an example of using an individual’s buying behavior in order to target and sell more effectively. However, that theory doesn’t translate well to the B2B buying process. Most B2B buyers don’t read a whitepaper and then attend a related webinar and then buy a $500K in software. There are multiple “buyers” in a B2B buying process who each have their own stake in protecting the business. It’s not about what the individual “likes;” it’s about what’s good for the business. For example, if an organization in interested in buying a piece of Marketing Automation software, Marketing, Sales, Executive Management, and IT are all involved in the buying process.  They all have their own concerns and goals as it’s related to the business.

In an Account-Based Marketing segmentation strategy, segments should be built around account data such as industry type, company size, company revenue, number of employees, etc. The overall definition of the segment should be based the needs and goals of the business. For example, is the business lacking the personnel and skill sets needed to reach their goals or does the business want to align their technology stack. Your marketing would be much more effective if it was focused on these business issues rather than whether or not an individual attended a webinar or downloaded a whitepaper. With Account-Based Marketing segmentation, the focus is on collecting information about individual stakeholders to form a complete picture about the organization’s goals, in order to market based on business objectives, not individual objectives.  

Tips for Building Segments using Account-Based Marketing 

1. Create a Key Account List for Marketing.
Most B2B sales reps have a list of accounts that he or she is required to either penetrate or expand. Marketing should also have a target account list that is aligned to Sales’ list. With today’s marketing technology tools, Marketers can identify when individuals from these accounts interact with marketing materials or attend marketing events. Furthermore, there are technologies that will allow organizations to target their marketing messages based on account data. This provides Marketers with the ability to send their Sales counterparts the type of fully qualified leads that will actually help them build and grow their accounts, which is much more valuable than handing them a random lead that downloaded a whitepaper.

2. Ask Account or Business Related Questions on Web Forms
On marketing forms, don’t ask for personal information, like company address and phone number. You can get that type of information from a zillion data providers. Instead use those precious form questions to ask account information, such as

  • Are you familiar with our products?
  • How many employees are in your organization?
  • What is the main business objective you want to solve?

These are questions that indicate an interest in buying as well as help inform an account profile, but most importantly they are things Sales wants to know prior to calling a prospect. Furthermore, instead of asking for data like Title and Company Name, ask for the name of the Business Unit or Division and Role.  You’re providing Sales with key information related to the account and creating an automatic MQL.  

3. Mix in Traditional Marketing Tactics for Target Accounts
Many successful sales opportunities are based on personal relationships. In a B2B organization, the Sales teams may draw on personal connections, partner networks, and past connections or referrals to generate business, which results in a shorter sales cycle. Marketers need to use account segments to develop marketing tactics that also build relationships. Direct mail campaigns, special offers via digital or print campaigns, or a hyper-personalized email campaign are all outbound activities that marketers can use to engage potential contacts from a target account list. Sales will be much more appreciative of engagement from a small group of contacts from their target accounts list than hundreds of inbound leads that download a case study and are nowhere near their targets accounts.

Focusing on an Account-Based Marketing strategy will help Marketing better align with Sales and deliver actual conversions and opportunities for the sales team instead of a sending them a bunch of randomized, unqualified leads that never result in a sale.


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