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Tailor your approach: Why consumer segmentation is crucial for health care B2B marketing

How consumer segmentation can boost health care B2B marketing campaigns

4 min read


Customer segmentation


Consumer segmentation is a critical tool for health care marketers because it allows a tailored, targeted approach for widely and narrowly focused businesses alike. With proper segmentation, marketers can respond to changes in the industry and remain agile in the way they speak to each of their target audiences.

Panelists on a recent SmartBrief webinar discussed the benefits of segmentation and noted that businesses getting started should be aware of certain challenges and how to overcome them.

One of the biggest is around data quality. Advertisers and marketers often use third-party data, which may be based on assumptions or require extensive testing to ensure it covers the right audience, said Melissa Ruben, global ad operations director at SmartBrief, a division of Future PLC. Ruben recommends relying primarily on first-party data and updating it as often as possible. This creates a better understanding of audience makeup and the business priorities for different industries and audiences.

No matter what the source, trying to stitch together the vast amount of data available and make sure it’s meaningful to the campaign at hand can be overwhelming, said Rommel Fernandez, chief analytics officer at Fingerpaint. The data must be integrated around different types of granularity, such as a universal identifier, and organizations should implement processes and process governance to maintain data quality and integrity, said Fernandez.

How to segment customers

It’s also easy to overcomplicate segmentation, Fernandez noted. “It’s easy to try and get as much data as possible because there’s sometimes an element of ‘the more data the better.’ But when you add too many layers, you can lose the ability to communicate information effectively.”

To that end, marketers must figure out how to create personas and functional groups that apply to as many health systems as possible, said Amy Hamilton, senior manager of marketing operations at Stericycle.

“Your segmentation should truly speak to as many titles that could fall into those groups as possible but without sounding tone-deaf to certain groups,” Hamilton said. “It’s mind-boggling the ways you could segment — system level, provider level, executive level. Once you’ve defined that, you can really start to build out your personas.”

Stericycle groups more than 80 titles into five functional groups that are relevant to its services. The groups are defined based on knowledge from the sales and account management teams about what those groups are charged with in almost all health systems. Stericycle also creates a persona for each title group, as well as a larger persona for the overall functional group. Top-of-funnel content is directed to the functional group, while more personalized content is designed for specific titles.

Getting it right

The panelists shared key tips for segmentation:

  • It’s rare to get it right the first time. Expect to make adjustments down the line and implement proactive signals that tell you whether the segmentation is working
  • Marketing is never at its best when it’s working in a silo. Marketers should work alongside the sales team and account managers to learn about what customers are buying and why
  • Keep the goals for the campaign in mind through the entire process of designing and executing, rather than focusing solely on segmentation
  • Ensure the segmentation will be easily reportable on the back end, so you know the right questions will be answered.

Success and simplicity

The panelists also shared success stories from segmentation efforts, including a project where Fingerpaint worked with an organization that had a first-in-class therapeutic and wanted to find early adopters and innovators. The company was able to reach those audiences by identifying the right analog products to use as a reference. Those products represented the target behavior, as well as its alignment with the marketing message.

“Knowing ahead of time what the end goal was, tracking it along the way and accepting that adjustments are going to be made … all that was baked in,” said Fernandez. “The valuable lesson is that the segmentation needed to be executable by the field teams.”

Ruben noted that SmartBrief has found success by having the creative team design materials with a specific target in mind. “Just creating a general message that you’re trying to reach people across all aspects of health care won’t really work because it might not be applicable or might appear tone-deaf to some,” Ruben said. “You need to make sure you’re really designing the campaign toward that specific target persona.”

With proper segmentation, close collaboration with sales, targeted messaging and an eye on goals throughout the process, marketers will have the best chance of getting their products into the right hands to make a positive impact on health care.