Strategic marketing is alien to many B2B companies. If it exists, the elementary basic topics for it to work effectively are missing. Often there's a lack of target-based, consistent, and systematically applied market and customer segmentation to really address the right customers in a targeted way – especially in the technology sector or with packaging companies. Here are the top ten most frequently used excuses for doing nothing:
- "We don't need anything like that - we people in sales know our customers."
- "Our segmentation has been in place for years, but our IT team hasn't been able to implement this in the system."
- "We treat all of our customers the same, we don't need segmentation."
- "It doesn't matter what we put in front of management, they make their decisions based on gut-feeling."
- "The revenue of the top ten biggest customers, I can put that together manually. It only takes a few hours."
- "For me, a market segment means a country, it doesn't interest me if the same term means a sector for my colleague."
- "I prioritize my market segments on my own – pretty much all of them."
- "At our company, market strategy means that the market determines our actions."
- "We don't have strategic marketing – unless you mean flyers and trade fairs."
- "New segmentation? We've always done it this way."
These statements sound familiar? Even when our clients can't see the wood from the trees, there's still a need for action. Successful segmentation saves time, resources and the need for many internal discussions. Yet even more important is this: Active and differentiated steering is possible for both top management and employees, without them having to consider every individual case. Meaning they can make quicker and better decisions.
The following four points serve as a short step-by-step guide for companies to address market and customer segmentation:
- Explain the benefits: It needs to be clear to both management and employees why segmentation is necessary. "Then I can finally send the new product brochure without any waste" or "now I can see at a glance which customer still has potential and where it's worthwhile making another trip" are turning points that support the implementation of new segmentation from scratch.
- Avoid complexity: Companies should start with the basics and not get bogged down. If they only have a few hundred customers, company assignment as well as revenue or potential classification according to ABC already goes a long way. The 80/20 rule needs to be used consistently and further categories need to be closely scrutinized.
- Take a measure-based approach: Link segmentation with clear actions. When no direct measures can be derived from segmentation, then there shouldn't be that segment to begin with. "All customers are important to us". It's a good statement from sales. Nonetheless, major potential customers should still receive better support than a minimal customer without any further potential. Segmentation can even result in prioritized manufacture or market segments for the sales approach.
- Simplify use: Segmentation should also be integrated in reporting. If applying segmentation is too painstaking, its use will be limited to a short time period or to a few people in the company. Defining the standard measure implementation analysis in every segment from the start is worth it.
Find the full German article on WirtschaftsWoche.