Most technology providers have built their business by working with every conceivable type of business. To adapt to changing service models, vendors and channel leaders are strongly recommending vertical focus. The advice is, in large part, based on the way customers search for technology solutions on the internet. Your potential clients are getting more and more specific, looking for service providers that understand their industry.
The great news is that a shift to an industry-specific focus doesn’t mean that you have to leave the rest behind. There is no reason to stop building your regional business through local targeting and face-to-face networking. But the internet has opened up the opportunity to build connections within industry communities that will expand your horizons and extend your business.
Choose your industry and build your knowledge
The obvious first step in vertical marketing is to identify your industry focus. Think about the industry-specific challenges that you have helped your current clients overcome. Could you turn that set of services into a repeatable process?
Evaluate potential target verticals by searching on the internet just as your clients would. Are there active LinkedIn groups where industry professionals go to get advice? Is there a non-profit industry advocacy and educational organization with an active membership community? Those markets with an engaged community will provide multiple ways for you to participate.
Once you have identified your target market, learn all you can by listening to the community conversations. Who are the current influencers? What do professionals in the industry talk about? To learn about the industry:
- Listen to the social community – You can monitor what people in the industry are talking about on social media through tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. Find industry-specific hashtags through Twitter search or Hashtags.org.
- Join the professional organization – Become a member of the organization to learn about industry leaders, educational opportunities and professional networking.
- Join LinkedIn groups – Monitor the groups to understand hot topics. Start to build your reputation as a helpful resource by giving advice without trying to sell anything.
- Attend events – Attend every in-person event that you can manage to build your network and get a better understanding of the challenges that your potential customers face.
Build your reputation as an expert
As you build your knowledge of the industry, position yourself as a technology expert. The goal is to build your credibility as a problem solver and trusted resource for the industry. The transformation won’t happen overnight, but with a little patience and a lot of giving, you can build a valuable reputation. To build your status as an expert:
- Offer to speak at events – Once you have a firm grasp of the issues that the industry faces, share your recommendations for the technology solutions that will serve them best.
- Sponsor a special interest group – Organize or participate in local meetings of industry specialists.
- Help industry journalists – The people who write for the industry, from bloggers to paid journalists are always looking for stories of interest for their readers. Help them out by sending story ideas or offering your viewpoint on current topics.
Establish your online presence with content
With a good understanding of your industry, building the marketing content that appeals to your prospects will be much easier. To establish your vertical online presence:
- Add a microsite – While you can add an industry-specific page to your current website, a microsite (with a separate URL) allows you to focus your message without confusing your horizontal client base. The microsite can be a simple, one page site, but should provide a one-stop source for your industry prospects and customers.
- Create educational content – Whether through blog posts, ebooks or articles, share your expertise with prospects and customers. Look for opportunities to post to industry sites, but always ask readers to visit your website as the final call to action.
- Partner with an industry consultant – If you don’t have the bandwidth or the internal resources to write content, consider hiring an industry consultant. It may be more cost effective than you think since they will get exposure to your prospects and customers.
Vertical marketing is not a quick fix or silver bullet. It is a strategic approach to marketing in an ever-more-specialized world. Adding a vertical component to your business allows you to expand beyond geographic boundaries. By taking a long-term view of marketing and building your presence in an industry community, you can establish yourself as a trusted advisor in a whole new market.