Getting Back to Basics with ABM Segmentation

5 minutes
Nov 19, 2021
Account-Based ExperienceDigital Marketing

In the world of marketing, segmentation has serious street cred. The practice, which clusters accounts and contacts into subgroups for marketing actions, has existed since at least the 17th century....

In the world of marketing, segmentation has serious street cred. The practice, which clusters accounts and contacts into subgroups for marketing actions, has existed since at least the 17th century. Archaeological evidence indicates Bronze Age traders segmented their buyers, too.

Segmentation is the O.G. of marketing … and it’s experienced some serious change throughout the centuries. But none of the changes are better than what’s unfolding now in the world of Account-Based Marketing.

Modern revenue technology platforms offer segmentation capabilities that are mind-blowingly precise and effective. These solutions provide RevOps teams with practically limitless ways to categorize and market to buyers.

Veteran marketers have fun geeking out about all those bells and whistles. But such nerdery doesn’t mean much to ABM newcomers. These folks need practical insights. That’s why it’s time to put the spotlight back on powerful ABM segmentation fundamentals.

So let’s get back to basics and re-examine several ways to methodically create effective segments with this three-step process:

  • Compiling segments
  • To optimizing them
  • And validating them

Compiling Segments

For decades, businesses tried to avoid the ineffectiveness of mass marketing (“You can’t be all things to all people”) by manually cobbling together segments from disparate sources such as customer lists, tax registers, city directories, and census data.

These days, companies can integrate and build continuously occurring automations that pull information from technology systems like:

  • Your website
  • Customer Relationship Management technology
  • Marketing Automation Platforms
  • Customer-relevant partners
  • And more

When these systems start talking, you can enlist industry-leading revtech solutions to have big data and machine learning join the party and produce a 24/7 cycle of recirculating segmentation.

As buying teams engage directly with your brand or express intent signals online, modern technology can ingest this data and continuously, intelligently assign accounts to segments whose criteria they match.

Sure, you can still create static segments if you’d like; these are usually “moment in time” account lists that may have registered for particular events, or are all the deals that closed last quarter.

But the real power is in dynamic segmentation. Here, you can establish ever-evolving lists based on how accounts progress through the buying journey and transmit different states of profile-fit.

Looking at ICPs as a Range

Whether they’re static or dynamic, build your segments by starting big and narrowing down. And it doesn’t get much bigger than your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), the pool of accounts within your total addressable market. These companies typically deserve your sales and marketing resources.

However, the immensity of your overall ICP population — conceivably hundreds of thousands of records — can easily overwhelm strategies and resources.

Don’t narrow the field too quickly. Instead, thoughtfully bucket your ICP accounts into good-, better-, and best-fit categories. This is often done according to accounts’ direct connections to your brand and their properties and/or their affinity to top keywords.

We’ll call these first-order filters foundational segments, and they’re often long lists. When you shape your overall audience into useful ranges (‘ICP-good fit’, ‘ICP-best fit’), you can:

  • Better comprehend your market opportunities
  • Gain substantively meaningful insights about your audience
  • Eventually produce plenty of valuable sub-segments

Optimizing Segments

Now that you’ve established foundational segments, you can further narrow your intent focus. This leans into ABM’s strengths. After all, ABM empowers you to focus on the best accounts, not just those that are relevant.

These better-defined segments — for this blog post, we’ll call them next-level segments — can refine your account set from tens of thousands to a few thousand. This lets you direct resources where they’ll generate more impact and value.

Examples of next-level segments might include:

  • All the accounts in your best-fit foundational segment in the Awareness stage of their journeys
  • Good-fit accounts that have entered the Decision stage within the last 10 days
  • Accounts that are better- or best-fit and have researched the top five most relevant keywords in your Dark Funnel

These segments help you better understand certain audiences, so you can confidently target and personalize their content.

Getting Precise

With foundational and next-level segments in place, you can now move to a more micro-level of filtering. It’s here — with what we’ll call granular segments — where you dial into your audience-targeting in actionable ways.

When opportunities get specific, things get exciting. For instance, leveraging granular segments can take 5,000 Awareness-stage accounts and identify the best-possible 50 to engage.

Effective account filters might include:

  • They exist in your sales territory
  • They operate in a choice sector
  • They’re affected by a new federal law
  • They visited your website or searched certain branches of competitor keywords recently

You might also generate a segmented list of only 10 accounts, but they’re exceptionally relevant targets since they’re in a well-defined geography that’s ripe for sales follow-up, and because their intent recently moved them into the Decision stage.

Many 6sense customers create segments of their accounts who’ve visited their highest value inbound pages so they can retarget them with follow-up ads.

6sense’s revenue team uses 6sense technology for its marketing initiatives, including our own custom Demand-Side Platform. We recently observed that advertising through 6sense-generated segments cost us half as much as running LinkedIn ads and still received a higher average click-through rate.

The great thing about hyper-segmenting is that it makes you think more like specific customers. It motivates RevOps teams to put the concerns of buyers first.

Validating Segments

Finally, it’s time to evaluate your segments’ performance. Segmentation that seemed good in theory may deliver subpar results, so you always need proof it’s working.

The key is to see results in real-time and in meaningful terms. World-class revenue technology platforms are your friend here.

6sense addresses this need with our dynamic reports. At any point, you can run a “buying stage” segment performance report to see how accounts progress between predictive buying stages such as Pre-Awareness, Awareness, Consideration, Decision, and Purchase.

These reports can identify which accounts are getting ready to buy … but it doesn’t reveal if they’re ready to buy from you. For that, you can produce an “engagement report” to see your segment-specific fan support from “no intent” clear through “opportunities won.”

Armed with this info, you can get much more specific and meaningful in assessing segmentation success. You can start talking about:

  • Accounts, not “leads”
  • Dollars, not “funnel volume”
  • Deals, not “conversions”

Conclusion

Having robust B2B segmentation options are great, but it’s best not to filter your segments rapidly or haphazardly. Instead, segment your way to revenue success with a disciplined approach that begins large, ends focused, and relies on agile, comprehensible tech.