Episode 4

Audience Segmentation Strategies With HubSpot

Kelly Sarabyn

About This Episode

We explore audience segmentation strategies that enable marketers to personalize content and create a consistent brand message. 

Kelly Sarabyn | Head of Product Partnerships Enablement and Advocacy, HubSpot



Episode Introduction  (00:00:00)

Being able to get the ICP audience out of your CRM and then connect it to a DSP where you can then send targeted messaging. It’s so powerful for companies of all size to be able to combine those tools. And then you see what works. And then you can bring that back into your CRM, technology is enabling businesses of all sizes, you want to change the content, but also the channel and the timing. And something like a DSP can help you deploy segmentation in a way that’s really powerful.

How Agencies Thrive Introduction  (00:00:26)

But then you think about the social landscape. The research data is hugely significant when we combine all of these different touch points, so that long-term loyalty and then diving into the clicks to leads to sales, gotten to a point where it can drive better results in audience targeting, and really is what’s going to set you apart. You’re tuning in, you’re tuning in, you’re tuning in to the How Agencies Thrive podcast.

Sneha  (00:00:51)

According to a study, segmentation makes firms 60% more likely to understand customers’ challenges and concerns, and 130% more likely to know their intentions. Segmenting based on personas provides 90% of firms with better knowledge about their audience. Now what I’m trying to say is audience segmentation is super important. Let’s find out more about the how, what and why of this with the expert joining us today. Hello, and welcome to the How Agencies Thrive podcast. I’m your host Sneha Suhas from StackAdapt and with me, I have Kelly Sarabyn from HubSpot. Welcome to the show Kelly, thank you for joining us today. And I’d love to know more about your professional experience so far your areas of expertise and also tell us more about HubSpot.

Kelly  (00:01:48)

Awesome. Thank you so much for having me today. So at HubSpot, I oversee a team that runs our tech partner enablement and advocacy. So the enablement side is getting our tech partners to work with our sales team, our CS team and our solutions partner team. And the advocacy side is a kind of two-partner marketing role. So how do we attract new partners? How do we engage our current partners through marketing events and community. And prior to this role, I was running marketing at an early-stage startup called Pandium. And HubSpot is a CRM platform. So we have marketing hub, sales hub, service hub and CMS hub. So businesses can really if they want to run their whole front office off of HubSpot. And we have more and more customers who are doing that because our platform is built on a common data model. So it’s very easy to work with all these systems because they were built as one from the ground up instead of by acquisition where things start to get more cobbled together.

Sneha  (00:02:55)

Awesome. Great to, you know, have a person with so much experience today. Let me start with a very basic question. What exactly is audience segmentation? And why would you say it is crucial for the success of any modern marketing campaign? And why should the marketer give this attention? And how much attention should this be given?

Kelly  (00:03:19)

Great question. Well, I think for me, segmentation is looking at the total audience that you’re trying to speak to. And, you know, foremost, that’s probably going to be your prospects and your customers. But it could also include your partners, and other stakeholders. And I think that segmentation means really breaking up that audience into different personas so that you can better connect and personalize your messaging and reach them. And I think that segmentation is extremely important right now, for a couple of reasons. One thing is, as everybody knows, marketing budgets have been kind of pulled back a lot given the top macroeconomic conditions. And so I think segmentation is an excellent way to take the data that you already have, and the tools that you already have, and the budget that you already have, and really improve your ROI on your campaigns. And it’s something that really all-sized companies can do today. And then the other reason I think it’s important is, you know, things have gotten really noisy. Buyers are more skeptical of vendors. There’s a lot of content out there, right, that’s already proliferated where people are getting hit with emails, with ads with social media posts. And we’re just kind of drowning in noise. And I think AI and generative AI is only going to accelerate this trend, right? Because now it’s even easier to create more content. So brands are going to be putting out more and more content. And so I think the question for businesses is how do you break through the noise? How do you form those personal connections when everyone’s being bombarded with messaging and I think segmentation is key to doing that because it enables a level of connection and personalization that you don’t otherwise get when you try to keep it generic and to be all things to all people in your audience.

Sneha  (00:05:09)

You spoke about messaging. So when it comes to audience segmentation, how do you strike a balance between creating personalized content for specific segments while still maintaining a consistent brand message throughout?

Kelly (00:05:23)

I love this question. And prior to my last company, the company before that I was working at a branding agency. So we would go in and kind of help companies, mostly B2B SAS companies come up with their core brand story, and then kind of have a six-month engagement, where we would say, okay, here’s how you execute it throughout your organization. And I would definitely recommend a similar methodology to businesses in the sense that, make sure you have a clear understanding, and you don’t necessarily need to have a brand marketer, you could have a product marketer to do this, or even just your director of marketing. But make sure someone put, you know, the metaphorical pen to paper and really understands what your core brand identity and messaging is. And you want to have that be pretty high level, right, and you have that document and say, hey, this is what we’re gonna stand for. This is who we are. And a lot of businesses make the mistake of trying to be very generic. That really doesn’t resonate with people and people don’t feel a connection to that kind of corporate land way of presenting yourself. So have understanding of your identity at a high level. And then when you go down a level to execute specific campaigns stay within those guardrails, right. So if your brand is going to be presented as like happy, peaceful place to be able to go to recharge and relax on a high level, if that’s kind of core to your brand, then you want to make sure even if you are targeting people who in their individual persona might also respond to something that’s darker, then you need to stay within those constraints and make sure that your message is personalized to them, but yet stays with your overarching brand. And I love the question, because I think this is something a lot of companies miss because they get dialed in to the segmented audience and they just think, hey, what is going to work best for this audience, it might be a little bit different. But you need to stay in your brand. Because ultimately, word of mouth and your brand being consistent is what is going to drive more business for you in the long run. And it’s a really bad idea to have a short term gain, but then have very discordant sort of images and content out in the marketplace coming from your brand.

Sneha  (00:07:37)

Alright. And you mentioned B2B, right? So on those lines, if a marketer is approaching audience segmentation, do they have to keep something in mind if it’s B2B versus B2C brand they’re working with?

Kelly (00:07:51)

Yeah, I think it’s an interesting question. And especially when you have smaller companies, B2B is often in a tougher spot, and they don’t have as much data, right. So usually, consumer purchases tend to be easier to scale, they tend to be a lower price point. Now, not always, you do have some very high-end luxury purchases, that you might be in a similar spot. And I think that it makes the job tougher for the B2B business because you don’t have as much data to run and say, you can look at what your deals close, which ones closed most fastly, and try to get a persona out of that. But you might not be working with as much data. And so I think that’s definitely a key difference. And I think that when consumer brands, they have usually very high volume and also repeated purchases, they can sort of tweak their messaging more quickly, and iterate more quickly on what works for different personas. I think it is worth calling out though, that, you know, B2B decisions are made by people too. And so I think a lot of times that’s forgotten. So the persona work is really just as important to understand their paying points. But the other thing with B2B, as you might often have, say, eight to 10 people who are key to a decision. So within one purchase, you might have to segment your messaging and campaigns, which is usually different when you’re looking at the consumer purchases, not usually driven by committee. So I think that’s really going to be the biggest differences is the amount of data that you’re working with and how consumer brands can pivot more quickly. But all the more reason for B2B brands to look for consumer brands for inspiration. I think you can see what’s working for them and not all of what’s going to apply but you can definitely see lessons on what works and what doesn’t work.

Sneha  (00:09:47)

And how do you think technology and data analytics has transformed the way marketers approach the process of audience targeting and segmentation and would you like to make a connection here with how different technologies like a CRM and DSP can come and work together?

Kelly  (00:10:08)

It’s so powerful for companies of all size to be able to, for example, combine those tools, right, like being able to get the ICP audience out of your CRM, and then connect it to a DSP where you can then send targeted messaging, and then you see what works. And then you can bring that back into your CRM for say, in B2B for like the sales process all the way through. So I definitely think that technology is enabling businesses of all sizes to really deploy segmentation in a way that’s really powerful. And I think a DSP is another good example, right? Because segmentation, you want to change the content, but also the channel and the timing. And something like a DSP can help you to do that, right? Like maybe the place to reach your, your target is going to be on the radio, or it’s going to be through on TV, or it’s an everything’s not a display ad, right, like that works well with some personas, but not others. So I think using those tools, to find out from a programmatic sense, which works and which works well, is what you want to do, because you’re not going to be able to figure that out on your own. And there are essentially these tools enable you to leverage their data, and also their machine learning, right, and sometimes AI. Of course, there’s a very fine line between those two buckets. But I think you want to use that to understand what’s resonating and pull in all the data from a lot of different sources. Because when you pull it together, so in your CRM, you can have third-party data, you can get second-party data from your partners, you’ll have first-party data from your interactions with your customer. And you can build those audiences. And put those into the DSP, right, so like making sure that you’re leveraging all the data at your fingertips and that it’s super cool. We live in a time now where even small businesses can use these tools, you don’t have to be an enterprise company to kind of leverage all these data sources and the programmatic analysis that runs on top of it.

Sneha  (00:12:07)

So Kelly, where can people go wrong with segmentation? And what would you tell a person who is just starting off? Or tell someone who is overwhelmed with the options available to pick and choose to go about segmentation?

Kelly  (00:12:22)

Yeah, I think I would advise someone to start slow and iterate I think, you know, one big mistake we kind of touched on is which is veering off your brand new message, which we kind of already covered. I think another big misstep is not using data, just having an idea in your head, and not really thinking through how important that particular persona might be. Because if you want to really optimize your resources, you need to do analysis of your own data to kind of find out, hey, which persona is gonna close the fastest purchase the most and really drive the highest impact. And that’s where you want to start, right? So I think you can really flush out your segmentation campaign so that you’re going after any number of personas. But when you’re just starting to, you know, walk down the road, really get an understanding of which persona, most needs your product or service, which one is most open to converting less quickly, and really flush out what they look like and then design the campaigns. The other thing is to experiment with different channels, right? I think that personas react differently, as kind of notorious for like people who sell to developers, they’re really against the typical type of ads, but you can be more creative, there are things that resonate with them. And that goes into that research component of making sure once you’ve understood your persona with the data that you also understand which channels are going to resonate, when you’re going to send these, and what the sort of omni channel campaign is going to look like all the way through. And I think that’s the best place to really start. I do think another misstep is really not taking enough time to develop the messaging around the segment, like companies will identify, hey, this is a valuable segment, but then they really just barely modify the content they take. They take a pre-existing campaign, they make little tweaks in the text, and then they call it a day. That’s not going to bring you transformative results. You really have to do more. And I think the more that you can work in the appearance of personalization, to different segments, the more you’re gonna have success. Well, that definitely takes some time and research and really persona understanding.

Sneha  (00:14:40)

Yeah, thank you for that. It was very informative and talking about startups or smaller businesses with limited resources. What are some of the practical tips for getting started with audience segmentation and how can they effectively use data even with a very small customer base?

Kelly (00:15:02)

Yeah, I think that’s a great question. And the first thing I would say is kind of use the tools that you already have. And whatever those might be, they’re gonna vary. But I think you want to use the tools that you have and the data that you can pull out of those tools. And as we kind of discussed, when you have a smaller customer base that you’re going into, you might not have enough data. So you want to lean into some qualitative interviews, which is good for small businesses anyway, right to get closer to their persona and understand, make sure that you’re asking your CS team, you know, what they’re hearing to really flesh out who’s happiest, essentially. And that can really help create the persona. I think, just for example, HubSpot sales hub, right? So your B2B, you even if you don’t have a ton of customers, and your pipeline is not huge, you can still pull out all the companies very easily, that close the fastest and close for the most, and then take that qualitative look and say, hey, is there anything about these companies, and a product like how SWOT already provides kind of that basic enrichment, so you know, the company size, you know, the company industry, and really looking at those parameters to see if there’s anything that can be used. And so, once you kind of hone in on who you want to segment to first, I think the other thing you want to do is use the tools that you have to try out some of the basic segmentation. So within HubSpot, for example, our email builder has smart content. So you can take lists that you create, which could be for example, from industry, or company size, or persona. And then you could send the same email, but you take certain sections, and you just change the content. And it’s super easy to do. And I think that that’s a great way to start and kind of test out, hey, did this work? Did people click on what was in this box that we changed? Was the conversion rates higher? And then I would say, you know, test those out and look and see what works. And the same thing is, you know, building those custom audiences, if you’re going to be doing ads, for example, take what you have, in your CRM and off your website. And you could do retargeting, right, I think that those are the first steps to understanding who these audiences are, and what kind of messaging is going to resonate with them. And when you’re just starting out and you’re smaller, you’re not necessarily going to have the granular level of detail that larger companies have, but that’s okay, it’s still going to drive results. If you’re paying attention to the data, I think the other thing is, do look for tools that have great segmentation built into them, but that you can afford. So I think, you know, certain ad tools might let you set those filters. And then you can run with that on your own and see what’s working. And look for ones that have that machine learning or AI built into them. So they’re doing a lot of the work for you, right, they’re going out and saying, hey, this is what resonated, this is what got you the best rate. And that tells you something right, whichever filters, you are using a lot of these tools, you don’t have to spend, you know, $100,000 a month to use them, you can spend less and you can still get leverage their larger database to understand how your product resonates with different filters that you choose through the tool. So I highly recommend doing that. I think that that’s an affordable data point that can help you go back to your CRM and then say, to your Salesforce, hey, we found out that like running these ads that honestly people in the health care vertical, we’re clicking, you know, 10 times more than other verticals. And then you can help your sales team to then target those that segment in that persona. So it’s a great time for small businesses in the sense that these tools have become more affordable, and they really have very robust datasets and technology that you can afford to leverage on your own.

Sneha  (00:18:59) 

Yeah, that sounds great. And for someone starting off, or someone who’s also been in the industry for a bit, do you recommend any resources, anything that they can consume as content to keep themselves updated?

Kelly (00:19:15)

Obviously, a little bias here, but I’ll say HubSpot Academy has a ton of great courses on all marketing topics, and it’s constantly being updated. So I would definitely recommend checking out those resources and kind of seeing which one appeals to you right now with your business needs. And honestly, I think there’s a ton of great marketing content out there more broadly, whether it’s something you want to do like there’s a Product Marketing Association, and that is your persona. That’s what you’re doing and focusing on I think joining those groups, you can really stay up to date through your peers, but those are the people that are going to be able to tell you hey, here’s the latest and greatest and all these communities share content. So that’s another channel I would recommend going down.

Sneha  (00:20:00)

And last question. Do you see any trends and challenges, say in the next 12 to 18 months when it comes to audience segmentation?

Kelly  (00:20:11)

Yeah, that’s a good question. I think, to me, probably, you know, while there’s an upside to the AI, I do think that it could potentially cause challenges, well, when it’s baked into pre-existing tools that can often give you potentially better data, but I think it’s all very new. And I don’t know, you know, as people who have used it themselves, it’s not always accurate. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of noise and a lot of analysis that is on top of noise, right, as more and more people put out AI-generated content. And I think that it’s definitely something to watch and see in terms of, is this actually accurate? Is this actually driving better results, because I don’t think we fully know yet. And I think in the long term, it will be driving better results. And it will be providing us with better data than we could ever get on our own. But I think it’s been released. And a lot of companies have been quick to jump on top of it and to deploy it in their tools. But there’s still a lot of unknowns and a lot of uncertainty around that. So I do think that’s just something to be very intentional and conscious about and make sure you’re looking at your own data. If you introduce new tools with AI, and your data sources to make sure that it’s still accurate and is still driving better results.

Sneha  (00:21:36)

Awesome. The future looks exciting. And thank you so much for joining us, your information, your insights, they were all great. And to the one who’s listening to this, whatever, whoever you are, marketer, brand, agency, I’m sure you had a lot to take away. I definitely learned a lot of new things here. So thank you so much, Kelly, for joining us. And to you the one who stuck around till the very end, make sure you subscribe to the podcast to listen to new episodes right when they drop. If you like the podcast, share it with your teammates, it could be a cool resource to post on your office work chat as a recommendation. So go ahead and do that. And if you want to get in touch, write to us at academy@stackadapt.com.That is academy@stackadapt.com. We have episodes releasing every alternate Wednesdays. So stay tuned. Until then, this has been the How Agencies Thrive podcast. See you in the next episode.

Episode Outro (00:22:30)

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