Breaking down your data to make the most of every slice? Our series on segmentation continues!
What is firmographic segmentation?
Research in the B2B field requires specialized attention because it differs from a B2C approach in significant ways. Firmographic segmentation is at the core of B2B. It categorizes B2B prospects into descriptive segments that are fundamental to structuring B2B-specific marketing programs. By highlighting organizational similarity that connects to the customer experience (CX), companies serving commercial needs can structure commercially-influenced marketing programs with greater accuracy.
B2B firmographic segmentation vs. B2C segmentation
Defining firmographics is complicated because it’s rooted in the B2B operational arena with unique dimensions. To help you get a better understanding of the purpose of firmographics, here are some seismic differences between B2B firmographic segmentation and B2C segmentation.
B2C generally involves an overview of large groups (frequently hundreds of thousands or even millions of consumers) who share common characteristics. B2B can boil down to customers able to afford big-ticket items. Thus, analysis of a single entity (or perhaps only a few) may turn out to be a viable firmographic segmentation exercise.
B2C surely involves a combination of people interacting with a purchase decision. However, many B2C projects place relatively little emphasis on decision influencers. B2B firmographic segmentation almost always tracks back to team impact on the decision. Different departments energize the decision process to a greater or lesser extent. Any B2B marketing program, no matter what, that fails to account for inter-departmental participation is likely to fall apart in a competitive environment.
B2C needs and reference frameworks often connect to psychological gratification. They overlay fashion, upward mobility, peer recognition, color, smell, and aesthetic preferences that have little to do with product or service functionality. In most cases, customers see value in premium pricing for these luxury and intangible benefits. B2B buying processes center firmly on functionality and ROI-centric considerations. There’s seldom any value attributed to the self-gratification of the people making the decisions. Team achievement generally rides on the extent to which its decisions improve company performance.
B2C customers categorize according to where they live, what they look like (i.e., demographics like language, gender, age, etc.), and psychographics (i.e., why they act the way they do). B2B firmographic segmentation analysis has a dual-level requirement. The businesses under focus in this type of analysis should be grouped by:
- Industry (e.g., construction industry, healthcare, heavy-industrial, technology)
- Company size (eg., 1000 employees, SMB, large enterprise)
- Industrial location (e.g., Silicon Valley, Permian Basin)
- Annual Revenue
- Sales cycle stage (e.g., attention, interest, conviction, commitment readiness)
- Legal status (e.g., company, partnership, subsidiary, LLP)
- Performance (e.g., Sales, net revenue, growth rate)
- Designations of buyers and decision influencers (e.g., purchasing director, engineer, HR director, marketing manager)
- Competitor activity by name, threats, message content & media
It’s similar to B2C with a couple of qualifications. Remember that employees are everyday people with specific demographic characteristics, influenced by friends and family situations, language capabilities, and technology orientations. Organizational forces temper employee’s individualized inclinations. These may erase specific demographics or, in other cases, minimize them. For example, any ego drivers may not feature significantly where strict financial protocols play into it.
We will deal with some of these B2B specifics in more detail below. However, the purpose of firmographics, from the above, should be patently clear.
Customer journey, CX touchpoints, and firmographic variables: Critical paths to marketing success for B2B operators
In modern business environments, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic impact, remote working and business protocols have changed dramatically. Also, tech advances using artificial intelligence (AI) are steering communication processes in different directions and erasing distance as an obstacle to smooth-running sales enablement programs.
Firmographic segmentation is a mainstream marketing segmentation tool to stay in tune with the required changes. Buyers are buying smarter but at the same time are looking for a differentiated CX journey. They continue to place a high value on rep trustworthiness, company support (especially when it comes to technical complications), and fast reactions. Thanks to app innovations like WhatsApp and Zoom, business is moving along at an uninterrupted pace.
Firmographic segmentation can live alongside behavioral segmentation to give companies that multidimensional perspective on B2B customers. Categorizing how buyers and decision-makers behave under certain circumstances substantially overlays firmographic descriptions.
From a practical viewpoint, B2B operators should develop a training program centered on maximizing firmographic segmentation feedback and case studies that expose the following:
- Pressure coming at buyers from other departments. It’s useful to guide reps on what to expect and use their calls to productively network with other team members.
- Missteps in the stage-of-sale area, namely, introducing content inappropriately given the selling circumstances. For example – reps are eager to assume that buyers are ready to sign on the dotted line, when, in reality, they are barely past the attention phase. Ensuring you send the right message at the right time is critical to moving forward to more conclusive CX touchpoints.
- Buyers and influencers relying on social media like YouTube for videos and podcasts. If that becomes a differentiating factor in convincing a B2B prospect to buy, rep training is mandatory.
Firmographic Segmentation Examples
The following are realistic examples but not necessarily recollections of actual situations:
A construction company bidding on an office development zoned region set out to firmographically segment all the business categories that would likely see relocation advantages. They found that IT and technology-type entities were top-of-the-list, connecting to the clean, contemporary architecture and smart technology built into the infrastructure. Covering close to 100,000 acres, the development provided for extensive leeway to customize requirements. The infographics identified close to 350 tech rainmakers listed on the Nasdaq and highly funded startups that qualified as candidates. While there were commonalities, the infographic segmentation coverage demanded a separate profile for every prospect. It occupied the construction contractor’s time and effort for a year before development even commenced to pinpoint every CX touchpoint for each candidate approached. It paid off because the targeted entities were attuned to high-detail customization, and were impressed with state-of-the-art products and services that aligned with their needs. Customer commitments to the project absorbed all the office space when the building was only twenty percent completed.
An organization working in the sphere of supplying sanitization services to companies with severe COVID-19 restrictions found that factories, restaurants, and gymnasiums were vibrant segments, to begin with. However, while the owner was always at the center of the decisions, he or she inevitably brought the operations staff into the decision-making arena. In many cases, the latter, through lack of knowledge, raised unfounded objections. The company launched a seminar and podcast orientation and training program to overcome hesitations that, although unrealistic, were turning out to be significant obstacles. This initiative did the trick.
A company (Call it XYZ Ltd.) selling a new software app discovered from infographic segmentation that buyers in all prospect businesses had no time for direct meetings, even Zoom calls. With time pressures and other executive demands, the latter was looking for access to new information on social media conveniently merged into their technology platforms. Also, outdated or cookie-cutter content was a big customer turnoff. The feedback resulted in a complete overhaul of the XYZ’s selling proposition that was previously reliant on traditional direct calling after making an appointment. When that hit frustrating roadblocks, the company introduced technology as a leading change-maker and recruited an outside expert to integrate an online, social media selling platform. XYZ used that resource to retrain its reps on a fast track, thus meeting the new demands.
Firmographic segmentation is a compelling way for B2B marketers to select and eliminate segments
In an intensely competitive environment, B2B companies can’t be everything to everyone. Market segmentation tells us that in no uncertain terms. One has to choose one’s battleground carefully.
Consider, are you going for:
- Enterprise-scale customers or SMB?
- Startups or entities with proven records?
- Team decision-making units or dealing with the owner directly?
Of course, digital technologies provide more affordable resources than ever before, allowing even small operators to aim big. Still, be realistic, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Your setup plays into the equation in a big way.
Consult with professionals like Sogolytics to get a measure of how realistic your targeted customer groups are. They offer template surveys that include quizzes and Likert Scale methods for penetrating the motivations that give your infographic feedback body and pinpoint accuracy. Allow them to introduce firmographic segmentation methods into your business and help you organize the feedback.
B2B is another ball game altogether and not for the fainthearted. Enter it with all guns blazing to get the traction you need to be competitive. Don’t waste resources on initiatives that have little hope of seeing daylight. Sogolytics will create a workable firmographic segmentation strategy that aligns with your capabilities and resources.