Vertical B2B: The challenge and advantages of marketing deep and narrow
“Strategy 101 is about choices: You can’t be all things to all people.” – Michael Porter
Today’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings enable companies to address the particular needs of highly-targeted customer segments with cost-effective, tailored solutions. To deliver on superior value, many SaaS companies are tuning their products and go-to-market strategies towards specific vertical markets.
While the inherent flexibility of the SaaS platform facilitates targeting different industries or segments, it adds complexity to the marketing and sales functions. Marketers of such new offerings can’t just add a page to their website, nor can sales merely discuss new features. Rather, content and conversations must speak intelligently from an understanding of the core buyer and their specific context. Admittedly, acquiring this knowledge takes time and diligent research. But once this information is developed marketing and sales can use to their advantage in several ways, including the following:
Offering of superior solutions
By narrowing the focus, vendors can provide superior solutions which address industry-specific needs. With the deep industry knowledge needed to successfully cater to a vertical market, providers also gain the necessary foresight to be responsive to changes in regulatory issues and other shifts in their specific market. Subsequent software updates and the development of new modules can then occur rapidly, with deployments being measured in months rather than the years previously necessary for on-premise providers.
As a case in point, Kronos used a SimplyDIRECT/Gatepoint Research survey to inquire with Dining Industry management about their workforce management solution and needs. Through this process, Kronos learned that the majority of businesses relied on their point of sales (POS) systems to track employee hours. Although adequate in the past for the dining industry, 2014’s new Affordable Care Act regulations require more stringent management of employee hours in order to differentiate between part-time and full-time employees. Kronos realized that new time management capabilities would be required to meet both the budgetary and functional needs of the industry, allowing them to proactively make changes in their vertical offering.
Crafting more effective messaging
The deep industry and buyer knowledge required to successfully build and update a vertical solution, naturally also informs marketing content and sales conversations. Simply addressing user-friendliness and cost advantages won’t win a highly-targeted segment. Rather, pointed messaging must speak directly and in depth to prospects’ unique industry needs. Kronos’s awareness of and responsiveness to upcoming industry changes, provided them with valuable insight to position messaging to demonstrate how their solution would aid in compliance with pending industry regulations.
Gaining of Thought Leadership positioning
A big benefit of developing a stronger industry-segment focus is the ability to become a thought leader. With specific industry knowledge vendors/service providers also gain the necessary foresight to be responsive to changes in regulations, competitive offerings, economic and business issues, market trends and other shifts in each specific market. Understanding and reacting to these changes then provides the raw materials for thought leadership content that can be used both to engage customers online, as well as to arm sales people with the knowledge they need to be regarded as trusted advisors.
Kronos used the results of the SimplyDIRECT/Gatepoint Research survey “Strategies for Workforce Management in the Dining Industry” as the basis of a press release, which was picked up by 8 new agencies, including Wall Street Journal’ s Market Watch and the Business Wire. The findings of the survey were also publicized at MURTEC 2013, the annual multi-unit restaurant technology conference held in Las Vegas (click here for press release).
Gaining the necessary depth of knowledge required for success can take time and is an ongoing process. Learning directly from your customers and prospects is a vital ingredient, but going in cold and asking “what keeps you up at night” will not endear a sales person to your prospect. Rather it’s important to do your research first. But finding the key factors that drive your business can be a time consuming exercise. One neatly effective solution is the Prospect Surveys that Kronos used, and which can provide quicker and more targeted answers, as well as actionable intelligence and access to key decision makers and influencers. While you can’t be all things to all people, developing a process to keep your finger on the pulse of targeted vertical markets can help you be a leader to that target market.