January is the month for predictions.  Flicking through the various forecasts of what 2015 holds for B2B, common themes emerge.  Some trends are at the start of the adoption curve, e.g. programmatic advertising.  Some are about taking a pretty well-established practice and doing it better, e.g. content.  And others are about going back to basics, e.g. influencer marketing.

One widely touted trend in this latter category has a new label (‘human-to-human’ or ‘personalisation’), but is really just a marketing fundamental – recognising that each member of the target market is a person (representing a business) with their own unique behaviours, preferences and emotions.  By intimately understanding this individual they can be engaged with the right messages, at the right time, through the right channel.

However, in reality this is often impractical.  Yes, B2B usually has a smaller target base than B2C, but even then the target market can run into many, many thousands.  Having that many truly personalised interactions would be tough.  So here enters another old chestnut – segmentation.  Whilst everyone is unique, they can usually be grouped with other people similar to them.  That makes personalisation a practical reality.  Identify the small number of segments in the target market (usually there are 4 – 6), work out the optimum marketing strategy for each, place the individual being engaged into the right segment and then apply the relevant strategy.  Hey presto, a personalised approach.

Simple in theory, but what’s the reality?  Well, 89% of B2B marketers already segment their target market (source: B2B Barometer).  Problem is, they do it firmographically on dimensions like company size or sector.  That’s not especially useful when looking to adopt a personalised approach.  One, it segments the company not the person.  And two, companies (or more accurately the people representing them) with the same firmographic profile, often have very different preferences.  In contrast, the minority (39%) segment in a way which allows personalisation – based on what their customers do, want or think.  For a detailed guide on how to segment in this way, click here:  B2B market segmentation white paper.

So my prediction for 2015 is that a lot of marketers will be re-visiting their segmentation model.

Find out more about Circle Research’s B2B market segmentation research services here.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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