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The ultimate guide to B2B customer segmentation [+examples]

January 2, 2023 | Teemu Raitaluoto
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Customer segmentation is a critical part of any successful business strategy, as it allows businesses to gain a better understanding of their customers and tailor their products, services, and marketing efforts to meet the specific needs of each segment. By using customer segmentation, businesses can create more effective marketing and sales campaigns, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, and drive growth and success in their respective markets. In this article, we will explore the key concepts and principles of customer segmentation, and discuss the different types of segmentation methods that businesses can use. We will also look at the role of technology and data analytics in modern customer segmentation, and provide tips and best practices for creating effective customer segments. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of customer segmentation and how it can help your business to grow and succeed.

What is customer segmentation?

B2B customer segmentation is the process of dividing business-to-business (B2B) customers into smaller groups based on common characteristics or needs. This can help businesses to better understand their customers and tailor their products, services, and marketing efforts to meet the specific needs of each segment.

B2B customer segmentation typically involves collecting and analyzing data on customer demographics, behaviors, needs, and preferences, and using this information to identify and target specific segments. For example, a B2B business might segment its customers based on factors such as industry, company size, location, or purchasing behavior.

By identifying and targeting specific customer segments, B2B businesses can improve their marketing and sales efforts, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and better serve the needs of their customers. Ultimately, effective B2B customer segmentation can help businesses to grow and succeed in a competitive marketplace.

Customer segmentation vs market segmentation

Customer segmentation and market segmentation are similar in that they both involve dividing a larger market into smaller groups based on certain characteristics. The main difference between the two is that customer segmentation focuses on dividing customers into groups based on their individual characteristics and behaviors, while market segmentation focuses on dividing the market as a whole into smaller groups based on characteristics that are relevant to the market as a whole.

Why customer segmentation is important?

The benefits of customer segmentation

Customer segmentation is important for businesses because it helps them to better understand and serve their customers. By dividing customers into smaller groups based on common characteristics or needs, businesses can gain insights into the specific needs and preferences of each segment, and tailor their products, services, and marketing efforts to meet those needs.

There are several key benefits of customer segmentation for businesses. For example:

  • Improved efficiency and effectiveness of marketing and sales efforts: By targeting specific customer segments, businesses can create more relevant and personalized marketing and sales experiences, which can lead to higher conversion rates and improved customer engagement.

  • Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty: By understanding the specific needs and preferences of different customer segments, businesses can create products and services that better meet those needs, leading to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Enhanced competitiveness: By using customer segmentation to identify and target untapped or under-served segments, businesses can gain a competitive advantage and grow their market share.

Overall, customer segmentation can help businesses to better understand and serve their customers, improve their marketing and sales efforts, and succeed in a competitive marketplace.

The role of customer segmentation in creating a customer-centric business model

Customer segmentation plays a crucial role in creating a customer-centric business model. A customer-centric business model is one that is focused on understanding and meeting the needs and preferences of individual customers. By using customer segmentation to divide customers into smaller groups based on common characteristics or needs, businesses can gain insights into the specific needs and preferences of each segment, and tailor their products, services, and marketing efforts to meet those needs.

For example, a customer-centric business might use customer segmentation to identify and target segments that are underserved or have unmet needs, and develop products and services that specifically address those needs. This can help the business to differentiate itself from competitors, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and drive long-term growth and success.

In addition, a customer-centric business can use customer segmentation to create personalized marketing and sales experiences for different segments. This can involve using customer data to create personalized offers and promotions, or using technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to create personalized customer experiences. By offering personalized experiences that are tailored to the specific needs and preferences of different customer segments, businesses can increase customer engagement and drive better business outcomes.

Overall, customer segmentation is a key tool for creating a customer-centric business model, and can help businesses to better understand and serve their customers, drive growth and success, and compete in a dynamic marketplace.

Different types of customer segmentation methods

Customer segmentation is the process of dividing customers into groups or segments based on factors such as their firmographic segmentation (based on industry, company size, or location), behavioral segmentation (based on customer behavior such as purchasing habits), technographic segmentation (based on customers' use of technology), and needs-based segmentation (based on customers' specific needs or challenges). There are many different ways that businesses can segment their customers, and different segmentation methods can be used alone or in combination to create more detailed and nuanced segments.

Firmographic segmentation

Firmographic segmentation is a type of customer segmentation that divides customers into groups based on firmographic characteristics, such as industry, company size, location, or revenue.

Firmographic segmentation can be useful for businesses that sell to other businesses, as it allows them to target specific segments that are most likely to be interested in their products or services. For example, a B2B business might use firmographic segmentation to identify and target small or medium-sized companies in a specific industry, and create marketing and sales campaigns that are tailored to those companies' needs and preferences.

More on firmographic segmentation here.

Behavioral segmentation

Behavioral segmentation is a type of customer segmentation that divides customers into groups based on their behavior, such as their purchasing habits, use of products or services, or engagement with a brand.

Behavioral segmentation can be useful for businesses that want to understand how customers interact with their products or services, and identify opportunities for improvement or growth. For example, a business might use behavioral segmentation to identify customers who frequently purchase a certain product, and offer them special promotions or discounts to encourage them to continue purchasing.

More on behavioral segmentation here.

Technographic segmentation

Technographic segmentation is a type of customer segmentation that divides customers into groups based on their use of technology, such as their adoption of specific software or systems, or their level of technical expertise.

Technographic segmentation can be useful for businesses that sell technology-related products or services, as it allows them to target specific segments that are most likely to be interested in their offerings. For example, a business that sells enterprise software might use technographic segmentation to identify and target companies that use a specific operating system, and create marketing and sales campaigns that are tailored to those companies' needs and preferences.

More on technographic segmentation here.

Tier-based segmentation

Tier-based segmentation is a type of customer segmentation that divides customers into different tiers or levels based on factors such as their value to the business, their level of engagement or loyalty, or their potential for future growth.

Tier-based segmentation can be useful for businesses that want to prioritize their marketing and sales efforts, and focus on the customers that are most important or valuable to the business. For example, a business might use tier-based segmentation to identify its top-tier customers and offer them special perks or rewards, such as exclusive access to new products or services, or personalized customer support.

Needs-based segmentation

Needs-based segmentation is a type of customer segmentation that divides customers into groups based on their needs, such as their specific requirements or challenges, or the benefits they are looking for from a product or service.

Needs-based segmentation can be useful for businesses that want to understand the reasons why customers choose their products or services, and identify opportunities for improvement or growth. For example, a business might use needs-based segmentation to identify customers who are looking for a product or service that addresses a specific need, and offer them tailored solutions or resources to help them meet that need.

Value-based segmentation

Value-based segmentation is a type of customer segmentation that divides customers into groups based on their perceived value to the business, such as their potential for generating revenue or their likelihood of becoming long-term customers.

Value-based segmentation can be useful for businesses that want to prioritize their marketing and sales efforts, and focus on the customers that are most likely to generate value for the business. For example, a business might use value-based segmentation to identify its most valuable customers and offer them special perks or rewards, such as exclusive access to new products or services, or personalized customer support.

Demographic segmentation (not usually used in B2B)

Demographic segmentation is a type of customer segmentation that divides customers into groups based on demographic characteristics, such as their age, gender, income, or education level.

Demographic segmentation is commonly used by businesses in many different industries, as it allows them to target specific segments of the population that are likely to be interested in their products or services. For example, a business might use demographic segmentation to target "millennials" or "baby boomers," or to create marketing campaigns that are tailored to the specific needs and preferences of different age groups.

Best practices of customer segmentation

There are several best practices that businesses can follow to ensure that their customer segmentation efforts are effective and successful. Some of these best practices include:

  1. Identify clear and specific goals and objectives for customer segmentation: Before starting the segmentation process, it's important to identify what you hope to achieve through customer segmentation, and how it will help your business. This will help to ensure that your segmentation efforts are focused and aligned with your overall business goals and objectives.

  2. Use a variety of data sources and methods to gather information on customer segments: To create accurate and reliable segments, it's important to gather data on customers from a variety of sources and using a variety of methods. This can include using customer surveys, focus groups, and other research techniques, as well as analyzing customer behavior data from your website, social media channels, and other sources.

  3. Choose the right segmentation criteria: The criteria you use to segment customers will depend on your specific goals and objectives, as well as the characteristics of your customer base. It's important to choose criteria that are relevant, meaningful, and actionable, and that will help you to identify segments that are likely to be interested in your products or services.

  4. Test and refine your segments: Once you have created initial customer segments, it's important to test and refine them to ensure that they are accurate and effective. This can involve conducting additional research or analysis, and using feedback from customers or other stakeholders to refine your segments and make them more useful and actionable.

  5. Use segmentation to inform and guide your marketing and sales efforts: Once you have identified and defined your customer segments, it's important to use that information to inform and guide your marketing and sales efforts. This can involve creating tailored marketing and sales campaigns for each segment, and using segmentation data to personalize your interactions with customers and improve their experiences with your brand.

Pitfalls of customer segmentation

There are several potential pitfalls that businesses need to be aware of when implementing customer segmentation. Some of these pitfalls include:

  1. Over-segmentation: One potential pitfall of customer segmentation is the risk of creating too many segments, which can make it difficult to manage and target each segment effectively. This can lead to a lack of focus and clarity in your marketing and sales efforts, and can reduce the overall effectiveness of your segmentation strategy.

  2. Under-segmentation: On the other hand, creating too few segments can also be a problem, as it can lead to a lack of differentiation between segments, and make it difficult to create tailored marketing and sales experiences for each segment. This can result in a lack of relevance and personalization in your interactions with customers, which can reduce their satisfaction and loyalty.

  3. Insufficient data: Another potential pitfall of customer segmentation is the risk of using incomplete or inaccurate data to create segments. This can lead to segments that are not representative of your customer base, and can make it difficult to create effective marketing and sales strategies.

  4. Misalignment with business goals and objectives: It's also important to ensure that your customer segmentation efforts are aligned with your overall business goals and objectives. If your segments are not closely tied to your business objectives, they may not be as effective or useful in driving growth and success.

Examples of customer segments

  • Firmographic segments: These are segments based on firmographic characteristics, such as industry, company size, or location. For example, a business might create segments for customers in different industries, or for customers in different geographic regions.

  • Behavioral segments: These are segments based on customer behavior, such as their purchasing habits, use of products or services, or engagement with the brand. For example, a business might create segments for "frequent buyers" or "loyal customers," or for customers who engage with the brand in specific ways (e.g. through social media or email).

  • Technographic segments: These are segments based on customers' use of technology, such as their adoption of specific software or systems, or their level of technical expertise. For example, a business might create segments for customers who use a specific operating system, or for customers with different levels of technical proficiency.

  • Tier-based segments: These are segments based on customers' value to the business, such as their potential for generating revenue or their likelihood of becoming long-term customers. For example, a business might create segments for its "top tier" or "VIP" customers, and offer them special perks or rewards.

  • Value-based segments: An example of a value-based customer segment might be "high potential customers," which are customers who have the potential to generate significant value for the business in the future. Similar to tier-based segmentation, these customers might be identified based on factors such as their potential for generating revenue, their likelihood of becoming long-term customers, or their potential for referral or word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Needs-based segments: An example of a needs-based customer segment in a B2B might be "companies with limited IT resources," which are companies that have specific challenges or limitations when it comes to their use of technology. These companies might be identified based on factors such as their size, their industry, or their use of specific IT systems or tools.

Company example of customer segmentation

Here is a detailed example of a B2B company using customer segmentation to better understand its customers and tailor its products, services, and marketing efforts:

  • Acme Corporation is a B2B company that sells a variety of office supplies to businesses of all sizes.

  • To better understand its customer base and create more effective marketing and sales strategies, Acme Corporation uses customer segmentation to divide its customers into different segments based on firmographic and behavioral characteristics.

  • Acme Corporation creates two firmographic segments: "small businesses" and "large businesses." This allows Acme Corporation to create tailored marketing and sales campaigns for each segment, and improve the overall customer experience.

  • Acme Corporation also creates two behavioral segments: "frequent buyers" and "occasional buyers." This allows Acme Corporation to create tailored marketing and sales campaigns for each segment.

  • For example, Acme Corporation might offer small businesses special promotions or discounts on its products, and provide them with personalized customer support to help them find the right products for their needs.

  • For its "frequent buyers" segment, Acme Corporation might offer special perks or rewards, such as free shipping or exclusive access to new products, to encourage these customers to continue engaging with the brand.

How to identify and target customer segments

To identify and target customer segments, businesses can follow these steps:

  1. Identify the goals and objectives of the segmentation effort: The first step in identifying and targeting customer segments is to clearly define the goals and objectives of the segmentation effort. This will help to ensure that the segments that are created are aligned with the business's overall strategy and objectives, and will support the achievement of those goals.

  2. Determine the segmentation criteria: The next step is to determine the specific criteria that will be used to divide customers into segments. This could include demographic, firmographic, behavioral, or needs-based criteria, depending on the goals and objectives of the segmentation effort.

  3. Collect and analyze customer data: Once the segmentation criteria have been determined, the business will need to collect and analyze customer data to identify patterns and trends that can be used to create segments. This could involve analyzing customer demographics, purchasing habits, engagement with the brand, or other relevant data.

  4. Create customer segments: Based on the analysis of customer data, the business can then create customer segments that reflect the diversity and complexity of its customer base. This might involve dividing customers into segments based on factors such as their demographics, firmographics, behaviors, or needs.

  5. Target customer segments: Once the customer segments have been created, the business can then target those segments with tailored marketing and sales campaigns. This could involve creating specific messages, offers, or experiences that are relevant and appealing to each segment, and using marketing channels and tactics that are most effective for reaching those segments.

How to gather and analyze customer data

To gather and analyze customer data, businesses can follow these steps:

  1. Identify the data sources: The first step in gathering and analyzing customer data is to identify the sources of data that will be used. This could include internal sources, such as customer databases or sales records, or external sources, such as market research or industry data.

  2. Determine the data collection methods: The next step is to determine the specific methods that will be used to collect the customer data. This could include methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, or online analytics.

  3. Collect the data: Once the data sources and collection methods have been determined, the business can then collect the customer data. This might involve conducting surveys or interviews with customers, or using online analytics tools to track customer behavior on the business's website or social media channels.

  4. Analyze the data: Once the customer data has been collected, the business can then analyze the data to identify patterns and trends. This might involve using statistical or data mining techniques to identify segments within the customer base, or using qualitative methods such as customer feedback or interviews to understand customer needs and preferences.

  5. Use the data to inform business decisions: The final step is to use the insights from the data analysis to inform business decisions. This could involve using the data to create customer segments, develop targeted marketing and sales campaigns, or improve the overall customer experience.

Overall, these steps can help businesses to gather and analyze customer data in a way that is effective and useful. By using customer data to inform business decisions, businesses can gain a better understanding of their customers and create more effective marketing and sales strategies.

The role of technology and data analytics in modern customer segmentation

Technology and data analytics play a key role in modern customer segmentation, as they enable businesses to gather, analyze, and use large amounts of customer data to create more accurate and effective customer segments.

For example, businesses can use technology such as online analytics tools or CRM systems to collect and store customer data, and then use data analytics techniques to identify patterns and trends within that data. This can help businesses to create customer segments that are based on real-world data and insights, rather than assumptions or guesswork.

In addition, technology and data analytics can also help businesses to target and engage with customer segments in a more effective and efficient way. For example, businesses can use personalized marketing and sales tactics, such as targeted email campaigns or personalized product recommendations, to reach and engage with specific customer segments.

Summary

Customer segmentation is the process of dividing customers into groups or segments based on factors such as their demographics, firmographics, behaviors, or needs. This can help businesses to better understand their customers and tailor their products, services, and marketing efforts to meet the specific needs of each segment.

There are many different ways that businesses can segment their customers, and different segmentation methods can be used alone or in combination to create more detailed and nuanced segments. Some common types of customer segmentation methods include demographic, firmographic, behavioral, technographic, and needs-based, tier-based, and value-based segmentation.

Technology and data analytics play a key role in modern customer segmentation, as they enable businesses to gather, analyze, and use large amounts of customer data to create more accurate and effective customer segments. This can help businesses to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, and drive growth and success.


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