Making Complex Data Actionable With Segmentation

Kermit Randa has served as an executive at a number of B2B software organizations. In every business he steps up to lead, he finds that data holds the key to unlocking revenue growth. Still, many organizations struggle to get their arms around their data.

First, there are the organizations that embrace the terminology but don’t do the deep dive. Kermit notes that it’s not enough to talk about segmentation and send an annual customer survey. Executives need to dig into data from their customers.

He jokes that he’s well-known for reading all of the text answers from survey respondents. Oftentimes, he says, the one to five (or ten) rating from a customer does not tell the full story. The why behind their satisfaction—or lack thereof—with your company is detailed in the open-ended responses.

Once leaders have dug into the information, they need to synthesize the data. The numbers won’t drive action if the data doesn’t make sense to everyone in the organization. A leader’s job, Kermit says, is to digest the complex data and spit out something simple and actionable for the full team to rally behind.

Another common issue is a lack of coordination across departments. While the enthusiasm for segmentation and personas is great, it only works if all teams are operating off the same assumptions. He shares a story of a meeting where three different teams came in, each with their own set of personas. Segmentation can’t drive meaningful growth if your sales, marketing, and product folks are all working off different segments. It’s up to leadership to define segments and make sure everyone’s on the same page.

He also stresses how important it is to understand the difference between user personas and buyer personas. They are not the same thing! Particularly in B2B organizations, the folks making purchase decisions are often different from the end-users. You must understand both sets of individuals to build a sales strategy and product that serves all constituencies.

The final piece that’s sometimes missing is humility. Leaders must be willing to acknowledge that data is king. If the data shows you’ve made a wrong turn in your strategy, you can’t fight the numbers. Instead, be willing to abandon your approach and try something new that addresses the truth in the data. 

Even when things are going well, leaders should check in with the data. Sometimes success can hide underlying issues. Are you succeeding because your organization is the best it can be, or is your success a false positive? The data will tell you the truth.

In good times and bad, there’s value in tapping into your data. Whether you’re looking to grow, course-correct, or future-proof, data is the key to understanding what’s ahead and crafting a plan to respond accordingly.