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Email List Segmentation that Works for Industrial and B2B Marketers

Posted on | October 11, 2010 | No Comments

The Sandow Trocadero Vaudevilles, Library of Congress (cropped image)

If you want to make your contact list work harder and obtain higher lift from your email marketing activities, try list segmentation. It’s not a new technique, but it’s a proven one.  It works because it enables you to better match your email messages and offers to an audience’s qualifications or known needs.

But the most common ways to segment lists – by socioeconomic factors, zip code, age, sex, etc. – don’t work for B2B marketers.  For one thing, many B2B purchases are accomplished by committee or by RFP, so the buyers’ identities and backgrounds are frequently unknown. And, for the most part, they don’t come into play when making complex or group purchase decisions.  After all, the whole RFP/committee-purchase process is an effort to remove ‘emotion’ and individual characteristics from the buy decision anyway.

So, what does work for industrial or B2B list segmentation? I’ve read a lot of different opinion pieces on this written by industry ‘gurus’ who advocate “knowing your customer” or “developing personas for each of your targets,” but it all seems a lot more complex than a busy marketer has time for.

The one piece of advice that resonated with me and that seemed practical and achievable for B2B marketers who already have way too many hats to wear came from SiriusDecisions, a trade analyst firm that specializes in B2B consulting. And it didn’t even come from an article on email marketing but from a blog post about targeting channels, entitled, “A B2B Channel Mid-Market Reality: One Size Doesn’t Fit All.”

The writer discusses the typical ways that companies target mid-market buyers (by number of employees or revenue) and suggests that these descriptions really don’t provide the information a marketer needs to understand buyer motivation.  As Laz Gonzalez, director of Channel Management Strategies at SiriusDecisions, writes: “…one can begin to point out similarities such as their lack of budgets or limited resources, but that only addresses whether they are pre-disposed to purchase, not what would motivate them to do so.” What does?  “Looking at differences by verticals (e.g., regional hospitals in healthcare who buy technology solutions to comply with regulatory standards such as HPAA [sic] or professional services firms who buy to become more competitive)…”

I believe applying THAT thinking to your email lists and segmenting them by vertical can have a lifting affect on your emarketing campaigns.  A further segmentation, then, would be by title if you have that, but even if you don’t, segmenting by vertical gives you so much more to work with in terms of insight into your buyers’ motivations.  Try it. See if it works for your next email campaign.

To read the entire SiriusDecisions’ post, click here:

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