As a product marketer I have always been a big believer in verticalizing. After all, and unless you have an inherently horizontal solution like accounting software or customer relationship management crap software, the context in which your solution will be used will be very different depending on the industry in which it will be deployed. So if you are selling a collaboration/enterprise 2.0 solution to an automotive supply chain buyer, or to a team of people in pharma who will use it to support their clinical trial process, the issues that you will face and the barriers that you will need to overcome to ensure a successful deployment will be very different. So different in fact that it might make sense for you to rename parts of your product to better fit the process and the industry that it will support. This combined with the fact that early majority buyers prefer to buy based on recommendations from peers from within their own industry is why you need to verticalize.
This week someone asked me what industry we were focusing our marketing innovation firm on. When I told him that we had clients in a variety of industries he seemed surprised. In reality, and especially when you focus on big M marketing as we do, the issues are fairly similar across multiple industries. This week I was fortunate enough to speak with clients or potential clients from within a variety of industries – ranging from apparel retail, to a large retailer focused on small businesses, a large consumer software company, a large enterprise software company, a small startup in the mobile space, and a large professional services company. Guess what? Their issues were all very similar – how do we reach customers and prospects who don’t want to hear from us but would rather hear from peers? How do we measure progress and success of programs and know that we are doing OK in this new social media space? How do we build new products with a higher likelihood of success? And more…. And the answers to all these questions and across all industries are very much the same. In the end it all comes down to understanding individual people behavior – it is the same person who buys clothes at the retail store over the weekend, buys desktop software for the home computer, and makes multi-million dollar purchase decisions for enterprise software.
In fact marketers could benefit greatly from cross-industry learning.
Of course, and because of the referencability issue with early majority buyers we still need to make sure that we quickly have multiple referencable customers within one industry before jumping to the next, but the need for verticalization in marketing is otherwise not needed.