How To Segment Audiences: A B2B Marketer’s Guide

Ask any seasoned marketer and they’ll tell you that strong segmentation is the key ingredient to efficient, successful campaigns.

From the marketer’s point of view: you get more precise with your messaging and personalization, gain a better view of your total addressable market (TAM), spend your budget more efficiently, and improve your reporting. 

From the audience’s point of view: they won’t get bombarded with irrelevant content and messages, but will receive content that’s actually of interest to them. This applies to all types of campaigns — from emails to display ads to content syndication. It’s a win-win.

While there is no precise recipe to segment audiences, we’re here to help you nail down the fundamentals.

Which Comes First — the Content or the Audience?

An age-old question. The marketer’s version of the chicken or the egg. Are you creating content offers to fit your audience, or creating audiences to fit your content offers? Like other things in marketing, the answer can be found by focusing on your customer.

“Your company puts out products in the market to solve problems for people — which naturally begets the messaging,” says Mitchell Hanson, senior director of demand generation at ZoomInfo. “In all likelihood, you’ll have multiple different messages because the product solves different things for different people.” 

Identify your different value propositions and personas, and use the content you create as a vehicle to deliver those key messages. 

Use the BANT Framework 

BANT (an acronym for budget, authority, need, and timeline) is a commonly accepted B2B marketing framework. While it can be used to help you qualify leads, it’s also an excellent strategy to segment audiences. Let’s break it down.

  • Budget: What is the prospect’s annual revenue? Are they a small to medium-sized business, or an enterprise? How much might they be willing to spend?
  • Authority: Who’s on the buying committee? What’s their job title? 
  • Need: Does this person/company have a true need for your product? Do they experience the problems your solution solves?
  • Timeline: Where are they in the buyer’s journey? Are they still learning about their problem, or are they deciding between vendors? 

Note that the answers to these questions might not always be obvious. For example, a medium-sized business with a larger-than-average sales team might have a bigger need for sales software than an enterprise company with a smaller sales team. You could have a big customer that’s very frugal or a small customer that spends a lot. Everything is relative.

Use these factors to help you narrow your audience. The goal is to be specific enough in your audience segmentation that the message feels personalized, but not so granular that it’s not scalable.

4 Types of Data to Segment Audiences by

“Not only do you want to use segmentation to sort through lists, but also to get a 360-degree view of your total addressable market,” Hanson says. 

Within BANT, there are four primary types of data with which to segment your audience:

1. Firmographics 

Firmographics are the profile characteristics of a company. They include: 

  • Employee headcount
  • Annual revenue
  • Industry 
  • B2B vs. B2C
  • Location 

2. Demographics 

Demographics are the characteristics of the people at those businesses who you’re targeting — most likely the buying committee. Attributes include:

  • Job title
  • Department
  • Management level 
  • Years at company
  • Language
  • Location

3. Technographics 

Technographics are especially important if you’re in the SaaS industry. This data type looks at a company’s existing tech stack to determine if your software could complement, replace, or influence their programs.

For example, let’s say you sell marketing automation software. You may want to prioritize companies that use Salesforce or another well-known CRM, because they’ll likely need marketing automation to integrate it with.

4. Behaviors

Behavioral data speaks to the mindset and actions of your target audience. It comes in three primary forms: 

  • One is product affinity, which tells you how people feel about your product. Have they purchased it before? If so, which one? Do they like it? What were their experiences and perceptions?
  • Then there’s intent data. Intent data tracks when a company is searching for content relevant to your business, indicating they want to learn more about the problem you solve — or even make a purchase. For example, if someone read an article on “Top 5 Cybersecurity Software Vendors of 2022,” you can infer they’re in the market to make a cybersecurity purchase soon. 
  • Similarly, you can also segment by lifecycle stage. If you have a cold prospect who has never engaged with you before, your message to them will be different than to a customer who has previously renewed six times. You can segment audiences by MQL, demo, open and closed opportunities, or how much they’ve spent with you in the past. 

But make sure you choose wisely. “Pick the four or five — or at most, 10 — attributes that you want to segment by,” Hanson advises. “You can’t boil the ocean. Each data point you layer on will shrink your audience size significantly.”

How to Segment Audiences for Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

When it comes to account-based marketing, investing in strong data and accurate target account lists is critical. “If the target list is not good, nothing else matters,” says Arjun Pillai, senior vice president of growth at ZoomInfo.

By analyzing your database for similar characteristics among your highest-paying customers, you can develop your ideal customer profile (ICP). With that, you can layer on intent data to identify which accounts that fit your ICP are also in the market to buy right now.

Once you have your list of accounts, segment them by tiers 1, 2, and 3 (from highest to lowest priority). Although ABM can go as granular as one-to-one targeting (which you may want to consider for your most ideal customers), you should usually segment by small groups. 

For example, let’s say your tier 1 accounts are a list of enterprise e-commerce companies located in the UK with high intent to purchase. Your tier 2 accounts are mid-size retail companies located in the US, also with high intent to purchase. Your buyer persona is the VP of sales for both. 

This information can guide how you phrase your messaging, to speak to the circumstances of each tier. It will also help you prioritize your budget since you likely have to invest more money into your higher-value accounts.

More Segmentation Tips From Our Experts 

Some final thoughts…

  • If you don’t know what to segment audiences by, start with “customer or prospect.” Their familiarity (or lack thereof) with your product will dictate how you address them. After that, segment by job function (e.g. sales, marketing, operations, etc).
  • Understand what data you can access. Ask yourself: If you had all of the data in the world, what would you choose to segment audiences by? Then ask yourself if you have that data — and more importantly, can you trust that data? If not, you may want to reevaluate your B2B data provider.
  • Collaborate with sales and product marketing on key data points. They’ll have valuable insight into how you should segment your audiences.
  • Use dynamic audiences so you have an ever-evolving list of updated contacts. 
  • Don’t forget to tailor your message based on where your audience is located. What language do they speak? Are there cultural customs or practices to consider in your approach? Location matters — especially internationally.

You Can’t Segment Audiences Without Good Data

The most important aspect of segmenting audiences is having strong, reliable data. The more thorough and complete your database is, the more precise you can be with your targeting. 

For example: If you wanted to segment based on companies making layoffs versus companies growing in headcount, you may want to know how many people they’ve laid off, or how fast they’re growing. Did they lay off 50 people or 500 people? Are they growing by 20% or 200%, year over year? This level of detail helps curate a more accurate message to the best-fit people.

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