3 Things to Think About Before You Develop a Vertical Marketing Strategy

*This post first ran September 25, 2014 via the ANNUITAS blog.

I was recently leading a Demand Generation workshop where one of the attendees asked “what approach they should take to develop a vertical or industry aligned marketing strategy.” Besides discussing the need to align strategically to the buyer, we did have a longer conversation where I cautioned against taking a vertical go-to-market approach.

I have worked in companies in the past and with other organizations that have taken a vertically aligned approach to their sales and marketing, and rarely have I seen it work very effectively. While many organizations look to implement a vertical strategy, there are some things that should be considered before moving forward with one:

1. Vertical Marketing is Truly Focused on the 10%
There are very few circumstances where the key buying drivers of personas differ across verticals. Let me explain further. A few weeks ago I was speaking to a CEO of a small business in a completely different industry than my own. We spoke about the challenges that we both faced, and even though he was in a different business, selling product in a completely different industry, about 90% of my focus, challenges and goals were very similar to his.

Such is the case with many other roles. Most CFOs grapple with the same challenges, have the same goals and objectives as their counterparts in different industries. They do not view their jobs within the context of being in a certain vertical and where there are industry differences, in most cases they are minimal and can be addressed with reference calls or case studies. At the end of the day, most challenges and objectives are similar, despite the vertical or industry.

2. Lack of Organizational Expertise at all Levels
I have yet to see a company who strives to take a vertical go-to-market approach have sufficient industry subject matter experts at every level of the organization. The expertise is usually found at the sales level and a perhaps a few people within marketing that can write content to address unique industry challenges. That is a good start, but what about Lead Qualification teams, Inside Sales, and Customer Support? If the whole idea of vertical marketing is to align to the buyer where they are, it is necessary for the organization to align and support the customer at every stage, not just part of it.

Making this happen is difficult, which is why it so rarely happens. Not to mention, it will foster a bad buyers experience to be marketed to in very specific terms, only to find that the organization as a whole does not understand the true nature of the industry at all levels of customer interaction. So efforts in vertical marketing need to be taken seriously and committed to fully to be effective.

3. Buying Committees
The CEB reports that the typical B2B buying decision involves more than five buyers as part of a buying committee. Welcome to the world of Buyer 2.0! B2B Marketers are no longer selling to individuals; they are selling to groups of people, all of whom have their unique view and biases about a potential purchase. It is this dynamic that makes the “Time to Produce Content” and “Producing Enough Content” the top two content challenges for marketers according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2014 report.

Now add in the complexity of developing content to five plus buying stakeholders that is specific to their industry.  The challenges of time and the ability to create enough content only grow exponentially and would be almost impossible to do effectively.

Rather than try to focus on a specific industry or vertical, most marketers should look at the commonalities among their buyers. What are the 80% of common challenges IT Directors are dealing with on a day-to-day basis? Try developing content that aligns to those needs and their needs as they progress through the buyer’s journey with case studies and references that align to their specific industry. This shows your buyer that your organization has enough experience with their unique challenges and can help them. This is a more economical and efficient approach to addressing your buyer than vertical marketing and one that most organizations should seek to adopt.

Author: Carlos Hidalgo @cahidalgo is CEO and Principal, ANNUITAS


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