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6 Steps To Build Presence in a Vertical Market

Microsoft has long beaten the drum for partner specialization, and the cloud is amplifying the call further. Partners that pursue a vertical market strategy consistently report higher sales win ratios of opportunities within their specialty.

With all the pressure and evidence, it's surprising that most partners still don't have a strong industry focus. One hesitation is the concern that there will be missed horizontal opportunities if you focus on one industry. But industry focus doesn't mean that you have to stop horizontal marketing. They are two separate approaches. You can continue your horizontal marketing -- just carve out a segment of your prospect base that fits your industry criteria.

A Systematic Approach to Industry Specialization
While there is no magic formula, by taking a systematic approach, you can build your reputation to become an industry specialist. It takes commitment across the company because it will affect every aspect of the business. Identify a committee to work through these steps and hold them accountable for reporting on progress.

  1. Choose the industry, and be as specific as possible. While that may sound obvious, it seems to be the biggest stumbling block for partners. There are countless technology providers who claim to be "Distribution" or "Retail" industry leaders. Find a smaller pond to fish in with a more specific definition. For example, "Food and Beverage Distributors" or "Sporting Goods Retailers."

  2. Tap into your internal resources. You will be much more successful in the long run if you have employees who are genuinely interested in the industry you target. Do you have employees who already participate in industry professional groups? What kind of projects really get the team fired up?

  3. Do your research. You likely already have some insight into the industry you choose to pursue, but you need to do your research. At a minimum, buy the First Research report or other current market research that is available. Find and follow all of the professional Web sites that serve the industry. Identify someone to monitor these regularly to get to know the hot topics, as well as industry leaders and social influencers.

  4. Define your value proposition and solution set. To be successful in sales and marketing, you need to have a very specific value proposition. What problem does the client have and how are you going to solve it? Identify the components of the solution set and define the entire set in terms of the benefits to clients. Validate with current customers in the industry. Ask them if they think your value proposition is compelling.

  5. Build specific content. Create a Web site that is specific to the industry. It doesn't have to be a complex site, keep it simple and direct. If you have the resources, start a blog and update it often. Make sure all content, including Web text, collateral, e-mails, e-books -- whatever you create -- directly supports your value proposition.

  6. Participate in the community. Immerse yourself in the industry's professional community, both virtually and in person. Join the professional association Web sites and LinkedIn groups that serve the industry. Follow the common industry hashtags on Twitter. Listen and learn before you start to participate. Attend industry events to meet people face to face. Seek meetings with the industry influencers that you have identified to see if there is a way you can work together.

There are good reasons that many partners can attest to for taking a vertical approach to sales and marketing. Win ratios, project size, referrals are all likely to increase when you build your reputation in an industry. Be systematic, genuine and looking for ways to give back the community so that everyone is more successful.

How are you approaching vertical markets? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 18, 2014


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