Tips for Better BtoB Targeting to Foster “Sales-Ready” Opportunities

Published: June 8, 2010

We often become so enamored with the new tools and processes available to us that we forget about the basics of segmentation and targeting — the “101” of marketing.  Getting your leads and related information into a database to enable effective segmentation is really critical to the success of your outbound campaigns and ongoing engagement of prospects. The more relevant and targeted your messages, the more interaction you should derive from your nurturing and outbound campaigns.

Lead segmentation can be based on a number of items, including traditional demographics such as industry, title, company size, etc. Your company needs to establish the characteristics and attributes in your prospect profile, which can also include answers to qualifying questions that might not be answered until farther down in the pipeline. As part of this, make sure you also understand buying decisions and buying drivers — in other words, what makes this type of prospect buy. Certainly, you’ll want to come up with your ideal prospect profile and then probably include a few other tiers of prospect types to target.

It’s important to understand how you will use this data before it goes into a marketing database (i.e., your lead management/marketing automation system). This is not a technical issue so much as it is a data schema issue, which means you’ll need to be able to slice the data into the various pieces and parts required to segment effectively based on your profile defined above. This is a discussion not only about the database’s capabilities but also about the organization of the data itself to best suit your efforts. Making sure that you spend the appropriate amount of time on this before slamming your data into a marketing database is critical to successful segmentation and targeting.

With today’s lead management systems, you can build even greater intelligence about your prospect since segmentation can now also include digital behavior. For instance, if your company sells a number of products and services, you can use the lead’s digital behavior (where they went on your web site) to understand their product/service interests and needs. Knowing this can help you to reduce the amount of friction (such as the number of fields on a form you ask a lead to answer in order to receive something) as well as the amount of data you must find out about the lead before having enough for effective segmentation.

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Effective segmentation, whether by demographic and/or behavior, provides a method by which you can create messaging that is tailored for a specific group of prospects. By speaking the prospect’s language (via industry-specific text or images, or specific products promoted), you have a better chance of catching their interest and getting them engaged in your campaign or nurturing processes. Additionally, your company will have more credibility with the prospect as you continue to engage with them. Conversely, generic messages get lost in the noise and won’t help your conversion so nurturing effectiveness will be mitigated.

Now that you are segmenting and targeting the leads per outbound touch, you should be able to take advantage of the knowledge you gained (enabled through good segmentation) to provide relevant content for that lead. Think about what your prospect is interested in at that point in the buying cycle. How can you make the content relevant for your targeted list versus something generic for all? With automation, this kind of targeting and relevancy of content becomes easier. Marketing automation systems enable you to include dynamic content that changes based on what’s of interest to that lead. This can include images (office building versus hospital), text within the email (for example, using different text based on recipients’ titles), as well as closing signature lines and addresses (i.e., if the lead is located in London, list your international headquarters versus the one in the United States).

We’ve seen many cases where segmentation and targeting of outbound campaigns have helped convert prospects. In one case, a company was simply sending monthly newsletters to its entire database, although it sold different products and services into different industries. Since it took so much time to manually alter every email based on the industries and the services of interest, it just wasn’t possible with the limited time it had available to customize content. Instead, it was forced to send a “one size fits all” newsletter to everyone.

With lead management systems and processes, segmentation became much easier and targeted messages much more effective to disseminate. We worked with the company, helping it to start by segmenting its leads by industry. The company then created an email template with dynamic content in the first paragraph that automatically altered the language based on the industry. The lead management system dynamically changed a portion of the text before sending the email, based on a rule set up for each industry. After a bit of time, the company then added the criteria of sending specific messages to leads based on what products or services (including complementary products and services for cross-sell opportunities) they had expressed interest in. The company then started a nurturing campaign around the services identified to be of interest. This increased the leads’ interactions with this company, and in the end, helped drive a much higher quality lead to the sales team.

Better segmentation and targeting will have a direct impact on the success of your nurturing programs and outbound campaigns. In particular, the increased success in nurturing will in turn increase the quality of leads that you pass to your sales teams and should therefore directly affect revenue in a positive way. With direct revenue implications, it’s important not to skimp on this first step of effective marketing.


Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of on-demand lead management software that generates, scores, and nurtures leads for BtoB marketers. In 2009, Lisa was recognized as one of the top five “Most Influential People” in sales lead management. For more information on lead management or best practices email

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