There’s probably a hundred or so different ways to approach B2B customer segmentation that B2B marketers are sharing online.
There’s the basic “graphics”, such as demographic, firmographic, and technographic segmentation. There’s also behavioral segmentation, based on parameters like brand interaction, or product usage and purchase.
Some customer segmentation templates heavily prioritize psychological traits, like a buyer’s beliefs, needs, values and motivations. Frameworks such as the OCEAN personality test are used here.
And when you actually build your targeting segments, you’re spoilt for choice between defining your total addressable market (TAM), ideal customer profiles (ICP) or buyer personas.
You get the drift.
These B2B targeting frameworks and parameters are definitely valuable, just wildly inconsistent. Each framework seems to be a blend of segmentation parameters — and you might not always have that detailed information about your customers on hand.
So how do we make sense of everything we know about B2B customer segmentation, and apply it to our customers?
In this guide, we’ll explain every B2B customer segmentation strategy, and a practical hierarchy to make sense of them all , based on the B2B contact data you have on hand. Plus, you’ll read about some best practices that can help you succeed in your segmentation strategy.
⏯ Or if video is more of your style, watch a 15 minute crash course on the science of segmentation.
What is B2B customer segmentation?
In way simpler terms, B2B customer segmentation helps you figure out
- Who your best customers are,
- What their unique challenges and needs are, and
- How to create more personalized experience for these customers
And when you successfully zoom into specific customer groups with targeted messaging and offers that resonate with them, you’ll likely see improved conversion rates, a fuller sales pipeline, and a stronger competitive position in your industry.
How to apply B2B customer segmentation
B2B customer segmentation is a two part strategy — creating the segments, then using them.
First, you need to figure out what your customer segments are, whether that’s by analyzing your existing customer data or coming up with a hypothesis.
One way to identify your most profitable segments is by looking at your highest performing customers, then analyzing any common data patterns.
Each unique segment can then be drafted as an ideal customer profile, or a buyer persona.
Next, it’s all about using these identified segments to target your marketing efforts.
That could mean crafting a B2B ABM strategy, and tailoring your messaging, outreach, and lead nurturing efforts to each segment.
And don’t forget, it’s important to continuously test and refine your segmentation strategy over time to make sure you’re getting the best results possible.
B2B market segmentation vs. B2B customer segmentation: what’s the difference?
While marketers use either concept pretty interchangeably, you can see that there are some minor differences in their scope, usage and data sources.
|B2B Market Segmentation||B2B Customer Segmentation|
|What||Dividing the B2B market into smaller groups based on common characteristics to establish a clearer picture of your ideal target market||Dividing your existing customer base into smaller groups based on common characteristics to better understand their needs and preferences|
|Scope||Applies to the entire B2B market, i.e., your potential audience||Applies to a company's existing customer base|
|Use||Identify the most promising market opportunities and develop targeted marketing and sales strategies||Better understand your customers so you can drive more lead generation, customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty|
|Data sources||Often based on external data sources, such as market research and industry reports||Often based on internal data sources, such as customer databases and sales records|
|Segmentation strategy examples||Market segmentation strategies include geographic, demographic, firmographic, psychographic, behavioral, etc.||Customer segmentation strategies include those used in market segmentation, but typically also include narrower ones such as values and personality|
To be honest though, the lines between the market segmentation and customer segmentation have become blurred, and many marketers tend to conflate the two due to their similarities in application.
In this blog, we are focusing on the more detailed, customer-focused approach to B2B segmentation, which will give you a great idea of market segmentation as well.
Types of B2B customer segmentation strategies
Now for the fun part — breaking down (almost) every B2B customer segmentation strategy or method that us marketers use, plus some useful examples of how to use each strategy when designing a B2B demand generation strategy.
As you go through the list, remember that choosing the best B2B customer segmentation strategy is usually about mixing and matching, based on factors relevant to you.
Data and budget are two factors that will have the biggest influence on which strategies to use.
If you’re on a limited marketing budget and have limited access to B2B data, that’s okay. You might prioritize a less costly approach like geographic and firmographic segmentation, which has more observable data points.
|Segmentation Strategy||Definition||Examples of data||Example of how to target segments|
|Geographic Segmentation||Segmenting customers based on the physical location of customers.||Individual or office address||Customize website language|
|Demographic Segmentation||Segmenting customers based on observable characteristics of human populations||Age, gender, income, education, job function, and management level||Create targeted ads on LinkedIn for CTO|
|Firmographic Segmentation||Segmenting consumers based on common workplace attributes||Company size, number of employees, industry size, funding, and annual revenue||Offer special promotions to startups or smaller businesses|
|Technographic Segmentation||Segmenting customers based on technology usage and preference||Software used, tech adoption preferences (e.g. early adopters)||Create custom landing pages for companies who use Hubspot CRM|
|Psychographic Segmentation||Segmenting customers based on psychological traits.||Values, opinions, beliefs, lifestyles, interests, and personality traits||Adjust messaging to appeal to customers who prioritize sustainability|
|Behavioral Segmentation||Segmenting customers based on their actions and decision-making patterns||Social media channels used, research process, purchase behavior, consumption patterns, and website activity||Send personalized emails to inactive customers|
|Segmentation by Buyer Committee Role||Segmenting customers based on their role in the purchasing process||User, initiator, influencer, champion, detractor, gatekeeper, budget owner, decider||Creating targeted email campaigns emphasizing ROI to the CFO who is likely the budget owner.|
|Value-based Segmentation||Segmenting customers based on their perceived value drivers||Quality, convenience and UX, reliability, design, brand image, customer service||Emphasizing the speed and efficiency of a software product to a segment that values these qualities.|
|Intent-based Segmentation||Segmenting customers based on consumers' intentions, or intent signals.||Search queries, website behavior, content engagement, social media activity||Using intent-based keywords to target specific segments with relevant search ads|
|Segmentation by Buyer Journey Stage||Segmenting customers based on their behaviors and actions in the buying process.||Awareness, consideration, decision, retention, advocacy||Creating informative blog posts and eBooks for MQLs who are in the awareness stage|
|Needs-based Segmentation||Divides consumers based on a shared set of met or unmet needs||Functional needs, emotional needs, social needs, epistemic needs, conditional needs, stated needs||Creating a datasheet on a solution’s integration capabilities for enterprise customers who have large tech stacks|
Let’s start with the basic types of segmentation strategies:
1 - Geographic segmentation
Geographic segmentation is all about dividing your market based on the physical location of your customers. In other words, it’s about where they live, work, or do business.
Geographic segmentation examples:
- Individual address
- Office address
How to use geographic segmentation in marketing:
- Customizing website content based on the visitor’s location, such as language, currency, or regional offers.
- Creating targeted email marketing campaigns based on the geographic location of the recipient, such as promoting a local event or highlighting a specific feature that’s popular in that area.
- Adjusting ad targeting and bidding based on the geographic location of the target audience, such as showing ads to people in specific cities or regions.
2 - Demographic segmentation
Demographic segmentation sorts consumers by observable characteristics we can see in populations, such as job function, management level, age, gender, income, education and more.
Demographic segmentation examples:
- Job function
- Management level
How to use demographic segmentation:
- Creating targeted ads on Linkedin based on the job function of your target audience.
- Producing and promoting virtual events that speak to the specific needs and pain points of different demographic groups, such as producing webinars for C-level executives or tutorials for entry-level professionals.
3 - Firmographic segmentation
Firmographic segmentation involves segmenting audiences based on common workplace attributes. They include company size, number of employees, industry size, funding, and annual revenue.
Firmographic segmentation examples:
- Company size
- Number of employees
- Industry size
- Funding and annual revenue
B2B data providers or lead generation agencies will usually segment their contact database using firmographic parameters too.
So if you’re thinking of outsourcing lead generation to an agency, defining your ICP using firmographic segments will come in handy.
How to use firmographic segmentation:
- Offering special promotions or discounts to companies of a certain size, such as startups or small businesses, to incentivize them to try your product.
- Tailoring marketing messages and content to specific industries, such as highlighting use cases or success stories from companies in a particular field.
4 - Technographic segmentation
Technographic segmentation involves dividing the market based on technology — i.e software or tools — usage and preference.
Technographic segmentation examples:
- Software used (e.g. Salesforce vs Hubspot users)
- Technology adoption preferences (e.g. early adopters vs late majority)
How to use technographic segmentation:
- Creating targeted email campaigns that showcase how your product or service integrates with the customer’s existing technology stack.
- Organizing workshops on how to more optimally use a software or tool, and promoting the workshop to existing users
- Conducting market research on a particular software and writing a professional whitepaper on the topic, to promote to as a gated asset to users of that software
5 - Psychographic segmentation
Psychographic segmentation divides consumers according to psychological traits like their values and opinions.
This type of segmentation helps you understand what motivates your customers, how they make decisions, and what their needs are.
Psychographic segmentation examples:
- Personality traits
Because psychological aspects are qualitative and unobservable, data collection is much tricker, unlike the others mentioned above.
You could make inferences, such as interpreting an interest in cybersecurity tech, based on their search queries.
However, creating more insightful and accurate data usually requires more personal and direct zero-party or first-party data sources, like interviews or surveys.
How to use psychographic segmentation:
- Creating content that resonates with a specific audience’s values, such as developing case studies or testimonials that highlight how your product or service supports a particular cause or mission
- Adjusting messaging and branding to appeal to customers with a certain set of values or beliefs, such as those who prioritize sustainability or social responsibility.
6 - Behavioral segmentation
This strategy divides consumers by their actions and decision-making patterns, such as social media channels used, research process, purchase behavior, consumption patterns and website activity.
Behavioral segmentation examples:
- Social media channels used
- Research process
- Purchase behavior
- Consumption patterns
- Website activity
How to use behavioral segmentation:
- Sending personalized emails based on the customer’s past purchases or interactions with your brand, such as providing a special promotion to customers who have been inactive for awhile
- Creating targeted ad campaigns based on the customer’s behavior on your website, such as showing ads to customers who abandoned their shopping cart or viewed a specific product page.
- Syndicating content that complements a customer’s usual research process, such as a buyer’s guide that describes your product against those of competitors.
See the 10 B2B data providers we trust
Still going strong?
We’re now going to unpack some of the less common, but emerging customer segmentation strategies:
7 - Segmentation by buyer committee role
Also understood as decision maker or buyer persona segmentation, this strategy divides your audience based on their role in the purchasing decision-making process.
Despite coming from the same company and evaluating the same solution, different buyers have specific needs, pain points, authority and preferences.
Put them together, and they could fit different buyer persona types, like influencers who have a strong network, initiators who might be the first to discover the solution, or a decider who typically sits at the top and will give the final “okay”.
Segmentation by buyer committee role examples:
- Budget Owner
Like the other more qualitative segments we’ve seen, identifying a customer’s role in the B2B buyer committee requires a bit of effort through digging and interpretation.
For example, we could assume a CFO is a budget owner in a mid-size company.
But if the customer or prospect is from a startup or small business, the budget owner could be the CEO themself.
Researching the company structure and decision-making process can help you interpret the role of your customer or prospect in the buyer committee more accurately.
This can involve conducting interviews or surveys with key stakeholders, analyzing organizational charts, or reviewing public information about the company.
How to use buyer committee role segments:
- Creating targeted email campaigns for each decision-maker role, such as a personalized message to the CFO who is likely the budget owner, emphasizing ROI
- Developing content that speaks to the specific concerns and motivations of each role in the buyer committee, such as a white paper focused on compliance for the legal decision-maker who is likely a detractor, or a case study highlighting time-saving benefits for line-of-business users..
You can also read more about decision maker segmentation and how to apply it in our guide to build a more effective ABM email strategy.
8 - Value-based segmentation:
Value-based segmentation is a method of identifying and targeting customers who are the most likely to appreciate the unique value proposition of the product or service you’re selling.
Usually, they prioritize value over price, which makes them willing to pay more for a solution and can become one of your highest performing customers.
Segmenting your customers according to their perceived value requires you to unpack their value drivers, aka purchase motivators, through more qualitative approaches like customer interviews.
It’ll also require some thoughtful analyses after, to identify patterns between each customers’ value drivers.
Value-based segmentation, or value driver examples:
- Quality, e.g. speed and efficiency
- Convenience and UX
- Brand image
- Customer service
How to use value-based segmentation:
- Tailoring marketing messages based on the most common value driver. For example, emphasize the speed and efficiency of a software product to a segment that values these qualities.
- Informing pricing, by first identifying segments willing to pay more for a solution, then offering value-added features or services that align with their values. For instance, set a premium price for a product with personalized customer support for a segment that values this service.
9 - Intent-based segmentation:
This involves dividing the market based on consumers’ intentions, or intent signals.
With varying levels of interpretation, these intent signals and help us understand a consumer’s underlying plans, goals, motivations. More specifically, it tells us their purchase likelihood and stage in the buyer journey.
Intent-based segmentation involves analyzing customer behavior to determine their intent or purpose when interacting with a product or service.
Intent data collection is done by observing things like search queries, web behavior such as their readership patterns.
Marketers also call these data points intent signals, which can reveal their underlying intentions, motivations, and interest — with some interpretation of course.
Segmentation by intent allows marketers to really tailor their messaging and offerings to specific customer needs, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
Intent-based segmentation, or intent signal examples:
- Search queries or keywords (e.g. transactional intent queries with “buy” or “best)
- Website behavior such as clicks, pageviews, and time spent on pages
- Content engagement
- Social media activity
How to use intent-based segmentation:
- Segmenting your email list based on the types of content each subscriber engages with, and then send them personalized emails with similar content.Content marketing: Create targeted content for each segment based on their interests, needs, and stage in the buying process.
- Using intent-based keywords to target specific segments with relevant ads on search engines or social media platforms.
10 - Buyer journey stage segmentation:
This approach involves dividing customers based on their behaviors and actions in the buying process, aka customer journey, or decision-making process.
It’s about how a consumer moves from awareness, to consideration, to decision. That journey also closely reflects the B2B sales pipeline and the marketing funnel model.
So it’s usually pretty easy to identify which stage they’re at by using lead scoring or other behavioral metrics.
Examples of customer journey segments include:
How to use customer journey segmentation:
- Using content marketing to create informative blog posts and ebooks for MQLs who are in the awareness stage, to help them understand the problem they’re facing and provide helpful tips to solve it.
- Offer product demos and free trials to sales leads who are in the decision stage to help them make an informed decision.
11 - Needs-based segmentation:
This approach involves dividing consumers based on a shared set of met or unmet needs.
You can think of these needs in the context of what a consumer needs to get a particular job done. This concept is based on the assumption that people buy things to get something done.
In the context of B2B tech, needs could be specific functional features, like whether a tool integrates well with your current tech stack.
Needs-based segmentation examples:
- Specific functional requirements for a tech solution, such as a certain level of customization, integration with other tools, or scalability.
- Need for a lower price point, transparent pricing models, or flexible payment options.
- Service needs, such as the need for 24/7 customer support
How to use needs-based segmentation:
- Creating a datasheet on a solution’s integration capabilities for enterprise customers who have large tech stacks
- Showcasing a solution’s user-friendly interface to appeal to smaller teams and businesses who may not have strong technical resources and need a solution that is easier to navigate.
12 - Personality-based segmentation
Personality-based segmentation involves dividing consumers based on their personal characteristics or qualities.
It’s like putting your customers and prospects through a personality test, and creating segments based on the patterns you detect in the test results.
The idea is that consumers with similar personalities will have similar preferences and behaviors in the buying process.
Marketers use different personality frameworks in their segmentation strategy, just like how there are different kinds of personality tests we can take online.
Common frameworks used in marketing are the big 5 personality traits (aka the OCEAN framework), or even Carl Jung’s typology test.
You could also create specific personality segments relevant to you, such as risk-taking tendencies, preference for innovation, or level of social influence.
Personality-based segmentation examples:
- Extraversion/ introversion
- Emotional stability/ neuroticism
- Openness to experience
How to use personality-based segmentation:
- Targeting tech-savvy early adopters who value innovation and cutting-edge technology when launching a new software product.
- Creating two sets of social media ads that appeal to either the creative or analytical personality types.
How to make sense of everything, using this practical hierarchy of segmentation strategies
It’s really overwhelming, but you’re not alone!
We have an easy way to make sense of all the methods.
This practical hierarchical matrix shows you how to approach any segmentation methods, based on what data you have.
All you need to do is consider the data you have along two spectrums:
- Observable vs unobservable
- Informational vs commercial
When you map these qualities into a matrix, you can see a clear hierarchy of the types of segments that are worth prioritizing when building your ideal customer profile.
Observable data is like gender, that’s really easy to identify.
That data could be informational or general, such as job title.
It could also be more commercial in nature, or more product specific, like usage of a particular technology.
Because observable data is easy to access and use in your targeting strategy, you can think of them as essential types.
They’re useful to define your target audience when you buy social ads, create email list segments, or even use a content syndication platform.
On the flipside, unobservable data will probably need an interview and some interpretation to flesh out. And the more general the data point is, the harder it is to access — like a buyer’s personality.
These data points are good-to-haves to enrich your segments with more nuance. Usually, they’re valuable in messaging and creative work.
Getting the hang of it?
Let’s place some B2B customer segmentation strategies into this matrix.
You can see that this process is pretty straightforward once you map each segmentation method to the six parent categories, most of the niche frameworks are spinoffs from.
And so the next time you need to create a new ideal customer profile or buyer persona, and don’t know which segmentation strategy to use, follow this hierarchy.
Prioritize geographic, demographic and firmographic segmentation strategies, sprinkle some behavioral and technographic strategies into the mix. Think of psychographic parameters as a good-to-have.
Finding the right data for B2B customer segmentation
Having access to good data is the missing link in launching effective B2B customer segmentation strategies.
We’ve mentioned some methods briefly, but here’s a compiled list of the most common ways to gather the data you need to execute effective B2B segmentation strategies.
- Analyze CRM data
CRM data can provide valuable insights into the performance and characteristics of different customers.
This could include analyzing data on the size, growth, and revenue of different segments, and then identifying any common characteristics among these customers.
- Leverage social media and online communities
These can be a valuable source of information on B2B market segments if there are gaps in your CRM data.
By analyzing the profiles, content, discussions, and activities of different customers, you can gain insights into some needs, preferences, and behavior of different segments in the market.
- Record and analyze sales calls
Each sales appointment set is a gold mine of information.
Creating a dedicated process of recording and analyzing your sales calls can help you identify patterns in common customer questions, pain points, or needs.
Top tip: logging these calls and notes in your CRM keeps things super organized.
Scheduling regular check-ins with your sales teams and asking them what they’re observing in calls work well too.
- Conduct customer interviews
Want to really know how your customers think and feel? Talk to them! Schedule interviews, promote surveys, or host virtual focus groups.
It takes a bit of effort, but only direct channels like this can help you gather in-depth, unobservable information on different segments.
- Access industry reports and analysis
Finally, to fill any gaps or to create hypotheses, market research does the trick.
This can provide valuable information on the different segments in the B2B market. These reports often include data on the size, growth, and key characteristics of different segments, as well as trends and forecasts for the future.
5-step foolproof B2B customer segmentation checklist
To sum up this big topic, follow this 5 step checklist:
Step 1: Identify the target market you want to segment. We recommend you begin with your best performing customer segments.
Step 2: Extract your highest-paying customers from the target group.
Step 3: Draw patterns by observing the essential parameters from sources like your CRM and LinkedIn.
Step 4: Explore beyond the surface to enrich your segments, using sources such as customer interviews and recorded sales calls.
Step 5: Test your hypothesis by launching targeted campaigns, monitoring results, and fine-tuning your segments if needed.
Lingering on that final step, remember that B2B customer segmentation is not a one-time process.
Keep monitoring and analyzing your results, and be ready to make adjustments as needed.
And if you want to take things to the next level, consider working with a B2B demand generation agency like ViB.