Know Thy Audience: Why Segmentation, Experimentation, and Empathy Will Never Go Out of Style

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Jessica Kezia

Our favorite marketing trends — think influencers, Barbie memes, and an obsession with account-based marketing — come and go. Sure, some become mainstays, but more often than not, they fade, never to be seen again. (We’re looking at you, pop-up ads.)

According to Roger Breum, Head of Demand Generation at Alpine Investors, allegiance to the core B2B marketing fundamentals is something that will never go out of style.

During DEMAND, he said, “I’ve worked with basically every type of company out there…and every company can benefit from focusing on the fundamentals and doing them with fidelity.” He continued, “The fundamentals allow you to focus on your core buyer, be more efficient, and stop wasting money and time on trying new things just because others are doing it.”

So, what are Roger’s fundamentals?

  1. Identify and understand your market (segmentation and targeting)
  2. Get to know your customers (buyer personas)
  3. Define your product differentiators (positioning)

Clark Barron, Founder and CEO of Demand Gen Therapy, spoke on a similar topic at DEMAND, and we’re adding a fourth fundamental to this list, courtesy of him: Treat your prospects and customers like people. In short, be human.

Embrace these four core fundamentals, and you’ll concoct the perfect recipe for B2B marketing longevity, even when fads fade.

1. Hone your target market with segmentation

We can hear you now: But Metadata, we already know our market and target audience.

We’re not saying you don’t know them, but this exercise is worth another visit because according to Roger, even the best CEOs and Marketing leaders struggle to get segmentation right.

To segment your market the right way, you need three things:

  1. An in-depth knowledge of what your customers want from your product
  2. An objective understanding of your offering and your competitors’ offerings
  3. A full grasp of your costs and profitability (by segment and customer type)

Only then can you start segmenting your market. While there are many ways to do this, Roger suggests starting someplace simple, like with company size and industry.

Here’s an example he shared that shows what this could look like if you segmented by industry and company size. Based on his example, you have two primary target markets: Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) in Industry C andMid-Market companies in Industry B.

As a marketer, those teal boxes tell you where to spend your time and money. Be ruthless. You won’t get an award for more teal boxes, nor will you get extra points for being everything to everyone.

To segment your market and find your customers, you need to narrow your sights as much as possible—only then can you dedicate your energy and every penny in your budget to getting the right people to buy your product.

That said, those orange Xs are even more important. Why? Because they tell you what—and who—to ignore (for lack of a better word). Roger even encourages Xs. “At Alpine Investors, we always, always, always force our companies to have healthy portions of Xs on their segmentation table.”

The more focused you are with market segmentation, the more focused you can become with your demand generation budget.

But remember: Choose your axes with care

While Roger says industry and company size are good axes to start with, he also makes it clear that they don’t have to be your jumping-off point. His only requirement with axes? Make sure they’re meaningful and actionable.

The meaningful requirement is pretty self-explanatory. The actionable requirement is the one to focus on—and Roger’s example illustrates why.

Imagine yourself on the Marketing team for a healthcare company. Your goal? Promote an at-home medical device to people with X, Y, and Z conditions. That’s a sound strategy, right? Of course. Targeting people who’ll actually use your product is a no-brainer.

Pump the brakes. Marketers can’t have a list of patients’ medical conditions. It’s literally illegal, which means “medical condition” as an axis is the furthest thing from actionable. So choose wisely.

Need inspiration for your axes? You could segment your market by:

  • Geography
  • Product use case
  • Willingness to spend
  • Job title
  • Company maturity (start-up, established player, etc.)

There’s no right or wrong way to segment your market, but Roger said it’ll be pretty clear when you hit the nail on the head. “Your prospects will feel the pain you’re trying to solve [with your product], and your deals will close in the timeline you expect. Plus, you can profitably serve those customers, and your customers understand and need your product as it exists today.”

Pro tip: Find in-market customers with Metadata

Not sure which audience segments to target? Metadata can help.

With Metadata, you can build laser-focused audiences with first- and third-party data and experiment with them across channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Search, and display networks. As your experiments run, Metadata will automatically allocate your budget to the top-performing segments based on the performance metrics that matter to you, like cost per lead (CPL).

The result? Campaigns that impact your bottom line, but also instant insight into which audience segments respond to your ads. From there, you can double down on these high-intent audiences and deliver ads that’ll land on the screens of people who are more likely to sign the dotted line.

2. Zoom in on buyer personas

Most Marketing teams spend hours building buyer personas, putting them in a slide deck with some stock images, and forgetting about them for eternity. This is a huge problem because every part of your job should revolve around buyer personas, including the paid channels you tap into, how you position your product, and the ad types you use to engage your prospects.

“Your team needs to live and breathe these personas; they need to know the inner workings of these people better than the individuals in those jobs do,” Roger shared. The only way to reach this level of understanding is to sit down with your prospects (and customers) and talk to them.

Roger suggests starting with the company decision-makers, champions, and influencers. “Write out a consistent list of interview questions, and then split up the work. Have your CEO talk to prospects, have your Marketing leader talk to them—even get your CX team involved.”

Find out everything you can about your prospects by asking them questions like:

  • What trends are influencing their strategic decisions?
  • What does their day-to-day life look like?
  • What are their most frequent frustrations and annoyances?
  • Which metrics do they use to measure success?
  • How do they evaluate products and services like yours?
  • Which newsletters do they read and which podcasts do they listen to for industry insights?
  • Which events do they attend?

Conduct these interviews for a few months, and you’ll end up with 3-5 core personas you can use to inform your strategy, build experiments, train new employees, and do a helluva lot more.

P.S. If you want a template of personas, send Roger a message on LinkedIn. He said he’d be happy to share his!

3. Define your differentiator and let the world know

Knowing your customers and prospects is key—but you also need to intimately understand your competitors and their position in the market, and subsequently yours, too.

You can figure that out by asking yourself two questions:

  • What matters most to our customers?
  • What do we do better than our competitors?

The overlap between these answers is where you can win today. It’s where you can put a stake in the ground and let the world know that you do this better than anyone else.

To find that overlap, Roger suggests two tools:

  • A feature matrix: A visual that lists all of your available features and how they stack up to your competitors. Think of a feature matrix as a side-by-side comparison of your product and your competitors’ products.
  • A value proposition canvas: A framework (see below), originally developed by Dr. Alexander Osterwalder, that ensures your product or service is positioned around your customers’ values and needs.

Either of these tools can help you identify what matters most to your customers and what your product does better than alternatives.

“This will elevate you out of feature or price wars with competitors because you’ll be speaking directly to a core buying point for your prospects that you do better than anybody else.”

—Roger Breum, Head of Demand Generation at Alpine Investors

4. Be human

This bonus fourth fundamental is courtesy of Clark Baron, Founder and CEO of Demand Gen Therapy. He didn’t hold back during his DEMAND session, From intruder to ally: a hacker’s guide to marketing on hard mode.

“The LinkedIn marketing echo chamber is making us dumber,” he said. “Marketing advice is rarely applicable to your organization’s situation, so stop following big marketing influencers and start following your ICP and engage [with them] in a meaningful way.”

Said another way, marketers often get so caught up in the trends and buzz that we forget the most fundamental part of marketing—that we’re selling to people. At the end of the day, your prospects and customers are humans. Your campaigns, messaging, and positioning must reflect that.

“Practice some self-awareness and empathy,” Clark advised. “When you’re developing your campaigns, evaluate them from the perspective of your audience. You’ll notice you start talking to your audience, your buyers, and your current customers in a more meaningful way.”

Do that—and ask for nothing in return. The results will follow.

The B2B marketing fundamentals matter more than ever

Somewhere along the way, many B2B marketers have lost their way and ditched the basics of marketing in lieu of trendy tactics and buzzwords. We get it. Chasing trends and keeping up on the latest tactics is fun and can help you stand out, but obsessing over them instead of the fundamentals is a strategic mistake that’ll cost you far beyond 2024.

“If you have the fundamentals in place, you’ll go light years ahead [of the competition],” Roger encouraged. “Until you really know who you’re marketing to, how to reach them, and what messaging resonates, stick to these fundamentals. They’re the key to consistent growth”

Want more from other DEMAND sessions? Watch every on-demand session here.

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