Still using dinosaur data? Evolve. New rules for B2B segmentation

Dinosaur Skeleton

“After we took a disciplined approach to data segmentation for our house list, we went from 2% response rates to 8% response rates nearly overnight.”
–Director of marketing at a B2B SaaS company

Any marketer worth his or her salt agrees that B2B list segmentation will increase your clicks.  At least 50% more clicks is not unreasonable.  One of our customers even went from 2% to 8%, overnight. This improvement is very close to a statistic published by Hubspot, one of the fastest growing marketing automation vendors:

“We’ve found that targeted and segmented lead nurturing emails generate an 8% click-through rate compared to general email sends, which generate just a 3% click-through rate.”

Why wouldn’t we all want to quickly double or even triple our click through rates? Why is it that the vast majority of B2B marketers don’t segment? According to a 2013 MarketingSherpa report, only 36 percent of marketers segment based on behavior. Even fewer, 30 percent, segment based on sales cycle.

The answer is both simple…and frustrating. The complexity of slicing into buckets  (and having to generate content for all those buckets) is a slippery slope into countless permutations and never-ending complexity.  Like Mintigo’s GM and CMO Jason Garoutte wrote a few weeks ago regarding why marketers don’t test much, good segmentation is actually kinda hard. Maybe it’s like starting the paleo diet…sounds like a good idea that will improve your results until you actually start it and realize how foodstuffs have wheat, corn or rice in them…how hard it is to separate it all out.

Dinosaur Data

And speaking of paleo, there is another reason this is difficult. It’s the dependence on what we call dinosaur data. What does that mean? It means data locked in rigid database tables. It means data segmented primarily by job title and/or SIC code (did you know SIC codes started in 1937?)  It’s not just the data that’s the problem. It’s the lens that the data is viewed through. If you take a course grained approach to segmentation with dinosaur data, companies look indistinguishable and you have to do singular giant blasts.  If you take a fine grained  approach, it requires infinite little permutations. Segmentation practices have evolved of course. Typical marketing campaigns use some combination of:

  • Geography
  • Industries
  • Title
  • Buying stage
  • Preferences
  • Behavior triggers
  • Content interests

But still, when you overlay content and inbound marketing strategies, the permutations can be unmanageable. So, what’s the answer for the modern marketer?

New Rules

There are some simple new rules that get you maximum clicks for minimum work.  Our customers, including Box, Docusign, Marketo and others all use Mintigo to improve their segmentation, but whether you use Mintigo or not, these rules will boost your results before your next campaign. Here they are:

  1. Use modern data
  2. Find the common ‘Why’
  3. Map campaign tracks to ‘Why’
  4. Check segmentation with each campaign

Modern Data

With 58 million tweets per day and with 200 million LinkedIn members  participating in over 1.2M groups and even major B2B brands like Intel growing their fan base to tens of millions of followers on Facebook, social data should be the starting point for segmentation. The data is current, relevant and enables you to create clever segmentation slices that bypass traditional segmentation methods and get right to your best possible prospects. Good sales reps do this all the time in order to prioritize their call buckets. But marketers need to do this at scale in a cost-effective and impactful way. A highly accurate picture of your segmentation targets can be created from a combination of social profiles, followers, trending hashtags, shared content and even to places like job boards.

Common “Why”

Across this social data, you need to find what we call the Common “Why”. Political campaigns do this all the time. They find the commonalities or affinities or indicators between groups and message to those groups in very relevant ways. The best way to describe this is to show it. The table below represents Mintigo’s key marketing indicators on the left and the common “Why” on the right:

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 7.36.44 PM

So, you can see that we could create 7 segments based on the indicators and market to all those, or we could create campaigns that appeal to the “Why” grup on the right. Certainly either approach will get us closer to those 8 percent response rates discussed, but the approach on the right is practical and actionable for most resource-strapped marketing teams.

Map Campaign Tracks

Out in the trenches, there is increasing reference to the silly sounding but critically important: TOFU, MOFU, BOFU (top, middle and bottom of funnel, respectively, also called “awareness, validation/preference, purchase”). So, you have identified target segments and homed in on the common “Why”. The next step is to develop the optimal marketing flow to reach each core segment and ensure there is a binary decision or step between each part to ensure the proper funnel velocity.

Current best practices indicate that it really takes seven (or more) pieces of educational content to start moving prospects from cold (TOFU) to warm (MOFU).  These should be keyed off a central ‘pillar’ of content.

Then there is a 4 to 6 week track of content to answer ‘why buy, why your product, why now’ and for B2B this is interspersed with human interactions and outreach (via social e.g. InMails, sales development callouts, etc) which moves a prospect from warm (MOFU) to hot (BOFU).

For most organizations, at this point, the sales development reps or equivalent are involved and moving the lead from a marketing qualified type stage to a sales-ready type stage and marketing continues to support this process by enabling sales with the right tools, templates and messages.

The important part to remember is that, because you are working with a few “Why” groups instead of many permutations, you can focus on delivering high quality content that really resonates and improves response rates between each stage.

Check Segmentation

There is one more important step in the process. Checking the segmentation. Just like the initial segmentation, it appears hard to accomplish. However, if you focus it in the “Why” group or groups and you bake it into your practices, it will yield even more lift for your campaigns. This type of validation can be as simple as asking your campaign members “is this of interest to you” in your emails (giving them an option that doesn’t opt-them out or have them hitting the ‘spam’ button). You can also validate across the key indicators or affinities to get a more detailed view of what is working and what isn’t.

At Mintigo, we always analyze after every email campaign. And we analyze after every webinar to understand which indicators provide the most lift (or not). That way we can tailor our next campaign and messages even more. Validation leads to constant self improvement. For us internally and for our customers, validation leads to click through rates that are much much higher than even the 8 percent discussed at the top of the blog. In fact, we predict that organizations that really adopt this new approach can expect to see 25 percent click through rates regularly. Dinosaur data would have never been able to get us this far.

On Demand Webinar: The Savvy Marketer's Guide To B2B Segmentation. Watch Now!
Andrew Hoerner


Andrew is Sr. Director of Marketing at Mintigo. Prior, he solved B2B marketing challenges at companies like McAfee/Intel, Blue Martini Software, Baan/Aurum Software and a number of venture backed startups. @redteam2