Starting to sell? you need to get (a) vertical !


Popsicle - Benny Shavivs sales and marketing blogor maybe the title should be: why do kids buy ice cream?

So you slapped down some code, received a first round investment, printed some fancy multicolored business cards with a kick-ass logo, designed the best product brochure in the industry, got three beta customers through friendly connections, bought a bunch of Google adwords and sat back waiting for the leads to come pouring in… and they didn’t.

Why aren’t the customers showing up en-mass? Because its not easy to get people’s attention when they are seeing your name and logo for the first time.  How many times did you see the coca-cola logo yesterday?  Now what if you were to walk into the nearest convenience store and right next to the known brands you’d see nifty-swifty-cola stacked up.  Would you buy it instead of your coke?  You might not know this, but nifty-swifty-cola tastes ten times better than coke and pepsi combined, so I’m gonna print right on the can “it tastes 10 times better than coke and pepsi combined, it really does!”, would you buy it now?  Probably not.  I wouldn’t either.

Same thing goes for your software application.  You know that it is the best thing to hit the market in the last decade and it can probably solve the whole universe’s + god’s problems, but unless you are able to penetrate the market first, your company will never live to tell about it.  That’s why you need to choose a good vertical where you can successfully dominate that niche of the market, and expand from there.  I took my son to the park a few weeks ago, and watched the ice cream truck roll in, turn on the music, and have hoards of kids flock at it to buy their favorite popsicles (it was a typical warm winter day around these parts).  The ice cream truck guys have figured out the vertical years ago.  They know that kids (customers) are going to be in the park (information exchange scene) at a certain time right after school (predictable & repeatable), they know they have an immediate pain (its warm out), they know that the kid reference power is tremendous (Roy got a red popsicle and wont let me have any!), and the best part – the kids (customers) will do the internal selling to the parents (decision makers).  Occasionally the parents will get some ice cream for themselves too.  All the ice cream guys have to do is show up at the right place at the right time and turn on the music (marketing).  How’s that compared to trying to sell it door to door, even if you had access to 1,000 doors?

So here are the business reasons on why starting with a vertical niche market is critical:

  • Because I will serve as the first stepping stone to conquering the full market and then the universe
  • Because it is a niche market, you will be perceived as niche player by the evil empires (your competitors) which means you can fly in under their radar
  • Because you can focus on your marketing resources and make your message crystal clear for that vertical
  • Because you know where to look for customers
  • Because you can build a repeatable sales process that can be learned, measured, taught, and adjusted more easily
  • Because you can focus your development resources and bring forward features that are relevant for a large part of your existing and future customer base
  • Because the early wins that you will have will be highly relevant references to future customers that are like them
  • Because you can generate niche market buzz much more easily and you can dominate that vertical market segment.
  • And the most important reason – because if you do a good job your customers will be the best sales people out there and they will spread the message to people that are similar to them… and once you take that niche, you can move on to the bigger pieces of the pie.

To get back to the nifty-cola example, what would you decide if you saw a small billboard in your neighborhood saying “nifty-swifty-cola is the best” and your neighbor mentioned to you that he tried nifty-swifty and that its great.  Would you buy it then on your next trip to the local convenience store?

So what are the makings of a good vertical, how do you choose one and how do know you chose right?  on the next post.. this one is getting too long…

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