By Brian Ferguson
One of the biggest challenges Value Added Resellers (VARs) face is differentiating themselves from competing VARs that sell similar products. It’s fairly common within a city, or other geographically defined territory, to find several technology providers that offer similar, if not the exact same products and services within a few miles of each other. As a VAR, how can you separate your company from the pack? How can you become the provider of choice in your space? One way to do this is to focus on vertical markets.
A vertical market is a classification or grouping of similar businesses, based on industry or specialized need. Focusing on a segmented market allows you, as a reseller, to target your messaging, marketing activities, and product line to that vertical and become the recognized expert in that field. Many successful resellers differentiate themselves by becoming the obvious go-to choice for educators, or healthcare providers, for example, because they have experience and expertise servicing that particular industry. This way of doing business is often much more successful than trying to be everything to everyone.
Choosing a vertical market to target is often a matter of looking at where you may already serve many, common types of customers. Building up similar customer types often happens naturally, based on customer referrals, for example. Once you select a market to focus on, the next most important step is to launch a vertical marketing campaign. So what is the key to vertical marketing? There are many layers to running vertical campaigns, but there is one thing that can really help ensure that your company’s efforts will be successful: understanding and defining buyer personas.
Buyer personas are individuals, or groups of people, that buy products or are involved in the purchase process in some way – they make up a particular customer type. In general, understanding buyer personas lets you determine what makes your customers tick and gives you an idea of which product offerings will be most successful for that customer type. In vertical markets, understanding the buyer personas within an industry helps define success or failure in marketing and selling to that vertical. You must wrap your arms around fully knowing who the players are when it comes to the buying decision and what problems those individuals need you to solve for them.
Take the example of the healthcare vertical. You may have one buyer persona for the office manager of a medical practice, another buyer persona for the doctor of the medical practice, and a third buyer persona for the IT manager of the medical practice. Each of these personas may be involved in the buying process, but they each have different motivations for buying. By defining what makes up each individual persona, you can then create messages targeted to their unique needs. The great thing about understanding buyer personas within a vertical market is that the problems faced by one company in an industry is likely a common problem faced by most or all companies within that same industry. Now, not only is your company able to position itself as the expert for that vertical market, you have the products and messaging ready to help solve their problems.
Your company now has a way to set itself apart from the next VAR down the street. You are the go-to VAR for schools, or doctors’ offices, or hospitals, or manufacturing, or any other vertical that makes sense for your company to target.
Brian Ferguson is a product marketing manager at Digium, which provides Asterisk® software, telephony hardware and Switchvox business phone systems that deliver enterprise-class Unified Communications.