B2B Segmentation


Revisiting Its Strategic Role and Crafting a Novel Research Agenda, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 1 Oct 2022

POSTING TYPE: Calls: Journals

Author: Maja Arslanagić-Kalajdžić


Call for Papers

B-2-B Segmentation: Revisiting its strategic role and crafting a novel research agenda

Deadline for submission: 1st October 2022

Overview and purpose of the special issue

Segmentation is a key concept of marketing (Freytag & Clarke, 2001; Morgan et al. 2019; Thomas, 2012). Since Smith formalized the term in 1956 (Smith, 1956), segmentation has been the basis for substantial research and development within marketing. Market segmentation involves dividing a market into smaller groups of customers with similar needs that might be served by different offerings and technologies (Choffray and Lilien 1980; Hlavacek & Reddy, 1986), so the firm can better target customers and position itself within the market. Segmentation provides value for industrial firms and, as a key concept, has been helpful, for example, to develop marketing strategy, differentiate marketing activities and allocate resources, as well as advancing our understanding of how customers should be targeted and managed. A number of well-known segmentation models were developed in the 1970s and 1980s (Bonoma & Shapiro, 1983; Wind & Cardozo, 1974) based on the fundamental insight that the segmentation concept revealed. Since then, overall, the number of contributions has been relatively steady. However, the number of contributions to B2B segmentation in reputable journals and top-tier journals has been diminishing over the last 35 years (Mora Cortez et al., 2021).

Abandoning B2B segmentation research is problematic as the segmentation field holds many essential issues not dealt with yet. In a shifting world where new markets are emerging,  current markets are being disrupted by digitalization (Müller et al., 2018), and buying processes are evolving (Grewal et al., 2015; Macdonald et al., 2016), it is problematic that little research has been conducted to deal with these changes in the segmentation literature. Such changes call for deepening and rethinking our knowledge base on segmentation – both conceptually and empirically.

First, theoretical consolidation is somewhat limited and demonstrates a gap in advancing marketing literature on segmentation. Based on a systematic literature review, it has been found that the theoretical anchoring within the segmentation literature was only apparent for 1/3 of the reviewed articles, and that only six theories were used as the basis for these articles (Mora Cortez et al., 2021). Theories used were: Relationship Marketing Theory, Organizational Buying Behavior, Business Solutions Theory, Customer Portfolio Theory, Customer Value Theory, and Equity Theory. While this reveals a somewhat limited theoretical basis, new techniques for analyzing the environment has gotten more attention. The main focus has been on detecting different customer demands on existing markets, whereas nascent markets have gained limited attention (a notable exception is Harrison & Kjellberg, 2010).

Second, there is a lack of empirical studies that provide a further understanding of how firms apply, implement and evaluate segmentation and its impact on firms’ performance. Further, there is a need for additional guidelines for robust B2B market segments based on changed conditions that, e.g., environmental concerns, artificial intelligence, societal values, and crises have provided (e.g., Goller et al., 2002; Mora Cortez et al., 2021).

Third, the existing literature on segmentation often fails to clearly clarify the nature of the purpose and context of the segmentation. This often makes it a hideous endeavor to figure out where and when a contribution fits in to the existing literature in the field (Mora Cortez et al., 2021). Thus, a clarification of purpose and context in combination with a clear theoretical anchoring would provide more systematic insights into the breadth and scope of a contribution to the field.

Fourth, it is found that segmentation is an ongoing process as markets evolve over time – including the perception of value (Blocker & Flint, 2007; Mitchell & Wilson, 1998), and firms must adapt or change accordingly. However, only few contributions have addressed firms’ continuoes process of segmentation, implementation, and monitoring of the segmentation efforts in practice and when firms decide to re-segment (Clarke & Freytag, 2012; Dibb & Simkin, 2001; Mitchell & Wilson, 1998). Particularly, the magnitude of the financial impact derived from segmenting B2B markets is unclear (e.g., Mora Cortez et al., 2021).

Based on the previous research gaps, we call for studies advancing our conceptual and empirical understanding of segmentation and bridging the nexus between theory and practice to strengthen the relevance and applicability of segmentation concepts. Hence, topics for submissions may include, but are not limited to, the following key research questions:

  • How do external actors (e.g., competitors) influence the firm’s market conceptualization? How does the firm’s concern for societal values affect the firm’s market conceptualization? How does the firm’s digitalization affect the firm market conceptualization? How different market conceptualizations derive in selecting a segmentation approach?
  • How do the structure of a value chain and the characteristics of downstream actors affect the purpose of B2B market segmentation? How do end-users characteristics relate to B2B market segmentation? What value chain actors should be prioritized to be segmented (e.g., direct customers versus indirect customers)?
  • How do global firms apply segmentation at different levels (i.e. group level versus different countries) and how is alignment achieved?
  • What is the link between segmentation purpose and its influence on the various elements in the segmentation process? How can different purposes of segmentation lead to divergent implementation endeavors?
  • How does B2B market segmentation link to the strategic intent of a firm?
  • Who are the key actors to be involved in B2B market segmentation? How can a firm ensure their involvement? What type of knowledge should these actors possess in order to conduct a hassle-free segmentation process?
  • How does the segmentation process differ between a SME and a large size enterprise?
  • When is it not desirable to conduct B2B market segmentation? What marketing capabilities substitute for B2B market segmentation capability?
  • What new quantitative or qualitative methods can be applied to conduct B2B market segmentation? What variables demonstrate better results in segmenting B2B markets (from both within-group homogeneity and between-group heterogeneity views)? What is the best targeting procedure?
  • What are the advantages of using latent class analysis over cluster analysis? What are the practical challenges in executing both approaches? How can they be overcome by managers?
  • How quantitative methods and qualitative methods can be integrated to achieve better financial outcomes?
  • How often should a firm conduct B2B market segmentation? How can a firm acknowledge the need to re-segment its market? What market conditions can be integrally identified to advice firms to revisit the idea of (re)segmenting the market?
  • How is segmenting or re-segmenting B2B markets perceived by the board? What firm factors and board-specific aspects (e.g., background) better relate the board to the endeavor of segmenting B2B markets?
  • What is the difference between segmenting a market in the making versus an established market? What divergent capabilities are required in both situations?
  • What is the role of the CEO in implementing a new segmentation approach? What is the role of the CMO? What is the role of front-line employees? What is the role of consultants?
  • What are the differences between implementing segmentation in B2B settings vs. B2C settings?
  • What cultural elements of the organization are effected by B2B market segmentation?
  • How does a firm’s different functions, such as manufacturing, marketing, and sales, remain aligned after segmenting B2B markets?
  • What type of segmentation contributes to developing a stronger customer orientation?
  • What is the right balance between financial and non-financial measures assessing the consequences of segment in the short- and long-run?
  • How does B2B segmentation influence both employees’ engagement and shareholder value?
  • What marketing capabilities strengthen the market segmentation-performance association? What marketing capabilities weaken the market segmentation-performance association?

Preparation and submission of paper and review process

Papers submitted must not have been published, accepted for publication, or presently be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Submissions should be about 6,000-8,000 words in length, excluding tables, figures, and references. Copies should be uploaded to the Industrial Marketing Management’s homepage through the Editorial Management system. You need to upload your paper using the dropdown box for the special issue on “Segmentation”. For guidelines, please visit:


Papers not complying with the notes for contributors (cf., homepage) or poorly written will be desk rejected. Suitable papers will be subjected to a double-blind review; hence, authors must not identify themselves in the body of their paper. (Please do not submit a Word file with “track changes” active or a PDF file.)

The submission opens July 1st 2022, and closes October 1st 2022.

Please address all questions to the guest editor(s):

Ann Højbjerg Clarke, University of Southern Denmark, ahc@sam.sdu.dk

Per Vagn Freytag, University of Southern Denmark, pvf@sam.sdu.dk

Roberto Mora Cortez, University of Southern Denmark, rfmc@sam.sdu.dk


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Bonoma, T. V., & Shapiro, B. P. (1983). Segmenting the Industrial Market. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Choffray, J., and Lilien, G. L. (1980). Industrial market segmentation by the structure of the purchasing process. Industrial Marketing Management, 9 (4), 331−342.

Clarke, A. H., & Freytag, P. V. (2012). Monitoring segmented markets: Relational and transactional perspectives. Business-to-business marketing management: Strategies, cases, and solutions. Advances in Business Marketing and Purchasing, 18, 89-118.

Dibb, S., & Simkin, L. (2001). Market segmentation: Diagnosing and treating the barriers. Industrial Marketing Management, 30(8), 609–625.

Freytag, P. V., & Clarke, A. H. (2001). Business to business market segmentation. Industrial Marketing Management, 30(6), 473-486.

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