4 Ways To Differentiate With B2B Audience Messaging Segmentation

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Tony Zambito

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Sudden Loud Noises
Sudden Loud Noises (Photo credit: STML)

If you put yourself in the shoes of a customer as a listener instead of the messenger, you might find a noise you do not like.  Perhaps it is a loud constant humming sound.  Five competing companies sounding like a meditative chant.  Yet there is no escape as a listener.  In the shoes of a customer, you move down the hall, only to find the same hum no matter who is the audience.

Using an expression from years past, the only choice left for customers is to – tune out.

Limitations of Quant

In my recent conversations helping marketing and sales leaders, it is hard not to miss how many are looking for different means of acquiring quantitative data and insights about their customers.  Investing substantial amounts in the magic of Big Data.  Doing so however, does not assure differentiation with specific audiences.  Listen to this recent buyer interview conducted on behalf of an organization seeking deeper buyer insights:

“Because everybody sounds the same, I expect more when we actually contact a company.  What I mean is you can line up the different vendors and not see much difference in what they say on their websites for example.”  Vice President, Operations

This brief comment is very telling.  The story behind it can mean several things:

  • Product-focused content, which looks the same across the board
  • Lack of insight into how to communicate and provide information to different audiences
  • Limitation of Big Data to provide granularity insight into what matters
  • Lack of insight into how to segment audiences

Dangerous Territory

The outcome of non-differentiation is higher decibel levels in messaging – to the point of discomfort.  Resulting in more buyers tuning out messaging and content altogether.  For marketers and sellers, this is dangerous territory.  Here’s why:

The more this occurs, the more attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs become set in stone about the invaluable nature of the content and messaging available. 

If such attitudes do become entrenched, it can take a long time for customers and buyers to open their eyes and ears to messaging and content meant specifically for them.  And, this is lost time, which can be detrimental to the long-term sustainability of an organization.

The Audience Segmentation Dilemma

What I have seen is the power of Big Data to cut across horizontally.  Providing insights on groupings of audiences in many different forms.  The dilemma facing marketing and sales leaders is the ability to take such groupings and go deeply vertical.  Going deeply vertical to know:

  • What matters most to specific audiences
  • The goals of specific audiences and why they matter
  • Unique qualitative “offline” behaviors, which influence buying decisions
  • Different information needs of specific audiences
  • Understanding how information is used by specific audiences

As you can see, a list of qualitative understanding knowledge can go on.  This dilemma is like having identified several different types of shipping containers but not being quite sure what to put inside them to ship.

What Are CMO’s and CSO’s Suppose To Do?

What has become clearer is marketing messaging and sales messaging have to become fairly well coordinated today.  The transition from marketing to sales messaging has to be seamless.  Not confusing or sending mix signals to buyers and to specific audiences.  Doing so just means more noise and more tuning out.  Here are a few steps today’s leaders in marketing and sales can take:

Avoid over reliance on quantitative.  Avoid the temptation of viewing quantitative and qualitative insights as an either or proposition.  Each provides valuable components of understanding audiences.  By each complementing each other, more holistic and robust stories of buyers and audiences can be told.

Learn to deep dive for each audience group.  With the majority of audiences living behind a digital wall, learning how to deep dive behind this wall is a capability companies need to attain.  It is not enough to know glimpses of digital behaviors via just Big Data.  Deep diving means good old fashion qualitative research directly with customers and buyers – and with each audience group.  Obtaining valuable insights about each audience group.

Develop insights-based content design models for each audience group.  Messaging and content can remain ineffective when they are not modeled as well as designed for specific audiences.  There is a tendency to view the treatment of messaging and content as one development, which then is spread out to different audiences defined.  Another words, we have put together this great content and now whom do we give it to?  The design of content and messaging means modeling each to the relevancy of each specific audience group.

Think customers first.  The hardest task facing marketing and sales is the easiest to say – thinking of your customers first.  A big reason for the lack of differentiation in messaging and content is much of the infrastructure DNA of organizations are still rooted in product-centric go-to-market strategies.  Whereby the virtues of a product or service is still told similarly to all audiences.  Introducing a focus on thinking customers first is job one for marketing and sales leaders of today.

What these four suggestions say is this.  Do not let Big Data and product-centricity get in the way of the need to know your audiences deeply.  Audience messaging segmentation requires a focus on thinking customers first – not product first.

Comparative Capability

Knowing each audience group deeply involves building comparative models of how to design and model messaging and content for each.  Knowing there are different types of audiences is only one step of many towards thinking customers first.   For marketing and sales leaders today, success with customers lies beyond taking the first step in audience segmentation.   And, having the readiness to take many more.

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