– By Steve Robins
7 Steps to Success
Lately, I’ve come across the following question a few times:
How do I get started in industry marketing?
Today, I’ll share tips based on nearly six years of starting and then running the industry and solutions marketing function for an enterprise software company. I’m proud of the work that my team and I accomplished, which was emulated by other companies in our industry.
As you might suspect, industry marketing is a subset of solution marketing, focused on specific verticals such as financial services or government or energy. Solution marketing principles apply to industry marketing as well. Following are 7 steps to get started in industry marketing.
Step #1: Run the industry litmus test. Before you do anything else, research your company’s sales history to understand which industries (e.g., banking, energy, life sciences) and business functions (e.g., accounting, sales, marketing, manufacturing) are buying your offerings. Is your company’s revenue growing, steady or declining for particular industries and functions? How could a different strategy change those trends? If you don’t find critical mass in any industries, you may have a horizontal offering that won’t lend itself to an industry marketing strategy.
Step #2: Research the market. Notice that I haven’t said anything about marketing yet! Use secondary and primary research to identify and size the opportunity in industries that most need the solutions and technologies that your company can provide. Match their needs against the technical capabilities and industry expertise of your company and partners. Prioritize the top 3 or so industries and solution opportunities based on revenue and profit potential.
Step #3: Understand the competition. What are your current or potential competitors doing? What’s working – and not working for them? What lessons can you learn? How can you differentiate your offering and gain competitive advantage?
Step #4: Gain alignment. Let’s face it: industry marketing is usually a cross-functional discipline, so you’re going to need alignment with everyone from the c-suite to sales, channels, partners, product management, and all areas of marketing. Start by gathering their input on your company’s industry opportunities. What opportunities do they see? How can industry and solutions marketing help them to meet their goals? Continue to engage your stakeholders as you develop, implement and measure the results of your plans.
Step #5: Develop the solution plan. Now that you understand the market, develop your industry and solution plan. On which vertical industries will you focus? What solutions will you offer for each? How will you price those solutions (hint: price based on value to the customer)? How far will you go to build them out? What role will partners play? How will you roll out solutions over time? Hint: start slow – build out your first industry template and then move on to additional industries. A small company might focus on just one industry/function while a larger company may focus on several.
Step #6: Build the go-to-market plan. Now that you know what you’re going to market, it’s time to figure out how to take it to market. First, understand your prospects’ buying cycles – how do they budget for technology and how do they usually make decisions? How can your sales effort support this process?
Next, ensure that your direct and/or indirect sales/channel can sell the solutions to industries. Augment channels as needed with training, new partners and new staff. To succeed in selling to an industry and/or business function, the channel needs to be able to understand the industry and its pain points, and have contacts in that industry. I.e., look for partners with deep expertise in the industry and/or function. If not, you’ll need to figure out how to gain the expertise and contacts yourself. Look for sales people that understand how to do solution selling rather than product-oriented sales.
Step #7: Create, execute and measure the industry marketing plan. Next, develop the industry marketing plan. Identify your target audience – titles, demographics, company profiles, personas. Create vertically targeted messages and value propositions that speak to industry issues in the user’s lingo. Next, determine the best channels to reach your target audience for awareness, demand gen and lead nurturing campaigns, such as trade shows, trade pubs, direct mail, email, webinars. Remember that each industry responds differently to different marketing channels/tools. You’ll also need to recruit industry marketing talent but I’ll take that up in my next post. Finally, measure and report on results.
It’s impossible to summarize a complete strategy in a single blog post but I hope that this gives you a sense of how to get started with industry marketing.
Questions? Please contact me by email at snrobins [at] solutionmkt dot com.